Backup your movies with ease

September 21, 2009

Written by wukovits

Being a parent of two small children, I have the misfortune of getting accustomed to finding my DVDs in a state of disrepair.  While I like to keep my things in good condition and I value a pristine playing surface for optimum playback conditions, my kids seem to think that fingerprints, scratches, and leaving them on the floor or beneath my DVD player to be perfectly acceptable.  For folks like me, having a copy that the kids can manhandle is a great option.  However, backing up a DVD can be problematic for most people.  Today, we will take a closer look at solutions to this problem.

If you have a Windows PC, I use a utility called DVDFab (, which makes the process of backing up your DVDs virtually painless and easy.  The program has various prices depending on the options you need, but a fully functional 30-day trial is available.  You can also get 20% off your purchase, just look on the main page for a discount code.  DVDFab has a simple interface but includes features that will allow advanced users the granularity that they require when backing up your DVD or Blu-ray media.  Another great thing about this utility is its ability to convert your movies to a format that can be played on your iPod or other mobile device.

When backing up a movie, the easiest way to go is “Full Disc” mode, which basically gives you an exact duplicate of your original media.  “Main Movie” can just backup the main feature, eliminating those annoying previews and other bonus features that many of us can live without.  “Customize” can allow you to pick and choose what you want to backup, so if you really need to include that “making of” documentary along with the main movie, you can certainly do so here.  There are a few other choices, and this works for both DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

What I like best is the ease in converting dual-layer discs to single layer blank DVDs.  When you buy a pack of blank DVD±R media, they typically hold about 4.7GB of data, which is plenty fine for DVD quality.  The thing is, most DVD movies you buy are dual-layer, meaning they have about 8.5GB of data on them.  For you to backup a regular DVD movie to a blank disc, it needs to be compressed.  DVDFab does a terrific job of this, and to most viewers, the difference in quality isn’t noticeable.  Another need for good compression is when converting a movie into a format that can be played on a portable device, like an iPod, a PSP (Sony Playstation Portable) or even a mobile phone.  DVDFab offers presets for each of these devices and a few others, and getting your movie of choice into that format is as simple as a few clicks.

For Mac users, one solution that deserves some attention is a free, open-source program called HandBrake (  For video conversions, it does require another program called VLC (, another free utility that can play nearly any kind of video file.  With the combination of these two programs, you can easily backup your DVDs, converting them to a format playable on your iPod or other mobile device.  While not as user-friendly as DVDFab, the price (free) certainly makes up for this shortcoming.  Even better?  It comes in Windows and Linux flavors too.

Having children can be expensive, but one of those costs shouldn’t be buying another copy of a DVD once it gets “kid-handled”.  Making a backup copy that the kids can “accidentally mistreat” is easier than you think.

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