Best way to archive DVD collection to hard drive?

Folks: I have a handful of DVDs that are moderately important, e.g., instructional videos for how to use a household appliance. I would like to rip all of these to a hard drive so that I will no longer be responsible for keeping the original DVDs organized, accessible, and scratch-free. I’d like to be able to play these back on a PC or a TV via a PC-to-HDMI output. The total size of the collection will be fewer than 100 disks.

Question 1: What is the best software to use on a Windows Vista machine for ripping the CDs? It would be nice if the software compressed the data, but not if that will result in a noticeable quality reduction (DVDs are already compressed and look moderately crummy on an HDTV; how much more can I throw away before it looks like VHS?)

Question 2: What is a good card to buy and plug into the PC that will put out audio and video on a single HDMI connector? I have an ATI Radeon 2600 XT that purports to be able to do this (came factory-installed in a Dell XPS desktop), but (1) though I bought the special adaptor from ATI that converts DVI to HDMI, no sound is pushed out to the TV, (2) the ATI Catalyst software that I downloaded from their Web site fails to install, and (3) the Windows OS does not recognize the ATI card as an audio device, leading me to believe that there never will be sound.

Question 3: Will this make me a felon? From what I recall of the Clinton Administration’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, doing anything with a DVD was a federal crime.

Thanks in advance for your comments and advice.


  1. Fazal Majid

    November 28, 2009 @ 5:02 pm


    1) For ripping, Handbrake is the best option, but the Windows version is not as well made as the original Mac one.
    3) The Library of Congress is authorized to make exemptions to the DMCA for 3 years at a time. One is to allow academics to break locks on DVDs to obtain film snippets which will be used for teaching compilations. You know what to do.

  2. Noel

    November 28, 2009 @ 7:00 pm


    Question 3 is the reason I can’t answer the other two. I have no idea if it would make me a felon but the industry certainly wants to do their best to make me one (from stories I’ve read even if it’s content I created) if they have to go from one jurisdiction to the next until successful, so I’m not going to risk it.

  3. Steve

    November 28, 2009 @ 7:17 pm


    1. The best program is DVD Decrypter. It was shut down years ago but still works perfectly on more than 500 DVD’s I have tried it on. Google for a link.

  4. Cotton

    November 28, 2009 @ 7:27 pm


    I’ve used Handbrake ( on a Mac to rip DVDs with reasonable results. It supports a variety of file formats and compression algorithms.

    Under Windows, I think DVD Decrypter will copy a raw DVD image to disk. Wikipedia ( has some discussion of the murky issue of legality.

  5. neil

    November 28, 2009 @ 7:33 pm


    I use Handbrake on OS X, and there is a Windows version (that I have never used). It’s pretty much the best DVD ripper and transcoder I’ve come across.

    If I was doing ~100 DVDs, I would probably get a dedicated 1TB external drive and rip all of them in one batch and transcode them in another batch, since the transcoding can be scripted and re-done without moving physical objects around. You may also want to end up with multiple formats for each title if you ever plan on playback on non-TV devices.

    Plan on experimenting with compression, since the results generally have more to do with the content than any absolute numbers. I can generally halve the bitrate of DVDs without noticing significant quality reduction, but I usually find it better to be conservative with low-contrast content and content with a lot of motion (eg: hand-held cameras).

    It’s going to take you a while to do this.


  6. Colin Summers

    November 28, 2009 @ 8:39 pm


    1. Buy a Mac. Also buy an AppleTV.

    Buy a DROBO. Hook that up to the Mac. Then dump all your videos onto the DROBO, which is accessible by the AppleTV.

    2. The AppleTV has the outputs you want. (These ARE the droids you are looking for.)

    3. Whenever someone from the Federal Government shows up say, “Healthcare!” and send them scurrying away.

    I am amazed that you need to keep the videos for the home appliances, and that you need to watch them in HD. Really? Are they great?

  7. philg

    November 28, 2009 @ 9:43 pm


    Colin: The alternative to buying a $39 video card for the Dell is buying a $2000 Macintosh?

  8. Mike Sisk

    November 28, 2009 @ 11:04 pm


    Handbrake is the standard program for ripping DVDs. As luck would have it a new version was released this week with improved performance, quality and compression. Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

    But, yes, using this does essentially make you a felon.

    The AppleTV is an underrated product. It syncs up over the network via iTunes so it’ll work with Windows. I use it to control what my kids watch — I just load it up with approved content. Might not be the most cost-effective solution, but it works for us. Except the kids keep loosing the little Apple remote.

  9. Neil Katin

    November 29, 2009 @ 2:42 am


    I use dvdshrink for this to good effect:

    One backup copy is legal, don’t know about DCMA effects…

  10. Jeff

    November 29, 2009 @ 9:47 am


    My apologies, here’s the correct URL

  11. Petrica

    November 29, 2009 @ 10:59 am


    Regarding the video card: I use an ATI Radeon HD 4650 which has an HDMI port an an integrated audio controller. The card cost $50 a few months ago.

    You may also want to look into purchasing a media player box such as Western Digital’s WD TV. You can attach an external disk drive to it and you can use its HDMI output. It works really well and it has a remote, which your PC may not have.


  12. Ben

    November 29, 2009 @ 11:14 am


    DVDShrink or DVD Decryptor will copy the native DVD folder structure to your hard drive while removing the copy protection, and optionally compressing the file size (but still keeping them in the same format). This may be equivalent to browsing and copying the directories on the DVD manually, if yours have no protection. You end up with a folder full of stuff, and playback is only possible using DVD Player software.

    Handbrake can then take this as input and convert selections to individual files in a more modern format, such as MP4, for playback with Quicktime or Windows Media Player, or on an ipod. Here you can choose the output resolution and quality parameters for your needs. It has pre-sets for ipod, TV, YouTube, etc.

    There are DVI to HDMI adapters if you just need video (i.e. you can connect the audio from your computer to the TV or stereo with analog cables).

  13. mtX

    November 29, 2009 @ 12:46 pm


    Hey Philip – regarding the video card question, I just assembled a new PC after 5 years of only using laptops, and was put in the same situation as yourself. The solution was to run a cable from an audio port on the motherboard (where my audio device is integrated) to an audio port on the video card – can’t remember though if the cable came with the video card or the motherboard. The connections are 2 little prongs, like a jumper, and the idea behind it is precisely this – to provide audio output via your HDMI port.

    However, since you have a DVI to HDMI converter, it is unlikely that your card has this feature. I bought an nvidia geforce 9600 GT with passive cooling – cheap, silent, and not too shabby performance-wise. It also has both DVI and HDMI output, plus the audio connector for integrating audio in your HDMI stream.

  14. Jeff

    November 29, 2009 @ 3:54 pm



    My first post (which contained an incorrect URL) seems to have disappeared. I was recommending you try VLC as a mechanism for ripping a DVD. There’s a blog posting on the subject at
    Regards, Jeff

  15. Matt Henderson

    November 29, 2009 @ 4:08 pm


    I’m with Colin on the Drobo recommendation.

    Also on OS X, I rip all my original DVDs using MacTheRipper, and store the VIDEO_TS folders on a Drobo. (My Drobo presently has four 1.0TB drives for a total capacity of something like 2.8TB, with ability to lose any single drive.)

    From the VIDEO_TS folders, I encode AppleTV viewable compressed versions using Handbrake (as mentioned by others).

    For $50/year, Backblaze will continually backup an entire Mac (or Windows machine, I believe), along with any attached drives (including the Drobo) to Backblaze’s online storage — with unlimited storage. It, of course, takes a *long* time to complete that initial backup (three months in my case), but it’s nice to know there’s an offsite backup of the Drobo somewhere (and so I’ve thrown the original DVDs away).

    Something I really like about Backblaze — if you need to recover your data, they do offer an option (in their automatic recovery interface) to package up all your requested data onto USB drives, and have those sent to you. I think it’s $180 per 400GB drive — expensive, but probably worth it in a bind.

  16. rps

    December 1, 2009 @ 9:54 am


    I’m not a Windows person, but I just back up the DVD and play it with mplayer. It’s not worth even thinking about compression, which is a pain in the ass, as evidenced by the fact that you feel the need to ask the interwebs how to do it, when the amount of hard drive space required to store an entire DVD costs $.50 or so.

    You can get a substantial amount of compression without harming quality very much if you really want to save a few dimes. I don’t know how but I’ve downloaded movies that look good at 1.5 GB or so.

  17. Chris

    December 1, 2009 @ 11:58 am



    You may also consider AnyDVD if it’s really important, as it will handle anything that dvdshrink will not.

    I recommend you leave the files as is in the .VOB format. You can easily play these using most software and hardware players. You can convert them back into DVD quite easily. Also, the time needed to transcode (shrink) these files is not worth it, considering the cost of storage (somewhere around $100/1TB as this time). I just built a Windows Home Server with 6 TB of storage (more than our companies SAN 🙂 )

    I use the ASUS O!play to stream these files to my TV. The O!Play has an HDMI out. It’s less than $100 and you can attach a USB drive and have your movies to go (take them to the flight school). No PC necessary.

    I found this article helpful for beginners:

    I have a small child who likes watching certain movies over and over, so it’s nice to watch these anywhere in the house, including streamed to any laptop. It also avoids the tears when the little guy’s favorite is scratched and will not longer play.

  18. Dominik

    December 1, 2009 @ 1:42 pm


    As for #3, unfortunately yes. Under the DMCA, it’s illegal to circumvent a technological access control like a DVD’s Content-Scrambling System. Recent court decisions have held that fair use affords no defense, because courts distinguish between copyright infringement and the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions. In short, fair use defends against infringement, but not anti-circumvention.

    For much more:

  19. Kevin

    December 1, 2009 @ 1:45 pm


    Try AnyDVD from Slysoft Not a free program but it will work for everything (probably) and definitely for titles that dvdshrink cannot handle.

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