If ever you needed proof that DVDs are on the way out, consider this: in the latest version of Windows you can no longer play them.
At least, you can’t play them out-of-the-box; you have to install extra software, and if you go with Microsoft’s official player you’ll be asked to fork out £11.59. That’s a bit rich for something that cost nothing before you upgraded.
Streaming videos from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime are the future of movies and TV, but that’s no help when you want to watch a box set from your home library on your laptop. At such times, the absence of a built-in player in Windows 10 is a real step backwards.
Worse yet, many users are finding they can’t play discs even after buying the official app. The widely reviled Microsoft DVD Player has one of the lowest reviewer ratings I’ve ever seen: just 1.9 out of 5, on Microsoft’s own website. Reports are rife of it rendering perfectly good DVDs unplayable and generating error messages where the picture should be.
However, you don’t need to hand over cash to restore functionality you didn’t realise you no longer had. Better-value – and better-performing – DVD players for your laptop are available, if you know where to look. Here are the two best ones.
VLC Player. This long-established and free program is the best solution for no-nonsense playback of DVDs, as well as media files from other sources. It’s as easy to use as the DVD player under your TV (easier, actually), it supports subtitles and it doesn’t come with annoying adverts. You can download it from www.videolan.org, and while you’re at it, pick up versions for your Apple or Android phone and tablet.
Kodi: Much more than a DVD player, this fully-fledged and free media centre will play music, pictures and videos – in fact, all the multimedia stored on your PC and home network – as well as discs in your pop-out drawer. You download it from www.kodi.tv and it installs in seconds, but its expansive functionality comes with a fairly steep learning curve. However, if you just want it to play discs you can set it to auto-start when you insert one, and then forget it.
If your laptop has a Blu-ray drive, there is currently no free option for playing back commercially-recorded discs – though a plug-in for VLC promises some functionality. For a fully-licensed solution you’ll need something like the MacGo player, which despite its name is also available for Windows. You can download a free trial version, which plays back the picture with an embossed watermark, but the unrestricted app is $40 from www.macblurayplayer.com – where you can also try a free DVD player as an alternative to VLC. But do check that your Blu-Ray-enabled computer didn’t come with a pre-installed app for the purpose.
There’s no question that DVDs are on their way out, but it will be some time before they finally go the way of the Betamax, so it’s still worth making provision for yours.