How to Copy a DVD to the iPad for Free

Your DVD collection need not collect dust

First, music hit the digital age, and then movies went digital, leaving just about everybody with an extensive DVD collection. While Blu-ray discs often come with a digital copy, most DVDs don't. Most DVDs are bogged down with copy protection, making it difficult to copy a DVD to your iPad. To convert a DVD to an iPad-compatible format, you need an app that can overcome these issues.

It is legal to make a copy of a DVD you own for your own use on another device. It is not legal to rip a DVD and distribute or sell the resulting files to someone.

Fortunately, some applications that help with the process aren't difficult to use. Because the DVD must be copied to your PC first, you need to know your way around your file system. These programs can copy most DVDs to your PC for subsequent transfer or streaming to your iPad, and — best of all — they are free.

Young man using digital tablet on bus
Hero Images / Getty Images

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. The process is more difficult than it sounds because of the copy protection on the DVD. You need a helper program called a DVD ripper. If you search Google, you can easily be overwhelmed by the available options. Although most of these programs cost anywhere from a few dollars to $20 to $30, some of the best programs are free.

Here are a few that should do the trick:

  • DVD Shrink: This DVD ripper is still one of the best tools for copying a DVD to a Windows PC even though it hasn't been updated in years, and the website is now defunct. It compresses the video and allows you to strip out extras such as deleted scenes and multiple language support. DVD Shrink is great, but it can stumble over some of the newer copy protection schemes.
  • DVD Decrypter: DVD Decrypter isn't perfect, but it can convert DVDs that DVD Shrink fails to copy to your PC. However, it doesn't have compression or the ability to strip out extras. The developer is no longer working on DVD Decrypter, but you can still download the last version of it. 
  • Mac DVD Ripper Pro: If you have a Mac, you want to use Mac DVD Ripper Pro. Like DVD Shrink and DVD Decrypter, it does a great job of copying the DVD to your computer where you can convert it to an iPad-compatible file. The program isn't free, but the free trial version is good for your first five DVDs.

How to Convert the PC Video to the MP4 Format

It would be nice if you could rip the DVD to your PC, and it was ready to go. However, the way the DVD stores the video isn't the way an iPad needs it to be stored. The iPad requires the video to be in the MP4 format to be readable, so you need another program to convert the ripped DVD content on your computer to MP4. One of the best, HandBrake, is free. 

  • HandBrake: Not only does HandBrake convert the DVD to an MP4 file, but it also comes with presets to optimize the DVD for your iPad, 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 toward the top of the screen or using a different video codec.

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 to 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 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 save space on your iPad. 

  • Copy the MP4 video to your iPad by syncing it in iTunes. When you plug your iPad into your Windows PC and launch iTunes, you not only have the ability to sync your apps, you can sync music and movies too. 
  • Use Home Sharing to stream the video 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. 
  • Use a cloud storage service such as Dropbox to store the movie. Most cloud storage apps allow you to view the video on your iPad through the app. Similar to Home Sharing, cloud storage saves space on your iPad. However, movies take up a lot of space, so if you are on a free plan, this option may only be a good one for a single movie.
  • If you use macOS Catalina or later, you don't have iTunes, but you can open the Apple TV app on your Mac and copy the MP4 to the Movies section. From there, you can sync it with your iPad.

If you have a short video, you can attach the MP4 to an email and mail it to yourself. Open the email on the iPad and click the attachment to watch the video. However, most DVDs are much too large to email.