Reasons Your Burned DVDs Aren't Playing

Why some DVDs don't play, and how to make your DVDs work

Laptop with open dvd drive in blue light
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It’s incredibly frustrating when burned DVDs don’t play. You’ve burned the data to the disc and popped it into the DVD player only to see an error or find that nothing works.

There could be a number of reasons why a burned DVD won't play. Below is a checklist that can help you figure out why it's not working so that you can fix the disc and prevent the problem in the future.

If none of these tips works or you've verified that your hardware is not the issue, try re-burning the DVD on a completely new disc.

What DVD Disc Type Are You Using?

There are multiple types of DVDs that are used for certain reasons, like DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-RAM, and even dual-layer and double-sided DVDs. What's more is that certain DVD players and DVD burners will only accept certain types of discs.

Use our DVD Buyer's Guide to make sure you're using the correct type of DVD for burning, but also check the manual for your DVD player (you can usually find it online) to see the disc types that it supports.

Are You Actually "Burning" the DVD?

Lots of DVD players do not support reading video files from a disc as if it were a flash drive or other storage device, but instead require that the videos be burned to the disc. There's a special process that must take place for the files to exist in a format readable to a DVD player.

This means that you cannot simply copy an MP4 or AVI file directly to the disc, put it in the DVD player, and expect the video to play.

Some TVs do support this type of playback through plugged in USB devices but not via DVDs.

Freemake Video Converter is one example of a free application that can burn those kinds of video files directly to a DVD, and many others exist too.

You also need to have a DVD burner attached to the computer for it to work.

Does Your DVD Player Support Homemade DVD?

If your burnt DVD works fine in a computer but doesn't play on the DVD player, the problem either rests with the DVD (the DVD player might not be able to read that disc type or data format) or the DVD player itself.

If you bought your DVD player within the past couple years, you should be able to use it to play DVDs burned on your home computer. However, older DVD players won’t necessarily recognize and play home-burned DVDs.

One thing that works for some people and depends on the DVD player you have, is to burn the DVD using an older format that the player does support. There are some DVD burning programs that support this but others do not.

Maybe the DVD Labeling Is Getting in the Way

Avoid those stick-on DVD labels! They are marketed for labeling DVDs, but in many cases, they will prevent an otherwise fine DVD from playing.

Instead, use a permanent marker, inkjet printer, or a Lightscribe DVD writer to put titles and labels on the disc.

DVD Scratches Can Prevent Playback

Just like with CDs, scratches and dust can impede the proper playing of DVDs. Clean your DVD and see if it will play. 

You might also try running the DVD through a disc repair kit to help fix DVDs that skip or jump due to scratches.

To avoid scratches on your DVDs, make sure to always keep in a properly enclosed case or at the very least, put them down with the label facing down (and the actual disc side facing up).

Try a Slower DVD Burn Speed

When you burn a DVD, you’re given the option to choose the burn speed (2X, 4X, 8X etc). The slower the burn, the more reliable the disc will be. In fact, some DVD players won’t even play discs burned at speeds greater than 4X.

If you suspect that this might be the cause, re-burn the DVD on a lower speed and see if that resolves the playback issue.

Maybe the Disc Is Using the Wrong DVD Format

DVDs aren’t universal; what plays in the US won’t play everywhere else in the world.

There’s a chance your DVD is formatted for European viewing or coded for some other global region.

North American DVD players are designed for NTSC discs formatted for region 1 or 0.

It Could Just Be a Bad Burn

Sometimes you just get a bad result when you burn a DVD. It could be the disc, your computer, a speck of dust, etc.

Learn how to avoid DVD burning errors.