How to Rip DVDs with Handbrake

  Matt Cone       December 14, 2011      Tutorials Mac TV


One could argue that the age of digital media truly began in the mid-1990s, when the MP3 standard of audio compression gained popularity, allowing users to rip vast quantities of music to their computers. Personal MP3 players soon followed, and Apple managed to resurrect itself through the powerful iTunes + iPod combination.

With the release of the fifth-generation iPod in 2005, the age of digital video began in earnest. Along with CDs, computer users sought a method for ripping their DVDs into conveniently smaller files. While CD-ripping is an old trick by now, there are few DVD-ripping programs out there that can handle the task quickly efficiently – even fewer of these programs are free. Fortunately, if you’re a Mac user, you have access to the best program available for getting those DVDs to your hard drive, iPod, or Apple TV: Handbrake.

How to rip DVDs with Handbrake on Mac

You can download Handbrake from http://handbrake.m0k.org. The program works with Mac OS 10.3.9 and later. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the program, you’re ready to start ripping!

How to Rip DVDs to Your Mac

Basic movie ripping is fairly simple. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Insert a DVD into your Mac. Apple’s DVD player will start – just close it.

  2. Start Handbrake.

  3. First, Handbrake opens the selection screen, but this screen is fairly superfluous, unless you have multiple DVD drives. Make sure Detected Volume is selected, and click Open. Handbrake scans your DVD to detect the various titles and chapters, and opens the main Handbrake window.

    How to rip DVDs with Handbrake on Mac

  4. Make sure Handbrake has selected the proper title. Titles and chapters are like headings and sub-headings, and your average DVD will probably have a couple of titles – one for the main movie, and one or more for any special features. Handbrake displays the length of the selected title, making it easy to tell if you’ve got the right one. If you don’t, click the Title menu and select the proper title. It should be the longest title available.

    How to rip DVDs with Handbrake on Mac

  5. Now, go to the Destination section. Handbrake’s default destination is your desktop. To make life a little easier, though, you can select any location you like. Also, choose a name for your ripped file.

    How to rip DVDs with Handbrake on Mac

  6. Click Rip to start importing your movie. Take a walk or go to sleep – this process can take quite a while!

Reduce the Size of Ripped Files

Ripping files at full-quality is great if you’ve got a lot of storage space. A full movie, ripped fully-quality, can land at a gig of hard drive space or more! Sometimes, you just can’t afford to use that much space, especially if you’re ripping for your iPod. In Handbrake, there a couple easy ways to slim down your files:

These tips usually work best when they’re all used at the same time. Even if you drop the picture size of a movie down to the iPod’s screen, it’s still going to be a large file if you rip it at 100% quality. Play around with the settings until you know what you like, and be sure to check your work by loading samples onto your iPod.

How to Rip TV Shows

TV shows are great for iPods, and the process of ripping them is much the same as it is for movies. The big differences come in selecting the right titles, and in building a queue of titles (or episodes) to be ripped. Here’s how to do it:

How to Add Subtitles

You can use the Subtitle section of Handbrake to select from the subtitles available on your DVD. When you select a subtitle, Handbrake imprints that subtitle onto the finished movie. That’s it! Handbrake is a fairly intuitive program, so if you want to see how things work, it’s easy! Feel free to experiment as you see fit.

Subscribe to our email newsletter

Sign up and get Macinstruct's tutorials delivered to your inbox. No spam, promise!


© 2021. A Matt Cone project. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Made with 🌶️ in New Mexico.