Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Playing DVDs in Windows 7

Oh, how I pine for the blissful days of Windows XP, when menus were still in fashion, the start menu didn't contain a tree view, applications didn't require a half-dozen clicks to launch (to expand the tree view, you see), and the user's colour theme choices were respected. Better days, when the customer was still king.

Lately I've been having difficulty playing back DVDs on my Windows 7 PC. My preferred media player, mplayerc aka Media Player Classic - and its close cousin, the more recently maintained Media Player Classic Home Cinema, failed with the error message "DVD: copy-protection failed". (I quote the message and versions in detail to increase the chances a search will find this page.) Windows Media Player has similar issues, though since they've hidden the menus and generally "simplified" the WMP UI, I can no longer figure out how to use it.

From my research and experimentation, it appears that ever since Windows Vista, RPC1 (aka region-free) DVD drives are no longer welcome. Windows will detect the drive as being region-free, and prevent DVD video playback. The only commonly-found player that still works is VLC, if you can stand its broken UI. I cannot: for example, try full-screen playback (F11) with hidden controls (Ctrl+H) in VLC; you'll find that hiding the controls breaks the full-screen toggle, F11! I've had to flash my DVD drive with a region-locked firmware just to play DVDs. Workarounds exist, such as using auto-reset firmwares if they exist for the drive, or what I'm probably going to do, use a separate DVD drive for each region, since DVD drives are exceedingly cheap - less than 20 GBP - and I only need two regions, Europe (2) and North America (1). (I note with slight puzzlement that DVD drives seem to be slightly cheaper in the UK than in the US; not normally the case.)

One thing does really puzzle me, though. All the error messages say that copy protection failed, when as far as I know region locking has nothing whatsoever to do with copy protection, but is rather about inhibiting global trade. With some irony, one of the workarounds I used to watch DVDs was to rip them and play from the file server across the network.


Anonymous said...

You can set the region from (dvd) device properties, for example: http://img709.imageshack.us/img709/5113/64553737.png

By the way some years ago there was DVD Genie but I doubt if it can still work.

Anonymous said...

Might want to check out XBMC
or it's latest svn builds

I don't have windows 7 so can not test.
Has the following feature:
DVD-video playback with menus (from DVD, harddrive, network, as IFO/VOB or ISO/IMG DVD-images) #12
Region-free DVD-Video playback (with option to force region if and when needed)

Anonymous said...

So I take it MS will NOT be flying you to Redmond? then...


Anonymous said...

I just install W7 and Im installing KMPlayer, I have used in Vista last months and I really like it.


Giel said...

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who can't do anything with Windows Media Player these days :-)

Anonymous said...

what can we do?
unfortunately MS rules the market.
workarounds are getting more usage these days.

Alexandre Caldas Machado said...

Why don't you just remove region codes, forced videos, subtitles and all the usual crap?
39.20 EUR, this week.

Anonymous said...

Windows 7 is rubbish. Stay on XP. Tests have shown that copy operations are so slow in 7 and Vista. A this is just one point out of many. Windows XP is the one and only OS.

Anonymous said...

"AnyDVD" from SlySoft works quite well for me on Vista to watch Region 1 DVDs on a region 2 player:

runner said...

+1 for KMPlayer. It is the best player I used so far. Period. It plays everything including DVDs and Quick Time movies. And the UI is also ok.

nikola.j said...

+1 for KMPlayer. And it's written in Delphi :)

Anonymous said...

If the days of XP were more blissful (like they were for me), why don't you stay with XP (like I have)? XP's the OS. No worries at least till 2014. The more people stay with XP, the more MS is likely to fix Windows 7 problems.