How to Copy DVDs to Your Mac Using HandBrake

1
Copy DVDs to Your Mac: VLC and HandBrake

Handbrake logo
HandBrake: When this guide was written, the current version of HandBrake was 0.9.4. Handbrake

Copying DVDs to your Mac using HandBrake can be a great idea for many reasons. First, DVDs can be easily damaged, especially if a DVD is one your children like to watch over and over and over. By creating a copy that can be loaded into your iTunes library, you can easily use your Mac to watch a DVD without any wear or tear on the DVD itself.

The other great reason for copying a DVD is to convert it to another video format, say to watch on your iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, or even the iPad. Copying a DVD is relatively easy, but you will need some software to make the process possible.

There are many different software tools you can use for copying DVDs. In this article, we will use free applications that are readily available.

What You Need to Copy DVDs

VLC: This is an open source media player that can play back many different types of audio and video file formats, including DVD. VLC is different than the DVD player that Apple bundles with your Mac in that it can pass the DVD data to other applications. The DVD player included with a Mac is primarily just for viewing DVDs, not extracting the video data. You can download VLC from the developer's web site.

HandBrake: Another open source application, HandBrake is a transcoder that can convert audio and video from one format to another. This makes it a pretty good choice for converting DVDs to a format better attuned for use on your iPod, iPhone, AppleTV, or iPad, or just to store the video on your Mac. You can download HandBrake from the developer's web site. One thing to note about the HandBrake download: It's available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. It's tempting to grab the 64-bit version, but since VLC for the Mac is not yet available in a 64-bit version, you're better off getting the 32-bit version of HandBrake.

Install the Software

HandBrake needs the VLC application, so be sure to install it first. To install VLC and HandBrake, drag the icon for each application (one at a time) to your Applications folder.

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Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Configuring HandBrake Preferences

Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Configuring HandBrake Preferences
Setting HandBrake's preferences.

Now that VLC and Handbrake are installed on your Mac, it's time to configure HandBrake to rip and convert your first DVD.

Configure HandBrake

  1. Insert a DVD you wish to copy into your Mac. If DVD Player starts up automatically, quit the application.
  2. Launch HandBrake, located at /Applications/.
  3. HandBrake will display a dropdown sheet asking which Volume should be opened. Select the DVD from the list and then click 'Open.'
  4. HandBrake will spend a little time analyzing the DVD you selected. When it's done, it will display the DVD's name as the Source in its main window.
  5. Select Preferences from the HandBrake menu.
  6. Click the 'General' tab in the Preferences window.
  7. Make the following changes, or confirm that the settings are correct.
    1. Place a check mark next to 'At launch: Show Presets Drawer.'
    2. Use the dropdown menu to select Open Source for the 'Source' selection.
    3. Use the dropdown menu to select Alert Window for the action to be taken 'When Done.'
    4. If you're planning to save DVDs for use on your iPod or iPhone, or within iTunes, place a check mark next to 'Use iPod/iTunes friendly (.m4v) file extensions for MP4.'
  8. All other settings in HandBrake's preferences can be left in their default conditions.
  9. Close the Preferences window.

With the above changes to HandBrake's preferences made, you're ready to begin using HandBrake to rip and convert videos from various sources, including DVDs.

3
Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Configure HandBrake to Copy a DVD

Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Configure HandBrake to Copy a DVD
HandBrake's main window, along with the Presets Drawer.

You can configure HandBrake to copy source material to many different types of formats, including creating files to play on your iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV, and in iTunes. Before you start the copy process, you must tell HandBrake what the destination will be, and fine-tune a few settings to produce the best results.

Configure the Source and Destination

We're going to configure HandBrake to create a file we can play back on a Mac, either with the VLC media player or from within iTunes. If you wish to make copies for the iPod, iPhone, or AppleTV, the process is very similar. You just need to change the HandBrake presets for the target device.

  1. If you haven't already, insert the DVD you wish to copy to your Mac and launch HandBrake.

    HandBrake will display a dropdown sheet asking which Volume should be opened. Select the DVD from the list, and then click 'Open.'

    HandBrake's main window will appear. After HandBrake spends a few moments analyzing the selected DVD, the DVD's name will appear as the Source in HandBrake's main window.

  2. Choose the title to copy. The Title dropdown menu will be filled in with the DVD's longest title; this is usually the main title for the DVD. HandBrake can only create a copy of a single title on a DVD. Of course you can run HandBrake multiple times if you want all of the DVD titles. In our example, we will assume you only want the main movie on the DVD, and not any of the extras.
  3. Choose a destination. This is the file that will be created when the copy is made. You can use the suggested file name, or use the 'Browse' button to select another location to store the destination file and create a new name. Do not change the file extension, which will probably be .m4v. This file type will ensure you can use the resulting copy in iTunes, or directly on your Mac, using the VLC media player or Apple's QuickTime Player.

Configure HandBrake's Output Using Presets

HandBrake comes with 10 output presets that make converting video to popular formats a simple process of selecting the right preset. Presets can also be a starting place for customizing the conversion process to meet your specific needs.

  1. If the preset drawer is not visible on the side of HandBrake's main window, click the 'Toggle Preset' icon located in the top right-hand corner of the HandBrake window.
  2. The preset drawer will list 10 presets, grouped under three headings: Apple, Regular, and Legacy. If needed, click the disclosure triangle next to each group name to reveal its associated presets.
  3. To copy a DVD for use on your Mac, select either 'Regular Normal' or 'Regular High Profile.' Normal is good for DVDs that contain movies; High Profile is better for TV shows.

Once you choose the preset to use, you're ready to create the copy of your DVD.

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Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Starting HandBrake

Copy DVDs to Your Mac: Starting HandBrake
Once you start HandBrake, it will display a status bar along with an estimated completion time.

With HandBrake configured with the source and destination information, and a preset selected, you're ready to start creating the copy of your DVD.

All that’s left to do is to click the 'Start' button near the top left of the HandBrake window. Once a copy or conversion starts, HandBrake will display a progress bar along the bottom of its window, along with an estimate of the time remaining to complete. HandBrake adds the progress bar to its Dock icon, so you can easily hide the HandBrake window and go on about your work while occasionally stealing a glance at the progress HandBrake is making.

HandBrake is a multithreaded application, which means it supports multiple processors and cores. If you would like to see how HandBrake makes full use of your Mac's processors, launch Activity Monitor, located at /Applications/Utilities. With Activity Monitor open, click the CPU tab. When HandBrake is performing a conversion, you should see all of your CPU in use.