Movies on Laptop Computers – Optical Drives and Streaming Services

Some of the questions I’ve been asked over the last few years (since 2009) about watching movies on laptop computers amaze me. They amaze me because they tell me how little the people who ask the questions know about computers in general.

I’ll try to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked, at least the ones I can remember.

Can you Watch Movies on Netbooks?

DVD and CD disk - movies Yes, you can, but what you need depends on the current definition of a netbook. How powerful is the processor? How much memory does it have? Does it include an optical drive?

I’ve had mixed results when helping people set up netbooks to watch movies. The older netbooks won’t play HD movies and it’s pretty easy to test. Just try watching one of the videos on YouTube in high definition. If the video freezes, even if the audio advances, you won’t be able to watch those kinds of movies on a netbook.

Standard DVD movies seem to play well from external optical drives. It’s a hit or miss situation when converting them to video files to be played from external USB drives. Very few Blu-ray discs are anything but HD, so it wouldn’t even make sense to try them on a netbook.

How do you Transfer a Movie from a Notebook to a Netbook?

This depends on the format of the movie on the notebook. If it’s a video file, all you have to do is copy it to an external USB drive. Even the smallest USB flash drives should be able to hold at least one movie. If it’s an actual disc, which makes the term “transfer” meaningless, you probably need an external optical drive to play it on a netbook.

A related question is “Do you need special software to watch a movie on an external optical drive?” The same software works for both internal and external optical drives. When it comes to media players, I recommend the VLC media player. If you install everything that comes with it, it will play every type of video file you can imagine, even DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

Streaming Services

Streaming services will work on almost every kind of device you can think of. I’ve seen Netflix and Amazon Prime working on tablets, PS Vitas, XBox 360s and PS3s. I’ve seen them working on notebooks and some netbooks. Again, if HD videos on YouTube won’t play correctly on a netbook, neither will HD moves from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

I can’t say anything about other streaming services because I haven’t seen anyone trying to use them (at all).

Save Yourself from Grief

Don’t buy a netbook, especially one without an optical drive. Don’t try to buy a cheap notebook either. You can buy a decent notebook that will play everything for about $500 USD – anything less, and something on the notebook isn’t as good as it should be.

Laptop computers can be used for so many things that other devices can’t. Why limit yourself by being cheap? Trust me, skimp on your laptop and you’ll be kicking yourself when you discover what you can’t do with it, that people who didn’t skimp can.