Edited by Pat Bitton
January 20, 2015
What Is an MKV File?
MKV files, also known as Matroska Video, have their origins dating back to 2002. The lead developer, Lasse Karkkainen, combined forces with Steve Lhomme, the Matroska founder to create a comprehensive multimedia container for videos, audio and text. Improved in 2010, this media container has found popularity in online media content.
Unlike other common file formats, MKV files are not an audio or video compression format. They are multimedia container formats that can incorporate video, audio and text in a single file. It does not matter that each of these elements use different kinds of encoding. For instance, whatever you are streaming now from the web could consist a video in H.264 format, and an MP3 audio. Double-clicking on a single MKV file will open all its elements in an MKV file player.
You will also love the fact that the MKV file format is future-proof. Matroska developers included various features to ensure that the files would never become outdated. Some of these key features are as follows:
- Menu, chapter and metadata support
- Fast seeking
- Online streaming compatibility
- Error recovery ability to allow for the playback of corrupted files
- Different selectable video and audio streams
- Subtitle support
You can also check out Movavi Video Suite – an all-in-one video maker that includes a video editor, converter, screen recorder, and more.
How to Open MKV Files with an MKV File Player
You can watch MKV files on your Windows or Mac computer if you have the requisite MKV file player. However, since MKV isn't an industry standard, not every media player can open them. In fact, your native Windows Media Player may experience challenges handling MKV files, playing video with no sound.
Here are your options for opening and playing MKV files.
Using Third-Party Apps
If your default media player can't handle MKV file format, try looking for alternative players on the web. A simple Google search should haul up hundreds, if not thousands of third-party apps supporting MKV files. However, you need to exercise caution since malicious characters out there are disguising malware as useful apps in an attempt to infiltrate your computer system.
You may not have the patience to wallow through the labyrinth, looking for the best MKV file viewer, so you could try VLC, one of the most popular media players you can ever find. It is lightweight, and can play almost any file format you toss its way.
Other apps that can open and play MKV files include:
- DivX Player
- MKV File Player
- The Core Media Player
Using Your Mobile Devices
It is possible to enjoy MKV videos and audios while on the move, courtesy of your mobile device. If you are on iOS platform, you can watch these videos directly from the iPhone, iPad and iPod via the native PlayerXtreme media Player. But on the Android platform, you will need to download and install the mobile version of VLC, or the Simple MP4 Video Player. Though an MP4 player, Simple MP4 Player has a reader for other video formats, such as MKV.
Download Codecs for Compatibility
The media player on your device may not succeed at opening video files with an MKV extension because it lacks the necessary codecs for decoding this file type. Codecs are a viable option because they give your media player the ability to decompress and play the MKV files it does not natively support.
It is a great way to easily turn any media player into an MKV file player, but can also be dangerous to your computer. You need to ensure you download codecs, or any other necessary software, from recommended sites. Some sites hide crapware in popular software; thus, putting the security of your system at risk.
If you are unsure where to start, head to Niite, a great place for lots of clean and useful apps for your device. This site provides free downloads devoid of any bloatware. Once at Niite, search for a codec pack named Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP) which offers a variety of codecs that support multiple file formats.
On the Niite landing page, select the CCCP option and click "Get Your Niite". The file will begin to download, and once finished, run to install the codecs. While at it, you may choose other apps you may fancy from the site, and install them as well. To effect the changes, you may have to restart your computer, though in most cases, your MKV files should start playing promptly.
Converting to Supported Formats
What if your MKV file reader still doesn't recognize MKV files even after downloading and installing the appropriate codecs? The problem could be your device, which may be lacking the requisite resources needed to render MKV file formats. One way to solve this problem would be converting the MKV files to a format supported by the hardware and software available in your system.
One easy way to convert an MKV file to another format friendly with your device is to use a free video file converter. You may want to use the online version of some converters to save space on your device, but it shouldn't be your first choice since video files are pretty large and could take ages to upload, convert and download the converted file.
It would be a nice idea to use offline video converters if your device has ample storage space. If it doesn't, you could consider using external storage media, such as thumb drives or external hard drives. Offline converters have the advantage of being relatively fast and cost effective since you won't have to worry about bandwidth costs.
Editing MKV Files
Like any other file type, MKV files can also be edited to apply various changes you may wish to achieve. You can add and delete chapters, and subtitles. You can also change the start and end points of the video by trimming off unwanted parts.
When looking for a good video editor, start with the free versions first. No need to pay for a software when its free counterpart can accomplish just as much. You can try MKVToolNix, a free program available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
However, most free video editors suffer significant limitations, and you may not be able to enjoy all the features. It may force you to go for the best premium software, one that does what it says it can do. You have a quite a variety to choose from, but certain factors should inform your choice:
- Cost: whether it's subscription-based or on a one-off payment
- File formats: whether it supports all the popular file formats
- User friendliness: its ease of use
- Support materials: availability of useful materials to help you edit a project
Having answered the question: what is an MKV file, and having learned the various ways of opening and playing this file format, it is important to note that cases may arise requiring you to convert MKV format files to other versions so you can play them on particular devices. Many converters are at your disposal, and you need the ability to identify one that meets your needs. If you are wondering which converter to choose, consider downloading and installing Movavi video Converter on your Windows or Mac computer.
Movavi Video Converter
The ideal way to get your media in the format you need!
- Convert video, audio, DVDs, and image files
- Enjoy lightning-fast conversion without quality loss
- Improve quality, adjust sound, trim and join files before converting
- Save video and audio clips for easy mobile access