How-To Geek

How to Make Ubuntu Play MP3 Files

Because of licensing issues, Ubuntu is unable to play MP3s out of the box. We’ll show you how to play MP3s and other restricted file formats in about four mouse clicks.

The philosophy behind Ubuntu is that software should be free and accessible to all. Whether MP3 and other file formats are free is unclear in many countries, so Ubuntu does not include software to read these file formats by default.

Music Player_001

Fortunately, it does include a package that installs the most commonly used file formats all at once, including a Flash plugin for Firefox.

Note: These instructions are for Ubuntu 10.04. There are small differences for earlier versions of Ubuntu.

Play MP3 Files

Open the Ubuntu Software Center, found in the Applications menu.


Click on View and ensure that All Software is selected.

Ubuntu Software Center_001

Type “restricted extras” into the search box at the top-right. Find the Ubuntu restricted extras package and click Install.

Ubuntu Software Center_002

Enter your password when prompted.


Once the install is complete, close out of Ubuntu Software Center, and you’ll be able to play MP3 files! To confirm this, we’ll open up Rhythmbox, found in the Sound & Video section of the Applications menu.


Our test MP3 plays with no problems!

Note: If Rhythmbox tells you that MP3 plugins are not installed, close Rhythmbox and reopen it. You should not have to install anything extra through Rhythmbox.

The Disco King - Carry On Wayward Son_005 

Despite this extra step, playing the most common audio and video file formats – including Flash videos on the internet – is simple. All the software comes installed, you just have to teach them how to read your files.

Trevor is our resident Linux geek, but always keeps his eyes open for neat Windows tricks too.

  • Published 06/8/10

Comments (9)

  1. Thomas

    Use Linux Mint instead.
    it’s a version of Linux based on Ubuntu. The main difference is that it contains all the necessary codecs, package etc…. (even if proprietary) so out of the box, you can view read MP3 and so on…

    As stated on “Linux Mint’s purpose is to produce an elegant, up to date and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop distribution”

  2. cz-man

    great tutorial. Thanks.

    p.s.: how can i move buttons in left-top corner to right-top corner. (close window etc.)

  3. Tom

    To move the window controls from the top-left to top-right, open up gconf-editor and change the “/apps/metacity/general/button_layout” key to “:minimize,maximize,close”.

  4. Rothgar

    I agree with using Linux Mint :) It is the easiest way to get MP3 playback, DVD playback, and Adobe flash.

  5. sokk

    I installed VLC player and easy plalyback the MP3 (and DVD, and whatever)

  6. Visuex

    This tutorial is wrong…in the sense of what is the easiest thing to do in order to get MP3s.

    Installing VLC is by far the easiest thing to do.

    1. Open “Ubuntu Software Center”
    2. Search for “vlc”
    3. Install VLC

    VLC plays almost everything right out of the box so install VLC and you can play any format you want.


    Mint is a very nice distro but using one distro over another this type of purpose is kind of over doing it. Although everyone should try Mint at least in a VM.


    Thanks Tom for that gconf-editor tip…didn’t know that was available in there.

  7. Trevor Bekolay

    @Visuex and sokk

    I appreciate the input, but both methods would be equally ‘easy’ in that they both require the installation of one package.

    Installing VLC will enable you to play MP3s… from VLC. Personally, I use Rhythmbox for audio and SMPlayer for video. Using the method described in this article will enable most applications to decode MP3 files, rather than tying you to a single application.

    A more detailed guide for moving window buttons can be found here.

  8. hasi

    Elagant. for me though VLC is all i need. Streaming , movies , songs.

  9. Dan

    some softwares are required can you help

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