It’s becoming very common these days for people to “back up” their DVDs and Blu-Rays onto their computer. This despite the fact that the exact legality for making backups is murky at best. But my own personal opinion is that “if you own it, you can do what you want with it”. Watch it, burn it, eat it, use it as a frisbee in the park, whatever.
But how do you do it? Which programs are the best at ripping those disks? Which ones eat copy protection for breakfast? Here are nine free tools to consider.
Intuitive cross-platform tool to rip DVDs and Blu-Rays.
I have previously written about MakeMKV, where I showed my love for this app. It is simply a case of entering the disk, and then point and click. Don’t touch the other settings unless you absolutely know what you are doing. Choose whether you want subtitles or not. Choose your language. Deselect everything you don’t need. Then let MakeMKV do its work. DVDs are very fast (normally no more than 10 minutes) and Blu-Rays range from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the length of the movie, and the extras you want.
The one downside is that you are then going to end up with enormous files if you rip a Blu-Ray (up to around 6GB is common). But this is a crystal-clear copy of the disk. For archiving purposes, it is perfect. However, if space is tight, you can convert it to MP4 or AVI formats, which will shrink the file considerably (and in some cases, the picture and audio quality will suffer).
A versatile cross-platform and open source application that supports multiple output formats and can also convert files.
This leads me neatly to Handbrake. You can use Handbrake for converting those big MKV files into MP4 files, and you can also directly burn DVD and Blu-Ray disks to MP4 or MKV. Choose a profile, depending on what device you are ripping for (iPod, iPad, normal, etc), decide if you want the subtitles, then hit Start. The other settings should be left alone, unless you know exactly what you are doing.
The software is cross-platform, free, and open-source. Plus it is in continual development, so it has the potential to get better and better.
A great Windows tool to not only rip discs, but also convert and merge files.
Freemake (our Freemake review) is one of my favorites, because it has never once screwed up anything I have thrown at it. You just need to insert the disk, point Freemake towards the disk’s folder, decide what format you want it converted to, and Bob’s your uncle. You can even join up files to have one big merged file. Videos can also be converted to Flash or HTML5, as well as MP3.
One great feature is when you rip it to become a DVD, you can also add a menu with clickable chapter titles.
Will convert your DVDs to various outputs, including mobile ready file formats.
I was lucky enough to get a hold of a free copy of the paid Platinum version, when they did a promotion a few months back. But for most people, the free version will more than suffice.
The free version will rip a DVD to MP4, WMV, AVI, FLV, MOV, MPEG, H.264, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, Android, Samsung, HTC, and PSP. It can also rip copy-protected DVDs as far back as Windows XP.
The Platinum version will do all that, as well as rip a DVD to an ISO file, rip the disk in 10 minutes, as well as allowing cropping, trimming, and subtitles. It is a worthy contender to Handbrake and Freemake.
Rips Blu-Rays to ISO files on Windows and Mac.
Aurora is free cross-platform (Windows & Mac) software which focuses on Blu-Rays only. It will burn the Blu-Ray disk into an ISO file, and then burn the ISO file onto blank disks (if you want to do that part). It claims it can “easily decrypt any type of Blu-Ray”, and when I tested it on a Blu-Ray of mine, the conversion was indeed very fast.
Aurora too claims that it can work on Windows computers as old as XP (SP2). On a Mac, it will work on computers operating OS X 10.6.
Windows tool to rip DVDs to ISO files.
As the name suggests, CloneDVD….well…clones your DVD disk. After inserting it into your hard-drive, choose which chapters you want copied, choose your language, whether you want subtitles, and off you go. Once the file, in DVD format, has been copied to your computer, you can then burn the ISO to a blank DVD disk, use software like Handbrake to turn it into a simple MP4 file, or mount the ISO file on your computer using a virtual drive.
Windows application to compress DVD rips into more compact files.
DVD Shrink is so called because one of its main “selling points” is that it will shrink the size of the burned file for you. A standard DVD-R disk is 4.7 GB, and sometimes you will find that your burned file exceeds this size. So DVD Shrink will compress the data from the original disk, to make the file as small as possible.
You can also make a compilation from one or more source disks, as well as discarding any parts you don’t need. It will burn and shrink to WMV, AVI, MP4, MOV, and MKV format. It is free of charge, for Windows only, and they invite donations to keep the project going.
Famous for playing any file, this open source and cross-platform program can also burn DVDs.
Who around here needs any introduction to VLC Player? No I didn’t think so. VLC Player has rightfully earned a reputation for being able to play virtually anything you can throw at it. I haven’t yet found a file it couldn’t handle, and that is just remarkable. But did you know VLC also burned DVD disks?
As you can see from the image above, choose what you want converted, select No disc menus (if you don’t want them), point VLC to the disk location on your hard drive, then click Convert/Save. Ripping can take quite some time, though. Some users have reported it taking up to two hours. Whereas something like MakeMKV or Freemake can do it in 15-20 minutes.
A Windows only open source DVD ripping tool that can rip a batch of titles at the same time, audio only, or specific segments.
DVDFab is also a ripping app which has received a lot of positive praise from friends. As well as ripping disks to the usual formats, it can also rip only the audio. So if you are after a piece of music for your iPhone/iPod, then DVD Fab can grab it for you. Batch conversion allows you to rip more than one title at a time, and the whole software is run on open-source code.
Specify exactly the start point and end point that you want converted in a disk (which is great for music concerts), and you can also automatically crop the screen to show what you want.
There are obviously many more ripping tools out there, but these are the 8 which I personally like or have had recommended to me by friends. In case your favorite is not on the list, please let us know about it in the comments below and tell us what is so good about it.
Image Credits: Burning CD via Shutterstock