HOWTO: Back-up your DVD for free

In response to numerous requests, we are publishing a no non-sense guide to backing up your encrypted or unencrypted DVD with the use of high-quality, ad/spyware-free gratis programs on Windows XP (it might work on Vista as well). Backing up a DVD you made yourself, such as a mini-DVD from your Handycam, is trivial - we recommend Nero or VOB2MPG if you want to edit or play with it. As you may have discovered, typical pre-recorded, original DVDs you purchase in store cannot be copied with Nero, hence this guide.

1) Legality

In most parts of the world, it is illegal to copy a copyrighted DVD that does not belong to you. In some (and increasingly many) parts of the world it is illegal even to make a copy of an encrypted DVD that belongs to you. We cannot provide an opinion on the legality (or lack thereof) of this action. Your best bet is to check with your friendly neighbourhood lawyer for that (this sounds like a joke, but we're serious; if you think that's crazy, start paying attention to Your Rights Online, take action and fight the chilling effects of misguided legislation). Just like SouthPark, this guide could cause, among other things, your screen to explode and your insurance premiums to go up and should not be read or followed by anyone.

2) Controversy

When DVDs first came out, they were advertised as "impossible to copy" due to "unbreakable encryption". Then DVD John (1) cracked the code that protected the data, and the maelstrom followed. The movie industry (aka MPAA) has fought vigorously the publishing of this information, but to no avail. For the past several years it's been trivial to copy DVDs. We see a repeat of this controversy with the new High-Definition DVD formats. The encryption protecting HD-DVD format has also been broken: 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0, causing a hysterical reaction from AACS (2). In all fairness, the entities protecting the encryption schemes might be compelled by law to react as such, otherwise they might lose any intellectual property rights.

3) Programs needed

As you might expect, you cannot copy DVDs by drawing them in your notebook or by using carbon paper. You need to download the following basic programs (they are all ad-free, spyware free, low memory footprint at least at the time of this writing):

The bare minimum

  1. DVD torrent: tbp and ih - everything!
  2. DVD burner drive (this you cannot download - DUH!)
  3. DVD Decrypter (the original, very powerful program, or the newer, HD version)
  4. DVD Shrink (ongoing development of the best transcoder)

Optional

Highly recommended if you want to play with video formats (as above, everything is free):
  1. DVD FAB 0.17.0 [485KB] released July 11, 2003 freeware (also: hack + images)
  2. CD Burner XP 4 - excellent free burner
  3. DVD43 - on the fly decryption
  4. DVDFab HD Decrypter - a newer decrypter
  5. Handbrake - easily convert a DVD to iPod format
  6. VOB2MPG - convert a DVD to MPeG2 files you can edit
  7. MediaCoder - convert and transcode in a variety of formats
  8. MagicDisc Virtual DVD/CD - allows you to mount a DVD image as if it was the real thing
  9. AVI2DVD - makes authoring DVDs easy
  10. Imgburn - the evolution of DVD Decrypter without decrypting
  11. RipIt4Me - one click solution
  12. Media Converter SA - like MediaCoder, but with some innovative extras
  13. MediaInfo - like G-spot, but better
  14. Free Use Wizard is a program that automates the complicated process of ripping a DVD to an .avi or divx or xvid file that you can play on a computer or a portable device such as an iPod or cell phone; lite version limited at 700 MB output, last free full version is 2.8
  15. Double Twist is very much like FUw, but more user-friendly and with a stronger focus on portable devices and automating sharing of media on social media websites, such as Flickr and Youtube.

4) Choices

1. Determine if your DVD backup fits on a regular 4.7GB DVD or not, so start DVD Decrypter, select the DVD drive in the Source, then Mode -> ISO -> Read R and look in the info panel. 2. If in the Source box the Copyright Protection System Type nothing is listed then you can copy the DVD with any program, it's not encrypted. If in the information box it is listed with Number of Layers: 1 and/or the size is less than 5,000,000,000 bytes, or if your DVD burner is DL (dual layer) and you have a blank DL DVD handy you don't need another program and you can continue on with our A. Quick DVD Decrypter guide, using the ISO mode. 3. If it says Number of Layers > 1 and/or the size is more than 5 million bytes and you can't or won't burn DL DVDs you can either B. transcode / reauthor the DVD using DVD Shrink or C. split the DVD into 2 regular, 4.7GB DVDs, preserving the original quality, using DVDfab. You will have to either copy the DVD to the HD using DVD Decrypter File Mode, use the DVDfab hack or use DVD43 for on-the-fly decryption.

A. Quick DVD Decrypter guide

4. In DVD Decrypter menu, click on Mode -> ISO -> Read R. This will make a decrypted image of your DVD on your hard drive in an *.iso file. 5. Make note where the DVD image will be written. Make sure that the destination drive has sufficient free space. 6. Click the DVD->HD image button and wait for the program to do its magic (you can actually minimize the program to the tray bar by choosing "Minimize to System Tray" in the Control menu). 7. The program makes a loud silly sound to alert you that it's done. When that happens, press the E button in the Source box to eject the disk if it wasn't ejected already, and replace the original DVD with the blank DVD you will write the image to. Close the CD tray either from the DVD drive button or by clicking L in the Source box. 8. Wait a bit for the blank DVD to be read, then click Mode -> ISO -> Write R. This mode will write (burn) the image from your hard drive from step 4-6 to your blank DVD. Optionally, you may also adjust other options, such as PUOs (which force you to watch ads by disabling the skip buttons). 9. In the Source box, click the folder icon to choose the source file you made a note of in step 5, then click the HD -> DVD image button. You may choose to have the image automatically erased once the burning is complete and checked if you so wish. 10. The program will alert you with the same sound when done. Congratulations! You have made a backup copy of your DVD. See (5) for a more detailed guide, complete with screen captures (warning: heavy advertising).

B. Quick & Dirty DVD Shrink guide

DVD Shrink is a very powerful program with a simple, intuitive interface. You can use it to replace the FBI warnings in the DVDs you are backing up with your own static images. I suggest you explore its menus first (there isn't all that much) then read a more detailed guide. You might want to make a decrypted DVD copy to your hard drive using DVD Decrypter File Mode first, then open it in DVD Shrink using the Open Files button. Alternatively, you could open it straight from the DVD drive using DVD43. If you want to preserve the DVD menu structure, use the Full Disc mode. In this mode you can recompress various parts of the DVD individually and may even replace certain screens (like the FBI warning) with your own static images. You can also dump certain soundtracks (like foreign languages) that you are not interested in. I suggest you leave all the subtitles as they don't take usually much space. If you don't care about menus, you can Reauthor the DVD. In this mode there are no menus, and everything plays linearly. You can thus remove certain extras and maybe keep others. Remember: for a large DVD you are trying to fit in 4.7GB, the more stuff you take out, the less you have to compress the rest, resulting in better image quality. See (4) for a more detailed guide, complete with screen captures (warning: heavy advertising).

C. Quick & Dirty DVDfab DVD splitting guide.

Download and install DVDfab splitter, then the hack archive from mrbass.org or the torrent above and expand it in the program directory. This should save you from first backing up the DVD to your HD using DVD Decrypter, which is actually the safe route. Alternatively, you may also use DVD43. Other than this, this program is very straight forward. Simply click the "Copy complete DVD" button, then choose the DVD you want to split in two. When DVD Fab is done, navigate with your DVD burning software (we recommend CD Burner XP 4 because it's free, but Nero is just as good if not better) to the DVDFab folder and burn each DVD. See (3) for a more detailed guide, complete with screen captures (warning: heavy advertising).

5) More info / Sources:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvd_jon
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AACS_encryption_key_controversy

Corrections

20090702-Removed mrbass links and updated with a torrent link; also, minor mistakes and _blank.

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