What Is a WMA File?

How to Open, Edit, and Convert WMA Files

WMA Files
WMA Files.

A file with the WMA file extension is a Windows Media Audio file. Microsoft created this lossy format to compete with MP3.

There are multiple sub-formats of WMA, including WMA Pro, a lossy codec that supports high-res audio; WMA Lossless, a lossless codec that compresses the audio without losing quality; and WMA Voice, a lossy codec meant for applications that support voice playback.

Also developed by Microsoft is the Windows Media Video file format, which uses the WMV extension.

How to Open a WMA File

Windows Media Player is the best program to use for opening WMA files because it's included in most versions of Windows. However, you can play WMA files in other operating systems with third-party software like VLC, MPC-HC, AllPlayer, MPlayer and Winamp.

The TwistedWave Online Audio Editor provides a quick way to play a WMA file in your browser if you don't have any of those programs installed to your computer.

If you need to play the file in a program or device (like an iPhone) that doesn't natively support the WMA format, you can just convert it to a different format that is supported, using one of the WMA converters described below.

Tip: If you find that an application on your computer tries to open the WMA file but it's the wrong application, or if you would rather have another installed program open WMA files, see my How to Change the Default Program for a Specific File Extension guide for making that change in Windows.

How to Convert a WMA File

Lots of different free file converters can be used to convert a WMA file to another audio format like MP3, WAV, FLAC, M4A, or M4R, among others. Some of them have to be installed to your computer before you can use them but others can run entirely in your web browser.

Freemake Audio Converter is one program you have to install in order to use.

Because it supports batch file conversions, it can be used to easily save multiple WMA files to a different format.

You may prefer an online WMA converter because they work through your web browser, meaning you don't have to download the program before you can use it. This does mean, however, that you have to download the converted file back to your computer.

FileZigZag and Zamzar are two examples of online WMA to MP3 converters, but they can also convert the file to WAV and several other formats, much like the downloadable converters I already mentioned.

Although most audio conversions involve converting the file to another audio format, it's also possible to "convert" the WMA file to text. This is useful if the WMA file was created from a recording of someone talking. Software like Dragon can turn speech into text.

Still Can't Open Your File?

File formats sometimes use the same or similar file extension letters, and it can be confusing. You might think your file is a WMA file but it could be something that just looks like it has the .WMA file extension.

For example, WMF (Windows Metafile), WMZ (Compressed Windows Media Player Skin) and WML (Wireless Markup Language) files share some of the same letters as WMA but are in fact not used for the same purpose as this audio file format.

Some other examples include Windows Media Photo files that use the .WMP file extension, and WAM files (Worms Armageddon Mission). The GarageBand MagicMentor Template file format uses a few of the same letters too, for .MWAND files.

Other Types of WMA File Formats

There are three sub-formats that a WMA file can exist in, in addition to Windows Media Audio:

  • Windows Media Audio Professional: This lossy codec is similar to WMA in that most of the same coding features are included. However, it also supports better entropy coding and more efficient stereo coding.
  • Windows Media Audio Lossless: This sub-format is intended to be used for archiving the WMA file since it compresses the audio data without losing any quality. Once decompressed, the audio is identical to the original. Typical compression levels fall between 1.7:1 and 3:1.
  • Windows Media Audio Voice: This codec uses compression that's higher than standard WMA, and competes with others like Speex and ACELP. WMA Voice is used for low-bandwidth voice programs.