Ask LH: How Can I Play MKV Files?

Dear Lifehacker, I'm a bit of a tech newbie, so this question is probably going to sound silly, but I have come across a lot of MKV files lately. What are they and how can I get them to play on my computer or tablet? Cheers, Vacant View

Dear VV,

MKV is an open source multimedia container format popular with film and TV buffs. Unlike AVI movie files, MKV is compatible with newer video codecs and allows for extra features like removable subtitles and multiple audio tracks; just like a DVD.

To make MKV files play on your computer, you need to download a compatible media player. While it's possible to get Windows Media Player to play MKV files, you'll need to install the relevant codecs and filters first, which can be pretty time consuming. Switching media players is a lot simpler.

Our go-to option for desktop MKV playback is VLC, which you can download here. The VLC media player boasts support for MKV along with all the latest video codecs, so your files should play automatically without having to hunt down extra codecs.

Another option worth checking out is PotPlayer — it's a fast and feature-packed player that comes with oodles of customisation options.

If you're looking for a tablet solution, we'd suggest MoboPlayer (free) for Android and GoodPLayer ($2.99) for iPad/iOS. Whichever player you plump for, make sure you download the very latest version.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    hopefully next gen consoles will let you stream them from the computer

      I use PS3 Media Server on my computer and it can stream MKV files to my consoles no worries (although ironically, it does a better job of streaming to Xbox than PS3 for me). It does need to convert to console-friendly formats on the fly though, so depending on the file it might not always be smooth playback. Hopefully the next consoles support it natively so it can stream without being slowed down by the conversion process.

    For Mac OS X try MPlayerX (
    While VLC will do the job for PC, power users may be more interested in CCCP (with MPC).

    Or you can download k-lite gold codecs and play everything on the media player that you know and love.

      I am a fan of the shark codecs myself


      K-lite is too bloated these days.

    Why can't people just Google these things?

      Lol I was thinking the same thing. It was a very straight forward, closed-ended question.

    VLC on Android is pretty good now as well although I think it's still in beta.

    Because this wasn't a legitimate question asked by a legitimate reader. Chris Jager once again posting ridiculous questions that nobody in their right mind would ask.

      Your accusations are completely unfounded.

        Relax Chris.
        Don't feed the trolls!
        I trust you.

    So glad the TV I just bought plays MKV natively! It's easy enough to get a free program like VLC or MPC, or MXPlayer for my phone/tablet. But I did not want to have to spend another $100 on a WDTV, always have to plug in a laptop or stream from my desktop through the PS3.

      +1 for MXPlayer

    If you want every codec possible download zoom player! I love it best media player around. VLC is good but it has a ugly interface.

      Zoom player is shit, crashes way to often, get "Media player classic - home cinema", plays every thing, nice GUI and has a x64 version

        really? Iv never had zoom player crash once and Iv been using it for 4 years on my media centre and normal pc's. Im not fan of media player classic ethier. Guess it comes down to personal preference.

    Never much liked VLC myself. As for codec packs, my recommendation is CCCP. It covers everything (including 10-bit video) and comes with the excellent lightweight Media Player Classic, which is always good to have on your system for testing in addition to your main media player.

      The only problem with CCCP is the lack of regular updates. At one point last year it was months out of date.

      I switched back to K-Lite as a result. I also needed a few of the extras from the Mega pack and the addition of the 64-bit pack is handy as well.

      Last edited 18/03/13 2:31 am

    I always just download the 'Combined Community Codec Pack' on a new machine and never have any problems with files.

    Sounds like someone has downloaded or been given some pirated movies! lol

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