Upgrade to Windows 8 and you may be surprised to find that you can no longer play video DVDs. Unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows 8 doesn’t include built-in support for playing DVDs.
Microsoft opted not to include DVD support because so many new computers – especially tablets and ultrabooks – aren’t coming with DVD drives. Microsoft pays a licensing fee for each copy of Windows that ships with DVD support.
Note: You can still use data DVDs with Windows 8. This only applies to video DVDs.
Install a Third-Party DVD Player
The easiest way to play DVDs in Windows 8 is by installing a third-party DVD player. We recommend the popular VLC media player. It’s free, and after you install it you’ll be able to play DVDs in VLC – no problem.
To play a DVD in VLC, click the Media menu and select Open Disc.
VLC is far from the only media player you can use — there are a ton of free, third-party media players with integrated support for DVDs.
Use a Licensed DVD Player
If you purchased a new Windows 8 computer that comes with a DVD drive, your computer’s manufacturer has likely included DVD-playing software with your computer. It will probably be configured to open automatically when you insert a video DVD. If it isn’t, you can try typing DVD at the Start screen to search your installed applications and see if you have any applications with DVD in their name.
To examine all the software on your computer, use the All Apps screen. Press the Windows key to access the Start screen, right-click anywhere on the Start screen, and select All Apps. Scroll through the list of installed applications and look for a DVD-playing program.
Purchase the Windows 8 Media Center Pack
Microsoft no longer includes Windows Media Center with Windows 8. Windows Media Center, which includes DVD playback, is available separately. If you have Windows 8 Pro, you can purchase the Windows 8 Media Center Pack to activate Windows Media Center and DVD playback on your computer.
Microsoft is offering the Windows 8 Media Center Pack for free until January 31, 2013 – click here to get it.
If you have the basic, non-Pro edition of Windows 8 on your computer, you’ll have to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro by purchasing the Windows 8 Pro Pack before you can get Windows 8 Media Center. Use the Add features to Windows 8 control panel to upgrade. To open it, press the Windows key, type add features, tap or click the Settings category, and tap or click Add features to Windows 8.
Windows Media Center is not available for Enterprise versions of Windows 8.
While it may seem a bit weird that Microsoft has removed this feature from Windows 8, it’s explained by the increasing focus on streaming media and the amount of new computers coming without DVD drives.
The easy installation of VLC and the reality that computer manufacturers will include their own DVD-playing software mean that Windows 8’s lack of DVD support isn’t really a problem.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 11/2/12