February 02, 2011, 11:02 AM — [Editor's note: The MPAA and most media companies argue that you can't legally copy or convert commercial DVDs for any reason. We (and others) think that, if you own a DVD, you should be able to override its copy protection to make a backup copy or to convert its content for viewing on other devices. Currently, the law isn't entirely clear one way or the other. So our advice is: If you don't own it, don't do it. If you do own it, think before you rip.]
Looking to liberate the movies in your DVD collection from the confines of their plastic-and-metal prison so you can enjoy them on your iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Apple TV? Well look no further--all you need is some free software and to follow a few steps.
Step One: Install the software
In order to rip a DVD with HandBrake, you'll need to download the free software. If you have a Mac with a Core 2 Duo or later processor, make sure to get the 64-bit version of the software. It will speed up your ripping times over the 32-bit version of HandBrake. (Note that the latest version of HandBrake, 0.9.5, is Intel-only. If you still have a PowerPC-based Mac, you can still download version 0.9.4.)
And because HandBrake no longer includes the libraries needed to decrypt commercial DVDs (you should only rip DVDs that you've purchased), you'll also need to install the equally free VLC media player. To get the 64-bit benefits from HandBrake, you'll need to have a 64-bit version of VLC as well. The standard download is a Universal Binary and contains both 32- and 64-bit code for Intel Macs--if you want to save some disk space, you can download the specific VLC package for your situation.
Step Two: Insert a DVD and pick what to rip
Now insert your DVD into your Mac's DVD drive and launch HandBrake. By default, the app will launch a dialog box and have you select the DVD mounted on your Mac--choose it and click Open. HandBrake will then scan the DVD for the titles it contains, which can a few minutes. Once the scan is complete, click on the box next to Title and from the pop-up menu that appears, choose the longest title.