If you have a media file with an unknown extension type, then getting it to easily play in your favorite media player can be a frustrating experience. Should you convert the file or is there a better solution? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post helps a reader deal with a problematic media file.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader Henry wants to know how to convert an unknown media file type to mp3:

I am having trouble converting an unknown media file type to mp3 so that I can easily play it in VLC Media Player on my Windows 7 system. If I drag and drop the file into VLC Media Player, it plays fine.

When I open it and attempt to choose VLC Media Player as the default program, the “Always choose this program to open this kind of file” check box is grayed out and I am unable to select it. I want to be able to set VLC Media Player as the default program for all the music files I have that are like this.

How do you convert an unknown media file type to mp3?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors AFH and Kamil Maciorowski have the answer for us. First up, AFH:

If you play the file via drag and drop, pause or stop it, then:

  • Go to Play-list
  • Right-click on the problem file
  • Click Information

The Codec Tab will tell you what type of media file it is, so you can close the program and add the appropriate extension to the file.

Do not convert the file! This will take time and degrade the quality. If you do not know what the appropriate extension should be, rename the file as FileName.vlc and associate the extension with VLC Media Player (any unused extension could be used, but this one is unlikely to be used by anything else on your system).

Followed by the answer from Kamil Maciorowski:

To anyone who has the same exact problem, do not let my answer misguide you. AFH’s answer is right, it is better to avoid converting the file altogether. Still, Henry asked for it, so Henry gets it.

If VLC Media Player can play this file, then it can likely convert it. There is Convert/Save entry in the File Menu (the actual entry may vary slightly depending on the UI language settings on your system). Add your file with the Add Button, then choose Convert from the drop down menu at the bottom. My installation of VLC Media Player has the mp3 profile right out of the box.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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