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QuickTime Player can’t open files? Try these simple solutions

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Olga Weis Jul 28, 2021

If you deal with QuickTime errors often when playing your files, consider installing an alternative to QuickTime that offers advanced functionality, such as customization, multi-format video playing, and smooth streaming without third-party software.

QuickTime Player Not Working When Trying to Open Files

Most Mac users are happy using the basic programs pre-installed on the operating system, such as Music, Movie, and OneDrive. But for those who expect greater functionality from their media players might find that, occasionally, their QuickTime Player won’t work when trying to open different file types.

One of the major benefits of Apple’s patented media player, QuickTime, is that it’s free and supports basic video file types: .mov, .mp4, .4mpv, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, 3GPP2, 3GPP, DV, AVI, and AVCHD video formats, plus audio files such as: MP3, .m4a, .m4b, .m4p, AIFF, .caf, AMR, WAV, AU, SD2, SND.

With such a range of accepted file types, it’s surprising and frustrating when QuickTime can’t open a file. There are several reasons for this error, including:

  • Codec issue
  • Software update
  • Filename inaccuracy
  • File corruption

Keep reading for practical solutions to these common QuickTime errors.

QuickTime Player Not Working

Resolving codec issues when your QuickTime Player isn’t working

Compression creates playable videos by adjoining audio and video files. Interpreting the adjoined files requires an algorithm called a codec, used by a media player when opening the compressed files.

Codec combines the words “encoder” and “decoder.”

A codec differs from a file format. Even if your video file is compatible, QuickTime Player may not be able to read the file’s codec, which interprets the data in the file into a playable video.

It’s easy to learn a file’s codec and whether that’s the source of the QuickTime error:

  1. Open the file in QuickTime.
  2. Select Show Movie Inspector in the Window tab.
  3. Find the codec in the Format section.

When QuickTime Player doesn’t support your file’s codec, you can use a program to activate the right support: DivX, Xvid, MPEG-2 Playback Component, or Autodesk.

QuickTime supported codecs:

  • Video Codec: H.264, H.263, H.261, MPEG-4, and MPEG-2
  • Audio Codec: MP3, AAC, HE-AAC, and Apple Lossless

A common software issue that causes QuickTime Player to not work

If your QuickTime Player has frequent errors or doesn’t seem to run as reliably as it used to, it could be a simple fix. Like any other software, developers will drop updated versions with optimizations and patches for bugs and issues. In the course of your day, you may accidentally disregard system notifications asking you to update, but that doesn’t mean you have to uninstall and reinstall the QuickTime player.

Next time QuickTime player can’t open, try this:

  1. Open the QuickTime player.
  2. Click on the Help tab.
  3. Choose Update Existing Software.
  4. Follow on-screen instructions to update the media player.

Old and outdated software can cause issues with playback, but it’s an easy fix to stop what’s causing your QuickTime Player to not work.

When filename inaccuracy causes QuickTime errors

The file extension on a video tells you what kind of data is stored in the file and the media player you can use to open the file. If your QuickTime Player can’t open the file you want, there may be an error in the filename–they’re easy to edit, so mistakes can happen.

Use a free tool such as MediaInfo or FileAlyzer to take a closer look at the files you want to open with QuickTime Player. Confirm that the file type is one of the many compatible formats, and make sure the extension in the file name accurately reflects the file type.

File corruption may be the cause if QuickTime player can’t open .mp4 or .mov files

The fastest way to check for file corruption is to use another free media player to open the file, such as Music or VLC. By double-checking the file with other applications, you confirm the problem is not because of a QuickTime Player error but a file error. A corrupted file doesn’t automatically mean the data in that file is lost forever. File repair programs–many of which are free–can resolve issues with file corruption.

Yodot MOV Repair can fix .mov and MP4 files, and it might help with Divx, Xvid, and AVI video files. Before giving up on a file, download and try Yodot.

FAQ about common QuickTime Player errors

The most common reason for a MOV file not being compatible with QuickTime is the codec used to encode the audio and video files during compression. If the codecs aren’t compatible, the QuickTime player won’t open the .mov file.

Using QuickTime’s open architecture, third-party developers can create components or plug-ins to modify QuickTime to enable it to play the file with the codec in question.

Similar to issues with .mov files, if the QuickTime Player won't play a MP4 video, it’s most likely because the video compression used an incompatible codec.

You can use a more powerful media player that supports the file’s codec or try another free media player such as VLC to see if the file’s compatible. Or, you can use software or an online tool to convert the file’s codec to one with broad applications, such as H.264.

There may be occasions when you try every recommended solution. You still can’t get a file to play due to QuickTime Player errors. In those situations, it’s easiest to find another media player. This solution will also ensure it’s not an issue with file corruption.

Try a popular media player like Elmedia Player, VLC, MPlayerX, or 5K player. They support most media formats and can open any file regardless of codec. If you want to learn more about alternative free Mac media players, read our VLC media player review. It highlights our favorite features and answers common questions about the player.

Elmedia Player
Requirements: macOS 10.12+ , 89.14MB of free space
Version 8.5(3120) (8 Jun, 2022) Release notes
Category: MultimediaApplication