Why can’t I watch a DVD I paid for?

I can’t believe it! I have a brand new Dell laptop with a sleek 14″ widescreen, perfect for watching movies on the fly. But when I wanted to live in Middle Earth for a few hours, I couldn’t. All of the sudden, my XP Media Center Edition machine wouldn’t play a DVD. How can this be?

I’m not stupid when it comes to computers so I did my best to figure out the problem. WMP 11 gave me the following message:

“Windows Media Player cannot play this DVD because there is a problem with digital copy protection between your DVD drive, decoder, and video card. Try installing an updated driver for your video card.”

So I (foolishly?) followed the instructions. I got nowhere.
I should mention at this point that no DVD playback option worked. Media Center, Dell Media Experience, WMP 11, InterActual and Real Player all failed. They each gave me some form of error message (except Dell which just didn’t work).

Next Step

I looked around Microsoft’s site. They had no information. No, I take that back. After rolling back to WMP 10 I got a slightly different error message. When I searched for it Microsoft gave me a link to information about that particular error. The resulting page said something like: “We have no information about this error.” Then, down below I was asked “Was this information helpful?” Are you kidding me?!

I figured there was some codec that all the players were using in common. So, I downloaded Cyberlink’s PowerDVD thinking it might have a new codec that would replace the faulty one being used. It worked! For exactly one second. As soon as the movie started it was jumpy. I tried a different DVD with the same result. Time for bed.

How about Dell?

The next night I broke down and dug through the Dell site. I tried a number of fixes and troubleshooters to no avail. I really swallowed my pride and attempted to chat with a tech. Busy. So, I emailed a request explaining the whole thing. Surprisingly, I received a response fairly quickly. (I’m sure it was automated.) And it said:

Some customers have experienced problems with Sonic Cineplayer. These problems might include no DVD playback, distorted or jittery screen, and/or loss of audio. Attempting to play DVD video with Windows Media Player will exhibit the same problems listed above because it uses the same Cineplayer DVD codec. These problems are urgently being resolved. If you have experienced these types of problems, please visit…

So, I clicked the link and read this:

1. Sonic Cineplayer May Begin Displaying Problems Due to a DVD Codec Issue.
On December 1, 2006, Sonic Cineplayer may begin displaying one or more of the following problems:

  • No DVD playback
  • Distorted or jittery screen
  • Loss of audio

This is due to an error in the Cineplayer DVD codec. However, an upcoming patch will be released as soon as December 6, 2006 to correct this issue. This article will be updated with the file name and location when the patch has been released.

Bottom Line…

The answer to this whole mess? SONIC CINEPLAYER STOPPED WORKING ON DECEMBER 1ST!! The suggested workaround: change the system time on your computer. WHAT?! In order to watch a DVD on my computer I have to trick the system? Don’t get me wrong, I understand (logically) why this works. I am just stupefied that after I paid for a machine, DVD drive and accompanying software I can’t use them because somebody didn’t write their program correctly.

This whole situation smacks of DRM shenanigans.


31 responses to “Why can’t I watch a DVD I paid for?

  1. I have exactly the same problem. Was watching dvd’s fine and then all of a sudden… nothing! Spent a lot of time on my new dell pc trying to resolve this issue. Now we have to wait for this update. Even Windows media center wont play dvd’s until the system clock is turned back. I don’t understand why media center is using a sonic cineplayer codec. New system… and now have to wait for an update. Not happy at all! thanks.

  2. Had the same problem so temporarily i tricked my Dell. i can see the video but the sound is choppy now!

  3. Same problem. Three days ago I installed a TV tuner card on my PC. After that I am unable to watch DVDs, neither on Sonic CinePlayer or on Windows Media Player. Ray, can you please share the trick? What should the system time be changed to?

  4. Tino: all you need to do is change the date on your pc to earlier than Dec. 1 2006. I recommend changing the year to 2005. It’s the easiest one to change back.

  5. Same problem – many thanks for short-term fix and for link to Dell ‘information’.

    Came across this page on Google search for ‘digital copy protection between your DVD drive, decoder, and video card’.

    Couldn’t Dell have been proactive in emailing this information to customers they know would have this problem?

  6. Well?!?! Where is the cineplayer fix? It is past December 6th! This makes me soooooo mad!!!!!!!! If they think I am going to change my date to before December 1rst everytime I want to watch a dvd…..!!! :(

  7. Same problem. The workaround to change the system date works but it is very dangerous, so be careful: Think about restore points tricked by the date, the date of your TV recordings, the used of the EPG or other TV guides…The workaround works but it is unhealthy for the system. SO what? THE PATCH MUST BE DELIVERED ASAP AND NOT ONLY VIA AUTOMATIC CINEPLAYER UPDATE: WE WANT TO CONTROL THE UPDATE.

  8. Checked out the link from Ramon – downloaded the fix and everything is now working great.

  9. Pingback: I still can’t use my laptop as a portable cinema. « longstride

  10. just spent 2 hours trying to figure this out for my dad…and only place with any info is here….god bless longstride….I can start my Christmas now…

  11. Thanks a lot for all this understandable information. I spent 3 X 2 hours trying to fix this problem and the only place where I wasn’t invited to download a new DVD player (i.e. VLC media player) is here. I searched Dell.ca for the answer and never found it. Thanks a lot for your advices. They were really helpfull. I can now play my DVDs on my laptop. Thanks again.

  12. Nice find…….but bad news for all people on Windows Vista Ultimate. Frikkin patch fails to load because it doesn’t recognise the operating system!

    I think Dell/Roxio need to fire a few idiot developers and learn how to code like real people.

    Microsoft please thank Dell for stuffing up the play experience in your Media player and forcing us over to other players like VLC and Power DVD. I’m sure there is a lawsuit hiding in there somewhere

    Frustrated one
    South Africa

  13. The link to the fix you guys are so happy about doesn’t work any more… :(

  14. @Hawkinpaul

    You’re right. It’s broken. Maybe this one will work for you.

  15. What if you don’t have a Dell? Will this patch still work? I have a home-grown computer with a year-old version of Windows XP, WMP 11 etc. Its Apr 27 2007 and Microsoft has yet to provide a solution to this problem – so I want to know before I install this patch if it’ll still work if I don’t even have any Dell parts in my beast.

  16. @Mike

    Do you have Sonic CinePlayer on your computer? The patch is for CinePlayer. If you don’t, then I don’t think the patch will do anything for you.

    Have you been having this problem since December?!

  17. Pingback: I’m not happy right now. « longstride

  18. My last DELL!
    There website blows a dead rat and so does their machine .

  19. It’s now December, 2007, and I have the no-play problem described above with the same explanation about the December clock change fix.

    I believe it may be time to shoot the developers and get a new team going. Two years in a row? Bloody unbelievable.

  20. Jason, I pushed the year date back to 2005 and was able to use the software successfully. I also filed a support request e-mail with Roxio.

    I still have difficulty believing that a software developer would leave the same problem unresolved for over one year.

  21. @John:

    It blows my mind that this is still a problem. The only way I was ultimately able to fix it was to do a system restore on my computer. How can a software company let such a stupid problem linger like that? DRM, that’s how.

  22. Heres what you do guys;
    Contact Dell Support and do and online chat session. They will need the number off the back of your computer next to the bar code. These guys helped me in 3 minutes! They went to a download at:
    run that free download and all your CinePlayer issues will be resolved. I was pleasantly suprised by Dell tech support, it sure beats that talking on the phone crap I’ve gone thru before.

  23. I have a dell computer and can’t watch dvds. My warranty has expired on my dell computer and can’t afford 200 something dollars for technical support. I went from watching dvds through windows media player and now sonic cineplayer comes up and I can’t watch dvds at all. I am at a loss if anyone knows how to correct this problem please help me!

  24. I’ve just encountered the same problem for the first time and reached the same conclusion after trying reinstalling everything and eventually trying changing the date.

  25. I was having the same problem described above and was getting really angry because none of the solutions above were working until I read Mike’s post from Dec. 7th. ’07 I installed the cole2k codec and now all is fine. Thanks a lot mike!

  26. I feel your pain. This issue is tantamount to why MSoft is losing popular favor. Bad enough their latest roll out….i.e. Pista. has done just that to the end user. Pista them off! Now that MS allegedly is sleeping with Hollywood DRM moguls, it has become a disaster for those who want to turnkey their PC’s into a seamless media center, which if I may MS promos. Just another reason to migrate to Ubuntu/linux and show MS the door!

  27. Thanks Mike! (From December 3rd)

    I was having the same problems and nothing worked until I visited your link. Everything is fine now and I can finally watch DVD’s again!!

    Thanks again!!

  28. It’s not just limited to the Dell computer or the Sonic player, I have a home built computer and am running Windows XP Pro SP3. This used to be old desktop but now have turned it into a PVR unit with a Hauppauge tv card, but like many of you getting the same error as well. I get the error no mater which software player I use, even the one included with the DVD doesn’t work. Tried adjusting the time back to a date earlier than Dec 1, 2006, and that did not work either. Going to tinker with the computer a bit, maybe remove the tv card and see if that has an effect on it.

  29. Man I just got this. What is going on? (The dec. 1 trick didn’t seem to work for me–though I am on a dell.).