Your Windows 8 PC May Not Play DVDs

Your Windows 8 PC May Not Play DVDs

One final and possibly unwelcome clarification on media options in Windows 8. If you don’t install Windows 8 Pro and also buy into the Media Center upgrade, your computer may not play DVDs any more.

Microsoft explains its logic in a post on the Building Windows 8 blog. Essentially, with an increasing number of PCs and ultrabooks shipping without a DVD drive, licensing the codecs required to play DVDs for inclusion in Windows Media Player (which every edition of Windows gets) increases the price (by around $2 a copy, Microsoft says). Since online media is now dominating, Microsoft figured cutting out DVD playback makes sense.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to pay for an upgrade to get DVDs. Many vendors include licensed DVD playback software on their machines, and many external DVD drives also come with software that includes licensed copies of the codec. (That’s one of the few rational arguments for vendor crapware I’ve ever heard.)

If you have an existing machine running Windows 7 and are planning to upgrade to Windows 8, the situation is a bit hazier:

If there is existing third-party playback software the Windows Upgrade Assistant will help determine if this software is compatible with Windows 8 and you will have the option to keep it during the upgrade to Windows 8. Otherwise, you will need to acquire third-party playback software after the upgrade to play DVDs.

In other words, you’ll be relying on an OEM manufacturer to update its software, which is an unpredictable scenario.

The big lesson? If you buy a new machine with Windows 8 on it and it includes a DVD drive, check that software is included. Microsoft has made it clear that it won’t be licensing Windows Media Center for shipping on hardware — you’ll have to buy it yourself as an upgrade — so you’ll need to know this before buying if you don’t want unexpected expenses. While VLC is a capable media player and is what we use for DVDs whenever possible, it can have occasional issues with commercial DVDs, so it’s good to have a backup.

[Building Windows 8]


  • urgh great so instead of microsoft passing a $2 cost to consumers they’ve left it up to the vendors who will invariably pass a cost of way more then $2 on to their customers for the privilege of “playing dvds” not too mention in the inevitable “OMG this laptop plays DVDs” ads that will pop up to lure in average joes

    but at least we save $2 >_>

    • Conversely if they didn’t do it, a million people would line up to complain about bloat and overhead. …which they do already when Microsoft charges them an effective $2 for something that would cost them 10-100 times as much separately.

  • Can’t you just use VLC/any other third party software? Media Player in XP wouldn’t play DVDs but that doesn’t mean your _computer_ is incapable of DVD playback?

        • if it utilizes closed source or licenseware without paying a license to the IP owner, then it’s not exactly legal. The libdvdcss library is legal in France, which is where the non profit that develops VLC is based. It’s legal in some circumstances in the US and VLC hold that since they are not a US organization – they don’t care. I don’t think there’s a clear ruling either way for Australia.

  • It’s such a rare occurrence for me I doubt I’ll ever be affected.
    Besides, there’s plenty of other media players out there (I’m thinking VLC here).

    Honestly how many people here actually watch DVDs on their PC using WMP or WMC anyway?

  • Can’t say I ever watch DVD’s on my machine, but frankly – I’d rather pay the extra two bucks and have the option when I want it, without having to faff around trying to get licensed software.

  • Got klite mega codec pack installed and every dvd plays fine on media player classic, regardless of region as well. Screw you microsoft, screw you.

    • That’s not a legal option, though. It costs money to legally license the codec, and the fact that you can do it illegally isn’t something that helps Microsoft any.

        • Nope, neither. DVD Drives can be used for more than watching DVD Movies (Data DVDs anyone?) and the right to watch a DVD isn’t actually given by owning (technically you don’t even own it. You pay JB Hifi or whoever about $20 for a permanent, personal lease on the film)

          Commercial DVD Movies are (usually) protected by CSS, an encryption system. The right to ‘decode’ a CSS stream into watchable video has to be licensed, in other words a royalty has to be paid to the rights holder.

          Any lounge-room type DVD player will do this – so owning one of those will give you the right to play a DVD encrypted with CSS. But not DVD-ROM drives in computers, Sony, Panasonic, Liteon et al. do not pay the licensing for you. They just supply the hardware. In order to legally play a DVD you need software whose owner’s have paid the CSS right holders a fee, such as MS Windows Media Player in Windows 7 or PowerDVD

          Of course ‘legally’ in this situation isn’t really accurate. The laws are different all over the world, and I don’t believe it’s actually illegal to use VLC or any other software that bypasses/cracks the CSS encryption, in Australia. It’s probably not ethical to do so, but it’s not illegal either. I’m sure a lawyer who was highly-paid enough could make a case either way, but as no major players in the entertainment industry care too much about DVD encryption any more it’s unlikely to matter, except in cases like this

  • From a power user perspective, this is a non-issue. But from an average user perspective, I think one of the great successes of Windows 7 has been that since it includes most codec’s and plays pretty much everything, the user doesn’t have to go out to the interwebs to download a possibly dodgy virus infected codec pack.

  • This is the opposite direction to where they should be going. I was expecting to see native Blu-Ray support from Media centre/ Media Player, not this. I’m a little confused as to what happens when you upgrade as well. Do you lose that functionality, or does it remain?

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