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With the growth of streaming services like Netflix, DVD sales are slipping. It’s safe to assume that before too long they’ll have gone the same way as VHS and audio cassettes. Once that happens, DVD players themselves won’t be far behind.
Before we reach that point, it would be prudent to rip all your DVDs onto your hard drive. By doing so, you’ll be saving them for posterity; you’ll be able to watch them long after DVDs have been consigned to the annals of history.
Of course, ripping your DVDs also has some immediate short-term benefits; you’ll be able to cast them around your house using Plex or transfer them onto your tablet to watch while traveling.
In this article, I’m going to explain how to rip an entire DVD onto your hard drive.
Choosing Your Software
Some DVD ripping software can cost upwards of $50. While it might be money well spent if you’re running a Hollywood movie studio, the average home user can find everything they need by using free software.
The app is entirely free to download and use, and it’s available on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
As you will probably be aware, almost all store-bought DVDs have some form of copy protection. In theory, it’s an anti-piracy measure. In practice, it doesn’t really appear to have worked; pirated DVDs have been available since the format displaced VHS. (Speaking of which, we’ve covered how to convert VHS to DVD too.)
Nonetheless, copy protection is something you’ll have to deal with when ripping DVDs. It’s a legal gray area; certain uses might be illegal under U.S. law unless they comply with the Fair Use doctrine.
Because it’s a legal gray area, no DVD ripping software can include the functionality natively. You’ll need to fix the problem yourself.
If you’re using Handbrake, it’s easy. Just grab a copy of libdvdcss.dll. It’s available through the VLC Player website and comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Once you’ve downloaded the file, move it to Handbrake’s installation folder. The default path is C:\Program Files\Handbrake.
That’s it. Handbrake will now be able to read and rip any copy-protected DVD.
Now you’re set up with the software, let’s take a closer look at how to use Handbrake to rip DVDs.
Step 1: Scan Your DVD
Before you launch the software, open your computer’s CD tray and insert your DVD. Close the tray and open Handbrake.
Once the app has loaded, you’ll see the Source Selection panel on the left-hand side of the screen. You cannot go any further into the app until you’ve made a selection.
You can ignore Folder and File. Instead, head straight to the DVD icon and double click on it.
Handbrake will take a few moments to scan the content. If you failed to install libdvdcss.dll correctly, you’ll get an error message. Otherwise, you’ll be taken to the Settings screen.
Step 2: Choose Your Content
Handbrake lets you choose exactly what content you want to rip off the DVD. You can make all these adjustments in the Source settings.
Most DVDs have a lot more content than just the movie or TV show. They might include director’s cuts, deleted scenes, interviews, special features, and so on. You can make your selection in Title. The longest video is typically the movie. Unfortunately, if you’re ripping a TV show, you will need to save each episode individually.
DVDs are also broken down into chapters – for easy navigation – and angles. Angles are traditionally used to provide different versions of the same scene, but on modern DVDs, they’re generally deployed on international copies when dubbing and/or subtitles won’t suffice (for example, in the scrolling text at the beginning of Star Wars).
Adjust the Chapters and Angles you want to retain in the associated drop-down boxes. You can change Chapters to Frames or Seconds if you’d prefer to use a different measurement for cutting your content.
Step 3: Pick Your Destination
Now you need to decide where you want Handbrake to save your file. If you’re using Plex or Kodi, it makes sense to add the DVD to your existing video library, but you can save it anywhere you want.
You can also save to external sources, meaning you can add the video to an external hard drive or even a blank DVD.
Click Browse to choose your destination. Make sure you give the rip an appropriate name.
Step 4: Set the Quality
On the right-hand side of the screen, you will see several Presets. They correspond to the quality of your rip.
Not only does Handbrake offer several generic presets, but there are also device-specific presets. For example, you can choose to rip your video in a format appropriate for watching on a Chromecast with surround sound or on a Roku in 1080p definition.
Scroll down through the list to see what is available. Remember, the higher the quality, the larger the end file will be and the longer the DVD will take to rip.
Step 5: Choose Your Audio and Subtitles
At the bottom of the window, you will see six tabs: Picture, Filters, Video, Audio, Subtitles, and Chapters.
Picture, Filters, Video will have been determined by the present you chose (though feel free to customize the settings further if you wish). However, it’s worth spending a few minutes on the Audio and Subtitles tab.
Why? Because that’s where you can choose which dubs and subtitles make it onto your rip. The fewer you include, the smaller your end file will be.
On my example, you can see the original DVD had both English and Italian audio – but I don’t need the Italian version.
The subtitles tab lets you choose which subtitle files to copy and whether you want to burn them into the DVD itself or leave them as a standalone subtitle file.
Rip Your DVD
Once you’re happy with all your settings, click the Start Encode button at the top of the screen.
The ripping process could take quite a while, depending on the length of the video and the quality settings you selected.
Click Activity Log to monitor the progress.
Which App Do You Use?
In this article, I’ve shown you how to rip DVDs using Handbrake in five easy steps. But Handbrake is not the only way to achieve the desired result. If you’d rather stick with your DVD collection, check out this list of the best region-free players for DVD or Blu-ray discs.
So now it’s over to you. Which software do you use when you want to rip DVDs onto your hard drive. What do you like about it? Where does it differ from Handbrake?
As always, you can leave your input and opinions in the comments section below.