Make Your DVD Player Region-Free in Seconds
As a Brit, I often want DVDs that I just can't find in the U.S. It's usually U.K. comedy shows, most of which don't take off over here for some reason. And DVD regions used to be a problem for me. But not anymore. (See also: The Best Blu-ray Players)
As I'm sure you know, DVDs are coded to a region of the world. Here's how it breaks down:
REGION 1 — USA, Canada
REGION 2 — Japan, Europe, South Africa, Middle East, Greenland
REGION 3 — S.Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Parts of South East Asia
REGION 4 — Australia, New Zealand, Latin America (including Mexico)
REGION 5 — Eastern Europe, Russia, India, Africa
REGION 6 — China
REGION 7 — Reserved for Unspecified Special Use
REGION 8 — Reserved for Cruise Ships, Airlines, etc...
REGION 0, 9, or REGION ALL — Discs are uncoded and can be played worldwide
So, here in the U.S., we're Region 1. In the U.K., discs are Region 2. Region 1 discs won't play in region 2 players, and vice versa. Or so I was told when I first moved here 6 years ago. But that's not true. Region coding can, in most cases, be removed from your DVD player using a simple remote-control code that unlocks the player.
Why do we have region codes?
I'm no expert on this, but I turn to a man who knows more than I do. Robert Silva from About.com had this to say about the subject.
"Movies are released in theaters in different parts of the world at different times throughout the year. That Summer blockbuster in the U.S. may end up being the Christmas blockbuster overseas. If that occurs, the DVD version of the movie may be out in the U.S. while it is still showing in theaters overseas.
In order to preserve the financial integrity of the theatrical distribution of a particular film, it is not possible (under normal conditions) to have a friend in the U.S. send a DVD copy of the film to the country where it is in theatrical release and be able to play the DVD on a player there."
So, in a word, money. However, since the massive surge of the Internet, file sharing and release dates in countries around the world coming closer and closer together, it's fairly ridiculous to have region coding. In fact, many players are now code free. But, if yours isn't (and most aren't) you may be able to unlock it in a matter of seconds...right now.
Enough background...how do I unlock my player?
The site I have used for the last few years is called VideoHelp.com, and they have a section of the site dedicated to DVD hacks. It's a simple search engine. Just take down the name and model number of your DVD player, and if a hack exists (there are thousands out there) then just print out the instructions, take your remote control and program your DVD player. And there you have it. You can now play disks from Japan, England, Australia, anywhere you want!
Here's the best part.
You don't need an expensive player. In fact, the easiest players to unlock are at the cheaper end. I bought a Phillips DVD player (DVP642) for $40 from BestBuy a few years ago, unlocked it in 10 seconds and watched a bunch of British comedy the same day. Yesterday, I upgraded that player to a DVD player with HD capability for the impending HDTV we'll need to buy. I checked out VideoHelp for players on the BestBuy website that had a remote hack available and found this one: a Samsung Progressive-Scan DVD Player with HD Upconversion, Model: DVD-HD860 . It was $89.99 (on sale from $99.99) and then I used the following region hack:
- Power on.
- Open tray.
- Push the info on remote once (with supplied remote). You will see numbers.
- Press 9 for multi-region. Keep trying until you see the number 9 appear in upper left corner.
- Power off.
- Power on.
That was it. A nice new upconvert DVD player that plays any DVD, and it got a great rating on CNET, too. All for less than $100 including tax. So, if you do have a DVD player that you'd like to convert, you can try it. The site does WARN that any action you take may invalidate the warranty, so try it at your own risk. All I can say is that I've never had a problem. Best of luck.