Enhance Your PC's Entertainment Capabilities with Multimedia Software Apps

Woman watching movie on laptop in living room
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It used to be that all of the basic media playback requirements were included with the operating system. Over time, many of the features that were once included have been removed. This is either because the features were too specialized or because media has traditionally been for more physical media as opposed to streaming media. In any case, there are some instances where you might have to pick up some additional software in order to get the full use of your computer for multimedia.

Watching DVDs/Blu-Ray

Watching DVD movies is something that many people do, particularly with notebook computers. The ability to watch a movie on the go is a great convenience, especially for the traveler. This feature was assumed to be standard with all computer operating systems but this has changed with the release of Windows 8.1 and then Windows 10 which do not support it natively. Microsoft has an article that explains the DVD playback

Playback of Blu-ray media is not supported by any of the operating systems. Much of this has to do with the licensing requirements for the software. As a result, people that want to be able to play the high definition media format need to purchase additional software. Apple users have it even harder because the hardware to play the media format is not even sold by the company.

The two major Blu-ray players on the Windows market are CyberLink's PowerDVD and Corel's WinDVD. Both of these software packages provide the ability to playback any Blu-ray movie. Be warned that watching Blu-ray movies generally requires more stringent PC hardware. As a result, be sure to check to make sure you have the proper hardware before you purchase the software programs for viewing Blu-ray.

Apple users will, of course, need to purchase the necessary hardware but will have a harder time getting playback software. There are a couple companies that offer software including iReal Blu-ray Player and Macgo Blu-ray Player. Before trying either of these software packages, it is important that you check the software and hardware requirements to ensure you have the proper hardware to run them.

Streaming video

The biggest multimedia feature for users is the ability to stream video over the Internet. It could be through a service such as Hulu or Netflix or catching a quick video clip off YouTube. For the most part, there is little or no software that will be required to be installed on your computer in order to use these services. That is thanks to HTML 5 and its support for natively streaming video. Most of the modern browsers offer some form of HTML video support but it is entirely dependent upon the browser, operating system, and service that you will be using.

Outside of the standard HTML 5 video support, the most common form of streaming video is done through Adobe's Flash. The software is available for Windows or Mac OS X systems and browser but the software has been plagued by many security problems and the fact that it causes many unwanted video ads when browsing the web that it is not as popular as it once was. It may be preinstalled on some Windows computers but it is not installed on any of the Apple computers at all.

Creating CD/DVD/Blu-ray media

With the inclusion of DVD burners on personal computers and the low cost of the media to create them, the ability to create music and movie discs is much more common for users. Both of the major Microsoft and Apple operating systems have features in them for the basic creation of data, music and even movie CDs and DVDs. Their features in terms of video may be somewhat limited where another application may be desired. Some applications found in Windows and Mac OS X do allow for burning to CDs or DVDs. There are a number of software applications available though with more advanced features. If you want to do high definition video such as Blu-ray you definitely need to get some extra software.

There are two major burning suites that are available on the market. Roxio's Creator has been around for some time and supports a wide variety of CD and DVD authoring features. The Nero suite is the other package that is available and commonly seen. Sometimes limited versions of these suites are included with the DVD or Blu-ray burners but they generally have few features and it is becoming much less common.


Home Theater PCs or HTPCs were introduced many years ago but with little success. Their promise for an integrated media environment was very tempting but their execution left much to be desired. Microsoft attempted to integrate many of the features with their Media Center software but it has since been discontinued and Apple never made an attempt to integrate the features instead of relying on sales of their Apple TV product and iTunes store.

Consumers are not completely out of luck as there are many open source projects that can be used to put together their own home theater PC setup. Most of these are based around the XBMC open source software. The most popular of these packages is a setup called Kodi and is available for both Windows and Mac OS X platforms and also for mobile platforms. This is not a simple thing to implement though so we highly recommend reading up heavily on how to use the software and what requirements it has before attempting to put together your own HTPC.