If you want to play Blu-rays on your PC or laptop, you’ll no doubt have already found out that Windows is incapable of doing so, even if your computer has a Blu-ray drive (which you will need, by the way).
Windows 10 can’t even play DVDs, but if your computer came with a Blu-ray drive it’s possible there is already software on your system which will play the high-definition discs. Some popular programs which are included with Blu-ray drives include CyberLink PowerDVD and the now-defunct ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre.
You can buy the latest version of PowerDVD, but there are also free options including Leawo and VLC if you don’t want to spend any money and are happy with the absolute basics.
Just bear in mind that if you happen to have a 4K Blu-ray disc then it’s unlikely the drive in your computer supports 4K discs, and even if it does, you’ll need quite specific hardware alongside it. For most people it will be much simpler to use an Xbox One S or a dedicated UHD Blu-ray player.
But if you’re looking to play standard HD Blu-rays, then read on.
Note: 5KPlayer seems to claim to be able to play Blu-rays, but in fact it cannot. You have to rip the discs first, which is very inconvenient and the reason why we have not included it in this roundup. It is a decent free video player, but far from ideal for playing Blu-ray discs.
1. CyberLink PowerDVD
Now on version 19, PowerDVD is the best-known playback software for Windows. It’ll do a lot more than play DVDs and Blu-ray discs, including enhancing video quality via its TrueTheater feature, casting video to a number of different devices and allowing you to ‘pin’ YouTube videos for offline viewing.
It isn’t what we’d call cheap: the Standard version costs £44.99 / $59.99 but you’ll need at least the Pro version for Blu-ray plaback, and that’s £59.99 / $79.99.
PowerDVD is certainly the best Windows software for Blu-ray playback, but for this kind of money you can buy a standalone Blu-ray player such as the LG BP250 which costs £55 from Argos. If you’re in the US, the Sony BDPS1700 costs $69.99 from Best Buy.
And unless you don’t have a TV or specifically need to watch Blu-rays on your PC or laptop, it probably makes more sense to buy a set-top box.
2. Leawo Blu-ray Player
One free option is Leawo Blu-ray Player. It’s based on XBMC – better known as Kodi these days – and claims to support all Blu-ray discs.
As well as playing the video, it supports DTS, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD, should your PC or laptop be suitably equipped.
Unlike some software that says it can play Blu-rays, Leawo actually does, and will display the full home menu and allow you to navigate it, select options – such as subtitles and languages.
It’s less polished than PowerDVD, but you can’t complain when it’s completely free.
The ever-popular VLC media player doesn’t have native support for Blu-ray discs, but you can head to this website and download the necessary files.
It’s a lot of hassle compared to Leawo or PowerDVD that only experienced Windows users will be comfortable dealing with, but once the files are copied to the relevant folders, VLC should happily play Blu-ray movies.
So, this is only a good option if you really love VLC and don’t want to download Leawo instead.