How to play .mkv files on a Mac

Written by kate sedgwick Google
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How to play .mkv files on a Mac
Watch MKV files on a Mac. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

An MKV is a file container commonly used for audio, video, or subtitles. These files are compressed to make transferring them easy, but the method of compression means that a codec (think of it as a file decoder ring) is necessary to access and play the files within. Mac computers have no native program that will read MKV files. In order to view or listen to an MKV file on a Mac, you will have to download additional software (a codec) capable of reading the file.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Do some research about which video player (codec) fits your needs best. The most versatile player for MKV files is VLC, which reads almost any file format. The program also lets you add subtitles easily and has a volume booster for those times when audio quality is less than adequate.

  2. 2

    Read reviews of any software you plan on downloading before installing it. A little research can help you avoid applications that will gum up your system or fail to function.

  3. 3

    Download and install the codec of your choice. When downloading software, it's a good idea to go directly to the source (the developer) rather than a secondary host. Open the MKV file with the new application and enjoy your media.

Tips and warnings

  • Many sites that host videos ask you to download a proprietary codec. This may not be necessary. With VLC 2.0, you can stream online videos through the Streaming/Transcoding Wizard, which you can find under "File" in the program. For full instructions, see resources.
  • Verify what you're downloading. Any codec that's been around for a while will have multiple reviews online. If you can't find any information about an application, program, or plugin, don't download it.
  • VLC won't play RealPlayer files. Real Player is proprietary so RealAudio (.ra), and RealVideo (.rv) files are only compatible with RealPlayer.
  • Watch what you're doing when you encounter a prompt to download a codec. According to PC World, there are plenty of places out there on the net where you'll be prompted to download a proprietary codec to stream videos, but these "codecs" aren't always what they seem. Sometimes, what's represented as a codec is actually malware, so be sure to research any codec you encounter before downloading it and to download from a reputable source.

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