How to Rip a DVD to Your Computer


Say you have a movie on DVD, but you want to watch it on your phone, tablet, somewhere else. You can “rip” that DVD—or turn it into a movie file on your computer—to play it wherever you want. Here’s how to do it.

Blast from the past is a new weekly feature at Lifehacker, in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. This week, we’re updating our video guide to ripping DVDs.

Ripping a movie to your hard drive can seem like a complicated task, but it’s actually pretty simple. There are a lot of ways to do it and a lot of different programs out there, but our favorite method uses a program called Handbrake. It’s easy to use, it’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it’ll convert your file into compatible formats for any device, like an iPad or Android phone. The video above should walk you through the process, but you can follow along with these instructions.

  1. Head to Handbrake’s homepage and download the program. Install it to your computer as directed.
  2. By default, Handbrake can rip unprotected DVDs, but most DVDs you buy from the store have copy protection. To get around this, you’ll need to install libdvdcss. On Windows, you can download this file separately (here for 32-bit systems and here for 64-bit systems), rename it to libdvdcss.dll, and put it in your Handbrake program folder (C:\Program Files\Handbrake). If you’re on a Mac, download this file and double-click to install it.
  3. Insert the DVD you want to rip, and open Handbrake.
  4. Click the Source button in the upper left-hand corner and choose your DVD drive from the list. It will start scanning your DVD, which could take a few minutes.
  5. When it’s done, head to the “Title” drop-down menu in the upper left hand corner of the window. This is where you’ll select which part of the DVD you want to rip. In the case of movies, it’s usually the longest title, so just pick that one. If you’re ripping episodes of a TV show, it’s usually the 22 or 44 minute ones, and you’ll have to rip them each separately.
  6. Click the Browse button on the right side of the window. Navigate to where you want to save your movie file, and type in a file name in the box. Click OK.
  7. Next, head to the bar on the right labeled “Presets”. This is where you’ll choose what format the resulting file will be in. If you just want to watch it on your computer, the “Normal” or “High Profile” preset is fine. If you want to watch it on something like your iPod or iPhone, though, pick the correct preset from the list.
  8. Hit the Start button at the top of the window. This will take awhile, so you’ll probably want to grab a cup of tea.
  9. When it’s done, you’ll get a popup notification. From there, you can double-click on your movie file to watch it, or sync it to your device of choice. Enjoy!

It seems like a lot of steps at first, but it really isn’t very difficult—especially after your first time through. Once you’ve installed the libdvdcss file, for example, you can skip that step in the future.

It’s just a matter of picking the right chapter from the DVD and ripping it to the right format. Note that if you’re going to be ripping a lot of DVDs, you can head to Tools > Options (or Handbrake > Preferences, if you’re on a Mac), and hit “Browse” next to “Default Path” to choose a location for all the other movies you rip in the future. You can also click “Add to Queue” instead of “Start” and rip multiple files at once, which is great for ripping TV shows.

Good luck and enjoy your newly ripped DVD!

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