The obsolete dinosaur of proprietary media players, RealNetworks, introduces a new DVD-copying tool today called RealDVD. The upshot: For US$30, RealDVD can make simple, DRMed backups of an entire DVD—menus, special features, and all—on your hard drive. RealDVD has gotten a lot of attention for this application, but fact is, you can already do all of this for free with the right tools. If you don't feel like dropping $30 to get RealDVD's functionality, let's take a look at how you can get the same functionality for free.
We've shown you how to turn your PC into a DVD ripping monster,so if you want more details, check out that post.
Rip Full DVDs to Your Hard Drive
First, to rip DVDs to your hard drive—menus, special features, and all the rest—you've got two great options:
These apps provide simple tools to rip an entire DVD to your hard drive. The main difference between the two is that DVD Shrink can compress the rip so it takes up about half the space on your hard drive (around 4GB rather than 8GB for standard DVDs, for example). If you want to make ripping DVDs to your hard drive a dead-simple, one-click affair, check out our DVD Shrink helper application, DVD Rip.
Play Back Ripped DVDs
When you rip a DVD to your hard drive using one of the tools above, you're left with a folder on your computer with other folders inside with names like VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS inside—meaning there's no obvious double-click-me-to-play file. Instead, you need to learn to play back these DVD folders. We've shown you how to play ripped DVDs with VLC (our favourite open source media player), but it's a bit of a pain. If you really want to make it easy (and browse your ripped DVDs with cover art), check out DVD Play, our VLC helper application for playing back DVD rips (watch the video below to see it in action).
Burn Ripped DVDs Back to a DVD
Last but not least, you can burn these DVD rips back to a DVD if your original DVD is damaged with free application ImgBurn.
What's the Difference?
The main reason RealDVD is getting so much attention is that it's the first "legal" application to rip your DVDs in this fashion. The New York Times article makes the legality of RealDVD appear questionable—at least relative to its already free counterparts (DRM is its attempt to circumvent legal issues, but whether or not that will work is up in the air)—so the only major difference I can see is that RealDVD wraps all of the features of the above programs into one attractive tool. But at a $30 pricetag for a tool that adds DRM to your rips, the free alternatives seem like a better option for most. Also, if full menus don't matter to you, popular tools like HandBrake can rip videos to popular file formats.
Still, we're curious: Are you interested in buying something like RealDVD? Would the DRM hold you back? Share your thoughts in the comments.