A file with the .wma file extension is a Windows Media Audio (WMA) file. Microsoft created the format to avoid the licensing issues associated with the MP3 format.

RELATED: What Are the Differences Between MP3, FLAC, and Other Audio Formats?

What Is a WMA File?

Initially created in 1999, Microsoft designed WMA to combat MP3 and Apple’s AAC compression methods. Since then, WMA has expanded from its initial lossy format into a wide range of sub-formats including low-bandwidth voice audio to lossless multi-channel surround sound.

RELATED: What Lossless File Formats Are & Why You Shouldn't Convert Lossy to Lossless

When compared to MP3 format, WMA maintains a higher level of quality at a lower bitrate, especially when comparing bitrates less than 64 kbps.

Because WMA is a proprietary format, very few programs support it compared to the widely used MP3. If you plan to open your WMA files on anything but Windows, you’ll either have to download a third-party application or convert it into a different format.

How Do I Open a WMA File?

Since WMA is a proprietary Microsoft format, you won’t be surprised that Windows can open them easily with built-in apps. Double-click your WMA file, and it should open right up in Windows Media Player unless you have installed another program that’s set as the default for WMA files.

If for some reason that doesn’t work, you can right-click the file, point to the “Open With” menu, and then click “Windows Media Player” or whatever other supported app you prefer.

If you’re using macOS or Linux, things aren’t that easy since those platforms don’t have built-in apps with WMA support. Instead, you’ll need to download a third-party app. We highly recommend VLC Player. It’s fast, open-source, free and you can use it on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. VLC also supports pretty much every file format out there and is a highly capable player.

How Do I Convert a WMA File?

Unless you’re using WMA for a particular reason, it’s probably best to convert your WMA files into something a little more widely used—like MP3—especially if you’re not using Windows or want to share files with non-Windows users.

Hundreds of websites on the internet convert WMA files for you, but we like Zamzar’s online WMA to MP3 conversion tool. It’s free, safe, and they promise to delete all your files after 24 hours.

After loading up the website, click the “Choose Files” button. Find and select the WMA files on your computer that you want to convert and then click “Open.”

From the drop-down menu, choose the file format to which you want to convert.

Finally, enter an email and then click “Convert.”

That’s all there is to it. When the conversion is done (which is usually pretty fast unless you’re converting big files), you’ll get an email message with a link where you can download the converted files.


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Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He's covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC.  
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