Ripping DVDs

For the impatient: Read my notes on HandBrake if you're interested in ripping in the traditional format: ripping the content and encoding it to an MP4.

Contextual Notes

The term “ripping DVDs” is associated with ripping a DVD and encoding it to an alternative format. When I refer to ripping a DVD in this wiki, I use it in the context of only ripping the content from the original format of physical media. Not to worry though, there's lots of other stuff on here about reencoding DVDs on here in the software sections. :)

The reason I focus mainly on copying the content is because I like to archive my discs. They are going to run generally from 4 to 8 GB in size. Storage is cheap, but that's not the main reason I rip mine – it's so that I can access *all* of the content whenever I want. I don't have to go back and grab the disc.


The file extension .iso has also become associated with a DVD rip, or really any image of any DVD or CD. It's a misnomer, since for video DVDs, the filesystem format is UDF. I'm not a fussbudget when it comes to using correct terminology, though, so I'm not going to be anal about it. :) I use the .iso extension exclusively. The only reason for pointing out that the file format is UDF is that it is important when trying to mount an ISO.


When I refer to “an ISO” in my notes, I am always using that term to describe a DVD that has been cloned from the physical media to the hard drive as a single file.

Using the term “extracting an image” is more close to what I'm doing when I rip, so I may sometimes use that phrase, too. :)

Extracting Image / Cloning DVD Filesystem / Ripping a DVD to an ISO

The best way to rip to an ISO is to copy the entire contents of the disc. For that, I use dd with pv or ddrescue.

There are other ways to copy the DVD, such as vobcopy, but these programs are designed to rip parts of the DVD or to mirror the filesystem another way. Don't take that note as an implication of inferiority. The tools are great, but in my circumstance, does not always achieve what I want to do.

I mostly use ddrescue to rip a DVD. Here's a sample syntax:

ddrescue -b 2048 -n /dev/dvd dvd.iso

Simple as that. Once the ISO is ripped, you can access it just as you would a DVD drive:


lsdvd dvd.iso
mplayer dvd:// -dvd-drive dvd.iso
HandBrakeCLI -i dvd.iso

And so on …

It may be worth noting (or not) that because I rip the content this way, all of the CSS encryption is also intact.

There are other ways to get the content. Since everything in Linux is just a file, you can dump the content to a file easily enough using cat:

cat /dev/dvd > dvd.iso

I really, really, really don't recommend using cat since it's ugly. There are cleaner and safer ways to copy it. If you really don't want to install anything on your box, use dd. I think even busybox ships with a copy of it.

Mounting a DVD Image

For one reason or another, you may want to mount the image file directly. This is where the focus on the proper filesystem comes into play. You mount it as a UDF filesystem, not as an ISO 9660 filesystem (CDs).

Mount a DVD image to /mnt/dvd:

mount -t udf -o ro dvd.iso /mnt/dvd