Note: The following information applies to DVD-ROM's on a PC platform only. If anyone knows how to circumvent the region code on other platforms, please node your tricks below.

The first step in breaking the DVD region code is to understand it, so read the related node first if you don't know what it's about.

The region code usually resides in three locations: in the player, in the decoding software and on the disc itself. Now, the disc may be set to be multi-region (ie. in theory, it should play anywhere), or be set to certain regions (for example, my copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall is set to regions 2, 4 and 5). Sometimes it is only set to one region. There is nothing one can do about the code on the disc.

The good news is, the code in software players may be easily broken. It depends on the software, but at least WinDVD and PowerDVD can be cracked. Anyways, there are a number of utilities available on the Internet to accomplish this. DVDGenie (http://www.inmatrix.com/) is probably the one to use. It allows you to change the code anytime you wish, instead of the few times the players would have you doing it.

The bad news is, if your DVD-player is set to a certain region, cracking the code becomes a pain in the ass. Some drives may be cracked by downloading a hacked firmware update, but these things are not available for every model. If you already own a player for which an update is not available, there isn't much to do, except harassing people on the Usenet to create one. However, if you are considering buying a DVD-ROM, make sure you get a model with no hardcoded region code. The Inmatrix site has a list of regionless players (http://www.inmatrix.com/drives.html) in their site. I got the Asus E608, and DVDGenie confirms that no region code is present (and I'm lucky enough to own a VCR with a somewhat 'lacking' Macrovision protection...)

So, in essence, you are trying to reach a situation in which the DVD disc asks the DVD-ROM the region code, and since the drive is hacked (or lacking the code to begin with) and the disc gets no reply, it is forced to ask the decoding software about it. This is where DVDGenie comes in, and allows you change the code whenever it is required. Hey presto! Instant DVD region code free experience.

To summarize, here is a checklist for anyone who wishes to enjoy DVD discs from all regions.

  1. Get a region code free DVD-ROM. Check out http://www.inmatrix.com/drives.html for a list of them.
  2. Alternatively, if your DVD-ROM is region code protected, get a firmware update if one is available (http://firmware.inmatrix.com/).
  3. Get a decent software player. IMHO, PowerDVD is the best one, and it's region code can be bypassed.
  4. Get DVDGenie (http://www.inmatrix.com/, and crack the software code.
  5. Enjoy!

Update, 17 aug. 2003: nicky_d informs me that there exists an utility for the OS X, called Region X, which allows the user to modify the settings of the DVD Player software, including the region code. Apparently, this requires an RPC-1 drive (meaning no hard-coded region code) .

Changing your DVD-ROM's region code is very easy on a Windows PC. Simply open Windows Explorer by pressing the Windows key and 'e' at the same time. Navigate to the "Computer" folder, then right click on your DVD drive (any drive, actually) and click on "Properties." When the properties window opens, click on the "Hardware" tab. You will see a list of the drives on your computer. Select your DVD drive from the list and click on the box labeled "Properties." When that window opens click on the "DVD Region" tab. Read the warnings thoroughly and follow the directions, if this is still what you want to do.

Generally, you are allowed to change the region four times. If you have many discs from two different regions and two DVD-ROMs you can easily set one to each region. They will operate normally for CDs and data DVDs. If you only have one or a few DVDs from another region, you can temporarily install a DVD-ROM from an old computer and change its region. Then you can use software, like DVD Shrink 3.2 to "backup" your discs as region 0 DVDs. You can even "backup" all your discs as .iso files, store them on a large hard drive, and use a drive emulator to mount them so that you never need to even touch one of your DVDs again, but that's a different topic.

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