Sunday, June 25, 2006

backing up a dvd

At Guys Night Out, Mike mentioned that his son Adam had just broken a DVD. Unfortunately, DVDs are not childproof, and movie companies don’t offer free replacements. For the family favorites that are watched over and over again, you may want to make a backup copy.

Thanks to iTunes, most of my friends know how to rip CDs. Ideally, they would use a high quality reader (like a Plextor), rip using Exact Audio Copy (download) and, for mp3s, encode using the latest distribution of LAME (see Hydrogen Audio for recommendations), but what can you do. Backing up DVDs can be just as easy using iTunes if you follow these instructions.

First, start with high quality media that is compatible with your DVD player. Recordable DVDs come in 2 basic flavors, DVD+R and DVD-R. DVD+R is a newer standard and better for data storage. DVD-R is older and more compatible with home electronics. Retail brands like TDK, Sony and Fuji use different companies to manufacture blank media. The highest quality blanks are made in Japanese factories by Taiyo Yuden or by Maxell Japan and Mitsui under their own names. Check the label and only buy discs of Japanese origin.

Second, download and install DVD Decrypter and DVD Shrink. They are free and they work together. The first helps your computer to read the DVD you wish to back up; the second compresses a DVD-9 (a dual layer DVD) fit on a DVD-5 (a standard 4.7GB recordable DVD).

Third, insert the DVD you want to backup and launch DVD Shrink (main site). When you select “Open Disc,” Shrink does an analysis to determine necessary compression and then displays the contents of the disc. To reduce the required compression for the main feature, you can increase the compression ratio for extras, remove unnecessary language tracks and drop features altogether – or you can just accept the default recommendations.

When the compression ratios are just right, hit “Backup” to use your DVD burner to produce a copy or write an ISO to your hard drive to be burned later. The software is very easy to use, and although the compression and encoding can take an hour or more, all of the work can happen unattended. This guide has more details.

A final note. Sadly, the legality of making a backup copy for your own use of DVDs you have purchased is murky. To help protect your fair use rights, consider a donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Download DVD Decrypter
Download DVD Shrink


At 8:11 PM, Anonymous bpm1200 said...

I have heard (but have yet to encounter) that some newer DVDs don't play nicely with DVDecrypter. Supposedly DVDFab Decrypter gets along quite nicely with these discs (although it has the sort of simplicity that PC users chide Mac users for enjoying). Anyway, just another tool for the arsenal.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Making backups of the DVDs you own makes a lot of sense. I know since my 6 years old is pretty rough with his Disney DVDs. I actually would take things a step further. Rather than burning to a new DVD I would have DVD Shrink create file folders on the hard drive. You can still play these VIDEO_TS folders from PowerDVD (or similar app) or in from Windows Media Center itself.
As an extra step I would also download the excellent and free MCE plug-in called MyMovies (see which has a very nice interface to browse a movie collection stored on a hard drive and even let you tag each movie with complete description, actors, etc.. using info from

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair to Adam, it was Nicholas who broke the DVD. He crawled up to the shiny disc, then drug it all the way across the room with one hand on top. Adam is not completely blameless, he left the disc on the floor...

At 2:13 AM, Blogger paul said...

bpm1200 - thanks for the expert tip. The other commenters on this thread (Emmanuel and Mike) have submitted guest posts. When can I expect yours? ;)


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