Wondershare Recoverit

Video Recovery

  • Recovers deleted or lost videos effectively, safely and completely.
  • Supports data recovery from 500+ data loss scenarios, including computer crash, partition loss, accidental human error, etc.
  • Supports 1000+ file formats recovery with a high success rate and without any quality loss.
Free Download Free Download Free Download Learn More >
deleted video recovery

What is .m4a file and how to play m4a files?

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Sep 25, 2023 • Filed to: Knowledge Center • Proven solutions

The revolutionized world has bought so much with it: new phones, new Operating Systems, unique features. Different phones have different settings that allow different files to run on them. For instance, iPhone supports the .m4a file. Someone who recently shifted from Android to iOS must question how to play M4A files to discuss the guided steps here.

Also, you might have problems like recovering deleted .m4a files, but luckily, this is not a problem anymore because you are in the safe hands of Wondershare Recoverit.

m4a files

Part 1. What is a .m4a file?

M4A file format is commonly known among iPhone users because the downloaded audio songs from Apple's iTunes Store are mostly in this extension. The .m4a extension file stands for MPEG-4 Audio file. The .m4a format is similar to MP4s since they both use the MPEG-4 container format. The only thing is that an M4A file can only hold audio data.

Many files from this format are encoded with the lossy Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) codec. This codec helps the file to reduce its size. Simultaneously, few M4A files are found with the Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC).

You may also interested in: What is a BIK video format.
- 2 minutes to read it.

Part 2. What's the differences between .m4a, .mp3 and .mp4?

A person who uses different audio and video files might not know much about the different formats being used. So, let's only review a few of the differences between the commonly known formats like .mp3, .mp4, and .m4a files.

An M4A and MP3 file generally holds only audio data, whereas the mp4 file is a multi-facilitator as it can deal with videos, subtitles, or text because it is a 'container' format. It can store the data, as well as the code. A significant benefit of the MP4 files is that they can be streamlined online. Although the mp4 and .m4a belong from the same line of MPEG-4, yet they are different.

Talking about .m4a files, they are smaller in size and have better sound quality over a wide range than any mp3 file. The .m4a is encoded with lossy Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), which enables it to provide the same bitrates as the MP3 yet having tighter compression. The compression aids the file to have smaller file size and helps deliver higher audio quality.

The MP3 format cannot handle any video or imaging whereas, the multi-facilitator MP4 can. Hence, an MP4 player can also launch videos, leaving M4A and MP3 players stranded with just audio files.

M4A files are unique and have substantially better sound quality than any mp3 file. With the help of M4A, any studio recording can be compressed in size. Though .mp3 are .m4a are similar in many ways, they have better quality in lesser or same file size.

Part 3. What are pros and cons of the .m4a file?

A similar to mp3 extension yet unique in itself is the .m4a file. It is considered that it might take over and replace mp3 in the market. The seemingly perfect format also has some disadvantages that are hidden from the world and any ordinary person. Let us shed some light on the pros and cons of the .m4a file;


The quality of sound is lossless though the file is compressed.

Editing and transferring any .m4a file are very flexible because files do not have Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection.

The .m4a file is an unprotected audio file, making its usage easy.

M4A file can be directly set as the iPhone's ringtone by adjusting the extension from M4A to M4R with iTunes.


M4A files have poor compatibility with other devices except for Apple devices.

The format is rather inconvenient as compared to MP3 files.

Part 4. How to play m4a files?

As this format supports audio data and on minimal devices, you might face trouble and think about playing an M4A file? But just because we are here to facilitate you, so we bought a solution regarding playing a .m4a file on Windows and Mac, using VLC Media Player. The open-source VLC media player supports the M4A file.

Open .m4a file on Windows:

1. Right-click on the .m4a file and go to 'Open With.'

2. Click on the last option that is 'Choose default program,' and then select 'VLC Media Player' as the program.

3. If you want this to be permanent, check the option 'Always use the selected program to open this kind of file.'

play and select m4a program on windows

Open .m4a file on Mac:

1. Firstly, get the info about the .m4a file by right-clicking on it.

2. Then click the option of 'Open with' and select VLC Media Player as the program to start theM4A file.

3. Make sure to click on 'Change all' to set the selected application as the default opener for the M4A file.

open and select m4a program on mac

Part 5. How to Convert m4a files?

Though M4A is better than MP3 in audio quality and file size, MP3 is still the better choice when it comes to compatibility. MP3 files are compatible with most audio players, no matter it’s on mobile or computer, or YouTube, Vimeo, etc. Because of this, you should convert M4A files to MP3.

So in this part, we will show you how to convert M4A to MP3 in steps. And here we will need to use iTunes to convert M4A.

1. Open iTunes. And add the M4A files to the app. Click Files from the top left after with Add to Library. Then, select your M4A file and click Open to add the file.

convert m4a itunes

2. After that, click the iTunes tab from the left corner, then Preferences->General->Import Settings. Select MP3 Encoder from the dropdown. Then click OK to complete the settings.

change preferences

3. Now, go to the Library section. Select Music from the drop-down list at the left corner. Select the M4A file you wish to convert into MP3.

select m4a file to convert to mp3

4. Then click the File option followed with Convert. Select Create MP3 Version, then the file will be converted into MP3. And after that, both the created MP3 and M4A are available in your iTunes.

convert m4a to mp3

Open .m4a file on Mac:

1. Firstly, get the info about the .m4a file by right-clicking on it.

2. Then click the option of 'Open with' and select VLC Media Player as the program to start theM4A file.

3. Make sure to click on 'Change all' to set the selected application as the default opener for the M4A file.

open and select m4a program on mac

Part 6. How to recover deleted .m4a files on Windows and Mac

We are humans, and humans make mistakes. An error that seems more like living torture to everyone is deleting something that you need. You might accidentally delete any .m4a file that you might need in the future. This will give you a panic attack, and questions will come to your mind regarding how to recover the file. But you need not worry about anything anymore. The wonderous tool Wondershare Recoverit will do the job, and you will be out of all the stress within minutes.

The recovery software is well-known for its unique work. Let's highlight a few of the fantastic features about Wondershare Recoverit Data Recovery Software;

The tool is powerful enough to help you recover files. Yet, it is straightforward to use. But if someone thinks that it's difficult for them to understand and use the tool, we will ensure that after this step-by-step guide, you will change your mind, so let's go through the recovery steps together.

Firstly, download and install Recoverit data recovery software on your devices.

Step 1: Select the target drive.

The user is suggested to select the target drive from where the data was originally lost. This is the primary step for recovery. Once you have selected the file, click on 'Start,' visible in the bottom right corner. The click will start the scanning process.

select your drive and start scanning

Step 2: Scanning process

The recovery software will now fetch all the folders from the selected drive to find the deleted files. The scanning process directly depends on the size of the folders within the drive. The larger the files, the longer the scanning will take. Scanning might take hours in case of large folders, but usually, it takes minutes.

scanning your drive

Step 3: Recover the file

The categories of 'Tree View' or 'File View' in the Windows hold all the data found in the recovery stage during the drive's scanning. The user is now requested to review all the deleted-fetched files. Find and mark the files you want to recover, and click on the 'Recover' button in the center of the screen to save the file to your desired location.

recover your data


Sharing the most information about the .m4a files with the user to have sufficient knowledge can differentiate between other formats. It also introduced the excellent tool Wondershare Recoverit that will help its user recover any deleted .m4a file.

Recoverit author

Eleanor Reed

staff Editor

Home > Resources > Knowledge Center > What is .m4a file and how to play m4a files?