M3U File Format: What is An M3U File and How to Open/Play It

Learn about M3U files and the best M3U players.

You may have come across some M3U files and have an issue with opening it. We have gathered information about what M3U file format is and how you can open M3U files with the best M3U players for different operating systems. Additionally, we have also recommended a suitable M3U file recovery tool.

Part 1: What Is An M3U File?

what is m3u file

M3U is short for MP3 URL. It is an audio or sometimes video playlist file, such as .MP3 music or .MP4 videos, stored with the .m3u or .m3u8 extension. An M3U file is not an audio or video file itself. Instead, it is a plain text file that lists the locations of the audio or video files so that you can play them through your media player of choice.

m3u files are plain text files

M3U files are playlist files used by a variety of media players, programs, and stream platforms. These playlist types come in different formats, depending on how they're saved. Some may be UTF-8 encoded, which means it'll work with any device capable of playing those formats.

Part 2: How to Open An M3U file?

As mentioned above, M3U files are plain text files, so you can open an M3U file and view the text it contains with any text editors, like Notepad (for Windows) and Apple TextEdit (for Mac).

open m3u files with notepad

You can also play the playlist included in the M3U file in many media players, such as Microsoft Groove Music (in-built in Windows OS), Windows Media Player (in-built in Windows OS), Winamp (for Windows and Mac) and VLC media player (cross-platform).

Programs that can open or play M3U files

M3U Player
  • Microsoft Groove Music
  • Windows Media Player
  • VLC media player
  • Nullsoft Winamp
  • Clementine
  • VLC media player
  • Songbird
  • Clementine
  • Nullsoft Winamp
  • VideoLAN VLC media player
  • Clementine
  • VLC for Android
  • IPTV Player
  • VLC for Mobile
  • GoTV - M3U IPTV Player
  • IPTV Player

How to Play M3U Files in VLC Media Player

VLC media player is a most popular and versatile M3U player for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. This freeware M3U player can support a variety of video and audio formats. You can not only use VLC to download and play M3U/M3U8 files on your computer and mobile devices, but also download M3U8 file to MP4.

Let’s see how to play the media files contained in the M3U/M3U8 file with VLC.

  • Step 1: Open the M3U file with a text editor and copy the playlist URL.
  • Step 2: Now, open VLC Media Player. Click on the Media > Open Network Stream (If you are a Mac user, click File > Open Network).
  • Step 3: A window pops up. Choose Network and paste the copied URL.
  • Step 4: Finally, click on the "Play" button.
play m3u files in vlc

Moreover, the latest version of VLC player supports streaming TV from IPTV M3U. Below is the complete guide on how to stream IPTV on VLC.

  • Step 1: Launch the VLC media player.
  • Step 2: Go through View > Playlist.
stream iptv m3u or m3u8 files in vlc - enter playlist mode
  • Step 3: VLC will enter the Playlist mode. Then, locate your M3U/M3U8 file and drag it to VLC Playlist
stream iptv m3u or m3u8 files in vlc - drag m3u files to vlc
  • Step 4: Double-click the M3U/M3U8 file in VLC. You will see all the IPTV video and audio files ready to play
stream iptv m3u or m3u8 files in vlc - play the m3u files

How to Play M3U Files with Winamp

Winamp is a lightweight media player that can be used for music and video files. It has been around since 1997, making it one of the oldest IPTV players on this list. It supports importation from M3U playlist listings and URL links, making watching those high-quality videos easy.

m3u player - winamp

How to play an M3U/M3U8 file with Winamp:

  • Step 1: Visit Winamp website. Download and install Winamp on your PC/Mac.
  • Step 2: Open the M3U file with a text editor and copy the playlist URL.
  • Step 3: Now, launch Winamp. Click on the File > Play URL to paste the copied link of playlist. Or you can directly go to File > Play File to open the M3U file.

How to Play M3U Files on Android or iPhone Using M3U IPTV Player App

The M3U IPTV Player app is the best way to listen to your music files on an Android device or on your iPhone/iPad. You can find it by searching online or downloading one from the Google Play store and Apple App Store. It's easy, quick, and hassle-free with this perfect tool.

How to play an M3U/M3U8 file with M3U IPTV Player App

  • Step 1: Install and launch M3U IPTV Player on your mobile device.
  • Step 2: Choose the M3U file source on the main interface: From Local Path and Network.
  • Step 3: If you select "Local Path", tap on the "Browse" button to add a local M3U/M3U8 playlist file. If you select 'Network', copy and paste the M3U playlist URL into the "From Network" box.
  • Step 4: Tap on the “Play” button (lying at the bottom).
  • Step 5: The M3U playlist will play immediately.

Part 3: How to Recover Lost or Deleted M3U Files?

It would be frustrated if you accidentally deleted your M3U files, MP3 tracks, and MP4 videos or lost them due to improper memory cards formatting, system crashes, software failure, or any other data loss disasters. No worries. A professional data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit can help you get all lost or deleted files back. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to recover M3U files.

Step1Download and Install Recoverit

To get started, tap the download button below and save this data recovery software on your Windows PC or Mac. Then, install it once you've downloaded it!.

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Step2Pick storage location

Select the storage location where you have lost your M3U files to initiate scanning.

scan the deleted m3u files
Step3Preview and recover the lost files

During scanning, you can filter the M3U, MP3 audio, and video files. Click on "Recover" at the bottom after you have previewed and are satisfied with the found files.

recover the lost m3u files
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Now you may have known what is M3U file format and how to open M3U files on different operating systems. M3U is not a actual audio or video file. Instead, it's a text file format that contains the location of the audio or video files. You can use text editor to view the data included in M3U file and use a media player to play the music or movie it contains. If you ever lose any M3U file, restore them easily by following simple steps on Wondershare Recoverit.