In our how to rip anything series, Jenneth Orantia and Mike Le Voi show you how to (legally) copy, rip or download virtually any form of media so you can enjoy it permanently.
You’ll find no shortage of commercial one-click solutions for ripping DVDs to your hard drive, but there are also free options.
If you don’t mind paying for software to do everything for you, DVD Ripper
(US$50) is an excellent program for Windows users that will remove any copy protection from the DVD and convert it to the video format of your choice. There are lots of presets to choose from as well, depending on the device you want to play the final movie on. Indeed, for some of the newer copy protection schemes, a commercial program may be your only option, as many freeware ripping tools are older and haven’t been updated to decrypt the newer schemes.
Handbrake, shown here on Mac, is both easy to use and free.
While free programs are not as pretty or user-friendly, these apps will get the job done for the unbeatable price of free. Ripping the DVD using MakeMKV
and then transcoding the MKV to a smaller MP4 (if you prefer smaller file sizes over perfect picture quality) using HandBrake
is one of the easier freeware solutions for PC users.
After you load the DVD into your machine’s optical drive, MakeMKV will present all the titles in the DVD. Click the ‘Open DVD’ disc button, and MakeMKV will decrypt all the files on the disc. Keep the title with the largest file size ticked (usually the first one), and untick all the others. Then simply press ‘Make MKV’. On our Core i7 test machine, the process took around 25 minutes, and the total file size was 4.36GB.
If you don’t have oodles of hard drive space, you may want to cut this down to a small size, which is where HandBrake comes in handy. Fire up HandBrake, click ‘Source > Video File’, and find the converted DVD from the previous step (by default, it will be in ‘C > Video > [name of DVD]’). HandBrake will warn you that you haven’t set a path for the output video yet, so click OK, then navigate to ‘Tools > Options > General > Default Path’, enter the folder you want the final video to go, then click Close. Converting the video in HandBrake will take roughly another half an hour on a fast machine and if you haven’t changed the Quality setting in the Video tab (which lets you specify a particular target file size — 700MB is a good compromise), the final video will be 1.5-2GB.
The process above works for Mac users as well, but we’ve found that a combination of VLC Player
and HandBrake works better on Macs as it converts the DVD directly from the disc rather than having to rip the movie file first and then convert in two separate processes. However, if HandBrake can’t open the DVD (which means it can’t break the copy protection in the disc), try the MakeMKV solution.
After you’ve inserted the DVD into your computer’s optical drive, fire up HandBrake and click on the name of the DVD in the Devices column. Click the Open button and HandBrake will spend a couple of minutes scanning the titles in the DVD and automatically find the main movie title. Leaving the default settings in HandBrake as is will output an .MP4 video file that’s 1.5-3GB, depending on the length of the movie. The sweet spot between file size and quality is 700MB, and you can cap the output to this file size by selecting the ‘Target size’ radio button under Quality. Handbrake also has presets on the right-hand side (click the ‘Toggle Presets button in the toolbar if you can’t see them) for encoding movies for Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad.
Once you’re happy with the settings, hit Start and make yourself a cup of tea — if you have a relatively new computer, the process shouldn’t take long. On our 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 Apple iMac with 4GB of RAM, it took 25 minutes altogether.