How to Rip a DVD to Your Computer

Save DVDs to Your Hard Drive with Handbrake

Now is the perfect time to rip all your old DVDs to your computer to create your own movie library. Once you rip the movie files, you can use them on any mobile device or watch them on your TV using programs like Plex and Emby. Here's how to rip a DVD to your computer using the Handbrake DVD ripping software.

Instructions for using Handbrake apply to Windows versions 10, 8.1, & 7 and Mac OS X 10.11 and later. Handbrake also works on Linux Ubuntu deb version.

Using DVD Ripping Software

You'll want to use a program called Handbrake to rip DVDs to your PC or Mac. Handbrake is a free, versatile program the works on Windows, Mac, and Linux

Copyright laws prohibit you from copying DVDs for distribution or selling but creating your personal library to watch at home is fine.

Most DVDs are encrypted to protect against copying them, so we need to use a decoder to make it easy for Handbrake to download the DVDs to the computer without any errors. In this how-to, we will be installing a library file called libdvdcss that works seamlessly with Handbrake. 

However, if you want the Cadillac of decoders, you might want to check out AnyDVD from RedFox. A lifetime license is fairly pricey, and they update the program at least once a month. It runs in the background and allows you to use any DVD ripping software, including Handbrake.

How to Install Handbrake

Installing Handbrake couldn’t be easier. Follow the instructions below for your operating system.

Install Handbrake on Windows

  1. Download the installation file here.

  2. Navigate to your downloads folder, then find and double-click the Handbrake file to initiate the install.

  3. On the first two setup screens, select Next.

    Handbrake setup screens 1 & 2.
  4. On the third screen, select Install

    Handbrake install screen 3.
  5. On the final screen, select Finish. The program is now installed and ready to use.  

    Handbrake install screen 4.

Install Handbrake on Mac

The installation process for Handbrake is similar on a Mac, but there are some inherent differences because of the behavioral differences between Mac and Windows.

  1. Download the installation file from here.

  2. Go to your downloads folder and double-click the dmg file to install it.

  3. Upon completion, it will open a window with the program and documentation files.

    Install Handbrake on Mac.
  4. Copy the Handbrake icon to your desktop, and you're ready to use it.

Installing a Decoder

The process for installing the decoder is slightly different for Windows users versus Mac. Follow the instructions below, and then we will be ready to start ripping.

Install a Decoder on Windows

Download the library file from here, then navigate to your downloads folder and copy and paste the file into your C:/Program Files/Handbrake directory. It should look like the image below.

Handbrake library file installation on Windows.

Install a Decoder on Mac

The security protocols on macOS prevent you from installing the library file using an installer. Thankfully, there is a very easy way to do it using Terminal and an add-on called Homebrew.

  1. Open Terminal on the Mac.

  2. Copy and paste the text below into the Terminal window and press Return

    /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
  3. You will be prompted to click Return and type in your administrator password.

  4. The process will also download and install some portions of Apple’s Xcode developer software. Approve this when the pop-up prompts you to do so.

  5. Once the process is complete and you see the normal prompt, copy and paste the code below into the Terminal window and press Return.

    brew install libdvdcss
  6. Once complete, close the Terminal window and you're ready to begin.

Once you’ve installed Handbrake and the decoder; you won’t have to do these steps again. 

How to Rip a DVD Using Handbrake

Handbrake allows you to rip both Blu-rays and DVDs. There are dozens of presets built-in so you can save your movie files for different devices, in various sizes and video resolutions. The process for ripping is virtually the same with Windows and Mac. 

When you first open Handbrake, the interface may seem intimidating because there are a lot of settings, but don’t worry. The default settings will work perfectly for most users.

  1. Insert the DVD into the DVD drive on your computer. You can use an internal or an external DVD drive. Give it a few seconds to read the DVD.

  2. Launch Handbrake, which will immediately prompt you to point to the source file you want to rip.

  3. On a Mac, in the Finder window, click the DVD drive, then select the VIDEO-TS folder and click Open. This will load your files.

    Select source video files in Handbrake.
  4. In Windows, select the same VIDEO-TS folder using the top choice Folder (Batch Scan).

    Select batch scan in Handbrake for Windows.
  5. Click Select Folder to load your DVD into Handbrake. 

    Select source video filesi in Handbrake for Windows.
  6. When your movie loads, you will see a preview picture of one of the frames. 

    Mac interface for Handbrake.

Basic DVD Ripping Options

Here are the most important things you need to know to rip your DVDs quickly and efficiently.

  1. Select the Title drop-down to make sure the correct movie file is selected. Typically, Handbrake chooses the correct file, but sometimes there are different versions of the movie. Select the file you want—generally the highlighted one is correct.

    Select the movie title.
  2. Leave Angle and Chapters settings alone; they should default to the correct settings.

  3. Select the Preset drop-down and choose your output type. Handbrake includes presets that choose settings for you based on what kind of file you want to create. For example, one of the choices is a 4K HD movie file that will look great when played on a Roku device.

    Select your video preset.

    You can also save files for Apple TV and mobile devices, but the higher the quality, the larger the files will be. So, if you need to conserve disk space, go with a lower resolution preset.

  4. Select the Format drop-down, then choose either MP4 or MKV file format. MKV format is excellent for high-definition files, but in many cases, you'll need special software to read them. MKV files work on Plex and Roku, but the best option for most people is going to be an MP4 file.

    Select your video file format.
  5. The last choice is where you want to save the file. Select the Summary tab, type the name of your movie in the Save as box, then select Browse to select the folder you want to save it in.

    Type in your movie name and click browse to save in a location.
  6. Once you're happy with your choices, click the green Start icon on Mac or Start Encode on Windows. You can pause your ripping process at any time and restart it.

    If you want to process additional movies, select Add To Queue to add more to the queue. Select Preview to see how the movie looks and also check the Activity Log to see what movie files have already processed.

  7. As the movie rips and the file is saved, you can view the progress with the bar at the bottom of Handbrake. Video files take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more to rip depending on the quality you chose and the file size.

    Check the progress bar at the bottom of the Handbrake window.
  8. When your movie is done, you will see "Encode Finished" on Mac and "Queue Finished" on Windows. 

    Encode finished on the Mac.
  9. You can now remove your DVD from the drive and close Handbrake. Check the quality of your completed video, then you can move it to another location or save it to a mobile device. 

Other DVD Ripping Options With Handbrake

In the Handbrake software, you'll notice a bunch of different tabs labeled:

  • Dimensions
  • Filters
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Subtitles
  • Chapters

Within each of these, you have specific options to tweak your file size, adjust interlace settings, change the encoder information and frame rate, choose audio formats, language titles, and even chapters. Most users won’t need to change anything in these tabs, but advanced users will want to explore these settings to get the perfect balance of quality versus size.