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Best ways to play a DVD on Windows and Mac

About DVD player software

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video have made DVDs and Blu-rays a lot less popular than they used to be. But if you still enjoy playing DVDs and want to watch on your desktop or laptop, you certainly can. Your options depend on your operating system and computer maker.

Note: If your computer has a CD-ROM drive, no software can make it play a DVD or read a DVD-R or DVD-ROM; the laser inside a CD-ROM drive can't read a DVD at all.

  • Star Trek DVD collection

DVD Player FAQ

Your computer may have preinstalled software to play DVDs. So before you download anything, pop in a disc and see what happens. If you can't get the disc to play this way, read on for our advice and recommended downloads.

  • How does a Mac handle DVDs by default?
    OS X has DVD Player built in. Just pop your disc into the optical drive (or the external SuperDrive connected via USB), and your DVD should start playing automatically. Of course, if you have a MacBook Air, which has no CD/DVD drive, you won't be able to watch DVDs on your laptop.
  • How does Windows 7 handle DVDs by default?

    When you insert a DVD in the DVD drive of a computer that's running Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate, Windows Media Player should automatically open and start playing the disc.

    If you have a different version of Windows 7, or if Windows Media Player is not cooperating, your best bet is VLC Media Player (Windows, Mac, Android). This free app plays a wide variety of audio and video files.

  • How does Windows 8 handle DVDs by default?

    Windows 8 does not have built-in support for playing DVDs. Until October 30, 2015, you could have bought a Pro Pack or Media Pack from Microsoft to enable Windows Media Player to play DVDs in Windows 8.

    However, if your version of Windows 8 was upgraded from Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate, or a different version of Windows 7 that came with the Media Center, then it should have inherited the ability to play DVDs automatically. (Note: If you've ever had to reinstall Windows, if you follow the upgrade path -- reinstall 7, then upgrade to 8 -- you should still have your DVD player license. But if you had to wipe everything and install 8, you won't have the DVD player.)

    If you can't play a DVD in Windows 8, VLC Media Player (Windows, Mac, Android) can come to the rescue. Just download and install VLC, pop in your DVD, and Windows should ask if you want to use VLC to play the disc. If you have problems getting the disc to play, you can also open VLC first (it should create a shortcut on your desktop when you install it), click the Media menu in the upper left-hand corner, select Open Disc, and click the Play Button.

  • How does Windows 10 handles DVDs by default?
    Windows 10 can play DVDs automatically -- if certain conditions are met. If you upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate; a different version of Windows 7 that came with the Media Center; or Windows 8 with a Pro Pack or Media Pack installed, then Windows 10 should have retained the ability to play DVDs. If not, we recommend VLC Media Player (Windows, Mac, Android) once again. You can pay $15 to get Windows DVD Player from Microsoft's app store, but we don't recommend this app. Frankly, it's not very good -- you might not even be able to get it to run.

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Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at