How to Copy a DVD to the iPad for Free

Your DVD Collection Need Not Collect Dust Going Unused on the Shelf

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First we saw music hit the digital age, now we are seeing movies go digital. Unfortunately, most of us still have a rather large DVD collection, and while it is popular for Blu-Ray discs to come with a digital copy, most DVDs don't. In fact, most DVDs are bogged down with copy protection, making it difficult to copy the DVD to the iPad. In order to convert a DVD to an iPad-compatible format, you will need a program that can overcome these issues.

Luckily, there are some good choices available for doing the job that aren't too difficult to use. Because the DVD must be copied to your PC first, you will need to know your way around your file system. But these programs will be able to convert most DVDs to your iPad, and best of all, they are free.

How to Copy a DVD to Your PC

The first step to getting a DVD to your iPad is to get it onto your PC.  This is harder than it sounds because of the copy protection on the DVD.  These programs are called DVD rippers, and if you search Google, you can easily get overwhelmed by the options. Most of these programs cost anywhere from few dollars to $20-$30, but some of the best are actually free.

Here are a few that should do the trick:

  • DVD Shrink. This DVD ripper hasn't been updated in years and the website is now defunct, but it is still one of the best tools for copying a DVD to the iPad. It also compresses the video and allows you to strip out extras like deleted scenes and multiple language support.
  • DVD Decrypter. DVD Shrink is great, but it can stumble over some of the newer copy protection schemes. DVD Decrypter isn't perfect, but it can help convert DVDs that DVD Shrink fails to copy to your PC. However, it doesn't have the compression and ability to strip out extras.  And unfortunately, the developer is no longer working on DVD Decrypter, but you can still download the last version of it.  
  • Mac the Ripper. If you have a Mac, you will want to use Mac the Ripper. Like DVD Shrink and DVD Decrypter, it does a great job of copying the DVD to your PC where you will be able to convert it to an iPad-compatible file.

How to Convert the Video to the MP4 Format

It would be nice if you could simply rip the DVD to your PC and it was ready to go.  However, the way the DVD stores the video (the "format") isn't the way an iPad is expecting it to be stored.  The iPad requires the video to be in MP4 format to be readable, so you will need another program to convert it to this format.  Luckily, one of the best is also completely free. 

HandBrake. Not only will Handbreak convert the DVD to an MP4 file, it also comes with presets to optimize the DVD for your iPad. You can also optimize it for your iPhone, AppleTV or other formats. You can even tinker with it to create your own specific format for the video, such as cropping it more towards the top of the screen or using a different video codec. Note: The one deficit of HandBrake is the time it can take to work its magic. Don't be surprised to see an estimate of 1-2 hours for it to finish the job.

How to View the Video on Your iPad

Now that you have the DVD on your PC and in the right format, how do you view it on your iPad?

 You have a few options for viewing the video, including a couple that will save space on your iPad.  

You can copy the video to your iPad by syncing it in iTunes.   When you plug your iPad into your PC and launch iTunes, you not only have the ability to sync your apps, you can sync music and movies too.  Find out more about syncing videos on your iPad.

You can also use Home Sharing to stream it to your iPad.  Home Sharing allows you to stream your music, movies and TV shows from iTunes on your PC to your iPad or iPhone.  This is a great way to save precious storage space on your iPad.  

You can also use a cloud storage service like Dropbox to store the movie.

 Most cloud storage apps will allow you to view the video on your iPad through the app.  Similar to Home Sharing, this will save space on your iPad, but movies can take up quite a bit of space, so if you are on a free plan, this option may only be a good one for a single movie.

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