The 7 Best Free Media Players for Windows


Trying to choose a media player app is like deciding on a web browser: conflicting opinions abound, everyone wants to convert you to “their” app of choice, and it’s easy to drown beneath all the different options out there.

The good news? Worthwhile media player apps always rise to the top as they distinguish themselves, and for the most part, it doesn’t matter which one you choose. The best media player for you is the one you most enjoy using.

There are many free media players for Windows 10 and Windows 11, offering a variety of tools, options, and support for different video formats. If you’re struggling to figure out the best option, here are the best free media players available for Windows 10 and Windows 11.

1. VLC Media Player

vlc media player 2021

VLC Media Player is the most popular media player in the world. If you look on a site like AlternativeTo, you’ll see that VLC ranks up top with over 7,000 Likes. VLC is clearly the king. But is it right for you? Maybe, maybe not.

VLC is complex and powerful. “All-in-one solution” describes it best, and you can do a lot with it, particularly with all of the advanced settings and options to tweak. The downside? VLC verges on “bloated” status and may not offer the best performance on older, slower hardware.

But if you hate tinkering and just want a media player that’s free and works right out of the box, VLC is the answer. It can stream video URLs in real-time, and it can play all standard media types, including CDs, DVDs, and most popular video formats like MP4, AVI, and MKV. No need to download, install, and fiddle with codecs.

All in all, we understand why VLC ranks as one of the most popular GitHub projects to date. Considering it’s been in active development since 2001, it’s safe to say that VLC won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

For all of this, VLC keeps its spot on our list of best Windows software.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices, webcams.
  • Supports online streaming with most mainstream protocols.
  • Hardware acceleration for fast GPU playback.
  • Customize appearance with the VLC Skin Editor.
  • Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.

Download: VLC Media Player (Free)

2. PotPlayer

potplayer dark 2021

PotPlayer is a media player app from South Korea. If VLC didn’t have such a strong brand identity, PotPlayer would probably stand in its place as the king of the free media players.

VLC and PotPlayer share a lot in common, notably that they both serve as easy all-in-one media players for users who just want an out-of-the-box solution. But unlike VLC, which can run into trouble when dealing with larger files or cutting-edge video formats, PotPlayer always works.

If you want to tweak options and customize them to your liking, PotPlayer lets you. In fact, you’ll find it packed with more settings than even VLC and lots of advanced features like scene previews, bookmarks, clip recording, and more. And best of all, it uses fewer resources than VLC.

Most users probably won’t care, but you should know that PotPlayer is free but proprietary software (i.e., not open source). Regardless, it’s a great free media player for Windows 10 or Windows 11.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Detailed interface that shows a lot without being cluttered.
  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices.
  • Supports online streaming with most mainstream protocols.
  • Better handling of large files (Blu-ray) and cutting-edge formats.
  • Available on Windows only.

Download: Daum PotPlayer (Free)

If you like the idea of PotPlayer and other portable apps, take a look at this list of the best portable apps that require no installation.

3. Media Player Classic

windows media player class hs 2021

Media Player Classic is one of those apps that can stir up nostalgia and send you down memory lane.

Released back in 2003, it was the favored alternative to Windows Media Player back during the Windows XP days. It stalled development in 2006 and has since forked into two separate projects: Home Cinema (MPC-HC) and Black Edition (MPC-BE).

Home Cinema is the better choice for everyday users, aiming to remain as lightweight as possible while supporting the latest standards and video formats. Black Edition is the superpowered version with more features, improvements, and enhancements, but it isn’t as simple to use.

The Home Cinema version is what you see in the above screenshot, illustrating its basic yet effective (and familiar!) layout.

And that’s really the biggest selling point of Media Player Classic: fast performance, low resource usage, small installation size—truly lightweight in every way. It handles most formats without issue, and it supports some advanced features like subtitle downloads, video capture, and integration with Skype.

Media Player Classic is the largest open-source alternative to VLC. If you don’t like how much bloat VLC took on over the past few years, and if you don’t like PotPlayer’s closed-source development, this is the free Windows 10 media player for you.

Unfortunately, MPC-HC was discontinued in July 2017, but it still works well and is worth using.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Intuitive and easy-to-use interface.
  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices.
  • Extremely lightweight, which means great performance on old machines.
  • Advanced features like subtitle downloads and Skype integration.
  • Available on Windows only.

Download: Media Player Classic (Free)

4. ACG Player

acgplayer free media tool 2021

Now that we’ve got the “Big Three” out of the way, it’s time to highlight this gem of a video player in the Microsoft Store. It’s called ACG Player, and it’s tragically underrated. If you thought Media Player Classic was lightweight, this will blow you away.

The first thing you’ll notice is the simplified interface and touch-based controls. Tap the top half for Play/Pause, or tap the bottom half to toggle the controls. Swipe left-right to rewind and fast-forward, swipe up-down for volume. Obviously, this app was designed for Windows 10 tablets, but keyboard shortcut alternatives exist too.

Advanced features include gesture customizations, multiple window mode, playlist management, online stream playback, and the ability to tweak subtitle appearances and animations. You can also opt for Ax-Lite Video Player, which is a faster version with some of the features cut out.

ACG Player does feature in-app ads and includes an in-app purchase you can use to remove them. However, they’re not intrusive, displaying when you pause a video. It doesn’t detract from your video watching experience at all.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Simple, gesture-based interface. Great for tablets!
  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices.
  • Lightweight and barebones design.
  • Available on Windows only.

Download: ACG Player (Free)

5. MPV

mpv media player 2021

In MPV, we have another free media player for Windows 10 and Windows 11, which also happens to be an open-source, cross-platform contender to VLC. This particular project is a fork of both MPlayer and mplayer2, keeping the good bits of those, throwing out the junk, and introducing a whole lot more goodies.

The first thing that stands out is the lack of a traditional user interface. It’s a pure video player with minimal controls overlaid at the bottom, and it’s mostly controlled using mouse movements. Nifty and convenient for touchscreen devices.

Between MPV and VLC, MPV is definitely harder to use if you want to do anything more than just watch stuff. It’s generally more efficient and less demanding resource-wise, but things like fiddling with subtitles or streaming to Chromecast can be a pain.

Overall, it has a bit of a niche appeal, but it’s certainly worth giving a try. What do you have to lose?

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Minimal, mouse-based user interface.
  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Excellent video quality, even when scaling.
  • Lightweight and efficient video playback.
  • Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android.

Download: MPV (Free)

6. 5KPlayer

5kplayer media windows 10 2021

The penultimate option is 5KPlayer, a fully-featured, ad-supported media player for Windows 10 and Windows 11.

It’s a comprehensive media player that supports a huge range of video formats, including 360-degree video and even 8K. Handily, 5KPlayer supports AirPlay and DLNA out of the box, allowing you to stream video with almost zero loss of quality. You can also stream video directly from YouTube into 5KPlayer, making it easier to manage YouTube videos on the go.

The 5KPlayer interface is easy to use, even including options to rotate your video through 90-degrees left or right.

Regarding the in-app ads, as with other free media players, they don’t pop up and wreck your viewing experience. However, they do occasionally appear when you’re trying to click on something else, like a specific setting. Overall, though, the ad-support media player is a great option for Windows 10 users.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • 4K, 8K, and 360-degree video playback.
  • Easy to use interface.
  • Stream live video, with support for YouTube, Dailymotion, Vimeo, and others.
  • Support for AirPlay and DLNA.

Download: 5KPlayer (Free)

7. KMPlayer

kmplayer media player app for windows 10 windows 11 almost famous

Like all the best free media players for Windows 10 and Windows 11, KMPlayer comes with support for a vast number of video formats available for playback at 4K, 8K, and more. The user interface is simple to use and reminiscent of VLC, and you can happily drag and drop media into the player and control it using your arrow keys or other keyboard shortcuts.

KMPlayer also supports 3D playback and comes with an extensive range of 3D playback options and frame color combinations. It also features two different VR modes, which is handy for those with a headset.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • 4K, 8K, and 360-degree video playback. Also compatible with 3D video and VR video.
  • Easy to use interface.
  • Extensive video format support.
  • Lightweight package, support for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows

Download: KMPlayer for Windows | Windows 64-bit

Not happy with the current crop of media players? Windows 10 and Windows 11 have such an array of excellent free media players available, and it isn’t easy choosing the best option of all. For many people, VLC is the go-to option, even if it is a little bloated. You can still drop and drag almost any file into the VLC, and it’ll work the first time without any hassle.


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