Using MakeMKV to rip DVDs

By | February 11, 2024

I have a large collection of DVDs (over 550, I think… someday I need to do a new count). I used to have them all on a bookcase, alphabetized, of course. But now I have pulled them all onto a server and I use Plex to serve them up. With this setup, when I want to watch a DVD, the experience is more like using Netflix: I sit on the couch with my remote and browse through the list that way.

Plex is an awesome product and I highly recommend it. (Here is my first post about Plex from back in 2015, which goes into detail on how to set it up.)

But this post isn’t really about Plex, it is about MakeMKV: the program I use to rip DVDs so I can put the file into my Plex library. [Yes, the correct term for copying the files from a DVD is “rip.”] There are other programs out there to do this, but every time I look around to make sure I’m using the best option, all signs point me to keep using this one.

That said, its user interface isn’t exactly intuitive. In fact, when I recently had occasion to rip a DVD after a few years of not doing so, I found that I no longer knew how and it took me a ridiculously long time to figure it out. So I thought I’d document those steps here: not only for you, but for me the next time I need to rip a disc after a long hiatus.

Here’s the MakeMKV page where you can download the program and see all they have to say. And here is a Reddit thread discussing MakeMKV and why it is a good choice for ripping DVDs.

I will begin these instructions assuming you have already downloaded and installed the program, and have opened it. My instructions are for on the Mac, but I assume it won’t be too different on another platform.

Set up your target/destination folder

In your file system, go to the path where you will be storing your files and create a folder for the new content. The golden rule with Plex is that the folder (and file) names should have the title of the film with title-case and spaces followed by the release year in parentheses.

For this example, I will be ripping the film “Secret Agent,” which is part of my collection of films with a soundtrack by Philip Glass [with whom I obsessed].

When you first open MakeMVV it will ask for your permission to access your files.  Click OK. [Sometimes it will ask you this more than once.]

MakeMKV preferences

If this is your first time using MakeMKV then there are two preferences to set. First, make sure you see the toolbar (the buttons at the top-left). I think the program defaults to showing it, but in case you don’t see it, you can turn that on with the View menu:

Next, set the default folder by choosing Preferences from the MakeMKV menu then going to the Video tab. Choose the top-level folder where all your plex movies are stored, not the folder you just made for the specific video you are ripping.) There are lots of other options in the preferences window that are a complete mystery to me.

Ripping your disc

When you first run the program it will present the screen shown below. The icon of the DVD player will be open or closed depending on whether or not your device is open.

Put your disc in the drive, close it up, then the icon of the DVD player will animate while it loads. The time this takes depends on how much content is on the disc, but it usually only takes a few minutes. When it is finished it will add the name of the disc and protection type to the fields in the upper-left.

I have nothing to say about that Protection Type field. I have before run into a disc that I just could not rip, and it probably had to do with that — but this is very rare and sadly I took no notes about it.

Next, click on the icon of the DVD player. This will cause MakeMKV to read all the content on the disc, which usually doesn’t take too long. When finished it will list all the files, showing them as selected. If you only want the film and none of the bonus content, then unselect everything except the largest file. (However my motto is to rip all of the files.)

Next, if you are saving to a folder you have saved to before, then you can [sometimes] select the target folder from the dropdown (A), but you will more likely need to select the folder by clicking the folder icon (B). Once the folder is selected and displayed in the dropdown, then you are ready to go: Click the green-arrow icon (C) and the process will begin.

The system will ask for your permission to access the files on the disc:

Then it will start to save the content, and it will look something like this:

This will take a long time. If there is not much content on the disc or the film is short, this could take as little as 5-10 minutes. But for a longer film or a disc with a lot of bonus content, it could take 45 minutes or even more. Be patient. Go get a cup of coffee.

When finished it will display a message telling you how many files were copied:

Click OK, then click the Eject button in the toolbar in the upper-left to eject the disc. Either start the process over with a new disc or close the program.

Your files

MakeMKV will have written the files to the destination folder that you specified, but you need to edit the file names:

Choose the largest file in the folder and give it the exact same name as to folder, of course leaving the .mkv extension alone. Name the other files the same thing but add “-extra” to the end with a sequential number. See my example below (although I see I typed “-extras”… I’ll edit that s out).

Your final step is to move this folder into your collection, then your Plex system should automatically pull it in. However note that this is not immediate: it might take hours or even a full day before it shows up in your collection.