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A while ago, I began a huge project to rip my DVDs and Blu-Rays, and make a media center on my computer. The digital copies would also serve as a backup, in case the original disk was damaged, stolen, or lost.

The MakeUseOf lawyers, who had a collective seizure reading this article, have asked me to insert the following to cover my ass. In my view, if you legally bought the disk, it’s yours to do with, as you please. If you want, you can make as many digital copies CDs Are Not Forever: The Truth About CD/DVD Longevity, "Mold" & "Rot" CDs Are Not Forever: The Truth About CD/DVD Longevity, "Mold" & "Rot" The digital age has revolutionized the way we handle information. Never before could humankind record and store so much information and in such diversity. While the amount of data has increased exponentially, the predicted life... Read More as you want. I have been asked to refer to Exhibit A, which explains that in many countries, copying disks is legal for personal use.

The above is my own personal opinion (for what it’s worth), but legally you need to check with your local laws to make sure the DVD police don’t turn up at your front door to arrest you.

OK, that’s that sorted. Time to get my media center up and running. Of course, the main obstacle to ripping is the copy protection How CD/DVD/Blu-Ray Copy Protection Software Works [Technology Explained] How CD/DVD/Blu-Ray Copy Protection Software Works [Technology Explained] Read More that now sits on every disk. So I needed a software app that would kick the copy protection to one side and laugh in its face. I found that hero in MakeMKV.

What Is MakeMKV?

MakeMKV is a software app which shreds the copy protection on a disk, provides you with each file it finds, and when you have made your selection, it makes a nice beautiful MKV file, with perfect picture and sound quality. You can then play it with your favourite media player. The software is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

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And This Is Free?

Yes and no. If all you ever want to do is rip DVDs Easily & Quickly Rip DVDs With These Windows Apps Easily & Quickly Rip DVDs With These Windows Apps People have been ripping DVDs for years, so most people assume it's an entirely solved problem. That’s not the case. Searching Google for "rip dvd" will present a variety of options and articles. Some are... Read More , then it seems that it will let you do this for free, forever. I have never, in the 6 months I have been using it, been asked for payment for ripping DVDs.

However, if you want to rip Blu-Rays, then there is a limited period where you can do it for free. For me, it was a couple of months which is not too shabby. Then it told me to pay up. Eventually I did (reluctantly). It costs about $50, which is why I hesitated for so long before buying (blame my Scottish genes).

Why it seems to favour DVDs, while Blu-Rays get the $50 treatment, I don’t know. Nevertheless, this is a great piece of software, which is well worth the money if you will be ripping Blu-Rays on a regular basis. But if you are a DVD devotee, then this software will stay free for life.

Now my editor said something which is probably on your mind too – when the trial period is over, why not clear the cookies and temporary Internet files, and make it think that the temporary period has started again? This would avoid the $50. Well, the short answer is that I tried that – several times in fact – and each time it still told me to pay up.  So this software ain’t dumb.

Sounds Too Good To Be True – Any Downsides?

The $50 to rip Blu-Rays isn’t enough for you?! Well, the only other con to MakeMKV is that while it takes perhaps 15 minutes to rip a DVD, it takes well over an hour to rip a Blu-Ray. In fact, one Blu-Ray disk I owned took close to 2 hours! Whether that is the fault of the software, or of the disk itself, I don’t know. But it sure irritates the hell out of me. So don’t start doing this, if you are planning to switch your computer off soon.

One other thing. This may be a downside to some of you, while for others, it may actually be good. When you make a MKV file, you are making a high quality, high-definition digital file. As a result, the size of the file will be enormous. Don’t be surprised if a DVD rip comes in at 15GB and a Blu-Ray rip at 30GB. I will discuss this a bit later in the article.

OK, I’m Sold. How Does It Work?

After installing the app, enter your disk into your hard-drive and fire up MakeMKV. Obviously, the disk needs to be in a DVD drive. MakeMKV will now run, whirr, and make its noises and, all going well, will show you the title of the disk, along with the disk information. Next, click on the hard-drive icon again to proceed to the next step.

Now you have to decide which disk chapters you are going to rip. Obviously, the movie (or TV show) will be the largest file. In this case, it is the 7.5GB file. The others will probably be extra features. It’s up to you whether or not you want to rip the extras for the disk. A quick read of the back of the DVD box will tell you whether or not the extras are worth keeping.

Now, with each chapter you want to rip, make sure the box is ticked. BUT you also have to do something else before hitting that “Make MKV” button. If you drop down one of the chapter menus, you will see that subtitles are also enabled. Assuming you don’t want the subtitles, untick those boxes. Of course I chose a disk that DOESN’T have subtitles (thanks God, appreciate that one). But if you drop down the menu of a DVD chapter, the subtitles are there in 99% of cases.

OK, assuming you’ve done all that, click the “Make MKV” button and let the software do its thing.

Meanwhile, do something else 3 Projects To Use Computer Downtime While Re-Installing Windows 3 Projects To Use Computer Downtime While Re-Installing Windows When it's that time again, you know you'll be stuck at your desk for a while! Rather than wasting even more of your time, do something productive while your Windows does its thing. Read More ; make coffee, read War & Peace, solve world hunger. That kind of thing.

Eventually, you will find the DVD chapters nicely ripped as MKV files in the desktop folder you specified in the settings.

About That Thing You Said About The Size….

Oh yes, that almost slipped my mind. If you now check the files, you will see that they are taking up a lot of space on your hard-drive. So what I prefer to do is convert them again to MP4, which cuts a 10GB DVD file down to 2 or 3 GB. For this task, you can turn to the wonderful Handbrake, which will convert those MKV files to MP4 2 Ways to Convert AVI & MKV Files to Add Videos to iTunes 2 Ways to Convert AVI & MKV Files to Add Videos to iTunes iTunes only supports MP4 and QuickTime format video files. We demonstrate how to use trusted free, open source, and cross-platform software to convert video files into formats recognized by iTunes. Read More in a jiffy.

Before you say “why not just rip the file directly to MP4 and forget this MKV nonsense?“, I would point out that I tried ripping a disk using Handbrake, and it refused to start on every one of them. Maybe it was the copy protection, I don’t know, but I have never had any luck ripping disks with Handbrake. MakeMKV on the other hand has a 100% success rate.

So let us know in the comments what you think of this software. Will you be ripping your movie collection now?

Image Credit: Disk Drive – Shutterstock

  1. DavidHoo
    July 5, 2016 at 7:46 am

    MakeMKV only can output MVK format.When you want MP4, you have to use MAKEmkv rip Blu-ray then use Handbrake to convert MKV to MP4. It is a little complex. So when I need MP4, I have to use another app called ByteCopy cause it can directly decrypt Blu-ray TO mp4.

  2. MrJanus
    June 4, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Whilst copying a disc for your own personal use can *sometimes* be seen as legal, breaking the copy-protection is not. Why do you think DVDFab was forced to abandon their usual websites and move to a remote corner of the internet? The lawyers were right to be concerned... and stupid for not doing anything about it. Advice = free, lawsuits = costly.

  3. Blake Cerenzia
    January 11, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    Handbrake is only capable of copying copy-protected DVD's if (and only if) you get the {libdvdcss.dll} file and put it in the system folder, allowing it to break the CSS on the DVDs.

  4. Benji13
    December 8, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Handbrake doesn't work for ripping because it can't handle copy protection. Works fine if not protected though.

  5. nbairami
    June 14, 2015 at 4:51 am

    Thank you for this great breakdown and how-to. Is there a way to select parts of a title before running this program? I only need bits and parts of my blu rays not the whole film etc... but I can't see any kind of chapter or timeline option. Sorry if this has already been asked and answered. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Mark O'Neill
      June 14, 2015 at 10:42 am

      If you mean, choose parts of the movie and miss out other parts, then no, MakeMKV doesn't do this. It rips the whole movie or nothing. Sorry.

    • Al
      August 11, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      You can use DVDShrink to rip bits and parts of movies. I use it all the time to rip specific songs from concert DVD's. I don't think it works on Blurays though, I haven't tried it.

  6. Douglas
    May 10, 2015 at 4:21 am

    Well i bought Bob Marley's Blu- Ray Legend 5.1 30 year anniversary and tried this sofeware and its a NO Go didn't work

    • Mark O'Neill
      June 14, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Well, nothing is perfect I guess, and some disks probably have some form of unbreakable copy protection. But MakeMKV still has a very high success rate.

  7. emmaxia
    March 6, 2015 at 2:42 am

    When MakeMKV was free, I would say it is the best choice to rip DVD/Blu-ray to Plex, but now it is charged from me, I have abandoned it since it is not cheap and it failed me on several new Blu-rays. I started to look for other working tools, and I believe I was convinced by BDMagic, it is simple to use and I like its ability of 3D backup feature.

  8. I gladly paid
    February 8, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    You paid 'reluctantly'!!! You tried to 'clear the cookies and temporary Internet files'!!!! What is your problem? Write your own software you cheap asshole. Why should it be FREE!?!?!? Some had to take a lot of their time for this and it has to be constantly updated to copy new blu rays... that is why the dvd's are free... noone uses them any more and they don't waste their time with new protection schemes... the bu rays do so the program will need updated occasionally to keep up. Cheap ass.

    • Mark O'Neill
      February 9, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      Please, don't restrain yourself. Please tell us what you really think!

      Cheap asshole eh? Well, I've been called worse. Thanks for your very insightful observation, which adds an enormous amount to this discussion.

  9. Reid Hutchison
    January 21, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Looking for suggestions of an inexpensive external Blu-Ray/DVD writer in the UK that copes with multi-region.? I have so many Region 1 special discs that I would like to add to media library.

  10. Insub
    December 13, 2014 at 5:20 am

    MakeMKV is fantastic. I've completed over 400 blu ray rips this way. I have no idea why it is taking you 2 hours to rip a Blu-ray- usually takes me about 15 minutes. Files sizes for rips are 14-45 for Blu-ray (with an average of 25) and up to around 3-5 on dvd. I thought it was weird you said dvds come up to 15gb... very strange because a dual layer disk holds 9gb or right around there if I'm totally mistaken. Also there is some other misinformation in the comments here- commercial bluray discs are dual layer and are 50gb. You will see many movies coming in at the 35 range- a movie like Titanic will run you over 45gb.

    Anyways, there are quite a few free players that will play your mkv's including xbmc, mpc, and vlc. I use plex on an always on computer and it will convert it on the fly to all my devices in my house which is super nice. I am able to watch those mkvs on my ipad, phone, fire tv, pretty much anything.

    • Steven Johnson
      October 3, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      What kind of space did you end up needed? I started with 1 Gb and need MOAR.

  11. Jason
    December 10, 2014 at 1:38 am

    uh Handbrake does rip every DVD with no issues. You have to get the libdvdcss file from VLC.

    • Kevin
      January 14, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Handbrake is an excellent product, I use it all the time, but it definitely does not rip all dvds (I have libdvdcss installed)

      Some examples: Gladiator, Fight Club, The Little Mermaid (and most other Disney films) fail to rip. With flawless disc surfaces it will rip some percentage of the film and then just quit. I've had 100% success with MakeMKV.

      I have been converting the files to mp4 via Handbrake, reducing the size to about 1/3 of the original from MakeMKV, but I might stop doing that and just buy more hard drive, given how cheap it is.

  12. MayJessie
    November 18, 2014 at 9:07 am

    A nice article that introduces us MakeMKV. If you want a professional Blu-ray player and don’t wanna pay too much, I think Macgo Windows Blu-ray Player is a compromising choice. I like their pages for offering so many playing details http://www.macblurayplayer.com/windows-bluray-player.htm
    Hope this helpful for you.

  13. Adam
    November 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I'm not sure what you're doing to cause this, but my Blu Ray rips come in around 15-18GB and my DVD rips around 4-5GB.

  14. Jose
    August 12, 2014 at 5:48 am

    So how do I use Handbrake to convert the MKV files to MP4? There are a lot of options and I'm not sure which ones to select.

    • Mark O'Neill
      August 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Just choose the file, then on the right hand side, choose which format it is for (apple tv, iphone, etc). Then just start it. The default settings are normally enough to do the job.

  15. Martin Pierce
    August 3, 2014 at 3:01 am

    I can buy single layer dvd.s for less than .20c apiece through the ULINE catalog any quantity.

  16. Martin Pierce
    August 3, 2014 at 2:56 am

    ISO files will play from a harddrive just like a dvd disk on a portable drive or in a player with a much smaller file size.

  17. Joe
    July 30, 2014 at 1:06 am

    I like to watch foreign films during my commute. I use MagicDVDRipper. It allows me to put the subtitles in the video permanently if I choose. It has output profiles setup for different files/devices. You can also setup your own. It also is an all in one ripping program. It also gets updated regularly.

  18. Howard B
    July 27, 2014 at 5:12 am

    " In fact, one Blu-Ray disk I owned took close to 2 hours! Whether that is the fault of the software, or of the disk itself, I don’t know." Seeing as a BluRay can hold around 25GB, much of that time is just the program copying the data off the disc. Blu-Ray drives aren't up to the 52x speeds of late-era CD-ROM drives, you know. (They're faster, since the pits on the drive are smaller and closer together, but the sheer amount of data is the culprit).

    "Don’t be surprised if a DVD rip comes in at 15GB and a Blu-Ray rip at 30GB." I'd be surprised at either, since a dual-layer DVD disc holds around 9GB, and a single-layer Blu-Ray holds 25GB. I guess it depends on the quality settings of the MakeMKV converter, and it looks like Handbrake does some good compression, but it looks like MakeMKV makes files that are significantly *larger* than the original, if what you're saying is true.

  19. Martin Pierce
    July 26, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I've been using Longo DVD Copy for a long time and never had a failure yet. It's was free and rips a DVD to a .ISO file on your harddrive. Then run IMG BURN to make a dvd copy straight away. It's neet feature is that it will make a compressed file that will copy to a standard single layer disk. Quality and sound is good. If you want to pay you can get a lifetime subscription for $39.00 with support for those stubborn disks. It even does Disney without a problem. Once the file copy is completed you can make multiple disks just by inserting a new disk. Thats if you don't want a .ISO for later. I do both with a .ISO on my backup drive and a hard copy also. You can buy a backup program disk for $10.00. They also have a Program for Blu-rays too that they say works the same. Much cheaper to rip to a standard disk that to buy expensive double layer disks.

    • Howard B
      July 27, 2014 at 5:13 am

      Funny, I can buy dual-layer DVDs for about $0.60 apiece through Amazon, if I buy in bulk (25 or 50 packs).

    • likefunbutnot
      July 27, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      Why make more discs in the first place? Rip to .mkv and access with a set top box or mobile device through Plex or some sort of DLNA server. I'd rather buy someone a $30 Chromecast that can access Plex than go through all the hassle of dealing with burning discs.

  20. Ripper
    July 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I've been using makemkv for over a year now and never had to pay, its currently still in beta and if u visit the forums they'll give you a new beta key every month to continue using it for free.

  21. Aiden
    July 25, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    First, you can use the temporary key while the program is in beta. It changes every 30 days but it's available here http://www.makemkv.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1053

    Second, just use Handbrake...convert mkv to mkv, keep all the settings the same, but under the "video" tab under quality reduce the constant quality to about 26 RF...you won't notice a difference in quality but the file size will be so. much. smaller.

    lifehacker did a full guide a few years ago http://lifehacker.com/5559007/the-hassle-free-guide-to-ripping-your-blu-ray-collection

  22. A Nonny Mouse
    July 25, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    My uh... friends say:
    Use DVD Decrypter + Handbrake. A simple, free ripping solution that works darn near every time.

    • likefunbutnot
      July 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      ... Except when it doesn't, often because the manufacturer monkeyed with the DVD structure enough to make DVDDecrypter useless. Disney is really, really good for that.

      I paid for AnyDVD HD, but I've certainly used MakeMKV and DVDFab HD Decrypter as well. AnyDVD seems to be somewhat faster for ripping and updates more frequently, but it's also very expensive software.

      Finally, MKV really is a superior container format compared to MP4, since it supports a wider array of audio streams (including DTS) and can integrate subtitles without burning them in to the video stream. If your default player or device doesn't support MKV, the best answer is to get a better player or device, not to waste a bunch of extra CPU time and storage re-encoding.

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