I recently had the experience of seeking a DVD player for Windows XP. My wife has an XP Pro computer at work, and found she could not play even unencrypted DVDs. Windows Media Player 11 came up and grouched. The “helpful” links then took her to a web site that offered to sell her DVD player software/plugins.
As my search began to take much more time than I thought, I found that the preponderance of options for Windows users are commercial! One does not realize that with pre-installed computers, as Microsoft relies upon the hardware vendor to license and include some software solution.
To make a very long story short, I finally found the best options, and now share those with you:
- First, if all you want is to play DVDs and some media files, and have an interface that resembles the old, familiar versions of Windows Media Player (before the DRM “digital restrictions management” onslaught!), try: Media Player Classic (MPC) — look for it here.
With MPC you get a single binary (executable file) that can be run as a regular (non-administrative) user in Windows. (If you want it integrated into menus, etc., you’ll need to place it somewhere with appropriate permissions and link to it.)
- If you want a more comprehensive solution, which integrates into all users’ menus and provides browser plugins, autoplay and the like, go for VLC (VideoLAN – VLC media player). VLC is the cross-platform “Swiss Army Knife” of media players. During install or initial run, you might allow it to be the default for numerous video formats. (When you insert your first DVD, you can even set it as the default player for DVDs, so you no longer get the annoying message from WMP!)
- Another Candidate from the cross-platform open source world is MPlayer. I have used it for years in linux and it can play just about anything. But alas there seems to be no GUI included for windows. I think it depends upon you choosing a frontend — maybe more on that later … there do seem to be some packages including GUI there. SMPlayer is the first listed, and looks worth checking out.