MKV is an open-source container format that’s useful for storing multiple files using multiple encoding types; many of us use the format when downloading and storing films and TV shows. But playing back the files in an MKV can be tricky, because support isn’t universal.

There are options you can use (such as the ever-versatile VLC Player) to play MKV, but if you prefer to use a media player such as iTunes, QuickTime or Windows Media Player, you’ll find you can’t run an MKV without additional steps. Your best approach is to convert the MKV into a MP4, a file format which runs in almost all players.

In this article we offer three simple methods to convert an MKV file into an MP4.

Method 1: HandBrake

Compatible with: Mac, Windows and Linux | Price: Free | Best for: Beginners transcoding video

HandBrake is a free, open-source transcoder we can use to convert MKV to MP4, and indeed works across most video formats. It works on Windows and Mac alike.

The most obvious advantage is the fact that we don’t have to spend any money. It also supports batch conversion. But HandBrake re-encodes the file when converting, which can introduce quality loss (and may take longer to convert too).

Step 1. Install HandBrake and open the software.

Step 2. Select the file you want to convert and click Open.

Step 3. Select the desired format in the dropdown menu, and adjust the other parameters to suit your requirements.

Step 4. When you’re happy, hit Start at the top of the interface to begin encoding.

Method 2: VideoProc

Compatible with: Mac, Windows | Price: Free/Pro version from $29.95 per year | Best for: All levels of user converting large (4K) videos, audio and DVDs to popular and rare formats

The Pro version of VideoProc starts at $29.95 for a one-year licence, but there’s a free version we can use to convert shorter MKV video files to the MP4 format.

And it sorts the two principal issues with using HandBrake: it doesn’t re-encode, which means you don’t need to worry about quality loss, and it features GPU hardware acceleration for quicker conversion - almost 2.5 times as fast as rival software, the firm boasts.

Like HandBrake, VideoProc is a versatile piece of software for Mac and Windows, supporting more than 420 formats and devices, offering the ability to customise codec, aspect ratio, frame rate and other video parameters. And it too supports batch conversions.

The method is easy for even inexperienced users to get the hang of.

Step 1. Open VideoProc & click Video from the starting menu.

Step 2. Drag the chosen MKV files into the main window, or click the upload button and choose them manually.

Step 3. Select either MP4 (H264) or MP4 (MPEG4) in the Target Format pane.

Step 4. Click Run to start the conversion.

VideoProc has many useful features, and its capabilities are not limited to the transcoding of MKV video to MP4 format. It can be used for screen recording and DVD/audio conversion, while its built-in free media downloader makes it easy to grab video online. Plus you can touch up your 4K and HD video clips - crop and rotate, stabilise the footage, correct lens distortion, add watermarks and much more - with simple editing tools.

Method 3: Online conversion

Compatible with: Mac, Windows | Price: Free/Pro version | Best for: Converting small files online

Instead of installing conversion software we can convert the MKV files to MP4 online. We’ll use CloudConvert for this demonstration, but there are numerous similar services available.

Such services have their advantages: namely, that you don’t need to have any sofware installed on your system. Most are also free up to a point: CloudConvert, for instance, lets you convert 25 files per day on the free tier. Beyond that you do need to pay.

Bear in mind that when using online tools you are dependent on your web connection to upload and download the files, and this may introduce a further time lag on the process. And while CloudConvert has comprehensive security and privacy policies, it’s worth considering how happy you feel about your video files being stored - however briefly - on servers run by a third party you don’t know much about.

Step 1. Browse to cloudconvert.com/mkv-to-mp4 and the format parameters will be pre-filled.

Step 2. Click the Select File dropdown and navigate to your files. You can set up a queue by clicking Add More Files.

Step 3. If you want to adjust resolution, aspect ratio and other parameters, click the spanner icon next to the file and browse the options.

Step 4. Click Convert when you’re ready to get started.

FAQs: Which is the best method?

Q1. Is MP4 better than MKV?

This depends on what you want to do with your files. The MKV format is useful for storage, but MP4 video files are much easier to play on a variety of devices.

Q2. Do you lose quality converting MKV to MP4?

The key factor here is re-encoding. Some tools re-encode - a process that can introduce quality loss - and others do not.

Q3. Should I choose Handbrake or VideoProc?

HandBrake’s main advantage is the fact that it’s completely free. But VideoProc is faster, and its lack of re-encoding means you don’t need to worry about quality loss. If those are dealbreakers for you - or if the size of files you’re converting means you can use the free trial version - then VideoProc is the one to choose.