Can Computer Drives Reliably Play Store Bought DVDs or NOT?

I have a well used HPxw4600 workstation (it has a decent CPU, a Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3.0GHz and runs Windows 7 64bit) with a TSSTCorp TS-653Z CDDVDW drive.

I have been trying to figure out why I can't play any store bought commercial DVDs in the drive. I can say the following:

1. I cannot find an update for the firmware beyond 2006, which I have installed.

2. I am using VLC 2.2.8 as my only media player.

3. The DVD data discs I have made in the player all work.

4. Both store bought and burned CDs all work.

5. The region selected for the DVD drive is the same as the region of the commercial DVDs (region 1).

I realize the DVD player is 12 years old at this point, but is the only thing that can be done to get another DVD drive? Is it going to matter?--because at the same time I'm reading that VLC Player should play most store bought DVDs I'm also reading that commercial DVDs have the kind of copy protection that just won't allow computer and laptop DVD players to decode them.

What's happening is when I insert the store bought DVD, after I hear the drive trying to search it sounds like it suddenly stops (with almost a beep), and it moves a little, but then an error pops up with VLC player that says "VLC is unable to open the mrl." I would think the stamped DVD (store bought) would be easier to read than a laser-burned DVD. The drive is reading all my burned DVDs.

I hate the idea of having to rip a DVD with an app like Handbrake every time you want to play it in your PC. In fact, because the drive doesn't seem to be reading the store bought DVD, when I try to use Handbrake and select the DVD drive as the source it tells me "Please insert a disc" and the tray opens with the DVD in it as if it's not there.

Can someone enlighten me on this? I want to get a laptop soon that will hopefully play commercial DVD discs and I don't want this issue to turn the whole process into a big headache.
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  1. Best answer
    That problem you are reading about likely only applies to Blu Ray discs unless it's something entirely out of the ordinary. Those require a specific player with the correct licenses to play commercial Blu Ray movies.

    Any modern DVD player should be able to PLAY any commercial DVD using any of the media applications like VLC. It MIGHT be possible that you are missing a codec, but it's doubtful. Likely there is an issue with that old drive. Drive's are really inexpensive. This should work fine. If you still have an issue afterwards, then it is clearly a codec or operating system issue, but if you have the latest version of VLC installed you should have the majority if not all of the necessary codecs needed to play any commercial DVD. They do not require any special license, unlike a Blu Ray movie.

    I've used this exact drive in several systems with no issues. Of course, the Pioneer optical drives, especially for Blu Ray, but also for DVD, are generally about the best on the market. LG, Plextor, Sony and Samsung drives are pretty decent too though. Avoid Lite-On, HP and ASUS optical drives. I've had nothing but issues with all of those brands more than once and with different models.

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

    Optical Drive: LG - GH24NS95 DVD/CD Writer ($20.62 @ OutletPC)
    Total: $20.62
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2018-02-08 21:56 EST-0500
  2. Interesting development...

    I tried playing a store bought DVD in another system that has Windows XP Pro and a LitOn DVD ROM drive DH-16D3S. Using VLC Player, I could not open the disc without getting an error again. However, this drive could read the disc, and when I opened the disc and clicked on the TS folder, VLC opened it and began to play until I got a blue screen that said:

    "The parental settings of this player prohibits play"

    and then VLC Player crashed.

    This would make sense why the drive seems to read the disc but won't play it. Is it possible that the DVD drive is set with a parental code that needs to be changed? I'm finding videos for instructions how to change this on PS2 devices, but it doesn't look like a PC works the same way. How do you change this on a PC DVD drive?
  3. Short of updating the firmware, I'm not sure you can. I've never even heard of such a thing before on any standard DVD drive. Windows XP makes for an interesting factor though.

    Are you using service pack 3 version of XP, or an earlier not-updated version?
  4. Might also want to install the latest VLC, released apparently today or yesterday. Supposed to be the LAST version to support XP, future versions will not have support for any of the following platforms.

    Windows XP, Vista, and the servers equivalent of those Windows versions

    macOS 10.7, 10.8 & 10.9, iOS 7 & 8

    Android 2.x, 3.x, 4.0.x & 4.1.x

    Compilers before gcc 5.0 and clang 3.4, or equivalent

    As noted in that VLC statement, it really IS time to get off XP and get ON to a newer platform. At this point there is very little reason to not upgrade to Windows 7 or 10 aside from cost if you are coming from XP. Even so, I still believe that a newer drive and the right codecs will likely solve your issue.

    Also, when installing VLC, make sure that in the list of options/check boxes, that "disks playback" is selected. I'm sure that is a default selection, but I'd make sure anyhow.
  5. Agreed, I would update the VLC player.

    That error on the W7 machine is sometimes caused by something (an antivirus or windows firewall) blocking VLC access to the Internet, if you disable that it may fix the "VLC is unable to open the mrl" error.

    My XP memories are faded by time, but there was some parental control add on for Pro but it should not affect an administrator account. That one will likely remain a mystery unless the new VLC install fixes it.
  6. VLC Player does not need to access the Internet in order to play DVDs, as evidenced by the system above that still runs Windows XP Pro and was not connected to the Internet.

    My driver for the TS-653Z optical drive is from 2001. Someone alerted me to a more recent driver found here (from 2006):
  7. Who said anything about accessing the internet? I don't see any mention of that here.

    I guarantee that the problem is either that the drive is too old to have the ability to play the formats found on newer commercial disks because of firmware limitations in the design of the drive or you lack the proper codecs to play the formats encoded on those disks. Or the OS is simply borked.

    Nothing else is going to be the problem. It's either hardware limited or you lack the proper software.

    So long as the drive actually operates, and reads other disks correctly, it is highly unlikely to be a "driver" issue. Possible, slim outside chance I guess, but possible. Can't hurt to update the driver if it is for that device but I think updating to the latest version of VLC buys you more in the way of eliminating what is MOST likely the problem, so that if it isn't, then what IS the problem becomes significantly narrrowed down.
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