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Using Handbrake to Copy DVD to Hard Drive, iPod & iPad

April 15, 2010 by debbie T | iTunes & iPhone

Disclaimer: I do not advocate illegal copying any DVDs that you do not rightfully own. Please respect the copyright of all DVDs.

This tutorial was written on a Mac, so the screenshots will be Mac, but it should be fairly easy for Windows users to follow along as well. It would be very helpful if you understand how to save files to your computer and other basic computer tasks.

Please don’t be afraid to try this. It might look very confusing and difficult with so many steps; but I tried to add as many details as possible, so it might look more overwhelming than it really is. Once you get started, it will hopefully be easy to follow along. Print out the tutorial for better comprehension.

Encoding is the process of transforming information from one format into another. So, we’re going to "encode" the files from a DVD into a format that can be played on your on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or iPod. This is also a great process to make a backup copy of your favorite DVDs.

The program Handbrake does all the encoding work for you! Easy!

Download & Install Handbrake

First, download Handbrake from http://handbrake.fr/ – it’s free!

There are versions for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. Make sure you are downloading the correct file for your operating system.

Install Handbrake to your computer.

If you need further help with Handbrake (beyond this tutorial), then please check out their Guide.

Once Handbrake is installed, insert a DVD movie into your computer’s DVD drive, and start up Handbrake. If your computer’s DVD Player also launches automatically when you insert the DVD, just close the player for now.

Choose DVD Folder

When Handbrake launches, it searches for any loaded DVD disks and automatically opens a window to select the DVD. Make sure the DVD is selected and click the Open button. If by chance Handbrake didn’t automatically open a window, or the window closed accidentally, you can easily choose File>Open Source and the window will open.


Handbrake Scans Titles on DVD

Once the DVD is chosen, Handbrake will scan the whole DVD to find all the "titles". This can take some time depending on how fast your computer is, and also how long the DVD is. Just give it time and don’t worry if it takes awhile.

You can see the progress bar letting you know how far it’s scanned.


Handbrake Displays All Titles Found on DVD

When it’s finished scanning, Handbrake chooses what it thinks is the main title of the movie. It’s probably the title with the longest time. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that the longest title on the "Blair Witch Project" movie DVD is 1 hr 20 min & 56 seconds.

Click on the pull down menu to display all the available titles. Every single bit of the DVD is there, including previews, trailers, deleted scenes, advertisements, etc. But unfortunately, I don’t believe it’s possible to figure out which parts are which. If you want the whole movie (for a complete archival copy) then you will want to encode every title. Start by choosing the first title from the menu.

If you only care about saving the main part of the DVD movie, then keep the default title that Handbrake has chosen for you.


Save DVD Titles to Hard Drive

Click the Browse button to choose where you want the encoded file to be saved on your computer’s hard drive. For Mac users, a Finder Window will open. (See the next step for a more detailed view of the window that opens.)


File Save As

#1 – Choose the folder on your hard drive where you want to keep the saved DVD file(s). I keep my DVD files in a separate sub-folder on my Desktop. I created a "new folder" named blairWitch.

#2 – If you are only saving/encoding the one main part of the DVD movie, then you can keep the default name that Handbrake displays. It’s saving as a "m4v" file, which is an iTunes video file.

If you want to copy all of the files on the DVD, then it’s best to organize them with a numerical digit that matches the original title. Since I am encoding the first file on the DVD, I am adding a "1" to the file name: BLAIR_WITCH_PROJECT1.m4v

#3 – Once you specify the hard drive location and the file name, click the "save" button.


File Destination Path

The name of the file along with the full path to the file location is displayed as the (File) Destination.


Output Settings Presets

Now let’s work on finding a preset for the output quality.
If you do not see the preset settings on the side of the Handbrake Work Window, click the Toggle Presets icon on the menu bar. There should be a visible list of presets.


Output Settings

By default, Handbrake sets the output with the "normal" preset. But depending on how you would like to watch with the DVD files, you might want to change to another preset.

Click each of the presets to see how the settings change. I like using the "High Profile" preset.


Check Over Settings

If you only want to play the movie on your iPad or iPod, then choose one of the iPod presets. It will create a smaller picture output. But if you want to retain the full screen size of the DVD for archival purposes, then choose appropriately. Just experiment with each preset, and see how some of the settings change. I admit I am totally oblivious to most of the settings, so I have no idea what some mean!


Start Copying

So when you are all set and ready to start encoding, click the Start button at the top menu.


Check Progress

You’ll see your progress at the bottom of the window.


Encode Multiple Files Using the Queue

It takes a very very long time to encode each of the files, especially if they are long. Luckily Handbrake allows you to add files to the "queue" so you can let it run all night without any interaction.

#1 – From the Title pull-down menu, choose the next file.

#2 – Change the destination file name to coincide with the Title. For example, the next title on my DVD is #2, so I changed the destination file name BLAIR_WITCH_PROJECT2.m4v – make sure you keep the very important m4v file extension. Just delete the previous number from the file name, and type in the new number.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you name each of the titles as a different file name. If you don’t, the next title will overwrite the previous title! If a warning box appears asking to "overwrite" a file, then chances are, you didn’t create a new file name.


Add To Queue

Click the "Add to Queue" button at the top menu and the second title will be encoded after your first file finishes.


Viewing the Queue

To view what’s going on in the queue, click the "Show Queue" button and the queue window opens, showing the prior, current and future processes.


And that is it!

Once the files are encoded, find them where you saved them on your hard drive. Play each movie to find out which parts you want to keep and which parts are just filler.

M4V files should be able to play using Quicktime player. If you want to copy them on your iPod, iPad, or iPhone, import them into iTunes and sync to your device.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial!

(For my sister Lynne)

There are 3 comments

  1. Thanks for this post, Debbie. The iPod presets do work, but if you want specific settings to encode for iPad, have a look at this blog article: http://www.zerosignal.co.uk/2010/05/convert-avi-dvd-wmv-to-mp4-videos-for-apple-ipad-using-handbrake

    Comment by Jonathan on June 4th, 2010
  2. you can determine which Title is what by viewing the DVD as normal, and checking what title # comes up when you select different items.

    Comment by A. Nominys on June 21st, 2010
  3. Most opensource softare is just benefit from free. On the other hand, it is difficult to use for beginner, lack support and weak stability. HandBrake attend technology and ignore user experience. I consider the aimersoft is better than it.

    Comment by turtlerck on August 10th, 2010