I've tried to play a DVD using Windows Media Player on Windows XP, but I get the error message "Windows Media Player cannot play this DVD because a compatible DVD decoder is not installed on your computer."

I bought Windows XP separately from the computer, and installed it onto a blank hard drive.

How can I get a compatible DVD decoder? Did Windows XP really ship without the ability to play DVDs?


This is due to a lack of Codecs on your machine.

The easiest and quickest thing you can do is install VLC media player - also available from Ninite

As for did Windows ship without the ability to play DVDs - Yes it did, but remember it was designed over 12 years ago - Well before I got my first DVD!

They made several releases of Media Center edition which did ship with codecs required to play DVDs, but the codecs were never released for stock XP.

If you want to use Windows Media Player, look at installing the K-Lite codec pack - again also available on Ninite

  • Is it a bit of a faff getting codecs on the machine then? It's my parents machine, and I think they've got some familiarity with the Windows Media Player interface. – Paul D. Waite Aug 22 '10 at 11:04
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    No, if you use Ninite, you can have them installed with just 3-4 clicks! It is very easy, however - in all honesty, I prefer the VLC option. – William Hilsum Aug 22 '10 at 11:09
  • "it was designed over 12 years ago - Well before I got my first DVD!" - Sure, but Mac OS X was designed in the same time frame, and Apple (who at the time were not quite as well-funded as Microsoft) managed to make it play DVDs without asking us to buy a codec from a third party. – Paul D. Waite Aug 22 '10 at 11:09
  • @Wil: sure, I only hear good things about VLC. The Ninite option looks great if you're going down the codec route. – Paul D. Waite Aug 22 '10 at 11:10
  • @Paul D. Waite - There you are wrong, OS X Cheetah, released about the same time as XP did not have DVD codecs - However, remember still, most Windows PCs at that time did not ship with a DVD drive. 10.1 was released later and included dvd support... However, it was only people who built their own PCs that suffered - any manufacturer who gave a DVD drive would of given DVD playback software such as PowerDVD or WinDVD as they were usually OEM editions included free with DVD drives. – William Hilsum Aug 22 '10 at 11:26

While VLC is a viable alternative, I really prefer the Combined Community Codec Pack. It contains way more codecs than KLite, and comes with the lightweight Media Player Classic. Check out the FAQ for all of the codecs that it supports.

One of the other issues I have with VLC is that AVG and other on demand anti-virus programs (tested with McAfee and Kaperskey) make the boot up time horrible (+5 minutes). It also can be a bit heavy at times.

  • I think KLite comes with a media player too? I just installed the codecs though, no idea what it's like. – Paul D. Waite Aug 22 '10 at 18:35

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