What is an M3U8 file?

what to know

  • M3U8 files are UTF-8 encoded audio playlist files.
  • Open one using VLC, iTunes, Songbird and other media players.
  • Use VLC to convert to M3U, XSPF or HTML.

This article explains what the M3U8 file is used for, which programs can use it to play media files, and how to convert it to other playlist formats.

Files with the M3U8 file extension are UTF-8 encoded audio playlist files. They are plain text files that can be used by both audio and video players to describe the location of media files.

For example, an M3U8 file might give you a reference to an Internet radio station's online file. Another might be created on your computer to build a playlist of your own personal music or a series of videos.

Either way, the effect is the same: you can open the file to quickly and easily start playing whatever the playlist points to. If you find yourself wanting to listen to the same songs over and over again, you can make an M3U8 file as a shortcut for playing those specific tracks in your media player.

Files can use absolute paths, relative paths, and URLs to reference specific media files and/or entire folders of media files. Other information in the file may be comments describing the content.

There is a similar format using the M3U file extension. M3U8 is used to indicate that the file uses UTF-8 character encoding.

Most text editors can edit and read M3U8 files, including Notepad in Windows. However, as shown below, opening a file with Notepad only allows you to read file references. You can't actually play any of these music files like this because a text editor is not the same as a media player or media management program.

If you're looking for a good program to open and use M3U8 files, try VLC, iTunes or Songbird. Another way to open on Linux is to use XMMS, and CocoModX should work for Mac users (in addition to some Windows-compatible programs).

Below is an example of the same M3U8 file as above, this time imported into VLC, which will collect all the music files referenced in the text file and load them into a media player for playback.

A quick way to open files online is through HSLPlayer.net. However, this website will not work if you have M3U8 files stored on your computer or other device. You can only use it if you have the URL of the file and the content it references is also online.

Some of the same software that can open files can also be used to create M3U8 files. For example, if you have a bunch of files loaded into VLC and want to put them in their own playlist for easy playback in the future, use the Media > Save Playlist to File option to make an M3U8 file.

Another way to "create" an M3U8 file is to convert a different playlist format to this format, such as HTML to M3U8. Converthelper.net may be helpful here.

If you wish to convert M3U8 to MP4, MP3 or any other media format, you first need to understand that this format is plain text - nothing more. This means that it only contains text and nothing that can actually "play" like an MP4 or MP3 file in a media player.

If you do find a converter that claims to save a playlist to a video file format, then all it does is find the video from the path described in the M3U8 file and then run that file through the converter. This text-based format cannot be saved to any format other than another text format.

What you probably need is a file converter that can convert M3U8 referenced audio or video files to and from other audio/video file formats, such as an MP4 to AVI converter or a WAV to MP3 converter (or any other format) of these types file).

The only problem with this is that sometimes M3U8 files point to media files in multiple locations at the same time. This may include various folders on one or more internal hard drives, flash drives, and/or external drives.

If this is the case, we don't recommend manually searching through all files to find your file. Instead, just download the free program M3UExportTool. It uses playlist files to identify the sources of all media files and then copies them to a single location. From there, you can easily convert them using a video or audio converter.

M3U8X is a similar program and should work very similarly to M3UExportTool. You need to use a RAR opening program (such as 7-Zip) to open it.

We don't have download links for any dedicated playlist converters other than MusConv's M3U8 to M3U converter program, but some of the previously mentioned programs (such as VLC) can resave open M3U8 playlists into other formats, such as M3U , XSPF or HTML, which is essentially the same as the transformation.

If you can't open the file using the above method, there's a good chance your file isn't actually in this playlist format. Some file extensions look a lot like M3U8, so you'd better double-check yours.

MU3 is one example, used for music score files. You'll need to download Myriad's Harmony Assistant or Melody Assistant to open it.