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Playing DVDs In Windows Media Player

written by: Robert Meisch•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/28/2010

Fulfilling two easy requirements will enable you to play DVDs with Windows Media Player.

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    Playing DVDs In Windows Media Player

    You may have thought that there would be some major troubleshooting involved when you put a DVD in your computer, and it did not automatically play. Windows Media Player does not initially have the ability to play DVDs in Windows XP, Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Business, or Windows Vista Enterprise.

    Windows 7, Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate all come with a version of Windows Media Player that is capable of playing DVDs. However, there is an easy solution to getting Windows Media Player to play DVDs if you have one of the previously mentioned versions of Windows . There are two requirements to get DVDs to play on your computer using Windows Media Player.

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    Checking Your Hardware

    First, you must have a DVD- capable drive installed in your computer. There are two ways to verify that you have a DVD compatible drive. Most drives have the DVD logo on the drive door which you can visually verify. You can also check in the Windows device manager. To do so:

    1. Click on the Start menu and then select Run.
    2. In the Open: text box type devmgmt.msc and hit enter or click OK.

    The device manager should display. In the Device Manager, click the plus next to DVD/CD-ROM Drives to expand the selection. This list will contain all of the optical drives you have installed, and you will see DVD or DVD+-RW in the name of the drive.

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    Adding a DVD Decoder

    Next, you must install a DVD decoder. Even though DVDs can store 4.7 gigabytes, the data of a full-length uncompressed movie would not fit. So, the Moving Pictures Experts Group(MPEG) came up with a compression scheme called MPEG-2 that allows the compressing of moving pictures and associated audio at broadcast quality. MPEG-2 allows a full length feature film and audio to be stored on a DVD.

    There are two types of DVD Decoders: hardware and software. Hardware DVD decoders are for older computers with processors slower than a 500Mhz Pentium II. Hardware decoders offload the process of decoding the DVD from the CPU, freeing it up to handle other tasks. Modern computers have CPUs fast enough to handle decoding DVDs while completing other tasks simultaneously. To help this process, Microsoft introduced Directx Video Acceleration(DXVA) which allows software video decoders to take advantage of the hardware acceleration found in most newer graphics cards thus saving valuable CPU processing power.

    There are many MPEG-2 decoders available. Cyberlink, DScaler5, InterVideo, MainConcept and NVIDIA PureVideo are just a few which range from $15.00 to $50.00. Purchasing and installing one of these decoders would enable Windows Media Player to play DVDs, however, there is also a free alternative: the K-lite Codec Pack. The K-Lite Codec pack comes in 5 variations: Basic, Standard, Full, Mega, Corporate, and 64-bit. The Standard edition of the K-lite Codec Pack will enable you to view DVDs in Windows Media Player. You can download the K-Lite Codec Pack Standard edition here. Once installed, reboot your computer and Windows Media Player will now be able to play your DVDs.