Copying a DVD using free tools and Apple iDVD / Windows DVD Maker

I’ve just recently copied a home DVD for my father-in-law, and because there were some initial struggles, I thought it a good idea to write about how to do this in the simplest way possible. Now I must admit, Apple really makes this very easy – I used a Mac and got the job done in under 15 minutes, with results that my dad deemed way better than the original!

HandBreak Software

HandBreak Software

What do I need?

It goes without saying that you will need a physical DVD reader/writer and a blank writable DVD (DVD+R). The software programs I used were HandBrake and  iDVD (similar to Windows DVD maker) (you can also use VLC for ripping DVDs; download it here – chances are good that you’re going to use it for more than just this little exercise – VLC can play virtually any file format, because it’s awesome).

HandBrake and VLC are free. For this blog I will go through the Apple steps because I’d hate to lead you down the garden path working with software I haven’t touched in years, but you can use both HandBrake and VLC on Windows, and I believe the Windows DVD maker (instructions here) comes standard with most PCs.


Apple’s iDVD Software

Step 1: ripping the original DVD

For those who don’t know, ‘Ripping‘ is the process of extracting files from a DVD or CD onto your computer. With DVD’s, the end result of successful ripping is two folders: one called VIDEO_TS and one called AUDIO_TS. More on that in a minute. ‘Burning‘ is the process of putting digital information (like movies or music) onto a DVD or CD.


VLC Media Player


The best program to use

There are many, but HandBrake has never let me down before and it runs on both Mac and PC, with minimal set-up, and it’s free. You can download it from here, install and open it.

Once Handbrake is running, insert your DVD into your DVD drive. Give your DVD drive a minute to start up, and close any programs that open automatically. In HandBrake, top left, choose ‘Source‘.

Navigate to your DVD drive, and select the VIDEO_TS file. Don’t double-click – select Open, bottom right. The details should now come up:

There may be more than one Title (a title is a section that the DVD player can navigate between). Start with Title 1. Next to that, choose ‘Chapters’, ‘1’, through to the last one (I have 23 in this example).

Under ‘Destination’, choose where you want to store the Movie file temporarily – I have mine set to the Desktop. Make it somewhere you will find again easily. Leave the file Format as is (it should select the best option automatically). You can choose ‘Large file size’ for optimal quality.

Leave all other settings as they are, unless you experience loss of quality in the end product. Then you may need to play around. The settings I have here in the screen grab are a good start! When you’re ready, click ‘Start‘.

HandBrake will take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes to rip this title. You can do other stuff while it runs in the background. It will let you know when it’s done.

Repeat the process for all titles, each time saving the files to the same place, but giving each title a different name (adding the title number at the end will keep it all in order!).

Step 2: Burning the new DVD

You can now quit HandBrake, and eject the original DVD. Insert the writable DVD into the same drive. Close all programs that open automatically, and open iDVD. Again, for Windows,  follow these instructions for DVD maker.

For the simplest way to go, choose ‘Magic iDVD‘ (gotta love AppleSpeak).

Change the DVD title to whatever you like (It will show up on the DVD menu screen). There are some themes to choose from for your DVD menu – select the one you like; you can change it later on if you don’t like it. iDVD allows you to drag and drop video files from Finder into the section ‘Drop Movies Here‘, but you can also navigate to it on the right hand side and drag it into that area. If you want to include photos in your DVD, they will be displayed under a separate menu on your DVD home screen – it’s a nice touch for personal DVDs. So is music – under the Audio tab on the right, you can select music to add to the photos on your DVD. iDVD’s templates come standard with some elevator music for the menu screens. More on music in the next section.

Preview your DVD

Select ‘Preview’ (bottom left) to test your theme and music. To play around with different themes, select ‘Create Project‘ (bottom right). This will allow you to swap between themes in real time and choose the one you like. In this section you can also play around with layout, change text, add button styles, add more media like movies or images, even add your own audio to individual pages.

 You can make changes until you’re happy with the result.

Burning your DVD

When you’re ready, look for this button, bottom right-ish: It is the secret portal to DVD awesomeness. Unless of course if you have Warnings in Project. The best way to resolve these is to ‘Open DVD Map’ and see what the issues are.  Once they have been resolved, open the portal again! Follow the on-screen instructions and Voilá! You should now have your very own professional-looking DVD to go with the DVD label we made a few weeks ago 😉 Works perfectly on all modern DVD players!


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