What's All This About DVD Regions?

John Gumbs asked the Answer Line forum why you can only change a DVD drive's region a limited number of times.

Because that's the way the Hollywood studios want it. They like to control how their product is released in different parts of the world.

Twenty years ago, American cinephiles often bought imported Japanese Laserdiscs because they were superior to American offerings (my son first saw Disney's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea with Japanese subtitles). But the studios wanted to control when and how a given film was released in different parts of the world, so they insisted on regional codes as part of the DVD standard, and later for the Blu-ray standard, as well.

North America is Region 1 for DVDs, and part of Region A for Blu-ray.

Most set-top DVD players are built for a particular region, and cannot play discs encoded for another region (they can all play region-free discs, however). Region-free players are also available.

PC DVD drives are more versatile than set-top players, with the region assignment built into the software. You generally can change the region of a drive four times in the drive's lifetime. In Windows 7 or Vista, click Start, type device manager, and press ENTER. In XP, select Start, then Run; type devmgmt.msc, and press ENTER.

Once there, expand the DVD/CD-ROM drives section, then double-click your drive. Click the DVD Region tab.

Read the original forum discussion.

April 2: This post has been altered to correct a grammatical error. My thanks to Wendy Wells for bringing it to my attention.

Add your comments to this article below. If you have other tech questions, email them to me at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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