Windows 8 makes it hard to burn audio and watch video DVDs thanks to hidden apps and missing licences. This is all part of the move away from optical media – fortunately, we can show you how to work around this.
Times are changing, and not all Windows 8 computers ship with a DVD drive. But even if you have an external optical drive or have upgraded an old PC, burning an audio disc or watching a video DVD can be tough (data DVDs can be read regardless).
Finding the software you need to perform these tasks is relatively simple, however; in fact, you might find that it is easier to watch video DVDs on Windows 8 than it ever was with any of the previous versions of the operating system!
No More Optical Drives?
The lack of DVD video support on Windows 8 is largely due to the perception that such discs aren’t being used as much as they were – instead, flash drives, portable hard drives and downloading are proving more popular and viable alternatives.
As such, standard versions of Windows 8 don’t ship with DVD playback licences. Although you might buy a computer with a DVD drive, any included DVD playback software will have been provided by the computer manufacturer or the store. If you bought Windows 8 off the shelf to upgrade an old PC or you bought a tablet (which of course doesn’t include an optical drive), but have an external DVD drive then you’re in need of a DVD playback solution.
Similarly, the tools for burning audio have been pushed to the back, largely because people are more likely to sync audio to smartphones, tablets or MP3 players.
How to Burn Audio CDs in Windows 8
Although it might seem a bit tricky initially, burning audio files to a CD with Windows 8 is actually remarkably simple, and can be done just as easily in previous versions – if you know where to begin.
With the Start screen open, type media. Windows will display all relevant apps, so use the mouse to select Windows Media Player (you can also tap with your finger on a touch-friendly device, or use the arrow keys and Enter).
Now that Windows Media Player is open, begin by opening Organise > Options… > Burn, where you will find the necessary settings for adjusting the burn speed and volume levelling, among others.
When you’re ready to burn your audio files, click the Burn tab on the right-hand column, choose the directory or album you want to burn from and drag the tracks into the burn list.
All you need to do now is ensure a blank disc is inserted into your optical drive, and click Start Burn. The disc will then be burned with the audio data in CDFS format for you to playback on any CD player.
Enjoy Video DVDs with VLC, The Ultimate Media Player App
If your Windows 8 computer shipped with Windows Media Center or you had the opportunity to get the free upgrade (it expired in January 2013) then you won’t have any problems playing back video DVDs. The same goes if your computer manufacturer or retailer has pre-installed DVD video software for playback.
There is a strong likelihood that neither of these cases apply to you – so what do you do? What is the best way to view DVD videos in Windows 8 without paying for Windows Media Center?
Probably the best solution is to install VLC Media Player from www.videolan.org. We’ve featured this superb app on numerous occasions in the past, which is well-known for its flexibility and ability to playback almost any media file. It ships with all of the video drivers you could need and makes DVD playback in Windows 8 effortless.
The Second Way: Windows 8 Media Center Pack
So what’s the deal with Windows Media Center for Windows 8?
Unlike Windows 7, Windows Media Center doesn’t ship with Windows 8. A strange decision, one that Microsoft rationalised in part due to the DVD player licencing. On the whole, however, it seems shortsighted (or cynical) to omit a popular component and make it available as a premium upgrade.
This upgrade, however, is only available to Windows 8 Professional users, which means those of you with the standard Windows 8 will need to upgrade (there are three versions of Windows 8 – Enterprise users are also excluded from Windows Media Center).
You can get started with this by typing Upgrade on the Start screen and selecting I want to buy a product key online before selecting the Windows 8 Pro Pack (be warned, it isn’t cheap). With this installed, repeat the procedure to install Windows Media Center. You’ll be looking at a total cost of over $100…
Of course, other media centers are available, but VLC Media Player seems a much better alternative for DVD playback, doesn’t it?
Don’t Let Missing Features Stop You!
Let’s be realistic: optical media is on the way out. Blu-ray might be able to offer a massive storage increase over DVD, but on the whole it is never going to be as widely used as its predecessor. There are many valid complaints against Windows 8, but the lack of video DVD support isn’t one of them. Data discs can still be read and if you really need the video playback you can use a third party app like VLC or upgrade your Windows version.
Meanwhile, burning an audio disc isn’t all that difficult once you’ve unearthed Windows Media Player.
What do you think? Should Windows 8 offer DVD video support across all versions or is Microsoft right to drop this feature?