How to Copy DVDs to Your Mac Using HandBrake

Use HandBrake on your Mac for easy DVD copying

Copying DVDs to your Mac using HandBrake can be a great idea for many reasons. You can make copies of potentially heavily used DVD's, keeping the original free from damage. Another good reason is to convert a DVD to another format for viewing on other devices. Copying a DVD is relatively easy, but you will need some software to make the process possible.

Instructions in this article applies to macOS 10.13 and higher.

What You Need to Copy DVDs

  • VLC: This is an open-source media player that can play back many different types of audio and video file formats, including DVD. VLC is different than the DVD player that Apple bundles with your Mac in that it can pass the DVD data to other applications. The DVD player included with a Mac is primarily just for viewing DVDs, not extracting the video data. You can download VLC from the developer's website.
  • HandBrake: Another open-source application, HandBrake is a transcoder that can convert audio and video from one format to another. This makes it a pretty good choice for converting DVDs to a format better suited for use on your iPod, iPhone, AppleTV, or iPad, or just to store the video on your Mac. You can download HandBrake from the developer's website. One thing to note about the HandBrake download: The current 64-bit version will operate on OS X from version 10.7 on up to the newer versions of the macOS. If you are using an older version of OS X, check the archive section of the download page for 32-bit versions of the app.

Install the Software

HandBrake needs the VLC application, so be sure to install it first. To install VLC and HandBrake, drag the icon for each program (one at a time) to your Applications folder.

Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Configuring HandBrake Preferences

Now that VLC and Handbrake are installed on your Mac, it's time to configure HandBrake to rip and convert your first DVD.

  1. Insert a DVD you wish to copy into your Mac. If DVD Player starts up automatically, quit the application.

  2. Launch HandBrake, located at Applications.

    Handbrake in the Applications folder.
  3. HandBrake will display a dropdown sheet asking which Device should be opened. Select the DVD from the list in the sidebar and then select Open.

    Selecting a DVD in HandBrake.
  4. HandBrake does not support ripping copy-protected media which many DVD's make use of. If your DVD is not copy-protected, you can have Handbrake scan the media.

    Prompt to scan for libdvdcss in HandBrake.
  5. HandBrake will spend a little time analyzing the DVD you selected. When it's done, it will display the DVD's name as the Source in its main window.

    HandBrake scanning DVD.
  6. Select Preferences from the HandBrake menu.

    Going into HandBrake Preferences.
  7. Select General in the Preferences window.

    General settings in HandBrake.
  8. Enable Show Presets Drawer and select Open Source in Source selection.

    General settings in HandBrake.
  9. Next to When Done, select Alert Window and enable Play System Alert Sound.

    Setting sound notifications in HandBrake.
  10. If you're planning to save DVDs for use on your iPod or iPhone, or within iTunes, next to Output Files, enable Use Auto Naming and next to Default MP4 Extension select mp4. If on the other hand, you will be using different output formats from time-to-time select Auto.

    All other settings in HandBrake's preferences can be left in their default conditions.

    Setting the output file type in HandBrake.
  11. Close the Preferences window.

With the above changes to HandBrake's preferences made, you're ready to begin using HandBrake to rip and convert videos from various sources, including DVDs.

Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Configure HandBrake to Copy a DVD

You can configure HandBrake to copy source material to many different types of formats, including creating files to play on your iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV, and in iTunes. Before you start the copy process, you must tell HandBrake what the destination will be and fine-tune a few settings to produce the best results.

Configure the Source and Destination

We're going to configure HandBrake to create a file we can playback on a Mac, either with the VLC media player or from within iTunes. If you wish to make copies for the iPod, iPhone, or AppleTV, the process is very similar. You just need to change the HandBrake presets for the target device.

  1. If you haven't already, insert the DVD you wish to copy to your Mac and launch HandBrake.

  2. HandBrake will display a dropdown sheet asking which Volume should be opened. Select the DVD from the list, and then select Open.

    Selecting a source for HandBrake.
  3. HandBrake's main window will appear. After HandBrake spends a few moments analyzing the selected DVD, the DVD's name will appear as the Source in HandBrake's main window.

    HandBrake scanning DVD.
  4. Choose the Title to copy. The Title dropdown will be filled in with the DVD's longest title; this is usually the main title for the DVD. HandBrake can only create a copy of a single title on a DVD.

    You can run HandBrake multiple times if you want all of the DVD titles.

    Selecting a title to rip in HandBrake.
  5. Choose a Destination. This is the file that will be created when the copy is made. You can use the suggested file name, or use Browse to select another location to store the destination file and create a new name.

Do not change the file extension, which will probably be .m4v. This file type will ensure you can use the resulting copy in iTunes, or directly on your Mac, using the VLC media player or Apple's QuickTime Player.

Selecting the destination to save the file.

Configure HandBrake's Output Using Presets

HandBrake comes with a large number of output presets that make converting video to popular formats a simple process of selecting the right preset. Presets can also be a starting place for customizing the conversion process to meet your specific needs.

  1. If the preset drawer is not visible on the side of HandBrake's main window, select Toggle Presets located in the top right-hand corner of the HandBrake window.

    Enabling Toggle preset drawer in HandBrake.
  2. The preset drawer will list all of the available presets, grouped under two headings: Devices and Regular. If needed, expand each group name to reveal its associated presets.

    Enabling Toggle preset drawer in HandBrake.
  3. To copy a DVD for use on your Mac or if you're unsure what Device to use, select Universal.

Hover your cursor over a preset to see a list of devices the preset can be used with.

Once you choose the preset to use, you're ready to create a copy of your DVD.

Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Starting HandBrake

With HandBrake configured with the source and destination information, and a preset selected, you're ready to start creating the copy of your DVD.

All that’s left to do is to select Start near the top left of the HandBrake window. Once a copy or conversion starts, HandBrake will display a progress bar along the bottom of its window, along with an estimate of the time remaining to complete. HandBrake adds the progress bar to its Dock icon, so you can easily hide the HandBrake window and go on about your work while occasionally stealing a glance at the progress HandBrake is making.

HandBrake in the Dock.

HandBrake is a multithreaded application, which means it supports multiple processors and cores. If you would like to see how HandBrake makes full use of your Mac's processors, launch Activity Monitor, located at Go > Utilities. With Activity Monitor open, select CPU. When HandBrake is performing a conversion, you should see all of your CPU in use.

Activity Monitor showing HandBrake's CPU usage.