How to Open and Play WMA Files on Mac

WMA or Windows Media Audio files are very common on Windows systems but unfortunately, they are not native to Mac operating systems. This means that macOS does not come with a built-in tool or app that can open and play them.

It can be disappointing if you have a WMA file you have received from someone or downloaded to your Mac and you are unable to play it. You may be curious as to what is in the file and don’t have a PC available. No worries! There are ways that you can open and play it on your Mac.

My name is Eric and I have been working with computers for as long as I can remember. As a software engineer, I have learned how to find solutions for things like this. I’m still learning about Macs and what they can do. As I learn, I like to pass the information on to others.

If you would like to learn a little about WMA files, what they are, and a few different ways that you can open and play them on your Mac, then keep reading and I will show you what I have found out.

What is a WMA File?

Before we start looking at how to open or play a WMA file, let’s first take a quick look at what this type of file is and what it is used for. For those who are unfamiliar with them, WMA files are files with a .wma extension that contain audio or music. It stands for Windows Media Audio.

This is a proprietary format used by Windows operating systems and is comparable to MP3 or Apple’s AAC files. WMA files are designed to open and play on Windows systems using Windows Media Player. 

These files have a variety of quality and bitrate settings and many users claim that they have better quality sound at lower bitrates. This means that you can have high-quality sounding audio in a file that takes up less space on your hard drive.

The drawback to this file type is that it is not widely supported by other systems since Windows owns it. You won’t find built-in players on your Mac or Linux-based machine. This means it can be a pain to figure out how to play them, but I can show you how to do this.

How to Play WMA on Your Mac

If you have a WMA file on your Mac and try double-clicking on it (assuming you don’t have any third-party software installed that can open it) you will get a message like the one shown below.

This is because your Mac and the QuickTime application are unable to open the file as we have already discussed. Although macOS does not have a built-in application or tool to open it, there are some ways that we can play this file, so let take a look at each of our options.

Option 1: QuickTime Components

At one time there were components that you could add to QuickTime that would allow you to play WMA files. One such component was called Flip4Mac and was supported by Microsoft, but as I recently checked on this it seems that it is no longer available as a QuickTime component.

A component is like an add-on or plug-in that you add to QuickTime to allow it to do other things like opening other types of audio files. It is possible that there are others out there that are still available and if so you may be able to find them and use them with WMA files.

Option 2: WMA Converter

A converter is just that. It is an application that converts one format to another. In our case, it can convert .wma files to .mp3 or .aac files which can be opened and played on your Mac. These are third-party applications that can be found in the App Store or on reputable websites. 

Some websites will convert your files right there directly on the website. I am not a big fan of these because you must upload your file to their website and who knows what they do with it once they have it. In any case, they will have a copy of your audio file. 

Option 3: WMA Player

A player is a third-party application that can directly play the WMA file. You can find plenty of them in the App Store by simply typing WMA player in the search window. Some are free and some will cost a little money.

These players are very nice and often allow you to play many different audio formats including WMA. You can always try out different ones and decide which one has the features that you like best. 

In my opinion, using a WMA Player is the best way to play WMA files on your Mac.

Option 4: Virtual Machine or Boot Camp

There are really two options here and both are quite a bit more involved than the solutions we have already discussed. Both of these options involve running a Windows environment on your Mac. With a Windows OS, you can open and play WMA files without any extra tools or apps.

Virtual Machine

A virtual machine allows you to run a whole operating system such as Windows in a single window on your desktop. It’s like having a separate computer running on your desktop! You will need to use some VM software such as Parallels or VMWare to do this.

Once you have a Windows VM up and running on your desktop, you can then copy your WMA files there, find them in Windows Explorer, and simply double click on them to play them.

The problem with using VMs is that they often eat up a lot of your processing power so you need to have some pretty good hardware to run them efficiently. If you don’t they will be very slow and this could possibly affect your playback quality.

Boot Camp

This provides another way of running a Windows OS on your Mac. Boot Camp allows you to select which OS (macOS or Windows) you would like to use when your computer first starts. If you want to open and play WMA files, you can choose to boot into the Windows environment.

Running a Windows OS using boot camp will not pose the performance problems that you may see using a VM. With this option, you are running a separate Windows env just like you would on a PC and your WMA files will play just like they would on a Windows machine.

Virtual Machines and Boot Camp are probably a little bit of overkill just to play some WMA files on your machine, but they are viable solutions and if you have other Windows files, applications, and tasks that you do often, it may be worth looking at.

If you just simply want to play WMA files, you’re probably better off just using one of the other options we have listed above.

Final Words

As you have seen, WMA files will not normally play on a Mac unless you have a third-party application installed on your system to do so. We have discussed a number of options that will help you to do this.

The easiest and most straightforward option is to use a third-party WMA Player application. This will allow you to easily double-click on WMA files, open them and play them. I hope that the information provided above has helped you to be able to access and play your files. 

As usual, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you!

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