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What can DVD do for me?

by Molly Dempsey

Computer, movie reel, popcorn It happened with 8-track tapes and vinyl records. Now it won't be long before thrift-store bins will bulge with video cassettes of Austin Powers alongside the Carpenters' Close to You. With Windows 98 and a DVD (digital versatile disc) drive, you can hock those dated video tapes and watch movies on your computer.

DVD packs a big punch
One DVD packs as much multimedia muscle as 23 CD-ROMs. That means an entire feature-length film will fit on one disc. DVDs can also store other forms of data, such as high-powered video games and multimedia reference guides (like the Microsoft EncartaTM DVD-ROM Reference Suite 99 ), but the technology is initially taking off in the movie market. The combination of high-quality, digital audio and video in a sleek, CD-sized format makes it the perfect choice to replace bulky video tapes. 

A DVD movie's sharp picture and rich color make its quality about twice as good as that of a videotape. Plus, DVDs can be played hundreds of times without the excessive wear and picture degradation that happens with tape--and you never have to rewind.  

Because DVDs can hold so much information, some discs come with a variety of options, including how the movie is formatted to fit your screen (the purist's preferred wide-screen letterbox or the open matte and pan and scan techniques that are commonly used on videotapes) or whether you want close captioning or subtitles in a different language.

Set up your computer for movie madness
Many new computers come with DVD drives already installed.  If you want to install a DVD drive into your computer, you will need to buy an internal or external DVD drive and a decoder card to go inside your computer. There are kits available that come with both the drive and the card, such as Creative's DxR2 or DxR3.

Most kits and cards will require you to install drivers from a CD that is included. Currently, there are two decoder cards that work with the drivers included with Windows 98: the Toshiba Infinia DVD card (for use with the Infinia PC) and the Ravisent (formerly Quadrant) Cinemaster 1.2 card, which is included with Dell XPS series computers. 

If your system doesn't have room for a new drive, you might choose to replace your CD-ROM drive with a DVD drive. DVD drives are backwards-compatible, which means they can play CDs as well as DVDs.

If your computer monitor is small, you can hook your computer to your television to view DVDs on a bigger screen.  You may have to buy a video card with a TV/video output to do so, but check the back of your computer first. Many newer computers come with a video-out jack already installed.

So have a videotape-melting party or make a little extra cash by selling your cassette library, and start collecting DVDs. Windows 98 makes it easy to impress your friends and family with the newest in entertainment technology.


Molly Dempsey
Molly Dempsey
wishes she had a concession stand at home, because microwave popcorn just isn't the same as the stuff you get at the movies.

Getting started
To get your home movie theater up and running:

  1. Get a DVD hardware kit (or buy the drive and the decoder card separately) and install it, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  2. Once the hardware is installed, Windows 98 will detect it, and prompt you install the appropriate drivers. Follow the Wizard to install the drivers either from your Windows 98 CD or the CD that came with your DVD kit.
  3. Put a DVD in the DVD drive. The movie will start playing automatically.
  4. To access the DVD player, click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to Entertainment, and then click DVD Player.

Where to buy
Several Web sites offer thousands of movie titles on DVD for sale or rent. (Read this month's online shopping column for our picks of the best online DVD retailers.)  You can also find DVDs at most major video rental stores.