VLC is unable to open the MRL – How to Fix this Media Player Error

VLC media player offers a fuss-free way to enjoy various media formats across many audio and video codecs. Well, usually, it’s fuss-free. Sometimes users report a VLC error when trying to access media from the internet, DVDs, CDs, or an external hard drive. Essentially, VLC is returning an error after a failed attempt to connect to the media source. 

Continue reading if you want to learn more about VLC, the MRL error we are talking about, and how to solve this error so you can continue enjoying your YouTube video or DVD without further issues. 

What is VLC?

VLC is a popular media player, often downloaded to replace the Windows Media Player and Apple’s Quicktime. Originally called VideoLAN Client, it is now simply known as VLC. This media player is so popular because it’s free, open-source, and portable. 

VLC is available on Windows, iOS, and Linux, but it’s not just a desktop application. It’s also available on mobile platforms like Android, Xbox system software, Chrome OS, and iOS. VLC can be downloaded from Google’s Play Store, Apple’s App Store, and the Microsoft Store. 

This outstanding media player supports a ton of audio and video codecs. It includes some of the most widely used video codecs such as MPEG-1 Part 2, DivX, and WMV. As for audio codecs, VLC supports MP3, AAC, and MPED-Audio. If you want to see a comprehensive list of all the codecs it support or any other specific information about this app, you can go to VLC Wiki

Since VLC supports so many codes, it can also read or process almost all file formats. This software can open all kinds of video/audio formats without downloading additional proprietary plugins or codecs. This includes physical formats like DVDs and CDs. Here’s a list of some of the more common file formats supported by VLC:

  • .FLV
  • .MPEG4
  • .FLAC
  • .OGG
  • .WAV
  • .DIVX
  • .MP3
  • .MP4
  • .WMV

What is the “VLC is unable to open the MRL” error?

While VLC is a fantastic media player, it’s not without a few issues. One of the most common issues that users report is the ‘VLC is unable to open the MRL’ error code. This error appears on Windows systems when VLC cannot open the MRL file. 

Usually, this means you are trying to open a file that is not located on your local disk. Most computers have a single local hard disk, denoted as the C drive (C:).

The VLC MRL file error typically appears as follows:

‘Your input can’t be opened: 

VLC is unable to open the MRL ‘dvd:///d:/’. Check the log for details.’

This example showcases the MRL error associated with a DVD file, but it can also occur with other file types that are commonly located outside your local disk:

‘VLC is unable to open the MRL ‘rtsp://…’

‘VLC is unable to open the MRL ‘https://…’.

VLC is unable to open the MRL error - how to fix it

What is MRL?

MRL stands for media resource locator. It’s a string of characters that VLC uses to identify and locate multimedia resources. The MRL syntax is:

  • [[access][/demux]://]URL[#[title][:chapter][-[title][:chapter]]] [:option=value …]

VLC supports the following MRLs:

  • dvd://[⟨device⟩][@⟨raw device⟩][@[⟨title⟩][,[⟨chapter⟩][,⟨angle⟩]]]
  • vcd://[⟨device⟩][@{E|P|E|T|S}[⟨number⟩]]
  • http://⟨server address⟩[:⟨server port⟩]/[⟨file⟩]
  • rtsp://⟨server address⟩[:⟨server port⟩]/⟨stream name⟩

5 Solutions to “VLC is unable to open the MRL” Error

1. Ensure URL is Correct and Working 

If you experience the VLC is unable to open MRL error when trying to playback a YouTube video (https:// error), then you should check first if your URL is a working link. 

Open Google Chrome or any browser of your choice and copy and paste the URL you are trying to access in VLC into the address bar. Then press Enter

VLC media player features

If the URL directs your browser to a YouTube video that loads correctly, something else is causing the MRL error. However, if the video does not load or the URL is a broken link, the MRL issue is likely from your source. You’ll need to find the proper working link for the YouTube video you are trying to access. 

2. Disable Third-Party Firewall

Your firewall is the most common cause of the “VLC is unable to open the MRL” error. If your firewall settings are too ‘strict,’ it may block ports VLC needs to access or stream from the source. The firewall disrupts your attempts to connect to the source by blocking the request, thus returning the said error.

Typically this problem is not related to Windows native firewall software and setting, but in the next solution, we’ll cover how to add VLC to the exceptions list for Windows Firewall. If you’ve downloaded third-party antivirus software with firewall settings turned on, this is likely the root cause. 

There’s no standard way to disable a third-party firewall. Every antivirus program has a different set of steps and function menus. You’ll need to look up the specific steps to disable the firewall for the software (Norton, McAfee, BitDefender, Trend Micro, Malwarebytes, etc) installed on your computer. 

steps to disable Bitdefender antivirus and firewall protection
Sample of instruction manual for disabling the firewall

If disabling the third-party firewall solves the ‘VLC is unable to open the MRL’ error, then you should be able to turn the firewall back on and add VLC to the third-party firewall exception list or ‘Allow’ list. 

3. Allow VLC Through the Windows Firewall 

As previously mentioned, Windows Firewall is not usually the problem, but it’s still a good idea to double down on the known firewall issue by allowing VLC through the firewall. 

When you use VLC for the first time, Windows automatically blocks the connection because it is a new application. Windows will notify you that Windows Firewall is trying to block a connection, but you can choose to allow the VLC media player to communicate with Private and Public networks. 

allowing VLC media player through the Windows Firewall

If you clicked ‘Allow access,’ then VLC should already be in your Windows Firewall exceptions list. If you click cancel, you might need to add it manually. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Right-click on the Start button and select Settings from the popout menu.
settings menu
  1. Within Settings (Control Panel), find and click Update & Security
update & security option from the settings menu
  1. Within Update & Security, use the navigation menu on the left-hand side to select Windows Security.
windows security option
  1. From the list of options on the Windows Security page, find and select Firewall & network protection.
firewall and network protection option
  1. Now select Allow an app through firewall, located under the Private network and Public network options. 
allow an app through firewall
  1. Under the Allow apps to communicate through Windows Defender Firewall, click the Change settings button. Then scroll down near the bottom of the application list to find the VLC media player. 
allow apps to communicate through windows defender firewall
  1. If VLC is not listed, then you’ll need to click Allow another app. At the bottom of the Add an app popup window, click Browse. Usually, VLC is installed at the following location:
    C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC
  1. Copy and paste this file path into the address bar and select the VLC application. Then click Open.
copy file path into the address bar to find VLC app
  1. You’ll now see the VLC media player listed in the Add another app window. Click Add.
adding VLC app
  1. Now find the VLC media player in the list. And then, at a minimum, check the Private network (that would be your home network/ any network with a password) box. Then click OK
VLC media player in the list of applications

Once you complete this series of steps, the VLC media player will have full access to your home or work network. 

4. Claim File Ownership of Media File

We’ve already added VLC to the Windows Defender Firewall exception list, but that doesn’t mean the firewall will recognize your media files as safe and secure. If Windows flags your media file as a threat, often the case when accessing a file on an external drive, you’ll experience the “VLC is unable to open the MRL” error. You can address this problem by claiming ownership of the file:

  1. Navigate to the file location of the file you want to claim. Select Properties from the dropdown menu.  
select properties from the menu
  1. Within the Properties window, select the Security tab. Then click the Advanced button below the Permissions for SYSTEM section.
select the security tab then the advanced button
  1. At the top of the page, you’ll see Name and Owner. Click the Change button listed after Owner.
change name and owner
  1. In the Select User or Group window, enter your User name in the Enter the object name to select field. Then click Check Names
enter user name then click check names
  1. The object name may be slightly formatted/changed if the object name is valid. If invalid, a popup will appear to let you know where to check to ensure you have the right object name. You’ll have to try again until your Check Names get accepted. Click OK when you’re done. 
check names
  1. Now back on the Advanced Security Settings page, check for Replace all child object permission entries at the bottom of the page. Check the box and click Apply. If this option is not there, you may already have full permissions. 
  2. Click OK and then exit out of any remaining windows. Try to open the problematic media file again to see if the issue is resolved.  

5. Uninstall VLC and Reinstall (Ensure it’s the Latest Version)

If you’ve made it this far but are still stuck with the ‘VLC is unable to open the MLR’ the problem might reside with your VLC installation. Your VLC installation may be corrupt, damaged, or outdated. You can rule this out by uninstalling and reinstalling the media player with the most updated software:

  1. Using Windows Search, type Add or remove programs into the search bar. Open the matching Control Panel option. 
uninstall VLC media player in add or remove programs
  1. From the Apps page, enter VLC into the search bar located at the top of the screen. Then click the three ellipses on the right-hand side of the VLC media player application entry. Select Uninstall from the popout menu. 
reinstall VLC media player
  1. Click Uninstall again to verify. Then Yes, to agree to allow your computer to make changes. The VLC Uninstall window will open. Follow the instructions to uninstall VLC. 
  2. Open Google Chrome or the browser of your choice and navigate to https://www.videolan.org/
videolan landing page
  1. Click Download VLC and then Save the VLC installer executable to the storage folder of your choice. Navigate to this file location and double-click on the file to start the launcher. 
  2. Follow the VLC media player Setup steps. You don’t need to make any changes, just use the default installation settings. When you are finished, you can try to open the media file again to see if the error is resolved.  
VLC media player setup

“VLC is unable to open the MRL” Error Resolved

Not being able to play Youtube videos, DVDs, or other media files on an external drive puts a damper on using VLC. While it’s a great media player with many popular features, the “VLC is unable to open the MRL” error has been bothering users for years. 

We’ve compiled five solutions that have proven helpful for others. Hopefully, one of these solutions will fix your VLC error, and you can open your media file and continue enjoying your audio or video. If the error persists, you can try to install another media player as a last-ditch alternative. 

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