Computer Software DVD Player
You don't have to spend a lot of money to play a DVD on your computer. Of course, without better than average video and audio hardware you will most likely be better off with a home theater system than hutching over your computer. There are three basic ways to get fundamental DVD software on your computer. Of course, you need a DVD drive for any of them.
First, there is software provided by the manufacturer of your computer. This is a very popular way to start with DVDs. When I got a new Compaq some years ago it came with a DVD drive and program. I borrowed a couple of DVDs from a friend and after buying a free for myself I started in on a real home theater. The software provided was very limited. It had the basic controls, fast forward, rewind, skip chapters, pause, menu select and full screen/windows modes.
The second is a player may come with your operating system. With Windows ME there is a DVD player provided. It is a step up from the OEM software described above. For one thing it permitted screen captures. This is great if you want to collect pictures of your favorite stars or use the images on a web site. (remember, copyright laws usually apply) Unfortunately, The new Windows XP Professional operating system does not come with a DVD player. I also had a LOT of problems getting some of the freeware discussed here to work. I kept getting an error message about my video settings being wrong. After many try's at changing the settings I gave up for now and play my DVDs from my Windows ME partition. One note here. A nice way to have more than one OS on your computer is a product called Partition Magic from PowerQuest. It lets you resize, create and delete partitions on the fly. This lets you set up multiple operating systems on a single machine. They also have a product called Drive Image that creates a binary backup of a whole partition in minutes. This is the absolute best way to restore your partition. I know that this may seem a bit off topic but if you are going to try installing DVD software on your computer it is wise to have a way to completely back out if anything goes wrong.
Finally, there are some sites that offer the download of free software. I'm putting together a list of some sites as I get a chance to download them and review them for you. Here you have a chance for some nice added features that even most home theater systems will not have. One is integration of DVD ROM use. Normally, you have to download and install special software like PC Friendly to play the DVD ROM features. This software quite frankly does not have the greatest reputation. I have tried installing it several times and it interfered so much with my other computer functions that I was very thankful I created a binary backup of my computer to erase all traces of PC Friendly. Fortunately, there are now some alternatives available for our use.