MOV vs. MP4

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Edited by Ben Jacklin
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In this guide, we answer all of your questions about the key differences between an MP4 file and a MOV file. What can these two types of video container files be used for? We look at compatibility as well as quality, and the pros and cons when comparing MP4 vs. MOV. The good news is that both of these file formats can hold lots of data and are suitable for professional video projects, but it is important to understand the subtle differences, choose which file to use, and how to convert MOV to MP4 and MP4 to MOV.

MP4 vs. MOV: Key differences

MOV vs. MP4 – what are the key differences between these two file formats? Though these files have plenty in common, you need to understand the differences before using either.

What is a MOV file?

What is a MOV file? Why are these so frequently used? MOV files are a video container format. Technically, the video contained within is MPEG-4, with MOV used to contain the video file as well as other data such as file information, chapters, and more. It was created for use in Apple’s QuickTime program but is now used in a variety of programs. Though it was made by Apple back in the 1990s, it is still used today, and not just on Apple devices but on Windows and other devices, too.

What is an MP4 file?

MP4 files were created in the early 2000s by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG). This is how they get their name, MPEG-4. This is contained within the MP4 and has become one of the standard ways of compressing videos. An MP4 format file is a container form just like a .mov file format. This file contains not only the video file but also has data encapsulated within.

Difference between MOV and MP4

The table below shows some of the key differences between these two file formats, such as MOV vs. MP4 size, and what they can offer. You will see that both are suitable for a variety of video applications.

Comparison parameter



File extension

.mov, .qt (QuickTime)





3D Support

Not native

At video format level

Streaming support


Yes (recommended)



International Organization for Standardization

File size

Large file size

Smaller size

Device support

Apple devices

Almost all devices

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MOV or MP4 – How to choose the most suitable file format

The difference between MOV and MP4 is subtle. MOV was made specifically by Apple as a file for use with QuickTime, but this then became popular among a number of other devices. MP4 files are made to be an international standard, so this file type is even more mainstream and widespread than MOV.

One difference is that MP4 video files tend to be compressed to a smaller size. This, combined with the fact that they are more standardized and recognized by slightly more software and hardware solutions means that these files are used for streaming and other standardized uses.

MOV files were made with video editing in mind. They’re normally quite large files, so for storage purposes they might not be as good as MP4. The compression of MP4 keeps a huge amount of the data within the video.

For Mac users, MOV may be just as simple to use as MP4, but the fact that MP4 has better compression and is standardized across all platforms means that it is a preferred choice for many industry uses. Both are lossy file formats, so there is usually compression involved in whichever file you opt for. MOV files may have less compression and therefore be better for keeping high-quality video during the editing process.

How to convert MOV to MP4 or MP4 to MOV

Both of these files act as containers for MPEG video formats. This makes it relatively easy to understand how to convert MOV to MP4 or MP4 to MOV if you have the right software to do so. Some software will recognize one of the file types but not the other. This means that you can perform a simple conversion in order to use the file format you need. Remember that if you convert a lossy file to lossless, you won’t be able to recover the original data. When you convert the file, make sure that you use the correct settings to ensure that you end up with a high-quality video. Movavi Video Converter allows you to convert a huge number of different file formats and retain the quality within.

To transfer your video to the desired format with Movavi Video Converter, follow these steps:

Step 1: Install Movavi Video Converter: launch the installation file and follow the instructions on the screen. Ensure you have downloaded the correct version for either Mac or PC.

Step 2: Import your files to the program: click Add Media, then Add Video, and select the file you want to convert.

Step 3: Select the target format: open the Video tab, select the format you wish to convert to, and choose a preset.

Step 4: Save the result: click Save To at the bottom of the program window and specify the output folder. Finally, hit the Convert button to start the conversion.

It’s as simple as that. With Movavi Video Converter you can also switch between various audio and image formats.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between MP4 and MOV?

MOV files are usually high bitrate files, they open natively on a number of devices but were originally made for Mac, and specifically QuickTime. MOV is a file container with a video file as well as data within. The file sizes are normally pretty large. Comparing MP4 vs. MOV files, MP4 is often preferred for streaming or cross-platform use due to the fact that it has been made with an international standardized method that a majority of devices can recognize. The format also makes it suitable for streaming as the bitrate is often lower thanks to lossy compression.

Which is better – MOV or MP4?

When considering whether MP4 or MOV is better, you should think about the specific use you have in mind. Both container files, MOV and MP4, use MPEG-4 compression. MOV generally has better quality due to the fact that they have not been compressed as heavily. Purely judging based on file quality, MOV is often better, but not always. MP4 is more widely used, and it is also usually more efficient when it comes to file size. This means that you can use MP4 files for streaming, uploading, and downloading. When speed is a consideration, smaller MP4 files might be a better option.

Is MOV or MP4 better for Youtube?

Should you choose MOV or MP4 for YouTube? YouTube’s own recommendation is that you use MP4 file formats with H. 264 video codec and AAC audio codec. This gives you a balance between a high-quality file, but also a file size that is not too demanding. YouTube supports many different video files, including MOV, MPEG4, AVI, WMV, MPEG PS, FLV, 3GPP, and WebM. Even though YouTube’s recommendations are useful, both MOV and MP4 file formats can carry high-quality video in HD formats that look fantastic when uploaded to YouTube. Because the website can recognize both, you can upload either file format to good effect.

Can I rename MOV to MP4?

In some scenarios, you can make a change by renaming the file. For instance, because of the fact that MP4 is a subset of QuickTime, you can change the MOV file just by renaming and changing the extension from MOV to MP4. Sometimes, changing the file extension manually by changing the text is enough. However, this does not always work. It depends on the settings of the file format. To ensure capability, it is a good idea to use conversion software. This can ensure that the file works properly and that no data is lost in the transfer.

Is MP4 a video?

The MP4 format is a container file that stores more than just a video. It gets its name from the MPEG-4 video file within but also stores more data, including still images, audio, chapters, and subtitles. MPEG-4 is the video itself, but MP4 is a video format. MPEG-4 is the same video that is enclosed within a MOV file, too, meaning that it can be opened within QuickTime player. When you open up an MP4, it will play as a video automatically. However, far more data is stored within the file.

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