DVD Playback In Vista: It All Depends

DvdThis isn’t really news if you’ve been paying attention to the fine print about what is and what isn’t available in the various editions of Windows Vista. In fact it is just another in what seems like an increasing line of curiosities regarding Vista functionality, as we wait for software vendors and driver developers to catch up. It seems there is a bit of a Catch 22 regarding DVD playback at the moment.

I do believe that most folks know that under XP if you want to play a DVD on your computer you need codecs in order to do so. In most instances OEMs include DVD playback software as a part of the pre-loaded software that furnished the necessary codecs. With Windows Vista if you purchase (or purchased) the Home Basic or Business editions of Windows Vista, you’ll still need a third party codec for DVD playback. If you purchased Home Premium or Ultimate you get that capability as part of the package. That’s been known for some time.


Here’s the Catch 22 for the moment. According to this Microsoft site on Windows Media, the only players available (all for purchase) are XP versions only and Vista versions were to be available for purchase when the final version of Vista was released. Note that none of the vendors listed for XP compatible DVD playback software are currently listed on Microsoft’s list of compatible applications.

The incident that led me down the path of discovering was as follows: As I’ve written before I use SPB Mobile DVD to rip DVDs I own to a smaller size for viewing on the Asus R2H. I typically do this on my desktop. I decided to give it a try on the Lenovo Thinkpad X60 Tablet PC and installed version 1.1 of SPB Mobile DVD. On attempting to run the program I would receive an error saying the install may be corrupt and to try again.

After a reinstall I continued to receive the same error and I assumed it was just an incompatibility with Vista. I did some searching which turned up the info mentioned above about DVD playback. Since I have Vista Ultimate installed, I thought I’d give the playback a test. On each attempt with various DVDs (some newer, some older) I would get a message that no codec was installed. This happened in both Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center.


After uninstalling SPB Mobile DVD and a reboot, I was able to successfully play DVDs in both WMP and WMC, so at the least that mystery was solved. If you search on this issue you’ll see lots of hits regarding the playback of HD and BluRay disks. I’m speculating here, but I think part of the problem has to do with digital rights managment on a number of fronts.


There are several bottom lines here. First, if you have Ultimate or Home Premium, you should be able to play DVDs at your leisure, but be careful installing other media related software until you are sure it works with Vista. Second, if you have the Vista Business or Vista Home Basic, you may need to be patient before you can playback DVDs, unless your OEM has installed the appropriate software on a new machine.

If anyone is having success with DVD playback on Vista Business or Vista Home Basic, please leave a comment and let others know your solution.