For the longest time playing a DVD movie in Windows was as easy as popping the disc in the tray and wait for the video to start automatically. Now that is not longer the case in Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro, since Microsoft decided to remove the support of DVD playback from the operating system, and giving up the inclusion of future Blu-ray support, if this was ever in the plans.
This decision has a good reason: DVDs and Blu-ray discs depend upon codecs to understand and play video and audio on the screen — typically MPEG for video and Dolby Digital for audio –. Those are technologies that have patents and cost money. For instance, Microsoft has to pay $2 to the MPEG-LA for each copy of Windows 7 sold, cost that the company has to pass to customers even if they don’t play DVDs (this is not counting the unknown price that the company has to pay for the Dolby Digital codecs). Moving forward Microsoft thinks that it isn’t worth anymore to include the DVD playback support in Windows 8, as other technologies such as video streaming services are growing at a rapid pace and the physical disc is a dying media.
Now if you have a library of movies or if you use Netflix, you’ll be surprised finding out that you cannot longer play your favorite flicks or watch that concert in the big screen in Windows 8 Pro or with the core version of the OS. However, there are some easy solutions:
Use Windows Media Center
Even though, Media Center isn’t bundled with Windows anymore, if you bought a Windows 8 PC or an upgrade copy of Windows 8 Pro, you can get the Windows 8 Media Center Pack for free until the end of January, 2013. After this date you’ll probably have to pay $12.79 for the pack. It’s worth noticing that you’ll only have DVD playback in Media Center and not in Windows Media Player, and you’ll still need a third-party software to watch Blu-ray discs.
If you have only the core version of the new Microsoft’s OS, you will need to buy the Windows 8 Pro Pack, which costs $69.99. This will upgrade you to the Pro version, which also includes features such as Remote Desktop, BitLocker, and of course Media Center — check all the features.
Windows 7 (Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate) come bundled with Media Center and DVD playback codecs and still a great operating system. If you are planning to get a new PC, you can opt not to upgrade the old PC and you can use it to play movies, watch and record live TV.
Use alternate software solutions
There are many third-party software that you can use, many are free and others aren’t, but you will never go wrong by just installing VLC (VideoLAN). This piece of software is free and it is an also open-source, plays almost any video and audio file format including Blu-ray discs and DVDs, and a Windows 8 app version of the player is coming soon.
UMPlayer is a free and open-source media player for Windows, Mac and Linux. It comes bundled with more than 270 audio and video codecs including MPEG, MOV, VOB, DIVX, XVID, MP4 and many more. It has a good Windows 8 DVD playback support and you can even stream YouTube and SHOUTcast videos.
GOM Media Player
GOM Player is another great media player you can use to play DVDs on Windows 8. It is easy to install, but to play DVDs, however, you have some steps to follow — installing the MPEG-2 codec.
If you want to go with a commercially available software, you can opt for CyberLink PowerDVD 12, which is a well-known piece of software to play Blu-ray discs, DVDs in Windows 8 and many other video and audio file formats.
Another thing to keep in mind is that PC manufactures are likely to include some sort of software to play Blu-ray discs and DVDs in new computer and when you buy a new drive.
If you have a favorite app to play discs in Windows 8, let us know in the comments below. Thanks!