Life After Windows Media Center And Player– The Alternatives

Recently Microsoft has announced that Windows 8 will NOT include DVD-playback or Windows Media Center natively.

These will be upgrades, a move that largely has to do with Microsoft’s shift in focus. Since Windows 8 is clearly being pushed at tablets, why should MS pay for the licensing and costs associated with DVD playback and media center? That’s how they feel, but I still think this move may have some confusion and negative reception among average consumers.

That being said, there are many easy, free alternatives to Media Center and Media Player that will solve your DVD-playback problems and give you a decent media center program, without paying MS upgrade costs.

So let’s take a look at a few Windows Media Player alternatives, first:

DIVX Plus Player

DivX Plus is built around the DivX standard, but in addition it can play AVI, MKV, MP4, and MOV videos, giving you a great way to play your movies, without using Windows Media Player. Is it the best? I’ve used it, and I like it a little bit more than Windows Media Player, but there is always room for improvement.

Winamp Media Player

Just about everyone has heard of Winamp. Once this was the most popular alternative for playing music and watching video, both. Today it is still a very good option and supports a fair amount of codecs.

VLC Player

This is the best option out there if you ask me. The interface isn’t the easiest out there, and it isn’t as pretty as some of the alternatives, but it is HIGHLY functional, has DVD, Blu-ray, and hundreds of others formats that work well enough in it. Things that won’t run elsewhere always work here.

This are some goodies, but if you need a full-fledged Media Center, there are a couple good choices for free as well:


Today this has become a separate set-top box as well, but the software itself isn’t half-bad either. Unlike Windows Media Center, it has additional easy-access channels and can even sort-of integrate into Hulu Player (sort of, mind you). Not a bad option at all.


If you want something that is somewhat similar to Windows Media Center, XBMC is a perfect option. You can watch movies, music, pictures, and basically everything WMC can do. This is without a doubt my favorite, and honestly in many ways works BETTER than WMC.

There are a lot more options than the ones I listed, these are just a few of the best choices out there. The bigger point that is this new change doesn’t really CHANGE anything. You can still get DVD playback and a Windows Media Center-like experience without paying a cent more than you have to.

Should Microsoft have left things as-is? That will largely depend on who you ask. Honestly, I won’t miss either of them, but for some folks this might be a big deal.

By taking these elements out and selling them as an add-on pack, MS will be able to reduce costs. Will that translate to cheaper Windows 8 upgrade prices? Possibly, though I doubt it. I also think it is more than likely that specific PC vendors like HP, Dell, etc, will make their own partnerships and include pack-in codecs and players that already work as alternatives.

What do you think? Do you have an alternative media center or player that I didn’t mention that’s worth talking about?

Does this new change turn you off or does it not really bother you?

Share your thoughts below.

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