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How to transfer DVD to iPod/iPhone for free

Updated on March 26, 2012

Because of my commute and my cardio routine, I like to watch videos on my iPhone. However, the iTunes store videos' volume is too low and they don't have subtitles, so I've been converting DVD videos to files that I can pull into my iPhone via iTunes. Note: While I have an iMac and iPhone, this same method should work for Windows, and any of the iPod video variants (5th generation, iPod Touch, etc.)

It does take some time, but the resulting video is phenomenally high-quality, and the volume control and subtitle options are great (if a subtitle track is included in the DVD). And yes, it's free. :-)

What you'll need:

  • your computer with a DVD reader drive
  • iTunes installed on your computer
  • an iPhone or video-enabled iPod


Step 1: Install HandBrake

HandBrake is a free, open-source DVD-to-MP4 (MPEG-4) converter. It is slow (it basically runs as fast as the video had you watched it, so it will take 3 hours to convert a 3-hr DVD), but it works very well, and yes, it's 100% free. And it's not complicated to run, provided you follow these directions. 

Here's where to download HandBrake. (I would choose the GUI option)

What if the ripping stops prematurely?

Sometimes Handbrake will stop ripping suddenly and tell you it's done, when, in fact, it's only ripped a few seconds or minutes. This is usually due to bad DVD sectors put in intentionally by the DVD manufacturers to prevent ripping. The technology is called ARccOS and HandBrake (even in 2012) doesn't do a good job of getting around this.

However there is a workaround for Macs (and probably something similar for PCs):

  1. Rip the DVD using Mac the Ripper. This software detects ARccOS automatically and can rip around it. However, the software only transfers the DVD contents in their original formats (VBO files). So, you'll have to then use...
  2. Software like VisualHub (no longer supported, but you can download it and use it) that converts VBO files into something more efficient like MP4. Just drag all the VBO sectors into VisualHub, choose to output as MP4, check the box to stitch all the resulting files, and voila!

Step 2. Rip the DVD

"Ripping" just means using a computer to convert the video into a computer file format. HandBrake will convert the DVD into one or more MP4 files, which your iPhone/iPod can use.

So here are the steps (depending on whether you're on a Mac or PC, these steps might be slightly different):

  1. start up HandBrake
  2. put in the DVD into your computer's DVD drive
  3. if you're not automatically prompted to select the source DVD, click on the Source button to the top-left, and select the DVD
  4. Give it about 5-10 seconds to read your DVD's contents
  5. Click the drop-down next to Title. You'll see a list of options, along with their times. Ignore the ones that are short (like less than the duration of an episode or the movie you want to rip) - they're usually just for intro and FBI-warning tracks.
  6. Click the Toggle Presets button to the upper-right, and in the window that floats out to the right, select iPod High-Rez
  7. For each of the Titles you do want to rip, do the following: write in the name of the file and destination (location) for each resulting file (keep the extension, like .m4v or .mp4 unchanged) *** make sure the "iPod 5G support" or "iPod Atom" box is checked (it should be if you followed step 6) *** click the Audio & Subtitles subtab halfway-down *** for Track 1, click the DRC button (Dynamic Range Compression) and change from 1.50 to 2.50, the upper-end if you'll be watching in a noisy environment and want the volume boosted; since I watch at the gym, I boost to 2.50 *** choose a subtitle option if available and if you prefer (I do even for English in case I'm at the gym and can't hear everything too well)
  8. After following step #7 for a track you want to rip, click the Add to Queue button at top.
  9. Repeat steps 7 & 8 for each title you want to rip (typically for each episode if it's a TV DVD, or only one if it's a movie)
  10. Click the Show Queue button at top and double-check that all the titles you want ripped are in the list; delete any you don't want ripped.
  11. Hit the Start button! Give yourself PLENTY of time. You can still run it in the background, but you might want to run this when you're sleeping or away from your desk for a few hours. When it's done, it'll make a ding sound and you'll see a popup saying "Put down that're done!" (or something cute to that effect)


Step 3. Import files into your iTunes Library

Next is to pull these files into iTunes. This is easy-peasy.

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Hit control-O (PC) or command-O (Mac) or select (Add to) Library in the File menu
  3. Find the MP4 files for each of the titles HandBrake created, and import them into iTunes. I've found it takes a couple of minutes per hour of video to do this.


Step 4: Sync your iPhone/iPod with iTunes

Depending on how you're doing this already, this could be a piece of cake. If you have it set to sync everything in your iTunes with your iPhone/iPod, then all you have to do is connect to your device to your computer and wait for a few minutes for the transfer to take place.

If you don't have it set to auto-sync, then plug in your device, double-click on it from the left navigation menu in iTunes, and select the sub-tab for Video. Select the files to sync, and hit the Apply/Sync button to the lower-right.

In my experience, this takes about 3-4 minutes per hour of video, but YMMV, depending on how fast of a USB connection you have.

Your videos will be waiting for you in your device (under Videos in the iPod icon in the iPhone). Enjoy! 


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    • profile image

      chris 6 years ago

      doesn't work with my 10.4.11 mac. only latest ones.

    • profile image

      fish 7 years ago

      whene i click sorce the slect the dvd it doesn't come up wiv anythin in the title scroll down.Can any1 help me.

    • profile image

      amber 7 years ago

      thank you so much :) I've been struggling and this helped immensely!

    • profile image

      Peachy Freak 7 years ago

      Awesome! Thank you so much! This worked out wonderfully for me! I now have the video of my running stretches WITH me! You rock!

    • profile image

      Andreww 7 years ago

      THANKYOU SO SO SO SO MUCH! That is so much help, and it will save me so much money on the itunes store,

      I will definetely recommend,


    • profile image

      Sliver 8 years ago

      I tried this and got a : "HandBrake could not find VLC or your VLC is out of date"... what am I doing wrong?

    • melpor profile image

      Melvin Porter 8 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      I use Handbrake all the time before the blue-ray revolution. It works very well but takes a while to convert a DVD. I generally started my conversions during the night before bedtime and the next morning I transfer the converted video by itunes to my iphone.

    • profile image

      Ranilal 8 years ago

      These are great instructions thank you! One thing - I have ripped 4 DVDs so far and 3 have come up all scrambled. I don't get an iPod -High Rez option in the Toggle Presets - might that be the problem or am I doing something wrong? I work on a Macbook pro.

    • profile image

      Brian 8 years ago

      It really works! Many thanks for providing this information!!

    • profile image

      mp 8 years ago

      those are great step by step instructions... thanks for taking the time to put that all into this Hub... I love the idea too... cheers

    • profile image

      iphone to mac transfer 8 years ago

      iphone transfer mac helps in transfering contents from iphone to Mac OS and vice versa. It can copy contacts, movies,songs, email, sms etc in minutes. Above all it is an easy to use software and provides user friendly intutive interface.

    • profile image

      hoosierultimate 8 years ago

      My handbrake freezes when I try to source my dvd but the rest of my computer works fine.

    • profile image

      floyd67 8 years ago

      I dowloaded handbrake and attempted to rip a couple of dvd's to my itunes library. When i loaded my dvd and clicked on source my computor just froze and it could not source my dvd.

    • profile image

      renorama 8 years ago

      this is a great hub!!!

      note" for vista users, to get handbrake to work for you, you must set it to run as administrator. You can do this by right clicking on the handbrake icon, select "Properties" and then under the "Compatibility" tab select "Run the program as an administrator"

    • tomanderson16 profile image

      tomanderson16 8 years ago

      nice information and intresting too. friend can you help me out how we can add many images between posts as you did i m new in hubpages thanks . happy writing :)

    • profile image

      Ipod Touch 8 years ago

      Sweet I've been looking for a free program to rip a dvd, thanks for the info! My ipod touch is gonna love it :)

    • profile image

      alifahru 8 years ago from Purwokerto

      I'll try it. For a couple days I 'm searching for this topic. thanks

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 8 years ago from San Francisco

      laringo - please let me know how it works out with a PC. should be the same!

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 8 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      I don't have a Mac, but I'm going ti give it a tryt on my PC. If all go well ,then I will be sharing with friends. Thnaks for the info.

    • aikidk01 profile image

      aikidk01 8 years ago

      livelonger - Thanks for this very interesting article. I will give it a try. Dan

    • profile image

      Aslam Gondal 8 years ago

      It is very easy way of understanding .

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 8 years ago from Texas

      I've used Handbrake on the Mac for over a year for exactly this purpose and it works great. In fact you can set the compression levels higher for use on an iPod nano and get 4 or 5 movies onto a 4G iPod and still have room for a little music, which is what I do for our kids for long trips in the car.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 8 years ago from San Francisco

      What kind of error messages?

    • profile image

      psyanka 8 years ago

      Did not work for me. Got error messages when I hit Queue. thanks for the try!

    • profile image

      Zune Cases 8 years ago

      Wow really informative hub, great work thanks!

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you, Julie-Ann!

    • Julie-Ann Amos profile image

      Julie-Ann Amos 8 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

      Fantastic! I am a real klutz when it comes to this sort of thing so this is a real help!