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Playing Your Own Media on Your Windows 8 Tablet

Windows 8 tries to wean people from storing and playing their own songs and movies. Windows 8 can’t even play your DVDs, for example. Instead, Microsoft wants people to stream their music and movies from the Internet. Internet streaming works fine, but only if you have a strong Internet connection and you don’t mind paying to watch movies and listen to songs.

Millions of people already own plenty of music and movies, either created themselves or downloaded from the Internet. Usually, it’s stored in a variety of file formats, and Windows 8’s rather anemic Music and Movie apps sometimes can’t handle them.

If Windows 8’s Music and Movie apps have let you down, try some of these programs to play your own media on your tablet:

  • Windows Media Player: Found on the Desktop app, Windows Media Player comes bundled with Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro tablets. It’s the same version found in Windows 7, and it plays the usual gang of media. However, Windows Media Player can’t play DVDs, and it’s not available on Windows RT tablets.

  • Upgrade to Windows Media Center: Available for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, this boosts your tablet’s capabilities in two ways. First, you can plug a portable DVD player into your tablet and watch DVDs. Second, you can plug a TV tuner into your tablet’s USB port to record your own TV shows and movies from your cable provider. Or, if you’re already recording shows using Media Center on your desktop PC, you can copy the shows to your tablet for viewing. Media Center’s big buttons, optimized for big-screen TVs, work fine with your fingers. Tablets running Windows 8 Pro can upgrade to Windows Media Center for $10, but tablets running Windows 8 must pay $100.

  • VLC Media Player: This free jack-of-all-trades media player plays DVDs, movies, and songs in many more formats than Windows 8 can handle. VLC Media Player is available for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro tablets, and a version for Windows RT is in the works.

  • Netflix and Amazon: Don’t forget that you’re not limited to Microsoft’s media offerings through the bundled Music and Movie apps. Netflix offers its own app for viewing streaming movies, and Amazon offers movie rentals (free to Prime members) on its website, available through Internet Explorer.

  • TuneIn Radio app: Available free from the Store app, TuneIn Radio lets you listen to Internet radio stations from around the world, as well as from your home town. The program opens to show Internet broadcasts from your local AM and FM stations, as well as your local police and fire scanners. You can also search music by genre, tuning into your favorite types of music or talk shows from nearly any part of the world.

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