There are a lot of different video file containers floating around (AVI, WMV, MKV, OGM, etc.), and I've found you can't always trust the file extension. Too often, some confused individual changed it to something that she was more familiar with (for instance, from MKV to AVI), and that can become an issue, especially if you want to do something other than just play it.

What's an easy, reliable way to determine the type of container a video file uses on Windows? I know Media Player Classic does some kind of detection behind the scenes, but it doesn't present that information to the user.

Just a clarification: I'm not asking anything about the streams in the file or the codecs they use (i.e. Divx, MP3, etc), I'm asking about the container they are contained in. If you have a Divx video and and MP3 audio streams in a file, I want to know if it's in an AVI file, an MKV file, or something else.


5 Answers 5


Best application I know of for this is Mediainfo which is free, open-source and available on almost every platform imaginable. Gives you container format, codecs, encoding libraries and much, much more.



Try this program: http://mark0.net/soft-tridnet-e.html

Make sure you download definitions together with the program and extract the TrIDNet and the definitions to the same folder

I tested and TrIDNet with current definitions was able to detect AVI, MKV, FLV, MP4 containers


Take a look at this exhausting list of codec identifiers. I'd point out GSpot and AVICodec.

  • Those aren't what I'm looking for. I want to find out about the container format, not the codec.
    – Kaypro II
    Nov 23, 2009 at 13:54

Look at the file data itself (binary) and then use info from wotsit to determine file type.

There is also the TrID utility that does this automatically.

  • I would like a program that automates something like what you describe, I don't want to do it myself.
    – Kaypro II
    Nov 24, 2009 at 6:31
  • I added the TrID utility. It did what you asked for an AVI file on my system (have no other files around currently).
    – Gerd Klima
    Nov 24, 2009 at 9:30

If you're interested in the "containers", I believe that GomReader is useful for you. This one detects containers as well as codecs.

How to use GomReader

GOM Video Converter download

This tiny app is included in "GOM Video Converter" but you don't have to install the full package of that. Just extract the EXE installer package somewhere using 7zip (or something able to extract SFX) and you'll get the portable GomReader.exe which does not need any other file such as dll files.

The video encoder itself is a free-trial version with some restrictions, but its GomReader does not have any functional restriction or time limit, AFAIK.


This is an example usage. I intentionally renamed csearch.avi to csearch.ffg to mimic your case and dragged the file onto GomReader. It actually detected the container type.

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