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How to Create Video Files From an External DVD Player

by Andrew Cockerham
  • Overview

    Copying your home videos from DVD to your hard drive will preserve your videos for years, since a good hard drive is much less susceptible to damage than a DVD---provided you treat it well, of course. If you have a DVD drive on your computer, you can simply insert a DVD and go from there. However, if your computer doesn't have a DVD drive, you'll need to purchase an exernal DVD player (or drive) in order to read DVDs. Fortunately, once you have connected the computer and external DVD player, you can use one of several free programs to take care of the rest.
 
  • Step 1

    Download, install and open Format Factory (see Resources). This free program allows you to convert your home DVDs directly to virtually any video format. Simply select "DVD to Video File" from the list on the right, choose which parts of the DVD you wish to back up, choose the output format and click "Convert" and "Start." Format Factory will place your converted files in a hard drive folder that you choose. The simple graphic interface makes this option a good one for casual users, especially those who want to create several separate files at once.
  • Step 2

    Download, install and open DVD Shrink (see Resources). This program decrypts DVD files and puts them in a format that Windows Movie Maker and iMovie can read. It can back up the entire disk, but also gives you the option to save space by copying only the soundtracks and subtitles that you want access to after decrypting the DVD. Thus, if your DVD has multiple language tracks embedded, you only need to copy the English soundtrack to your hard drive. Once you've selected the options you want, simply click the "Backup!" button. After your DVD has been copied to your hard drive, open the file in Windows Movie Maker or iMovie and save it as a video file (.avi, .wmv, .m4v, etc.)
  • Step 3

    Download, install and open Handbrake. This is the best option for Mac and Linux users, as both Mac OS and several Linux builds are supported. Handbrake isn't designed for decryption, but it will convert the DVD-Video format to MP4 or another iPod- or iTunes-friendly format. Because of this limitation, you may not get great results if you try to copy commercial DVDs to your hard drive. However, for home movies and non-encrypted DVDs, Handbrake is a great tool if you're not using Windows.
  • 2
  • If you plan to create video files from DVDs regularly, consider investing in software like Nero or Any DVD Converter. Neither of these programs is free, but they will offer increased functionality and both offer free trial downloads.
  • If you plan to create video files from DVDs regularly, consider investing in software like Nero or Any DVD Converter. Neither of these programs is free, but they will offer increased functionality and both offer free trial downloads.
  • Don't use your computer to create video files from DVDs whose copyright you don't own. You may be breaking your local copyright laws; penalties may consist of incarceration, a fine or both.
  • Don't use your computer to create video files from DVDs whose copyright you don't own. You may be breaking your local copyright laws; penalties may consist of incarceration, a fine or both.

References & Resources