How to watch DVD in Ubuntu Gutsy?

While it is a breeze to watch DVD in Windows and Mac OSX, it is definitely not a feature you would get when you install Ubuntu Gutsy. The default installation of Gutsy does not allow you to watch DVD due to legal and technical restrictions. You will have to install additional software to get the movie playing.

With appropriate codecs, DVD movies can be played in gxine, Totem movie player and VLC. I personally prefer VLC as it simply works, without having to do much configuration.

First, install the following library:

This will install most of the codecs for multimedia (audio and video) playing.

Next, you have to install “libdvdcss2” to watch encrypted DVD. The library package is not available in the Ubuntu repository, you have to use the “libdvdread3” installer script.

This will retrieve and install the “libdvdcss2”.

Install the xine library

Install VLC

Now you should be to watch DVD in your VLC player.

If you want to use Totem Mplayer, you have to install “totem-xine” rather than using the default “totem-gstreamer”.

Damien Damien

Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.


  1. are you sure its this complicated!!
    i installed gutsy a couple of months back and I’ve never had to use the terminal to watch a DVD, actually I’ve only used a terminal once maybe twice but i cant remember what for

  2. If linux is ever going to replace osx or windows, popular distros, such as ubuntu, really should come with dvd playing capabilities as standard. I understand that xp doesn’t come with this standard, but you can’t buy a dvd playing app at the computer store, and the average joe doesn’t understand what a terminal is or how it is to be used.

  3. Linux does support dvd playback and has its own dvd handling standard. The only reason why it is not included in the distro is because of licensing and legal issue. As long as Linux (especially Ubuntu) remains an open source OS, this will always remain an issue.

  4. Hi,

    I followed everything in your instructions but for some reason I could not install vlc. I have just installed gutsy if you need to know that.

    I came up with the following error report when I typed the command for installing vlc. Can you help?

    govind@ubuntu:~$ sudo apt-get install vlc
    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information… Done
    Some packages could not be installed. This may mean that you have
    requested an impossible situation or if you are using the unstable
    distribution that some required packages have not yet been created
    or been moved out of Incoming.

    Since you only requested a single operation it is extremely likely that
    the package is simply not installable and a bug report against
    that package should be filed.
    The following information may help to resolve the situation:

    The following packages have unmet dependencies:
    vlc: Depends: vlc-nox (= 0.8.6.release.c-0ubuntu5.1) but it is not going to be installed
    Depends: libsdl-image1.2 (>= 1.2.5) but it is not installable
    Depends: ttf-dejavu but it is not installable
    E: Broken packages

  5. @Govind: Look like you never enable the universe repository. Go to System->Administration->Synaptic Package manager. Under Setting->Repository->Ubuntu Software, make sure that the “Community maintained Open Source software (Universe)” and “Software restricted by copyright and legal issues( multiverse)” are checked. When you close the window, the Synaptic package manager will prompt you to update your repository. click Ok and wait. Once it is done, reinstall vlc again.

  6. Hi Damien,

    Hope you had a good easter. I just got back from holidays and now trying to work out this problem.

    Thanks for the tip….I did what you said and I have successfully installed VLC but it does not play any DVDs. I insert them into the drive, open up VLC, then click on the disc that I want to play and nothing seems to happen.

    I have checked using synaptic package manager if libdvdcss2 and libdvdread3 are installed and they are. The manager came up with a little green box next to the packages which I assume means they are installed.

    I have tried playing DVDs using totem media player, xgine and VLC but nothing happens. It opens up the first 4-5 seconds (the copyright warning etc) and then it says I can not proceed further due to encryption problems. VLC does nothing.

    Can you give me any further tips? I am a beginner and not sure what to do next.

    Many thanks.


  7. @Govind: Can you check your Synaptic if libxine1-ffmpeg is already installed? If not, install it and try again.

  8. Hi Damien,

    I checked it and it installed like the others. What should I look for next?



  9. Thanks a lot…this helped…quite a few packages had to be insatalled…being an ubuntu newbie, i have this question..

    what does this command do?



  10. @Punit: One of the package that is required is the libdvdread3 package. However, this package is not found in the repository. The command above is a script that download the libdvdread3 package and install in your system.

  11. I found this an interesting read as I use a very different method of getting multimedia and DVD’s working on ubuntu:
    First add the Medibuntu repositories to /etc/apt/sources.list
    sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

    then add their gpg key:
    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update

    Finally remove the gstreamer backend for totem and add the xine backend + codecs and libdvdcss2
    sudo apt-get remove totem-gstreamer && sudo apt-get install totem-xine w32codecs libdvdcss2

    and bingo! all sorted. Simple, no?

  12. Not sure when the last time you played a DVD on Windows or Mac was but….

    On windows, you had better have gotten a DVD playback software with your computer if you built it (or upgraded to DVD-Rom/RW) or else you’ll be stuck…and if you bought it retail…hope the company thought to ship it with software…dvd codecs are a nonfree thingy no matter what the OS

    On Mac…while DVD software is built in, you’ll probably want to use VLC anyway because Mac’s DVD player is very useless beyond being a “I can play DVD’s in a pretty interface until I get internet and can replace it with VLC” software

    On most decent Linux OS’ is simply a matter of opening the DVD app (and following directions) or a quick search (you’d have to anyway when your windows box neglected to come with the softwar) on the net to find out what package manager and app to install (sudo apt-get “this”)

  13. Hi,

    Thanks Damien!

    My brother was bugging me the other night about not being able to watch DVD’s as he was getting an error.

    After reading this, it has shed a bit of light on things. Hopefully the codex will fix it.

    Thanks again!

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