Overview: Playing videos and DVDs

Windows offers you a number of ways to watch videos and DVDs on your computer. In many cases, you don't need to install any additional software.

To get started, try any of the following:

  • If you have a video file on your desktop or in a folder on your computer, double-click the file.

  • If you're on a webpage that includes a link to a video (for example, WindowsMedia.com), click the link.

  • If you have a movie on DVD, insert the disc into your DVD drive.

Windows either automatically opens the program on your computer that can play the item (for example, Windows Media Player) or asks which program you want to use.

Windows Media Player

Windows Media Player is a feature of Windows Vista that lets you organize and play video files that are stored on your computer and play videos from many popular websites. And if your computer meets certain minimum requirements, you can also use Windows Media Player to play your favorite DVDs.

Picture of Windows Media Player
Video playing in Windows Media Player

To start Windows Media Player

  • Open Windows Media Player by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, and then clicking Windows Media Player.

For more information about using Windows Media Player to play videos or DVDs, see the following topics:

Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center is a feature that is available in two editions of Windows Vista: Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate.

Picture of Windows Media Center
Video playing in Windows Media Center

Like Windows Media Player, you can use Windows Media Center to play video files and DVDs. However, if your computer has the necessary equipment, you can also use Windows Media Center to record and watch live TV.

Windows Media Center works great when your computer is hooked up to a standard computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but it really shines when you hook it up to a TV and use a remote to control all the action from the comfort of your living room couch.

To start Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center is only available if you are running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate.

  • Open Windows Media Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, and then clicking Windows Media Center.

    If your computer came with a remote control, you can also start Windows Media Center by pressing a button on the remote.

For more information about using Windows Media Center to play videos or DVDs, see the following topics:

Other programs

If Windows Media Player doesn't meet your needs (for example, if it doesn't support the particular video file format that you want to play) or you don't have an edition of Windows that includes Windows Media Center, there are dozens of other video and DVD playback programs available from other companies. In fact, your computer manufacturer might have installed full or trial versions of several of these programs on your computer when you bought it. For details, check the documentation that came with your computer.

For more information about other video and DVD playback programs available for Windows, go to the Windows Marketplace website.