Copying a DVD to your computer is known as "DVD ripping" and is a simple process that generally requires only a DVD, enough hard drive space, and some software. There are paid software solutions for DVD ripping, but let's stick to the best of the free solutions for Windows and Macintosh. Keep in mind that it's illegal to rip entire DVDs to your hard drive or to copy DVDs to blank discs if you do not own the rights to the DVDs themselves.
You need to ensure that you have all the necessary hardware for ripping a DVD. Thankfully, this is not much. You must have a DVD-ROM drive, which is standard with most recent computers, at least 9 gigabytes of free hard drive space and a DVD you wish to rip. The minimum hard drive space requirement is 9 gigabytes because most DVDs range in size from 4 to 8 gigabytes. However, it is strongly recommended that you have much more space than this available. If you plan on ripping several DVDs, it's a good idea to invest in an external hard drive.
Ripping a DVD is simple. Insert the disc, open your preferred ripping program, click the proper button in the software to copy, rip, or back up the disc, and that's it.
There are several freeware DVD-ripping programs available for Windows, but the most popular is DVD Shrink. Although DVD Shrink is no longer in development, it remains very popular for several reasons. It's incredibly simple and requires no knowledge of DVD architecture or compression. Just put the DVD in the drive, open up DVD Shrink and tell it to rip. Perhaps the most attractive thing about DVD Shrink, though, is its compression feature. DVD Shrink will automatically compress 8-gigabyte DVDs, known as dual-layer DVDs, down to the 4-gigabyte, single-layer size unless you select otherwise. DVD Shrink also gives you the option to remove menus, audio tracks, and video tracks before you rip a disc.
The most popular and simplest DVD-ripping program for Macintosh is MacTheRipper. Much like DVD Shrink, this program easily copies the entire contents of a DVD to your hard drive as a complete backup of the original disc. MacTheRipper's distinguishing feature, however, is that it will automatically break many copy protections.
A close third for DVD-ripping software is Handbrake, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. DVD Shrink and MacTheRipper essentially create clones of a disc on your hard drive. These clones consume a great deal of hard drive space and are actually made up of several files, which can make navigating them difficult for the novice. Handbrake will not only rip a DVD, but it can automatically encode the freshly ripped files for a variety of devices, including iPods and PSPs, making it an excellent solution if you want your backups accessible on a different type of device. To do this, simply select the device you will be encoding for from the presets menu. Handbrake will determine the compression automatically.