The M4V file format is a video container format, developed by Apple for use with its iTunes software. Problems playing an M4V video relate mostly to whether the format features digital rights management. DRM-protected files can only be played on authorized computers, while unprotected files can play on any computer so long as they have a compatible player.
The primary difference between the M4V and MP4 is that M4V files can be encoded with Apple FairPlay DRM. This form of copyright protection prevents the file from being played on any unauthorized device, rendering it essentially useless on unauthorized computers. The M4V format is often used to deliver high-definition video, but can also be used for standard-definition video as well.
Playing Protected M4V
To authorize your computer, launch iTunes and select Store from the menu bar, followed by Authorize This Computer. Enter your Apple ID when prompted and click Authorize. For Windows users who don't see the menu bar in iTunes, press Ctrl-B to display the bar. Authorizing iTunes on your computer won't render the file viewable if it isn't linked to your iTunes account.
Converting to MP4
While unprotected M4V files can be played on any compatible player, not every media player directly supports the M4V extension. However, you can change the file extension of nearly any unprotected M4V file to MP4 and play the file on MP4-compatible players instead. To change the extensions, access the Control Panel by pressing Windows-X and selecting Control Panel from the menu for Windows 8 or clicking Start, followed by Control Panel in Windows 7. Select Appearance and Personalization, followed by Folder Options and clear the Hide extensions for known file types checkbox, then click OK. Finally, right-click the M4V file, select Rename and change the extension from .M4V to .MP4.
Using Media Players
Many desktop media players can handle M4V in its original form, as well as after being renamed to an MP4 file. Apple's iTunes and QuickTime, as well as Microsoft's Windows Media Player 12 can all play M4V files. The VideoLAN Organization's VLC Media Player also offers support for both M4V and MP4 files, as well as a wide range of other formats. The best way to ensure compatibility with these apps is to keep them up-to-date and to only use them on iTunes-authorized computers. In some cases, a specific codec file may also be needed to properly decode and display the information in the file.
- FileInfo: M4V File Extension
- Apple: How Do I Authorize a Computer?
- Apple: Turn on iTunes Menus in Windows 7 and 8
- Apple: iTunes Frequently Asked Questions About Viewing and Syncing Videos
- Apple: Media Formats Supported by QuickTime Player
- Microsoft: File Types Supported by Windows Media Player
- VideoLAN: VLC Playback Features
- Microsoft: Show or Hide File Name Extensions
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