/ 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?