/ Technology

Windows 8 won’t play DVDs… unless you pay extra


Stop those discs spinning – Windows 8 won’t play DVDs or Blu-rays. Well, it will if you buy an upgrade. According to Microsoft, DVD use on computers is in ‘sharp decline’ – but is that a good enough reason to strip support?

Hold your horses! If your Windows 8 PC comes with a DVD drive, you’ll still be able to install software from DVDs, or even play disc-based games. Microsoft’s lacking support is purely to do with watching films.

Unlike its predecessor, Windows 8 will not come with a Media Center. If you want this, you’ll have to pay extra. Windows Media Player will come as standard, but DVD and Blu-ray playback will be absent.

Why? Microsoft points to low DVD and Blu-ray use on computers. And Microsoft has a point – apparently only 6% of Windows 7 users ever used Media Center.

Living without a DVD drive

I personally can’t remember the last time I popped a DVD into either my laptop or my desktop PC. Ultrabooks and tablets, which Windows 8 will run on, don’t even have DVD drives built in.

Apple’s latest Mac Mini launched without a DVD drive too; a decision that got a mixed response from Which? Convo commenters. Tom didn’t see it as a problem:

‘I use my iMac daily and I’ve not used its DVD for over six months and even then it was only to play Call of Duty 4.’

But Phil couldn’t live without it:

‘I regularly watch DVDs on my MacBook so a laptop without a DVD would be pretty useless.’

And in our poll, three quarters of you said you wouldn’t buy a PC without a DVD drive. So why can’t Microsoft just support DVD playback? Ultimately, it all comes down to money – Microsoft says it has to pay a ‘significant amount in royalties’ for the codecs needed to play DVD movies.

Ed Bott over at ZDNet gives a good explanation about why Microsoft has to pay these royalties and free media players like VLC don’t (hint: it’s to do with French law) so I’ll leave that to him.

Computer says no

In the end, if hardly anyone plays DVDs on their computers, and it costs Microsoft money to support it, why should Windows 8 play DVDs?

Here’s why: if a computer comes with a DVD drive, the average person is going to expect it to… play DVDs. Just imagine the confusion when you put your DVD of The Avengers into your laptop and you get the message ‘computer says no’?

Now, I’ve installed VLC (I’ve always found it more consistent than Windows at playing all manner of video files anyway) but not everyone’s a geek like me. I can already see someone taking their PC back to Comet complaining that ‘it won’t play DVDs’.

I expect computer manufacturers will now be forced to make sure their PCs come with DVD software. And that means more pre-installed bloatware. Microsoft might have erased its own problems, but it’s opened up a whole can of worms for the rest of us.

Is Microsoft right to drop DVD playback from Windows 8?

No - some people rely on it (85%, 1,119 Votes)

Yes - there are other alternatives (8%, 106 Votes)

I don't mind (7%, 92 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,318

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What it comes down to is, does Microsoft want to be an all-in-one solution or not? Windows is packed to the gills with bloatware that no one really needs. If they’d just sell me the operating system and let me add the programs that I actually want I’d be prepared to buy it, but since they won’t I’m sticking with XP.

What I’m finding amusing about this is the thought of Microsoft complaining about paying royalties. I guess it’s just no fun when the boot’s on the other foot.

James says:
24 June 2012

It’s a little worrisome that 85% of folks here have a problem with this decision. I think that many aren’t computer boffins and don’t understand that it is no big issue and can be solved very easily and for free. I’ll try to clarify a few things:

1. Windows 8 will not include a small piece of software (called a codec) that allows DVD video discs (the kind that can be played in a regular DVD player) to be played.

2. If you want to use your PC to play DVD video discs, you can still do that. You have many options, but the simplest would be to download and install VLC. It’s free, easy to use, easy to find (Google), and the total process will take you two minutes. If you can use the web, you’re savvy enough to get, install and use VLC. Two minutes to save £5, for a better piece of software is well worth it in my opinion.

3. If your PC has a DVD drive it will still be able to read and write to DVD discs to install software and backup normal files like photos, video clips, documents etc. I’ll repeat; this change is only concerned with the playback of DVD video discs.

4. The reason for this is cost vs. user base. Since Microsoft don’t own the software that allows DVD video playback, they have to pay the owner (purportedly $2 per unit) for every copy of Windows that they sell. $2 may not seem very much, but it would probably put the price of Windows up by about £5 (after you add the shop’s margin), and that’s about 10% of the overall price. Should the 94% of people who do not watch DVDs on their PC be forced to pay about 10% more for Windows 8, for a function that they do not use?

5. As an analogy, including the DVD video codec software in Windows 8 is like Ford including a cigarette lighter as standard with every Fiesta, and having to charge £1,000 for it. The result is a much inflated price for something that only a small proportion of customers want (albeit a small proportion of a very large number). In this case there are better after-market solutions, available for free, that can be downloaded and installed in 2 minutes. It’s hardly a deal breaker, even for those who aren’t so tech savvy.

Perhaps retailers should compile a list of good quality free and open source software to cover a whole host of basic needs, and then install the ones that the customer wants before they take delivery? Would you find that useful?

Karen says:
12 December 2015

Thank you SO much for this information. You have just solved the problem I’ve been battling with since I bought my laptop (presuming it had DVD player as standard). I’ve been trying to download all types of media player software none of them working and each time i get more and more stressed.
This clear and easy to follow information has helped me SO much.

I. N. Roddis says:
25 June 2012

Microsoft has always treated it’s customers with contempt. Some us remember the early days when having produced a system that was so bad it needed a complete re-write, they then sent their registered customers an email offering a CD update disc FOR ONLY £49 as a special offer. Those were the days when the latest up to date rate of 56kbts per second was the standard to be achieved, and many ISP could not achieve that, so trying to download monstrously large files was impossible.
Anyone with any gumption, and the cash to back it up, has long since moved to Apple.
Yours, an ex- Micrsoft user,

PGS says:
25 June 2012

I don’t like it but I can understand it commercially; however it is guaranteed to cause confusion among non-technical users, and MS has a social duty to shout it out in their “Getting Started” documents that if you want to play DVDs you’ll have to acquire proprietary software such as VLC. After sll they helped fund VLC in the first place, so why be shy about it?


I’m still using Windows XP pro on my network and computers – it is fast – reliable and easy to “cure” when on the very rare occasions (like once for five minutes in a year) it falls over – The computers used are technically fast and could use a newer version – but I became fed-up with the unreliability of certain Windoz so called “up grades” – I do use Linux as well – but would never use Apple because of it’s proprietary hard ware. Decided about 30 years ago

Aaron says:
25 June 2012

Storm in a teacup. The headline is misleading as it suggests that Windows 8 won’t play DVDs at all unless you pay for an add on, which is why so many people have voted No. The truth is Windows 8 won’t have a built in DVD player, but there is nothing stopping you from installing a free one. If you use a computer to browse the internet then you should be capable of installing software, such as the previously mentioned VLC. If you are not capable of doing that then I imagine you probably don’t watch DVDs on your computer either. Of the 6% that do watch DVDs, probably half don’t use Media Player anyway, so this will only affect a tiny minority of people. It will actually be a blessing in disguise for people that do currently use Media Player, as they will soon realise there is much better software out there for watching their movies.

James says:
26 June 2012

Aaron… absolutely. Do you think not many people read the article?

James says:
26 June 2012

Patrick, that’s true and I think Aaron knows that. But the 85% No votes, and many of the comments suggest two possibilities:

1) Many aren’t terribly tech savvy, and the omission of DVD playback out of the box is regarded as a major headache – which for the rest of us who know about VLC (and similar) and what to do with it, it is no great issue.
2) Many didn’t read the article, including the comment about VLC.

If it’s 1) it tells us that much of the Which? readership could do with a bit of computer help.
If it’s 2) it tells us that much of the Which? readership need to learn to read….

James says:
26 June 2012


I guess that’s also possible, but the issue is one of cost. No-one has said, “I’d prefer MS to leave DVD video playback in Windows, and I’m happy to pay the extra necessary to include it”. Only a few of the tech savvy have said “I’m happy for MS to leave it out as I don’t need it or have a better solution (VLC etc.)”.

So it seems reasonable that most folks seem to be thinking that DVD video playback should be included either at no additional cost to them (which is impossible becasue of the licencing fees), or that they aren’t comfortable in finding, installing and using VLC or similar.

It could be a combination of both of the above; if you read through many of the comments, there are many misunderstandings, despite the clarity (to you and I) of your article and post.

J.D.Baines says:
26 June 2012

When you see the profits made by Microsoft, their action is seen as it is – cynical. Microsoft could include the codecs gratis, or develop their own – or even buy the company that produced the codecs in the first place (they did this with what came to be known as Windows Defender).
They could even afford to invest in a programme of checking all their programs and making them ‘crash-proof’ and ‘hack-proof’!

James says:
26 June 2012

J.D. While what you have written seems reasonable, the DVD encoding patents are owned collectively by Sony, Philips, Toshiba and Time Warner. Microsoft can’t simply buy them up like is possible with smaller tech firms. Nor can Microsoft simply develop their own codec; the patents cover the the decoding of DVD films which would be in breach whoever writes it. It’s a patent issue, not a copyright one…

I’m not sure how Microsoft can tell how many people are playing DVD’s on their desktop PC’s. I should have thought it was more than 6% of users. A lot of people have instructional or educational DVD’s [eg the driving theory test] and there are a lot of DVD’s issued by companies for marketing purposes. Will all these be affected by the omission of this facility in Windows 8? Many people do not want to fiddle about downloading additional software [even if it’s free], especially if they thought they were buying an “all singing all dancing” system.

James says:
26 June 2012


MS can very easily make a representative survey to know that 6% of users are playing DVDs on their PCs. Personally, I have never played a DVD video on my PC.

Whether or not educational and marketing DVDs will play on Windows 8 (without the extra little bit of paid software) will depend on if the DVD is a DVD video or just a DVD disc that’s intended for the PC.

If it’s a DVD video (that plays on a standard DVD video player) then it won’t work on Windows 8 without the extra software. If it’s a DVD disc that’s intended to be used on a PC, then it will work as normal.

I’m coming to understand what you say about many people don’t want to download additional software, even if it’s free. I’m presuming this mainly an issue for older folks – which is no criticism.

Is your perception of an “all singing all dancing” machine, one that comes with all the software and applications you might need, in addition to the hardware and operating system (Windows)? When I buy a new PC, I’m only interested in the hardware and operating system. Anything in addition to that, I sort out after I’ve bought it.

I hope that helps. I’ll be interested to hear your comments on my last paragraph.

Thank you James

Yes – if I have to buy a new PC I do want it to have all the software and applications I need, built-in and ready to work straight out of the box. I get no satisfaction from sourcing extras. I’m not sure that age has much to do with it – children and young people like to pop a DVD Video in their computer and watch, and lots of people of all ages like the simple life with everything included.

Some of the products I mentioned earlier are DVD Videos although I admit many educational or instructional DVD’s [requiring advanced interactivity] are DVD Discs so will play through Windows 8.

James says:
26 June 2012


You’re welcome. I’m finding this very interesting. I wonder if some of the shift towards Apple Macs is because they include a bunch of software to cover everything from email, calendar, photo editing to video editing, making, recording and playing music and audio/video chatting? I don’t see why MS couldn’t do that, and do it well….?

Simon says:
30 June 2012

Interesting conversation between John and James.
I’m somewhere in between but also support both my family members and in-laws on their PCs. Personally I’m more aligned with James – I’ve built my own PCs in the past and prefer to pick and choose exactly what I get for both hardware and software. That said I do play both DVDs and Blu-Rays on my PC and codecs is a level below my “concern” threshold. I certainly buy into the commercial argument and if Windows was to be signficantly cheaper, I’d support the move but I suspect the savings will just be added to Windows coffers.
For my wider family, this isn’t an age issue – both the older and same generations (none of whom do anything with IT although most use computers) wouldn’t have a clue and my kids just aren’t interested and can’t be bothered so long as it works. I suspect that’s the main reason for Mac/iPhone/iPad success.
Sadly the increased number of “support” calls I’ll get means I’m firmaly against and can’t see it as anything more than a MicroSoft own goal.

Elaine says:
5 July 2012

Your survey looks as if most people want the dvd support etc. But you are asking the wrong question. The appropriate question is “would you pay extra for DVD playback as standard” because that would be the reality. Let the 6% who use it pay the extra, not everyone.

Primary teacher says:
8 July 2012

I’m a teacher and need to use DVDs very frequently at least 2 or 3 times a week for work and my teenage son watches films on DVD all the time on his laptop.
At a time when every penny counts for schools, this would not be a good move for Microsoft. Like many others, I would never consider, nowadays, buying a personal machine or ones for work without a DVD drive, so it is ludicrous that the software to play films should be an extra.

James says:
9 July 2012

Primary Teacher,

1) No-one has said that all computers should come without a DVD drive. I however, would welcome the choice. You can buy an external one for about £15, and I’d prefer to have a laptop which takes advantage of the size and weight saving, while still being able to very occasionally use the DVD drive.
2) It’s more ludicrous that I should be forced to have pay for a piece of software that I don’t want or need, because people like you insist that should be included by default.
3) It’s ludicrous that you think that you think you have the right to this software, that has a known cost, for free.
4) It’s ludicrous that you never even read the article. If you had, you would have known that you could download VLC or similar, for free, in 2 minutes, to play DVD videos.

As with buying a car, you purchase what best fits your needs and expect to pay more for additional features.

Simon says:
9 July 2012

James – bit harsh…
1. Comment doesn’t suggest no dvd drive and lots of products come with “extras” which have marginal additional cost but are seen by some purchasers as basic
2. I think you’re kidding yourself if you think Microsoft will pass on any saving they make – far more likely it will just be added to their profits
3. Come on, be real … Lots of products include extras that cost for free, or heavily discounted. Either because all other manufacturers do so they’re considered standard, or as a product differentiator
4. No need to get personal! Apart from anything else it’s not free, it’s 2 minutes of time so depends on how valuable your time is. Plus Hardware drivers from 3rd party suppliers can be very risky and PCs have a nasty habit of crashing

James says:
9 July 2012

Patrick, Simon, Primary, I apologise for my lack of sensitivity. I’m just arguing the other side, and I recycled Primary’s term ‘ludicrous’ from his/her post to show how there’s nothing ludicrous about the decision.

Simon, it was a bit harsh perhaps, but the content of what I said is all valid:

1) He/she said “I would never consider, nowadays, buying a personal machine or ones for work without a DVD drive, so it is ludicrous that the software to play films should be an extra”, with the implication that ergo, all PCs should come with a DVD drive *and* video playback software.

I was simply stating that I think we should have the option. I don’t want to have to pay for something that I don’t need, and since Microsoft can’t simply circumvent the patents, then the cost is very high vs the benefit and overall cost of Windows.

2) We can debate about that all afternoon. However, I’m sure MS know their own costs, and that if they include it, then they must pay the patent holder for the privilege. If the cost is higher, then the price will be higher.

3) As has been discussed a number of times in the thread, MS have to pay a fixed, per sale, license fee to the DVD decoding patent holder (Sony, Philips, Toshiba and Time Warner). There is no way to include it “free”. With other software MS can develop it themselves, and the cost spread over millions of sales, so that it effectively becomes free.

4) There’s nothing personal in my comment…? I was a little blunt perhaps. I just commented that the response simply suggested that the article had not been read properly, since it contradicted the content of the article. Regarding 2 minutes download and installation time as a significant cost, you can’t be serious? Do you consider that spending an hour to research car insurance quotes isn’t worth it unless you save yourself more than £100? Maybe, but that’s for you to decide for yourself, not for everyone else. Windows takes more than 2 minutes to boot up on most machines! Should they be paying you for having to wait?

Why do you mention 3rd party hardware drivers?! VLC is not driver software…it’s a video playback application and it does not have any direct interaction with any hardware. Another erroneous comment?!

Simon says:
9 July 2012

James – per my comment on 30-Jun, personally I agree with you and would prefer the lower cost and choice. However, the whole discussion really depends on whether you think that withdrawing the software would lead to a price reduction … I really don’t believe MS will pass on any saving so if they exclude the software everyone has to find, download and install it, assuming they know it exists, and for no saving. And that’s assuming everyone is sufficiently IT literate to do this.

Re time, and your example, unfortunately yes I wouldn’t consider an hour of my time to save £100 a good deal – during the week I leave home at 6am and don’t get back most nights until 8-9pm and therefore like to do stuff with my family at the weekend, so an hour is very valuable! Just goes to show we’re all different and have our own priorities, but then it would be very boring if we weren’t! ;o)

You can always vote with your feet!

There IS life without Windows. I object strongly to any company who tells me what I need to buy from them. Microsoft is a case in point. My view is that the company is arrogant beyond redemption.

I use one of the many Linux flavours available. These are free, have free software, play and edit DVDs and DV input, can run Media Centres, servers, databases… You name it, Linux can do it and all for free. What’s more, there is a free worldwide support network.

One of the reasons Microsoft keeps coming out with ‘upgrades’ is because they want to include ways of making their products incompatible with the Open Source world.

If you don’t like what they do the answer’s simple, use the competition!

Eric Brightwell says:
28 September 2012

Ever since Bill Gates has retired Microsoft seems to have been run by marketing and finance men. Not even the software programmers seem to get a look in when it comes to designing software and setting policy. However, this is just part of the normal lifecycle of a business, when the entrepreneur who created it moves on and the business is left to be run by administrators. Microsoft will eventually be replaced by a new entrepreneural business, but it will take some time.

In the meantime most PC users still use Windows XP. They will probably move to Windows 7 when Microsoft removes its update support for XP, but it will be another 10 years or more before most people are using Windows 8. If there is sufficient demand for it the codecs will be added long before then. Microsoft are not stupid – they continued XP support long after the theoretical end date purely because of user demand.

In any event, anyone who is interested in playing mp3 files on their PC uses free software such as Media Monkey or Jaangle etc. Similarly anyone who is actually interested in playing video content, and not just DVDs, on their PC already uses the free VLC player.

The most interesting thing about this survey is just how misleading such surveys can be. The issue is of no real significance, but it just seems to be a matter of principle for some people, who feel strongly enough to submit a response. Most are just not bothered, but we do not get to hear from them.

Anna says:
27 October 2012

This is an awful decision! Is there any chance that they may change their minds and reinstate DVD software as part of the Windows bundle?

James says:
27 October 2012

Anna, it’s far from awful.

Just download and install VLC (which is free and will take all of two minutes), as the article suggests and forget about it.



kassie says:
13 November 2012

im p****d off, my dad just gave me this laptop for my birthday and i go to put a movie in it for my son to watch and it said i cant play the movie, what the hell!. 🙁 i dont have extra money to waste on things that should already come with a computer! >:(

Windows8 Dummie says:
27 December 2012

I was canvassed by Microsoft and offered on-line upgrade from W7 to W8 for £25. I took the plunge (before I knew there was no way back). I have been getting to grips with the upgrade, but seeking a greater knowledge I was given “Windows8 for Dummies” as a Christmas present. Guess what? The book comes with a DVD which “shows you step by step how to use every new feature of Windows 8”. Only trouble is, my PC won’t play the DVD !!!!

James says:
27 December 2012

So then download and use VLC.

Tracy says:
26 December 2017

Desperately struggling to get DVDs to play on my laptop. Every single site I check says to download VLC Player, but that still isn’t working for me! The laptop just completely refuses to read DVDs at all. I made sure I bought a laptop with a DVD drive, specifically for watching DVDs…

Hi Tracy,

If your laptop uses Microsoft Windows, it won’t be able to play DVDs unless you install a DVD player program. (Some, but not all, home PCs come with suitable programs bundled by the PC manufacturers.)

For Windows 10 (& Windows 8/8.1 as well) you should be able to go to the Windows app store and purchase a copy of Microsoft Windows DVD Player there.

If, however, you fancy a free alternative, visit videolan.org and download (and then install) VLC media player from there. I’ve just tried this on a my Windows 10 test box and it seemed to work, at least for the 1 DVD that I’ve tried it with.

Note also that downloading VLC from the Windows app store does not work.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Tracy – as a further thought, are you certain that your DVD drive is working from a mechanical and electronic viewpoint?

E.G. – can you use it to play CDs, and/or to read and write data discs (i.e. discs that don’t use the copy protection system that is applied to DVD feature films)?

If your laptop is new, then a failed DVD drive would be grounds for after sales service / warranty action. If not, then a friendly local computer repair show can probably help fix it for you.

This comment was removed at the request of the user