Let's suppose you want to play region-restricted DVD. How to make DVD-ROM region free? Is it possible? Is it dangerous operation for DVD-ROM?
What are regional codes ?
Motion picture studios want to control the home release of movies in different countries because theater releases aren't simultaneous (a movie may come out on video in the U.S. when it's just hitting screens in Europe). Also, studios sell distribution rights to different foreign distributors and would like to guarantee an exclusive market. Therefore they required that the DVD standard include codes to prevent playback of certain discs in certain geographical regions. Each player is given a code for the region in which it's sold. The player will refuse to play discs that are not coded for its region. This means that a disc bought in one country may not play on a player bought in another country. Some people believe that region codes are an illegal restraint of trade, but no legal cases have estabtished this.
The world is split up into 8 DVD regions:
Old DVD-ROM drives came with a firmware level RPC-1. Software restrictions was used to control which region is played.
New DVD-ROM drives come with a firmware level RPC-2 with hardware restrictions. RPC 2 drives have a 5 change limit on regions, once the counter gets to 0 your drive is permanently locked to the last region it was set to. Even if you reformat or move the drive to another system it will still be locked to the last region. There are ways to get around it, some models have resetting tools made by 3rd parties to reset the change limit back to 5 and some also have firmware patches to remove the region lock.
How to bypass region code limitation ?
As we have said, a lot of newer drives are RPC-2 drives these days. Some of these drives don't allow raw access to the drive until the drive firmware has done a regioncheck. But some RPC-2 drives DO allow raw access, so in some cases it is quite possible to use a special software to bypass the restriction:
The first solution is a free VideoLAN player:
Click here to download VideoLAN for Windows
Click here to download VideoLAN for Mac OS X
Click here to read how to install VideoLAN for Ubuntu Linux
It might take a long time to initialize DVD. So just pop the disc in your drive and try it out, while you get a coffee.
The second solution is a powerful software: DVD X Player for Windows:
click here to download the online installer of DVD X Player
It supports all region DVDs on RPC-2 drives.
How to change DVD region ?
The region can only be changed five times, before its set permanently. Software DVD players allow you to change region codes up to 5 times and then automatically lock in the fifth region-code setting. Afterwards, you can only play DVD titles in the last region code. The region code will remain locked even if you re-install DVD software.
PowerDVD for Windows
Click here to download the online installer of PowerDVD
The first time you insert a DVD title, to be played on PowerDVD, a small dialogue box will appear. It will set the region code to match that of the DVD title you wish to play. After this the program will be set. However, if you have a region free DVD-ROM drive, you have the option of playing DVD titles from different regions. PowerDVD will allow you to change the region code setting up to five times, and then it will be locked on the region you have listed on your fifth and last change. At that point you will only be allowed to watch DVD titles from that region. To change the region code, from the original setting, just insert the DVD title in your DVD-ROM drive and run PowerDVD. When the software recognizes that the disc is from a different region than what was previously set, a dialogue box will appear. For example, the Current Region is Region 1. The program detects that the disc is from Region 2. When you click OK the Current Region will be changed to Region 2 and the DVD title will play. After changing from one region to another, you will have four changes left.
TotalMedia Theatre for Windows
Click here to download TotalMedia Theatre from Home Page
You can change the region code in the Disc Region Playback Control section of the Region and language tab. The first time you insert a disc into the drive, a window appears if the region code of the disc does not match the default system setting. You are only allowed to change the region code up to five times. After the maximum allowed limit has been reached, the region code setting will be locked. At that point, you will only be permitted to watch discs within the region in which they were originally set up.
WinDVD for Windows
Available Boxed versions, OEM, or from corel.com website.
If the region code of DVD does not match the default system setting, the dialog box for changing the DVD region code should appear. If that dialog box does not appear, then check the region code settings in the software: Click Start -> All Programs -> Win DVD and launch WinDVD. Right-click on the WinDVD window and select Setup or Properties. Click the Region tab and check the region code. If there is 0 in the "Changes Until Permanent" field, then DVD region code can not be changed again. If a number from 1 to 4 appears in the "Changes Until Permanent" field, then set the desired region and click OK. The new region will be initialized.
Mac DVD Player for Mac OS X
This is a default DVD Player in Mac OS X. It is freely supplied with operating system.
The first time you play a DVD with a region code, you may be asked to set the DVD drive to match that code; DVD Player is restricted to playing only discs with that same region code or with no region code. If you insert a DVD that uses a different region code, a dialog appears asking you if you want to change the DVD driveís region code. Important: You can change the region code of a DVD drive only five times (including the original setting); the fifth setting is permanent. Donít change the region code of a DVD drive unless you expect to play only DVDs that match the new region code in the future. To change a DVD driveís region code: in the dialog, choose a new region code setting for the DVD drive.
Fluendo DVD Player for Ubuntu Linux
This is an official, fully licensed DVD playback solution for Ubuntu that can be obtained from fluendo.com website.
It is specially designed to reproduce DVD on Linux/Unix platforms, provides end users with high quality standards, including support for region settings.
Regionset for Ubuntu Linux
This is a free command-line tool that can be installed by using the following command: sudo apt-get install regionset
In order to change DVD region code with this tool, type the command: regionset /dev/dvd
It will show you current region code settings: rpc phase, amount of user controlled changes available, amount of vendor resets available, and the region of DVD disc. It asks for the new region code. After confirmation, the new region code will be set.
How to make DVD-ROM region free ?
If your drive is locked, DVD doesn't play and you can't change region code anymore or you can't bypass the restriction using described methods above, then the last & only working solution is to "patch" your DVD-ROM drive to replace hardware region code restriction mechanism. It's a dangerous method, which can be used only by professionals.
If you live in the USA or Canada (R1) then you most likely won't need the ability to play DVDs from other regions, unless you are interested in some of the rare titles that are out in Europe (R2) but not in the USA. If you live in Europe and you prefer to watch the movies in English then most likely you have to flash your firmware (in order to buy American DVDs).
How to load another firmware which disables the region code restriction. This is ONLY for advanced users!
Step 1. If you're unsure about the type of the drive, we suggest you to launch driveinfo tool for Windows. Download the DriveInfo program: click here to download driveinfo22.exe
In case of ASPI error you have to install forceaspi first. Here's a website with instructions on how to install it: http://force_aspi_18.w.interia.pl
After installing forceaspi you have to reboot your computer. DriveInfo will show you the type of your DVD drive as well as the current firmware, and whether or not the drive is regionfree. If driveinfo tells you the drive has no region restriction of course you don't have to do anything.
Step 2. After you determine the type of your firmware you should download EXACT version of PATCHED firmware. Go to this forum: http://forum.rpc1.org/ and check if there's an updated firmware for your type of DVD drive. this step is really crucial! Double or triple check that you have the right firmware, otherwise your drive might not work after flashing anymore (and unfortunately there are flash programs that allow you to load the wrong firmware). Bad flashing could destroy your drive definitively. Read carefully the installation notes of your firmware before you upgrade. The Firmware Page and the drive manufacturer can't be responsible. AND REMEMBER: this is at your own risk.
Step 3. After you've downloaded the right firmware you must create a Windows bootdisk. You can format a disk and check "copy system files" and you will get a working bootdisk. Then copy the flasher program and the firmware to the disc as well. Then reboot your pc and change the boot drive order if necessary so that your pc boots from the disk drive. Since every BIOS looks different we can't tell you where to change the boot order. Please refer to the manual of your mainboard / pc or call customer support.
Step 4. After rebooting run the flasher. Then the program will search for a DVD-ROM and ask you if you want to flash. Type yes, wait until the program has finished, then reboot your PC. Once back in Windows run DriveInfo again. If everything is OK, the program shows: "THIS DRIVE HAS NO REGION PROTECTION".
NOTE: Before you buy a DVD-ROM make sure that there's RPC-1 firmware for it on this site: http://forum.rpc1.org/
You should be aware that in some cases the warranty might become void if you mess around with your drive on your own. Here are additional useful tips: The DVD-ROM Firmware Flashing FAQ