This is a common problem that has been occurring since the earliest days of the windows operating system. To be fair, it is not really a problem. For any hardware to work on your PC the required device drivers and associated software is a clear necessity. In the case of DVD video playback, the hardware is in place in the form of the DVD drive and the software is also in place in the form of Windows Media Player. However the critical missing element is that WMP as standard in all Windows builds prior to Windows 7, does not come with the ability to decode the DVD video signal. Hence when a DVD video is inserted into such machines, Windows Media Player which is generally the default video playback device starts up with the error message:

‘Windows Media Player cannot play the DVD because a compatible DVD decoder is not installed on your computer’

Many consumers do not understand why their PCs are not able to play DVD videos. After all, the hardware is in place and so is the software. Why is this any different from the standalone DVD’s that are bought for TVs and run DVD’s without problems?

Well, at the heart of the issue is that MPEG-2, the format in which most DVDs are encoded, is a licensed format and therefore licensing and royalties must be paid to the patent holders in order to decode the DVD and view the data on it.

Your standalone DVD player therefore comes with a compatible DVD decoder installed on them already because its main purpose is to play DVD videos and the cost of the license has been worked into the retail price.

The DVD player on your PC on the other hand serves purposes other than just DVD video playback. For instance you can use it to play PC games, store data and images and playback music. So as a piece of hardware in combination with Windows Media Player, it is serving the purpose for which it has been installed. However, when it comes to playback of DVD video, windows has specifically not installed a compatible dvd decoder in order to keep costs down and pass the choice to buy one on to you the consumer.

How To Install a Compatible DVD Decoder

There are essentially two choices here. You can either buy a compatible dvd decoder for windows media player or you can download a free player which comes with compatible dvd decoders pre-installed. These free compatible DVD decoder downloads are a great choice if playing back specifically on WMP is not important for you.

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