There’s one thing that you absolutely have to do before you go wild ripping DVDs with the best DVD ripper software, and that’s check the laws where you live. While some places allow you to basically do what you like, others allow you to make a single backup copy, and others criminalize all violations of copy protection software. If you own the copyright to the DVDs - perhaps you shot them yourself on vacation one year - then you can do what you like.
Once you’re sure you’re not going to get a visit from the police for your actions, you’ll need a home computer with a DVD drive attached. Just about any PC or Mac these days can handle DVD playback, but the physical drives are becoming rarer. You’ll need a USB-connected one if your computer doesn't have one built in. Simple DVD readers are rare too - almost all modern drives are rewriters, meaning they can handle writable and rewritable disks as well as the kind you get from the movie store. Blu-ray capability, for HD movies, is common too. As is the handling of music CDs.
The best DVD ripping software can often rip Blu-rays too, but this isn’t something every app can manage. Paid-for software tends to be faster and have more options than the free apps, but for a simple rip, where you turn the only movie on a disk into a single digital file on your hard drive, the free stuff is often all you’ll need. After this, however, you may want to run it through the best video converter software to optimize the compression, or split it into several different movies using the video editing software.
1. WinX DVD Ripper Platinum: Best DVD ripper overall
A GPU-accelerated ripper with the handy ability to set the number of CPU cores it uses, WinX DVD Ripper can rip your DVD to a file in around five minutes at full speed. Using it is as simple as loading the disk, selecting the output folder, and pressing the big, blue 'Run' button.
There really isn’t much more to it, and WinX DVD Ripper is one of the best DVD ripping programs for this reason. With no fiddling about selecting codecs, framerates, or audio options, this is a good way to rip a large collection of home movies quickly, especially if you have a PC equipped with up to eight cores and a modern discrete GPU.
While it offers a free trial, this is limited to only ripping the first five minutes of non-copy-protected disks. For those who will make use of its simple, speedy workflow, upgrading to the full version should be a no-brainer.
- Read our WinX DVD Ripper Platinum review
2. Handbrake: Best free ripper
Handbrake is a powerful video transcoding application that can also rip unprotected DVDs. As one of the best DVD ripping programs, it stands in contrast to WinX DVD Ripper in that it has more options than just about any other video application.
If you know what you’re doing, you can use Handbrake to de-interlace, sharpen, rotate, add subtitles, remove subtitles, down-mix audio tracks, add chapter markers, fiddle with framerates, and just about anything else you can think of. Its comprehensive video quality controls allow you to manage compression so that you hit a target file size, while a vast number of presets mean you can tailor your video file for any number of devices, as well as saving your own.
Handbrake can create files in the h264 and h265 codecs, with several options on top of each of these. Once you’ve got the hang of how it works, Handbrake is one of the best DVD ripping programs, and the fact it’s completely free adds to this. The only downside is that it’s not as fast as something like WinX DVD Ripper, nor as easy to use.
- Read our Handbrake review
3. Wondershare Uniconverter: Best for added CD ripping
Sitting somewhere between Handbrake and WinX DVD Ripper in terms of features and complexity, Wondershare Uniconverter offers some options the other two don’t.
For example, in addition to the usual DVD ripping and video conversion, it’s also capable of transferring still images between formats, and of making animated GIFs from video clips. It can also cast your screen to a TV, acting as a media server, and record your screen activity as a video. It can rip your CDs, transfer your files to an Android smartphone, and even convert videos into a format that can be played back on VR devices.
GPU support means conversion times are fast, but other than choosing between h264, HEVC, and some lower quality legacy formats, there’s not much control over the specifics of the ripping process. This aside, it’s one of the smoothest and fastest DVD ripping programs we’ve tried, and packs a great deal of functionality into one app. A free trial is available, but is limited to only the first third of your source DVD.
- Read our Wondershare Uniconverter review
4. MakeMKV: Best for added Blu-ray ripping
Currently available for $0 as part of a public beta test, MakeMKV offers a highly streamlined ripping process that does a lot of the work for you. While there’s not much in the way of settings to fiddle with, this makes it a good choice for beginners and at least means you can whip through a number of disk rips quickly, although it doesn’t benefit from the GPU acceleration found in other apps.
The name comes from the Matroska Multimedia Container, an open container format that can hold common video formats, such as h264. Its files use the extension .mkv, and can be played by anything that can read an MP4 file.
If you want to compress ripped files to make room on your HDD, you should combine it with Handbrake, to get this functionality.
- Read our MakeMKV review
5. Freemake Video Converter: Best for older devices
Another do-it-all app with a few odd omissions. Looking at Freemake’s list of target files, which takes up three times the width of the app window, you’d think you’ve got everything covered. But who, these days, needs to rip video to Blackberry or Nokia devices?
Freemake can rip CDs too, as well as move image files between formats. But while it’s nice to be able to tailor files to Windows Media Player, PlayStations and Xboxes, we’d rather it had h265 support and working GPU acceleration - the Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti card in our test machine was invisible to the app’s digital eyes.
While it’s free to download, Freemake will embed its logo in any files you create, and it'll constantly ask you to buy extra features. Conversion settings are chosen through presets, and you’re free to create your own to tailor video files to your preferred device. After this, its a straightforward case of hitting the OK button and sitting back. Freemake is a good choice if you’re starting out with DVD ripping or have older devices you want to keep supplied with new video files, and if you’re luckier than we were with your PC’s GPU.
- Read our Freemake Video Converter review
What makes for good DVD ripper software?
The best DVD ripper apps rip DVDs, and do it well. The end result is all that matters - it’s better to sit through a slower ripping process and get a better file at the end than it is to speedily zip through the rip and end up with a file in which the audio is out of sync and there are visible compression artifacts in the picture.
Larger files generally mean better quality, but compression can be tweaked so that it removes parts of the image the human eye can’t see, meaning the file can be both small and high quality. This can be an automatic process, or you can set the parameters manually, and there are optimization profiles available for popular devices that tailor the ripped file to their screen resolution and color reproduction ability.
Quick is always good, but unless you’re in a real hurry and just want to get everything converted before the DVDs go in the trash, you’ll want to take your time and ensure a good quality end result. There are also things like subtitles, and DVD special features, that can be added to the ripped file or saved as files of their own.
Video compression codecs are complex, and have lots of options. You can set a variable bit-rate that goes up and down automatically with the complexity of the scene, or set a static one so that every scene is compressed the same amount. One may get you a much better result than the other, but you’ll never know unless you try, because every movie is different. Getting an absolutely perfect rip of a movie may be a case of trial and error, or you may settle on a one-size-fits-all group of settings that produce an acceptable result every time.
Some of the best DVD ripping software is free, but you shouldn’t need to spend more than about $50 to get something really good. Paying for software often nets you extras, such as editing tools or being able to edit subtitles. And there’s also one more thing to consider...
Help and support
Free software is often supplied as-is, though if you’re lucky there will be a community of users sitting somewhere like Reddit who will be able to assist you with any queries. Paid-for software often comes with things like a PDF user manual, and an official website with a forum full of people eager to help a newbie, without having to spend an afternoon Googling for it. Official sites often also include tutorials, upgrade offers, or a searchable knowledge base that can help you overcome any bumps in the road.