DVDs were the primary way to watch movies and media at home. Even with the popularity of internet streaming services, DVDs are still circulating around the world. Previously, if you wanted to watch a movie, you would have to either buy or rent a DVD and then play it on a DVD player. As you can imagine, the mass distribution of DVDs came with a variety of copyright protection features, one of which are DVD regions, also known as Region Codes.
I was having a hard time dealing with DVD region locks, so I wanted to write this article to share my experience with you. Chances are you’re reading this article because your DVD is showing a region-locked code and you’re not sure what to do. Don’t give up!
What are DVD Regions?
DVD regions are a commercial digital rights protection and management feature coded into both DVD discs and DVD players. The regions were designed to help with the global distribution of films, synchronize timed releases, film royalties, and other factors.
Bear in mind, the region codes are not exclusive to movies, they can be on any commercial DVD, including video games, software, music, and whatnot. In short, both the disc and the player have to support the same codes.
The regions are groups of countries or areas across the globe. As you can imagine, it can be frustrating to be unable to play a DVD simply because it was bought from a different region as your DVD player. It’s especially frustrating for movie buffs who want to collect exclusive international DVDs of various films.
DVDs discs and DVD players can have multiple region codes. For instance, DVDs sold in Mexico are coded to both region 1 (the United States and Canada) and Region 4 (Latin America and Oceania). Likewise, DVD players tend to support codes based on where they were manufactured.
Let’s take a look at the region codes and then I’ll walk you through some options to bypass the restrictions.
DVD Region Codes:
- 0 – Worldwide
- 1 – United States, Canada
- 2 – Europe, UK, Middle East, South Africa, Japan
- 3 – Southeast Asia
- 4 – Latin America, Oceania, Australia
- 5 – Africa, Russia, Ukraine, South Asia, Central Asia
- 6 – Mainland China
- 7 – MPAA pre-releases in Asia
- 8 – International Commercial Use (Airplanes, Boats, etc)
Region-locked discs can only be played on DVD Players that support the same codes. For example, a DVD player that supports region 1, can only playback discs that are also coded to region 1, and it won’t work with any discs from other regions.
How to Tell the Region of a DVD Disc?
The region code will be printed on the back of the DVD disc case with the code number and a small fine print explaining the region code. You can also find the region code lasered on the disc under the company logo.
Can I Play a Region 1 DVD on my Laptop in the UK?
You can play region 1 DVDs on a laptop in the UK but you’ll either have to use a media player such as VLC or AnyDVD or change the drive’s region in device manager settings. Region 1 DVDs are locked to the United States, the UK is in region 2.
In some cases, the DVD drive on your laptop will automatically change the region to match the disc, while also keeping count of the number of region changes. You can only change a region five times on a DVD player before it’s locked to one region.
What About Personal DVDs?
Commercial DVDs, especially movies, use a code between 1 and 6. Personal DVDs such as those recorded with a DVR (family videos, etc), usually fall into the region 0 category, which means they can be played on any DVD player. Generally, there are no limitations on personal DVDs and any DVD player can run them.
NTSC vs PAL
NTSC and PAL are analogue encoding formats designed and adopted by specific regions. NTSC stands for National Television Standards Committee and it’s used in the United States. PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line and it’s the standard in Europe, Australia, Africa, and parts of Asia.
In the UK, PAL is still the standard format for DVDs. PAL DVDs are never coded to Region 1, most PAL DVDs use Region 2 or other region codes where PAL is the standard format. In other words, DVDs can use either NTSC or PAL as well as region codes.
DVDs using the NTSC format can be played on DVD players that support PA. However, NTSC DVD players cannot support PAL DVDs. Generally, it’s best to find a DVD player that can support both formats.
If you’re planning to produce a DVD, it’s recommended to use the NTSC format because it can be played on both NTSC and PAL DVD players.
Can You Watch PAL DVDs in the US?
PAL DVDs are not usually playable on standalone DVD players in the US because US-manufactured DVD players only support NTSC format and region 1 DVDs. However, it is possible to watch a PAL DVD on a USB DVD Player with a computer and using open-source software such as VLC or AnyDVD.
Buy a Region-Free or Multi-Region DVD Player
The easiest way to play region-locked DVDs is with a region-free DVD player. Multi-region DVD support DVD with every region code. These can be difficult to find in the United States but they’re common in Europe and other areas. Not to worry, there are plenty of budget-friendly multi-region DVD players out there.
Best Multi-region DVD players:
Budget-Friendly Multi-Region DVD Player
- 1xUSB, 1xHDMI, RCA
- Quiet & Cool
- Includes Remote
- Supports CDs
- Weight: 1 Kg
Supports All DVD/CD Formats, Including MP3 and JPEG
- 1xUSB, 1xHDMI, RCA
- 1080P Upscaling
- Supports all DVD/CD Formats
- Remote Included
- Weight: 1.7 Kg
Support All DVD/CD Formats, Including MP3 and JPEG
- 1xUSB, 1xHDMI, RCA, 1xSCART
- Compact & Lightweight
- Supports PAL/NTSC
- Remote Included
- Weight: 1.7 Kg
- Dolby Digital Sound
With one of those DVD players, you’ll be able to watch DVDs from any region. However, if you already have a DVD player, there’s a good chance you can either unlock all regions or change the region to match the disc you want to play.
How to Play a Region Locked DVD:
As you can imagine, trying to playback a DVD that has a region lock can be a bit frustrating but there are some possible workarounds. Certain DVD players will allow you to change the region code with a simple “hack” while others, such as DVD players found on computers, require the use of software to change the region.
Not to worry, if you run into a playback issue related to region codes, there are a few things you can try to get the DVD to run. The steps will vary depending on the type of DVD player hardware. I’ll cover the most common machines below.
Unlock Regional Codes on DVD Players with a Remote
Certain DVD players will allow you to manually change the region to 0 which is worldwide also known as multi-region. Most DVD players will allow you to change the region up to five times. In some cases, the region can be changed by searching through the settings of your DVD player’s menu using the remote.
Most of the time, the only way to change the region on a disc player is to enter a special set of commands on the remote. The exact commands vary depending on the disc player model and manufacturer.
To give you an idea, you can unlock all regions on the Philips BPD5200 disc player by pressing Home on the remote, followed by this series of keys: 1, 3, 8, 9, 3, 1, 0. When you’re done, you should be able to play DVDs from any region.
Unlock Regional Codes on Windows 10 DVD Players
Nowadays laptops and computers don’t usually come with DVD players, but there are still lots of old models out there that still have them. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to change the supported regions on a computer’s DVD player.
Even some media players like VLC can run region-locked DVD content without you having to change any settings on the player. Another notable mention is AnyDVD, a media player that can sometimes bypass DVD restrictions at a software level.
Remember, the DVD player only allows you to change the region five times. If you attempt to change the region codes on a DVD player more than 5 times, it will remain in the last region permanently.
Unlock DVD regions on Windows 10:
- Remove the Disc from the DVD Tray
- Type Device Manager into the Windows Search Bar
- Right Click on Your DVD Drive
- Select Properties
- Locate DVD Region Tab
- Choose the Region that Matches the DVD Disc
- Click OK and Insert the DVD
The same steps apply to USB or external USB DVD players. For Macs, the region will automatically change to the region code on the first disc that runs on the drive. You can change the region on the player up to five times with Mac as well. For more information, take a look at Apple’s official guide on DVD regions.
Unlock Region Codes on a Console
Consoles abide by the same DVD rules too, and most video games that come with a disc are region locked. The good news is you can change the console region up to five times but you can’t use software to bypass the restrictions like with Windows or Mac.
Thankfully, the next-gen consoles (PS5 and Xbox One/Series X) no longer region lock games that come with a disc. However, when it comes to playing DVDs such as films, consoles are not region free.
The DVD regions supported by the console are similar to DVD players, as in they only play discs from certain regions. Usually, when you insert a DVD from a non-supported region into a console, the console will show a prompt asking if you want to change the region to match the DVD.
Can You Remove Region Codes from a DVD?
You can remove region codes from a DVD by using software to rip (copy) the DVD files to a computer. However, making copies of copyright-protected DVDs is a legal grey area. An easier option would be to use VLC to play the media straight from the DVD, as it often ignores DVD region codes.
The Bottom Line:
It can be tricky to get a region-locked DVD to play but the easiest way would be to either use a computer’s DVD drive with media player software or buy a region-free DVD player. If you have lots of region-locked DVDs, I recommend buying a region-free DVD player because you can permanently set it up on your TV stand to watch DVDs whenever you want.