DVD Playback in Vista Enterprise

[The following is taken mostly from a response to a colleagues question]

Vista Business and Enterprise Editions do not include the codec necessary to decrypt and play most commercial DVDs. This does not affect the DVD read (and write, if your drive supports it) capabilities of the device.

The rationale from MS is that DVD playback isn’t a core requirement for business or enterprise customers, and for every license MS sells that includes a bundled DVD codec, they have to pay a royalty to [insert corporate entity here].

But you aren’t out of luck. There are a few options to add DVD playback to these versions of Vista.

1. VLC Media Player


A popular, free, cross-platform media player that supports DVD playback.

I installed this and was able to play my shiny new BBC Robin of Sherwood DVD. However, when I tried to play the Fellowship of the Rings, I only got audio — no video. Update: issue resolved, see commments.

2. Commercial DVD app

The two big players (no pun intended) here are Intervideo WinDVD and Cyberlink PowerDVD. Dell has bundled both with system that I’ve received over the years. And both provide free trial versions.


I will note that the Cyberlink product eval period is 30 days and the download is around 75 MB. The WinDVD download is over 110 MB and the eval period is 14 days.

3. Window Media Player, with a little help

HOWEVER! Once you install one of the above products (I chose PowerDVD), the codec is installed on the system. I was then able to play Fellowship of the Ring in Windows Media Player without ever starting PowerDVD. 🙂

I suspect that uninstalling the demo player would probably remove the codec. I haven’t reached the end (and maybe haven’t event started) the evaluation period for PowerDVD, since I just used WMP. But I expect that I can continue to play DVDs in WMP even after the trail has expired.

If you really like the third-party player, they are reasonably priced ($49.95 for PowerLink, didn’t see any academic pricing but who knows…).

By the way, Karl, thank you for asking this question. This topic was discussed with the Vista product specialist for High Ed, and I’m glad I got a chance to work through the options.

Sr. System Administrator at the University of Vermont

1 Comment

  1. Eric Deister, Microsystems Manager at Seattle Pacific University shared this solution to the audio-only issue with VLC Media player:

    1. Open the VLC media player
    2. Click on Settings and select Preferences
    3. Expand Video and click on Output modules
    4. Check Advanced options in the lower right corner
    5. Set Video output module to either “DirectX”, “OpenGL” or “Windows GDI”
    6. You’ll need to restart VLC media player after the change.

    For Step 5, OpenGL seems to work best (IME).

    I tried “DirectX video output” and the Fellowship of the Ring played just fine. Thanks, Eric!

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