How to rip a Blu-ray or DVD

Looking to rip a Blu-Ray or DVR to your hard drive? Our guide makes it easy

Gateway ZX4970 UR22 disc drive

If you have a sizable collection of DVDs and Blu-ray discs gathering dust, you might want to consider digitizing those bad boys so you can watch them on your phone, computer, or tablet anywhere, anytime. (And owning a backup means you won’t have to worry about how to fix a scratched DVD or CD.) While you might not yet know how to rip a Blu-ray or DVD, the process isn’t complicated if you’re comfortable with some basic software, but we’ll guide you through the process, just to make it as simple as possible.

Just a word of warning: Technically, if the work is copyright protected, it’s illegal to do so, even if you own it. To be clear, we do not condone or encourage the unlawful ripping and/or reproduction of copyrighted materials. That said, if you’ve got home videos (or, really, anything that’s not copyrighted), you’re free to do whatever you want with them, and that includes digitizing them.

What you need to rip a DVD

Some of this may seem obvious, but it’s important to list out everything you’ll need:

  • Your DVD or Blu-ray(s)
  • A DVD or Blu-ray disc drive on your computer — you won’t be ripping anything without one. If your computer lacks the proper disc drive, an external DVD or good Blu-ray drive can be purchased for as little as $25.
  • Enough storage on a hard drive to save the ripped files. A Blu-ray will make a huge file, so we recommend you have between 30 to 60 GB of free hard drive space if you’re looking to rip one
  • A program to rip the files. We’ll be using MakeMKV in this guide, which is available for both PC and Mac.
  • A program to transcode the file after its ripped. We recommend Handbrake, which is also both PC and Mac supported.
  • VLC media player to watch your video

Once you’ve got all of the necessary materials, it’s time to get started.

How to rip a DVD with MakeMKV

Whether you’re using a PC or Mac, or ripping a Blu-ray or a DVD, this process is identical for all of them. First, download and install MakeMKV, then open the application once completed. The app will say “MakeMKV BETA” at the top — ignore this, and insert your DVD or Blu-ray into the drive. Once the program recognizes your disc, click the big disc drive icon to begin. Theoretically, this process could also remove copyright protections from a disc, but again, that’s not something we condone or encourage.

After you’ve selected your disc, MakeMKV will return a list of chapters and segments that you can rip. To rip only the movie itself, and not extras or bonus material, select only the movie chapter or segment (usually the longest title or biggest file) and uncheck all the other boxes. Next, designate an Output Folder where you’d like the file to end up once it’s been ripped. When you’re all ready to go, hit the “Make MKV” button on the right. This process can take anywhere from two minutes to half an hour depending on your computer’s specs and the size of the file, but when it’s done, you should have a nice big MKV file waiting in the specified folder.

In some cases, you don’t even need to convert this file, as MKV files are compatible with the desktop and mobile versions of VLC, as well as Plex’s media server. If those are your primary methods for watching videos from your library, you can stop here. Still, it may be advisable to convert these files to save space; Blu-ray files, in particular, tend to be massive. That’s why you’ll want to employ a transcoding program — to minimize file size and/or play the file on multiple devices.

A note on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs

If you’re looking to rip a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, it’s possible, but we’re still in the early days of this, so it isn’t exactly easy, even for those familiar with ripping other discs. First, you might need a specific 4K Blu-ray drive in order to rip these discs, and there might be a few extra steps to go through, like creating a text file with the decryption keys in it. Ultimately, it may prove to be more trouble than it’s worth, but if you want to forge ahead with ripping your 4K Blu-ray discs, see the MakeMKV forums for more information.

How to transcode with Handbrake

After ripping, you’ll have a big file that needs to be transcoded for use on different devices. Before transcoding, it’s a good idea to make sure your video looks OK — use VLC (if you don’t have it, get it here for free) to play the file.

To get started, install and open HandBrake (which you can get here for free), click on Source in the top left corner, and find the file you just ripped.

Now you get to decide where you want to watch your video. The app’s developers have already created presets for lots of products; there are a few different options for Apple and Android devices, as well as PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles and several streaming devices. You can also modify any of these presets and save them with new names or create custom presets from scratch. Selecting one of these presets will automatically adjust all the settings to fit whatever you choose.

You can also use HandBrake to resize files; for instance, if you’ve got a huge MKV file, you can choose a preset under the “Matroska” subset (MKV stands for Matroska Video) and run the program to shrink that file down.

If you’re transcoding a Blu-ray disc, the process works the same way, but you’ll want to select different settings to avoid unnecessary compression and to preserve the video quality. For DVDs, there’s no reason to select a resolution above 480p; this will just increase file size without boosting quality. For Blu-ray discs, you’ll want to choose between 720p and 1080p — to save space, we recommend selecting 720p for anything that won’t take advantage of full HD. For videos with more visual substance, it’s probably worth choosing 1080p.

Generally speaking, the “High Profile” preset — located in the Legacy subset — is a good place to start, with passthrough audio codecs selected (pick an HD audio option for lossless, if that’s your bag) and a Constant Quality value of RF 18 or so; this is mostly personal preference, so you should experiment to find out what works best.

Choose a file destination, play around with the options until you’ve got everything just right, then go ahead and click Start. This part will take a while, so sit back, relax, and let HandBrake do its thing. Once the process is complete, you’ll have a shiny new file ready for playback on your chosen device. This process is repeatable, too; if you have several different devices, you can simply change presets and run the program for the same DVD or Blu-Ray again (as long as you’ve selected a new destination to avoid overwriting the previous result).

That’s it! You’ve successfully ripped and transcoded a DVD or Blu-ray disc. Now get viewing either using a media server like Plex or your favorite media player software.

Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Deals

Check out the best Xbox One deals and bundles for December 2018

Microsoft's consoles are just as capable of streaming movies as they are of playing the latest games. Check out our top Xbox One deals and bundles, which include new and upcoming triple-A games like Battlefield V and Fallout 76.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Gaming

Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Slim: Which console is worth your money?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Home Theater

Streaming services blast past networks for the most scripted TV shows in 2018

For the first time in history, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, produced more original scripted series than broadcast or cable channels, setting a new record for the number of TV shows on the air.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films online.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Home Theater

What is Terrarium TV? Here’s everything you need to know

Terrarium TV offered a way to watch movies & TV for free, but now after a troubled existence, the app's developer has shut it down, and offered an ominous message to users on his way out.
Movies & TV

Do you have questions about Hulu? We’ve got answers

Not sure which Hulu subscription is right for you? We're here to help. This is your complete guide to Hulu and Hulu with Live TV, including content offerings for each service, pricing, internet requirements, and more.
Movies & TV

Why ruin a good thing? These are some of the worst movie sequels ever made

A sequel that doesn't compare to the original film isn't worth making, right? Unfortunately, this is Hollywood we're talking about. We've picked out 12 films which will go down as some of the worst follow-ups ever made.