How to digitize your DVD collection

In an age of digital media, it’s about time you turned your DVD collection into something you can watch from any device.

I’ve got way too many DVDs in my house. I’ve been gathering them for years and years. They take up nearly half a wall in my living room, and that’s after giving away about half my collection.

Funny thing is, I rarely watch my DVDs. It takes so much more effort than just turning on my Apple TV and hitting “play.” I do have a few hundred DVDs that I can’t watch on any of my streaming services, though. So, I figured it was time to digitize my DVD collection so I can watch my movies right in iTunes on Apple TV.

Note: This guide is for digitizing your DVD collection. We’ll have a guide for Blu-Ray discs soon.

A comment on copy protection

Whether or not it’s considered fair use to rip a DVD for backup and personal use varied by country. Since Apple is a U.S. company and needs to maintain relationships with U.S. studios for iTunes movies and TV content, you can’t just rip a DVD on the Mac the way you can a CD.

Instead, you have to use third-party software to make it happen. When looking for the best software to digitize your DVDs, make sure it includes copyright protection removal for Content Scramble System (CSS), which is the most popular (though not the only) copyright protection method.

Get the right software

The most important step to digitizing your DVD collection is having the right software. I’ve tested a handful of them and have recommendations for the best.

MacX DVD Ripper

I actually only just recently tried out this software, and I’m very pleased with how easy it is to use. It looks a little intimidating because there are a lot of options to choose from right out of the gate. But, if you trust the software, you can just select the source (your DVD) and click RUN.

I suggest noting the destination folder, so you know where to look it when it’s done digitizing. Where Handbrake defaults the file to your desktop, MacX DVD Ripper sends it to your Movies folder under “Mac Video Library. Your destination folder will look something like this: /Users/lorygil/Movies/Mac Video Library, where [lorygil] is replaced with whatever your computer name is.

I haven’t yet fiddled with all of its features, but it looks like MacX DVD Ripper provides a lot of options for converting DVDs to digital, including selecting what type of device you want to view the file on (like, iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV). You can also rip the full ISO image, which is very nice for some more-advanced users.

The one downside I found when using MacX DVD Ripper is that it takes forever to rip a DVD, longer than Handbrake. If you’re trying to digitize a collection of hundreds of DVDs, you’re not going to want to take hours to rip one.

You can download a trial of MacX DVD Ripper for free, but you can only use it with very limited actions. It normally costs $ 59.95, but is reduced to only $ 39.95 temporarily. If you don’t mind the price tag, I recommend it.

See at MacX DVD

MacTheRipper 5(AKA MTR)

Since MacTheRipper is probably the longest-lived DVD ripper on the market, it has to be mentioned here. I’ve downloaded, and used MTR a handful of times and it is a fantastic piece of software if you’re going next-level with digitizing your DVD collection. It’s got all kinds of incredible features that make it possible for you to turn your DVD disc into a digital file. You can really customize how you want it to rip.

But it’s complicated as hell. I literally couldn’t figure out how to rip a DVD when I first started using it. I had to watch half-a-dozen help videos, and still don’t totally understand the process. I do think it’s worthwhile if you’re looking for a more advanced way to digitize your DVD collection, but can’t attest to how well all of the features work because the user interface is abysmal.

You can download a demo version of MacTheRipper 5 from MacUpdate (click the “Download” button right under the MTR banner. It’s a little confusing because there are about a half-dozen “download” buttons on that page). But if you want the full version, you’ll have to email the developer directly. He will email you back with instructions on how to send him a “gift” via PayPal, at which point he will send you back a license key.

See at RipDifferently

RipIt

RipIt is another popular choice for digitizing your DVDs. It is very easy to use and you can quickly rip complete archives of your DVDs. You can also compress the DVD files if you want to send them to your iPhone and save some space. I like that this is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of software. Just load your DVD and click “Compress” (you have to compress it in order to make it compatible with iTunes, otherwise, it just makes a .dvdmedia file). RipIt does the rest of the work. It doesn’t have as many features as MacX DVD Ripper, and especially not as many as MTR, but it’s also a lot less expensive. The full version costs just $ 24.95. You can try it before you buy it, for 10 rips, if you want to see whether it’s worth your coin.

See at Little App Factory

Handbrake

The open-source, free DVD conversion software Handbrake is definitely the best, and easiest-to-use DVD ripping software on the market. It’s user-friendly, but also has options for rip quality, audio quality, subtitles, and more. All you have to do is pick the source (your DVD) and click Play. Handbrake does the rest. It is definitely the perfect software for someone that is new to the process.

Except for one problem.

The current version of Handbrake does not come with copyright protection removal. Instead, you have to download a secondary software program that Handbrake will automatically read and integrate with. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue because Videolan makes a copyright protection removal program called libdvdcss.

Unfortunately, libdvdcss does not work with macOS Sierra. Apple’s System Integrity Protection stops libdvdcss from properly installing on your Mac. There is a Terminal code you can try, which should circumvent the security protection Sierra put in place that broke libdvdcss. But, I would not recommend it unless you’re willing to disable those security features, which protect your Mac from getting malicious software. If you do, just make sure you back up your Mac before going through the steps.

If you would have asked me before what is the best software for ripping DVDs, I would have said Handbrake, hands-down. But, because of its various copyright protection removal issues, I can’t recommend it for newcomers.

Put it into iTunes

Once you’ve ripped a DVD, you’ll have to do something with the digital file that you’ve created. I suggest sending it to iTunes, where you can access it from Apple TV or another computer via Home Sharing.

Make sure your file is compatible with iTunes (.mp4, .mov.m4v) and then, all you have to do is grab the file from its original source on your hard drive and drag it into the movies section of iTunes. It will appear in your Home Videos section. It’s that easy. If you want to convert your movie to something compatible with a specific device, make sure you’ve got that set up in your ripper program, or you could use an after-rip program like Smart Converter Pro to convert it to a file compatible with Apple TV, iPhone, or iPad.

You can easily access your movies on Apple TV thanks to Home Sharing. Just open the Computers app on Apple TV, go to Home Videos, and select the movie you want to watch.

Plex

If you don’t want to use iTunes, you can also use Plex. It is a fantastic alternative that gives you access to your movies from a multitude of platforms (including Fire TV and Roku if you’re not part of the Apple ecosystem).

How do you digitize your DVDs?

Do you digitize your DVDs? If so, what’s your process? Have you just stopped buying DVDs (or Blu-rays) altogether and only download digital movies, instead?

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