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 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 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.
And This Is Free?
Yes and no. If all you ever want to do is rip DVDs, 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; 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 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