Skip to main content

Playing Difficult DVDs: Playing a "Difficult" DVD

What to try when a DVD "won't play"


Library Contact Information

University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

Boreham Library

813 North Waldron

Fort Smith, AR  72904


 VLC Player is a free download and recommended for DVD playing.  Most campus PCs and laptops should have it installed already.



Playing a Difficult DVD

DVDs produced for education use may not function quite the same as the popular movie/TV show DVDs we're used to using.  This is due to shortcuts in creating copies of the DVDs directly from computer files, rather than copying from master DVDs.

This may make it impossible to play some DVDs in a conventional DVD player -- you'll need to use the computer to play them instead.

The campus standard media player is freeware called VLC and can be downloaded from

Before you give up, try these steps:

Method One:

*   Insert the DVD into your computer's DVD disc player drive, NOT a stand-alone DVD player.

 If VLC media player and the blue box comes up, skip the steps to load VLC and go down to the blue file folder screens, below.

*   Click on the Windows Start (the windows icon, lower left of the screen)

*   Type VLC in the box and from the list, select VLC media player.  This is the preferred program for DVD playing on campus.

*   In VLC media player, select the Media tab and click on Open Disc.

VLC Media tab




















Next you should get the Open Media screen.  Click on the Play button.

Open Media

Now you are at the DVD blue file folders screen.  One or more folders may OR MAY NOT be labeled.

DVD folders blank








The top folder label that rises above the others like a file folder tab is for the DVD title -- it may or may not be filled in.

* Double click the first left folder under the title folder (indicated here but not on the actual screen by the red arrow).

DVD folders with pointer

This should start the DVD.

If the DVD stops at the end of the first part, you'll need to get back to this menu and click the next folder, which may be below or right of the first one you clicked.  You may need to eject and reload the DVD.

Quality may be less than optimal when playing through a computer, as compared to what is expected from a DVD player.

* If following these steps still didn't work, please return the DVD to the library and tell us EXACTLY how far you got, or if you played part of it, as exactly as possible where the problem begin (time shown).  It may be possible to clean the disc and then check that position to see if it plays.

Method Two:

Try treating the disc like a data disk.

Open the disc with Windows Explorer (the file folder icon in your bottom Taskbar).

Right click on the VIDEO_TS folder and select Play with VLC Player.

Explanation for why this DVD is a problem:

DVDs, especially the ones for education, more and more often tend to be burned from computer files only when an order is received.  Vendors may shortcut the process by not filling in the folder labels and other guides that allow a regular DVD player or DVD software to function. This saves on storage costs for them by not using a master DVD, but it means that a DVD player may not be able to play the disc because it can't find the usual information it expects.

If the Library orders another copy, we'll get exactly the same thing again (which we know because we've already tried that).  Vendors just know to replace, not fix -- until you or they give up.  Welcome to the 21st century of DVDs in education.  

We regret that this is not something that the Library can change, so this guide shows how you may be able to use the DVD anyway.  Sorry for the inconvenience!


Technical Services Librarian

Dennis Van Arsdale's picture
Dennis Van Arsdale
Boreham Library 136, 813 N. Waldron, Fort Smith AR 72903