What Is WMA Format: Everything You Need to Know

Windows Media Audio (WMA) is a proprietary file extension format created by Microsoft in 1999 to bypass the licenses by MP3 and Apple’s AAC. Since it’s proprietary in nature and other lossy formats had already come up before it, WMA didn’t exactly become well known.

WMA is a lossy audio file format, but it’s superior to other formats of its kind due to its higher level of quality and lower bitrate. These files include essential data, including the title, artist, genre, and album.

Since its production, Microsoft has also produced WMA subformats, including:

  • Windows Media Audio
  • Windows Media Audio Professional
  • Windows Media Audio Voice Codecs
  • Windows Media Audio Lossless

What Is a File Extension?

A file extension consists of the last three or four letters in a file, and the suffix comes right after a period. File extensions are helpful because they help your operating system to identify which program will open the work better.

Difference Between File Extensions and File Formats

We often confuse file extensions and file formats, but these aren’t the same. File extensions towards the end of a file name show the file’s nature, and the structure shows the organization of the data.

How Can You Open a WMA File?

The Windows Media Player is the easiest way to play WMA files, especially if you set the player as the default audio player on your Microsoft device. You’ll either need to use a third-party player or convert the file to a more popular version on other devices.

Popular third-party players that can play WMA files include WinAmp, iTunes, and VLC. iTunes receives a WMA file and converts it to ACC for Apple devices before the app plays the audio files.

What Is WMA Format

To Open a WMA File Using Microsoft:

If you need to open a WMA file using Microsoft, you need to find out whether the WMA is the default player.

If It’s Default:

  1. Go to the audio file you want to play and double-click it
  2. Player should automatically play the file

If It’s Not Default and VLC or WinAmp:

  1. Go to the audio file you’re trying to play
  2. Right-click the audio file and choose “Play with”
  3. Go for Windows Media Player

If It’s Not Default and iTunes:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Find “File” on the top of the navigation bar and choose “Add File to Library”
  3. Once the file navigation window opens, choose “Browse” and open the WMA file
  4. File should open hassle-free

How to Convert WMA Files to MP3 with VLC Player

VLC Player is quite versatile when it comes to opening audio files. The player should be able to open most audio file formats and convert the files. Even better is that the software is free and open-source, so you can open it across platforms such as Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, and macOS.

  1. If you have VLC installed, open it and click on “Media”
  2. A drop-down menu should show up
  3. Click the “Convert/ Save” option
  4. Clicking this option should open a sub-menu, choose “File” and select “Add”
  5. Search for the .wma file you want to convert, then click “Convert/Save”
  6. Choose “MP3” and then browse to see which file you want to convert it to
  7. Save as MP3

How to Convert WMA Files to MP3 Using Windows Media Player

  1. Open Windows Media Player and import your .wma files
  2. On the open Windows Media Player program, choose “Organize” at the top left corner
  3. “Organize” should lead to another menu
  4. Go to “Rip Music,” then pick “Change”
  5. Pick where you want the converted file to go
  6. Click “Format,” choose “MP3”
  7. Now you should be able to make other changes as you go

Other than these methods, you can also convert WMA files using different online converters to any other lossy formats. The benefit of using an online converter is that you can open them using a web browser, which will save you the storage space needed to install the program.

Why Won’t the WMA File Open?

Some extensions look pretty similar; for instance, .wma and .wmf. But, these extensions don’t serve the same purpose. Always be careful about the extension name. If your file’s extension doesn’t end in .wma, use google to find out where it belongs.

Sometimes renaming a format on Windows will change a file’s format, so remember to keep the original settings untouched.

What Is the Difference Between WMA and MP3?

The difference between WMA and MP3 is in how they compress data. Data compression needs encoders. MP3, for instance, uses the Lame Encoder, while WMA uses the Microsoft Encoder.

Mike Cheng founded the Lame Encoder in the late 1990s. The encoder is licensed under the LGPL and is the best MP3 encoder at mid-high bitrates. The encoder can convert audio data to the lossy MP3 format with minimal loss, thus producing a better sound.


  • WMA produces better sound quality than other lossy formats with lower bitrates
  • Windows users find it easier to use WMA
  • WMA promotes music professionals by providing Digital Rights Management (DRM)


  • WMA is compatible with fewer platforms than popular lossy formats, such as MP3
  • WMA is lossy, and conversions will lead to the loss of some audio data
  • The app is proprietary, so most devices don’t support it

Final Thoughts

If you like listening to sounds, especially music, you should know how two audios from the same artist might sound different. When it comes to extensions, you must know that these formats come in either lossy or unlossy format.

WMA is a lossy audio file extension, and it uses less storage space than MP3. However, there are still ways to convert WMA files to MP3. Remember that you will need an encoder to convert music to your preferred format because it will help you communicate with a computer to get the audio file you’re looking for.



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