Assuming you have an optical drive in your Windows 8 machine, you insert a movie disk and… nothing happens. Even if you try to open it in Windows Media Player, Windows 8 cannot play DVDs or Blu-Ray disks out of the box.
The reason is royalties. DVD and Blu-ray playback are both patented technologies that Microsoft previously paid $2 for every copy of Windows shipped. Given the declining number of devices with optical drives, Microsoft decided not to pay, so took the codecs out of Windws 8.
So Windows 8 users have to choices to get their movie fix: get third party software to play your disks, or paying Microsoft for the codecs.
Install An Alternate Media Player
Windows 8 may not play DVDs out of the box, but third party players can – VLC can play any DVD and unencrypted Blu-Ray disks. Get VLC from the project homepage and install it. Launch it and click File followed by Open Disc and your DVD menu will appear.
An alternative is XBMC, a complete home entertainment player, which can be tricky to set up but will do everything bar Blu-ray.
Sony’s Blu-Ray format is heavily encrypted against piracy; while there are free cracks available, these are technically demanding and illegal in some territories. Legitimate commercial alternatives may be the easier option, such as WinDVD Pro.
If your computer came with a Blu-Ray drive, then it should have bundled some sort of Blu-Ray player software and it’s unlikely to be your default media player. Check your programs list for Blu-ray software, or check your upgrade and drivers disks in case it wasn’t installed by default (or you upgraded to Windows 8 from an older version).
Pay the Microsoft Blue-ray Fee
Microsoft still offers DVD and Blu-Ray support – they just started charging for it, like Media Center software. As is usual with M$, the price you pay depended on the version of Windows 8 you have.
- Windows 8 Basic – $99.99, because you need to upgrade to the Pro Pack, which includes Media Center. To be fair, Microsoft itself advises users to purchase third-party DVD software.
- Windows 8 Pro – $9.99 only to download the Media Center Pack.
The upgrade itself is simple: open Control Panel, select Add Features to Windows 8 and you’ll be shown the upgrade available, depending on which version of Windows 8 you’re using.
Corporate users get short shrift, presumably because Microsoft couldn’t work out a decent mechanism for policing the installation and licensing of the Media Centre and codecs: you cannot download the Media Center Pack on an Enterprise version of Windows 8. You’ll have to go with the third party free or commercial solutions and do your own support.
While this makes some kind of sense to Microsoft for people purchasing new machines, this isn’t a great experience for those Windows users who paid for an upgrade only to lose features. Either Microsoft underestimated the number of users affected or simply decided the monetary cost outweighed the grief and poor PR it would cause. Either way it further proves Windows 8 is not a great home-user experience. AJS
Related: Opinion: Why Windows 8 Has Flopped