I just want to watch Ratatouille!
December 12, 2007 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Very poor, sometimes non-functional, video DVD playback on my Dell laptop. The related features have no problems in any other context. I don't even have any idea what could be wrong, so no idea what to Google for help...

(note: I do still have a couple years left on my Dell service contract, so if I really have to call or get this repaired, it's possible--I would just rather fix it first if I can, because we all know how HELPFUL those Dell service reps can be. Ugh.)

Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop (purchased June 2006, running XP SP2, ATI Radeon X1300 video card, Creative soundcard, standard Dell Philips DVD-R drive).

Whenever I have tried to play video DVDs on the laptop for about the last month, the playback quality is absolutely atrocious if it works at all. Most of the time, regardless of what program I use for playing (default Dell utility, Winamp, VLC), the computer will freeze for a couple minutes and after reviving itself my audio and video are corrupted to the point of needing a reboot (sometimes I even get a system message telling me they are "corrupted"). They are fine after a reboot.

Just now I tried a DVD and it will play, but (as has happened a few times before), the sound is kind of "crackly"/skippy/poor quality/lags and catches back up--and the video does the same thing. It's as if I were trying to watch a Youtube clip while it was simultaneously buffering. The DVD is brand new, isn't scratched or dirty, and plays fine in a DVD player hooked up to a TV.

I have no other problems with video playback (.avi or .mpeg files on my storage media) or audio either related to the video or on its own. The DVD player/recorder works fine in all of its other capacities, including ripping and burning.

Any diagnoses?
posted by rhoticity to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Have you reinstalled the video and sound drivers?

Have you installed all available codecs? Try the Combined Community Codec Pack.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:26 PM on December 12, 2007

Get the Service Tag number and then go to www.dell.com service and support and check for updated drivers AND firmware updates.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 9:04 PM on December 12, 2007

What I would consider, were I in your position:

1 - Is the drive otherwise fully-functional? For instance, can it play DVD-based games smoothly / install DVD-based software? How about CDs? Does it burn DVDs successfully? This helps rule out hardware defects on the drive mechanism itself.

2 - Does your computer have trouble with non-DVD full motion video content, ie downloaded videos that don't require you to use the drive? This will help rule out graphics driver / hardware problems.

3 - Maybe your laptop is overheating (that one's a stretch)? Do the cooling fans crank way up when playing a DVD / video content? Have your fans quit running at all?

Good luck.
posted by ZakDaddy at 10:00 PM on December 12, 2007

Holy crap. I just re-read the last half of your question; please disregard the above advice. Wow.

After careful review, it sounds like there are multiple applications on your laptop attempting to access the disk simultaneously. Have you installed any new playback software or other DVD-related utilities?
posted by ZakDaddy at 10:03 PM on December 12, 2007

Best answer: Well, this is not a direct solution, but if you're getting nowhere with solving the original problem, a workaround would be to just rip the DVDs with DVD Decrypter and play them from the hard drive. I usually rip to ISOs and then mount them with Daemon Tools so that programs that don't directly recognize VOBs will still work.
posted by dixie flatline at 8:17 AM on December 13, 2007

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