More and more, physical movies are becoming a thing of the past; even Apple itself has made a conscious move away from physical discs with the removal of DVD drives from its computers. But DVD and Blu-ray films and TV shows aren't gone completely, and you've probably got some lying around the house.
In this article we show how to rip DVDs (with or without DRM) and Blu-ray Discs to your Mac, so you can watch your movie collection on your iMac's 5K screen or transfer them to your iPad to watch on the go. We also cover the legal side of things, for those who are wondering if ripping is illegal.
Is it legal to rip DVDs?
This depends on where you live. But most of the time, in the US and the UK, ripping DVDs and Blu-ray Discs is illegal, even if you paid for it. You're unlikely to be prosecuted for making personal copies, but this is the (very slim) risk you take.
In 2014, the British government introduced the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014, which as the name suggests allowed users to copy digital media, including DVDs and Blu-rays, for personal use. But this was later quashed by a High Court ruling.
In the US, things are murkier but most legal experts would tell you that the key factor is whether the DVD has copyright protection such as a DRM (Digital Rights Management).
"The moment you crack DRM to rip the DVD, you've violated Title I of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," comments Derek Bambauer, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Arizona. "17 U.S.C. 1201 prohibits circumvention of DRM. Some courts have tried to leaven this rather harsh rule, but most have not."
In practice you're very unlikely to get into trouble for ripping a DVD to your Mac. And if you've bought the DVD yourself, most people would argue that you're on safe ground, ethically speaking. But the decision is yours.
Rip unprotected DVDs
Some DVDs come without any digital copy protection, which means you can easily rip their contents to your Mac.
You'll need some free space on your Mac. DVDs are quite big: they're likely to hold somewhere between 700MB and 9.4GB of files.
Open Disk Utility (found within Applications > Utilities). Locate your DVD and click on it; you'll be presented with several options. You should choose New Image.
The next option to look out for is Image Format, which you should set to DVD/CD Master. Set Encryption to None.
Hit save and the DVD will start copying to the destination you selected. When the process is complete, you can safely eject the disc.
Now enjoy your film! If for any reason you have trouble playing the file, we suggest downloading VLC for Mac OS X, which supports a wide variety of video formats.
Rip copy-protected DVDs with HandBrake
If you want to rip a copy-protected DVD, you'll need to use third-party software. We recommend HandBrake, whose features includes a built-in compressor and the option to adjust the framerate of the DVD rip.
Download and install the software from the HandBrake website.
Insert your DVD with HandBrake open in the background. HandBrake should pick up your DVD automatically, but if it doesn't, select Source and locate the DVD in the popup window.
Now adjust the output settings. We suggest setting Format to MP4 as that can be played back on both Mac and iOS devices. (If you're ripping solely for iPad/iPhone/iPod touch, click the Toggle Presets button on the toolbar and select the device from the list at the right - this will set the optimum quality and file size.)
We'd also suggest setting the rip to a maximum Target Size (MB) of 750MB, as this makes it easier to share with other devices. But if you let HandBrake rip the DVD at the maximum allocated size you'll receive the best quality possible - if you're just watching on Mac and don't care about space, go for this option.
Hit Start and wait for the HandBrake magic to happen. Once complete, you'll be able to view your film on your Mac and transfer it to an iOS device to watch it on the go.
Transfer ripped movies to iPad or iPhone
To transfer the ripped file to your phone or tablet, open iTunes, then drag and drop the ripped movie file on top of it. Then attach your device, select it from the dropdown list at the top right, click on the Movies heading, and ensure Sync Movies has a tick next to it, and that your movie file beneath is ticked too. Then click Sync.
If the ripped movie has strange audio or starts in the middle, see this Macworld Q&A.
Due to the DVD being encrypted you might need to download and get libdvdcss. This is an attempt by VideoLAN, creators of VLC Player, to decrypt files. Some video publishers might choose more elaborate methods of encryption, which might prevent you from ripping the DVD all together. This is pretty rare, but is something you should be aware of when performing a DVD rip.
An alternative method to ripping is to clone the DVD, which means you also back up the menu and extras. However, the clone could take up more than 9GB of disk space, and if the disc uses copy protection, this will block cloning.
In this case ripping is generally the best option (see above), although some commercial apps like RipIt ($24.95) can clone even these discs.
Create a new folder named after the movie, then select the DVD disc under the Devices heading on the left. Drag and drop everything you see - likely to be one or two folders called VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS - to your new folder. If Finder appears to get jammed then sorry, the disc uses copy protection.
Rename your folder, keeping the movie title but adding .dvdmedia to the end. If the folder is called Star Wars, then you'd rename the whole thing Star Wars.dvdmedia. Once you do this, the folder will turn into a single file. It will also gain a DVD icon, and act like a DVD too - when double-clicked it will start playing in DVD Player. (If DVD Player doesn't work or is unreliable, try opening it in VLC.)
Rip a Blu-ray Disc to a Mac
There are two ways of ripping a Blu-ray Disc to a Mac. The first involves decrypting and copying the entire disc to an .iso disc image. This file will be the same size as the original Blu-ray: about 30GB to 40GB. We used Aurora Software's Blu-ray Copy (free); a two-hour film took two hours to copy. To play the copy, mount the disc image. In the Mac Blu-ray Player app, choose File > Open File and then select the BDMV file in the disc image. You can also open BDMV files with the VLC Media Player (free).
The second option is to make an MKV file. MKV is a file-container format that can hold video, audio, picture, and subtitle tracks in a single file. GuinpinSoft's MakeMKV (free while in beta) is a good program for this task. It can decrypt a Blu-ray disc and save whatever parts you want in an MKV container.
The decryption process takes about half the duration of the film; you'll have an MKV file that you can play back with VLC or other software. If you want a smaller file size, convert the MKV to a smaller file - in the same format, or in a different one, such as an iTunes-compatible MP4 - using a tool such as HandBrake, which we used in the DVD section above.
That's pretty much all there is to it. In general, playing and ripping Blu-ray discs is fairly easy as long as you're willing to invest a little time and money.
Contains additional reporting by Kirk McElhearn and Keir Thomas.