How to Be Region Free

Let’s jump right in! As discussed here, the movie distribution moguls split the world into eight regions: six for parts of the world and two (7 and 8) for other uses, such as aeroplanes and cruise ships. So, what’s that have to do with anything? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out!

First of all, your computer is locked in to one region only. For example, if you live in the United States (region 1), you would not be able to play region 4 (Australia and South America) DVDs on your computer. That is, unless you used one of your “credits” to change the region (most computers only have five credits).

But, what if you don’t want to change your region? I mean, what are you supposed to do if you’ve used up all your credits and you just bought a DVD from Europe? Well, there are a couple of workarounds and here they are:

DVD X Player

The DVD X Player is a playback program (like Windows Media Player) with one simple difference: you can play DVDs on it that are encoded with any region. There is a 14 day free trial for it and after that, it costs approximately $64 (U.S. dollars) to keep using it. That may seem like a lot, but it could be well worth it for some of you!


Next up is AnyDVD, which allows you to completely remove the region encoding on a DVD. That means you can play any DVD you have on your computer or in your DVD player.

One thing I really like about AnyDVD is that it works in the background. By that, I mean you don’t have to run any other programs through it. It also has other capabilities, such as allowing both NTSC and PAL viewing (for older computers and monitors) and removing the excessive copyright warnings that appear in umpteen languages before the movie even begins. AnyDVD costs €49, which is about U.S.$71 and GBP 36.50.

One thing AnyDVD can’t do is allow a PAL DVD to be played on an NTSC television (once you’ve removed the DVD region encoding) and vice versa. Now, PAL, NTSC and SECAM are region encodings in themselves. Every analog television is PAL, NTSC, SECAM or PAL/SECAM. Those are being phased out in some countries, but for the rest, even if you do remove the DVD region encoding, you’ll have to leave room for the TV format as well. Here is a brief list of countries using each format:

PAL (to be replaced by DVB-T):

  • Australia (until 2012)

  • China

  • Singapore

  • United Kingdom (until 2012)

NTSC (to be replaced by ATSC):

  • Canada

  • Japan

  • Mexico

  • United States

SECAM (to be replaced by numerous other standards):

  • France

  • Former USSR

  • Eastern European countries

I hope I haven’t stopped you from buying DVDs overseas forever, but this is something you need to be aware of. Take it as you wish!

~ Brandon Zubek