This feature looks at how to import a DVD to play on an iPad. In this guide, we’ll look at how to convert a DVD into a digital video, store the movie in iTunes and sync it with an iPad. Follow this guide to importing DVDs to iTunes and you’ll be able to watch your DVD collection on an iPad.

Most of us have a large DVD collection, and lots of great films still to watch DVD. But wouldn’t it be great if you could watch a DVD on an iPad? Not that we'd like Apple to make an iPad with a slot for a DVD drive: that'd be silly, but wouldn't it be great if you could convert all those old DVDs into movie files and watch them on an iPad? Apple does make a USB SuperDrive that you can plug into your Mac: read our Apple SuperDrive review.

Fortunately there is a way to do exactly that: it's a program called HandBrake that you can download from here. With HandBrake installed on a Mac computer, you can convert a DVD movie into digital video file and store it in iTunes. Once the digital video file is in iTunes, you can sync it to an iPad.

Converting digital video files to watch on an iPad is a great technique to know if you have old movies that you still want to watch.

Updated 13 June 2016 with general updates.

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Use HandBrake to copy DVDs to iTunes

Use HandBrake to copy DVDs to Mac

While iTunes does not have an Import DVD option, you can use a program called HandBrake to copy DVDs to iTunes. With HandBrake, you can migrate a DVD to the Mac’s hard drive as a digital video. You can download the latest version of HandBrake from here.

You will need a Mac computer with an optical drive to use HandBrake. If you do not have an optical drive, you can attach an external Apple SuperDrive to a Mac.

Follow these steps to convert a DVD to a digital file:

  1. Insert the DVD into the Mac’s optical drive.
  2. Open the HandBrake app.
  3. Click Source and choose the DVD using the Finder window..
  4. Click Get libdvdcss. Click on the libdvdcss.pkg link on the website to download the file. Open the libdvdcss.pkg file and follow the install process.
  5. Return to HandBrake and click Source. Choose the DVD volume using the Finder window.
  6. HandBrake chooses what it thinks is the main title, but you can click the pop-up menu next to Title and choose the item you want to encode. The title with the longest duration is often the DVD's main feature.
  7. If the Presets Drawer is not already open, click the Toggle Presets button at the top of the HandBrake window (or press Command-T). Choose the iPad option.
  8. Click Browse and choose a location for the video file.
  9. Click Start. The DVD will now start to be imported. It takes a while to import a whole DVD.
  10. Locate the file in Finder and drag to iTunes.

Now that the digital video files in iTunes you can sync it with the iPad.

Note! HandBrake is not available on the App Store and is not from an identified Apple Developer. So Mac OS X's Security Preferences may prevent it from opening. If so click on System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Click the Lock to make changes; now enter your password and click Unlock. Now choose Anywhere underneath Allow apps downloaded from. Now open the HandBrake app.

Mac OS X Allow apps downloaded from anywhere

Use a video streaming service instead of ripping DVDs to iPad

If you find converting DVDs to iTunes a chore, you might want to consider using service like Netflix and Lovefilm. These video streaming services are used to stream movies directly from to an iPad (via a dedicated app). You can install the Netflix and Lovefilm apps from the App Store.

Is it legal to rip a DVD in the UK?

No, it is not legal to 'space shift' or copy a DVD you own to watch on an iPad or other electronic device.

At the end of 2011 The UK Government made it legal for us to make copies for personal use of our media, but that didn't mean it was legal for people to break the DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology that protects DVDs. According to the government report: "The supply and use of equipment to circumvent technological measures is therefore illegal in UK and European law in recognition of the damage it can cause."

Because DVDs have digital protection, you do not get a DVD Import feature in iTunes alongside the CD Import. Technically it is illegal in the UK to copy any media, but the law has never been enforced (to our knowledge) when it is a product you own and it’s for your own personal use. Where the law gets a little more serious is if you start sharing, or selling, copied files: that will land you in court.

Read next: How to sync to iTunes: Sync your iPhone or iPad with a Mac or PC