Q: I’m having a problem with my Windows Media Player playing DVDs. I am able to play other video clips perfectly in the program but whenever I try to run a DVD it comes up with either an error message or the DVD will play without any video. - Ryan
A: With a name like “Media Player” one would assume that common “media” would just play, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Windows Media Player does not have anything built in to play DVDs.
It requires something called a “codec” (decoder software) in order to play your DVDs.
Computers that are equipped with DVD players generally come with a special third-party program (not part of Windows) that lets you watch DVDs and would be listed in the Programs section of the Start menu if it is installed (look for entries such as PowerDVD or WinDVD).
In most cases, Windows Media Player would grab the codec installed by this thirdparty program whenever you insert a DVD, but clearly this is not happening in your case. You either don’t have a decoder installed, or it is incompatible with Media Player.
You can check if you have any compatible DVD decoders installed with Microsoft’s Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility available as a free download at www.datadr.com/redir.cfm/decoder.
If you find that you do have a decoder installed but it is not compatible with Windows Media Player, you may want to visit the Web site for the company that created the stand-alone DVD player program to see if an updated version that is compatible with Media Player has been released.
If none of that helps, you can download all kinds of decoders for audio and video (also referred to as plug-ins) from www.wmplugins.com.
When it comes to playing any kind of video (not just DVDs) on personal computers, technology has gotten so advanced that it’s very common to run into a video format while surfing the net that won’t play properly without some additional software.
Current popular Internet video formats include MPEG, AVI, Quicktime, Divx, Real and Flash, and most require a special program not installed with Windows.
MPEG and AVI should play in Media Player with no problem, but most of the other formats are going to require a download.
Quicktime movies (very common at movie trailer sites) require Apple’s Quicktime player available at www.apple.com/quicktime.
Divx video files require another codec for Media Player and are also available at www.wmplugins.com.
Real media files require the RealPlayer (one of my least favorite media players) which is available at www.real.com.
Flash movies have become very common on Web sites and requires either the Flash Player or a plug-in for your Web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) to be installed in order to play.
You can get everything you need for Flash playback from Macromedia’s Web site (now owned by Adobe) by going to www.macromedia.com/downloads.
Just watch for the default attempt to install the Yahoo Toolbar with the Flash player. Remove the check mark in front of the offer if you don’t want to end up with another toolbar stacked on your browser.