How to Copy DVDs to Your Mac Using HandBrake

Copying DVDs to your Mac using HandBrake can be a great idea for many reasons. First, DVDs can be easily damaged, especially if a DVD is one of your children like to watch over and over and over. By creating a copy that can be loaded into your iTunes library, you can easily use your Mac to watch a DVD without any wear or tear on the original DVD.

The other great reason for copying a DVD is to convert it to another video format, say to watch on your iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, iPad, or even your Android or PlayStation device. Copying a DVD is relatively easy, but you will need some software to make the process possible.

There are many different software tools you can use for copying DVDs. In this article, we will use free applications that are readily available.

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What You Need to Copy DVDs

HandBrake icon with pineapple and tropical drink


  • 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 attuned 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 application (one at a time) to your Applications folder.

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Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Configuring HandBrake Preferences

HandBrake's general preferences for setting defaults

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

Configure HandBrake

  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/.
  3. HandBrake will display a dropdown sheet asking which Volume should be opened. Select the DVD from the list in the Open windows sidebar and then click Open.
  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.
  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.
  6. Select Preferences from the HandBrake menu.
  7. Click the General tab in the Preferences window.
  • Make the following changes, or confirm that the settings are correct.
    • Place a check mark next to At launch: Show Open Source panel.
    • Use the dropdown menu to select Alert and Notification for the action to be taken When Done.
    • If you're planning to save DVDs for use on your iPod or iPhone, or within iTunes, use the drop-down menu for Output Files: Default MP4 Extension and select 'mp4. If on the other hand, you will be using different output formats from time-to-time select Auto'\.
  1. All other settings in HandBrake's preferences can be left in their default conditions.
  2. 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.

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

HandBrake's main window

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 click Open.
  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.
  4. Choose the title to copy. The Title dropdown menu 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. Of course, you can run HandBrake multiple times if you want all of the DVD titles. In our example, we will assume you only want the main movie on the DVD and not any of the extras.
  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 the 'Browse' button 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.

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, click the Toggle Preset icon located in the top right-hand corner of the HandBrake window.
  2. The preset drawer will list all of the available presets, grouped under five headings: General, Web, Devices, Matroska, and Legacy. If needed, click the disclosure triangle next to each group name to reveal its associated presets.
  3. To copy a DVD for use on your Mac, select Fast 1080p30 in the General category if your target is your iPad, iPhone, Apple TV or other devices such as Android, PlayStation, and Roku use the Devices category to find a matching output.​
  4. Tip within a tip: 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.

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Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Starting HandBrake

HandBrake provides a conversion status bar

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 click the Start button 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 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 /Applications/Utilities. With Activity Monitor open, click the CPU tab. When HandBrake is performing a conversion, you should see all of your CPU in use.