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Playing DVDs

Windows Media Player can play back more than music. It can also turn your PC screen into a personal theater capable of playing movies from DVD disks—but only if you have a DVD drive and a decoder. If you purchased your PC with a DVD drive and Windows XP already installed, you might already have both of these pieces. If you upgraded an older computer to Windows XP, however, you might need to download and install a software decoder from the Internet. Does your PC have what it takes? For starters, make sure you have a DVD drive. You can’t always tell just by looking at the drive itself, because CDs and DVDs are identical in size and shape. To make sure, look for a DVD label on the drive icon in the My Computer window, or inspect its Properties from the Device Manager window, as I explain in the section “Inspecting Your Hardware with Device Manager,” on page 85. To find out whether you have a decoder installed, pop a DVD disk into the drive. If the decoder is missing, Windows Media Player displays an error message with a link to its DVD Troubleshooter. Follow this link to locate a list of compatible decoders.

Lingo

As you might guess from the name, a decoder takes the output from your DVD drive and translates it into a format that Windows Media Player can use to display the pictures and sound on the screen. In the early days of DVD technology, decoders were often hardware-based cards that you installed inside your computer. Today, however, you’ll typically get better results (with a lot less hassle and expense) from a software decoder that installs just like any other program.



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