Handbrake DVD Ripper On Linux

Running Handbrake

I decided earlier this week I needed to rip a DVD and looked around at the available options on Linux. I’m not overly experienced at doing this sort of thing, in the past I’ve always got the job done with applications like dvd:rip but not had a very satisfying experience. I’d heard a while back that the popular program Handrake had now released a Linux version with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and it seemed a good idea to try it out. I have some Mac using friends who really like it and often tell me how good it is for ripping discs. There’s been a command line version of Handbrake on Linux for quite some time I believe but I never used it, I can handle myself pretty well in a terminal but it just didn’t appeal. Handbrake is licensed under the GPL and as such is completely free and open source software, with all these facts and endorsements ringing in my ears I figured I should take it for a spin, no pun intended.


Installing is easy
Installing Is Easy

Installing the program was nice and simple for me on Linux Mint 6. There are “.deb” packages built for Ubuntu on the Handbrake website so it’s simply a matter of double clicking to install, who says Linux has to be hard eh? Admittedly if you’re on a non Debian-based system it might be not be quite so simple for you. You can download the source code and build the application yourself which isn’t as daunting as it sounds or it’s possible some other distributions might have their own binary packages. It’s worth having a look around before you start I’d say. Once installed the application should just appear on your menu, for me it was in the MintMenu under “Sound & Video” so it’s likely to be in a similar place even if you’re using a different flavour of Linux.

Ripping It Up:

Selecting the source
Selecting the source

Upon opening the application for the first time you’re presented with a pretty nice looking interface, simple enough and not overcrowded but incorporating all the features you could need. One thing I did find strange is that the program didn’t automatically detect the DVD I’d loaded in my drive, instead I had to manually select the correct device. I’m using a Dell m1330n laptop and I only have one optical drive, the one selected was labeled “dvd” so I chose “dvdrw” from the dialog and then everything worked. I don’t know if this is a quirk of the program or a quirk of my hardware but once I’d figured this out it wasn’t too much hassle. I have to do this whenever I want to rip a new disc, it doesn’t auto-detect which would be a nice feature. I decided to test it by ripping an episode of Spaced, a British comedy series that I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it.

Useful defaults
Useful defaults

One thing I like about the Handbrake interface is the list options down the right hand side to quickly and easily target specific devices. I don’t have an iPod or iPhone but I do have a PS3 and being able to just select that profile and know the video will work on the device is great. I wish more applications worked as easily as this. You can also tweak the video and audio settings if you ‘re more of an expert and you know what you want, so it doesn’t limit you really but still has sensible defaults you can call up. One thing about Handbrake which isn’t great is the length of time it takes to actually rip a disc. It does produce very high quality rips with minimum fuss but you need to be patient, very patient. I only ripped a small section of the DVD I was using to test, about 20mins and it still took almost half and hour to complete. Once it was done I opened the mp4 file and it looked perfect I have to say, so perhaps good things really do come to those who wait.

I made a slideshow of whole process if you’d like to check it out


The End Product
The End Product

I really like Handbrake as you can probably tell by now, it does it’s job well without being overly fancy. It has all the features advanced users could need but still remains accessible for the average Joe. It’s not quick as I said, it takes it’s time in ripping discs but does produce great quality. My advice would be to start it up when you can afford to leave the machine alone for a couple of hours to work, perhaps at night. Especially if you’re doing a 3 hour epic like Lord Of The Rings or something, you’ll be in for a long wait if you sit there and watch it and you could probably grow a convincing Gandalf beard by the end. Overall I would recommend Handbrake as the best application of it’s type I’ve used on the Linux desktop, best of all it’s free in both the speech and the beer senses so there’s nothing to lose. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Handbrake is a nice app, another one is ogmrip


    • Yes I’ve tried Ogmrip and it also has quite a nice simple interface but it didn’t have nearly as many options as Handbrake. Good application though 🙂

  2. Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér (mjjzf)
    Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér (mjjzf)

    Did you ever use K9Copy? Worked well for me.

    • @mjjzf I think I have tried K9Copy a long long time ago but I’m not 100% sure. Is that just for copying whole discs in a similar way to DVDShrink or something like that? I don’t tend to go for KDE apps on the whole just because I use Gnome and sometimes loading all the QT libraries can be slow, maybe it’s just bias on my part though. I’ll give it a chance, thanks for the recommendation 🙂

  3. Big vote for handbrake….. I have tried just about EVERY linux app/script for encoding video and handbrake is by far the easiest and fastest (both in GUI and CLI) incarnations)!

    Second place would go to MP4ize (http://thomer.com/howtos/ipod_video.html) for iPod and iPhone.

    Third place goes to Avidemux (GTK Version)

    • @Martyn Thanks for the comment, I haven’t tried MP4ize but I was actually using Avidemux last night to cut up a bit of video. It worked pretty well for me and I’m not much a video editor at all, I’m useless. Video editing apps on Linux is something I could do with looking into properly in future

  4. I’ve been meaning to try Handbrake for ages, mostly for a few live concert dvd’s that I’d prefer to have on a hdd. Think I’ll install it tonight and have a go, thanks for sharing your experience with it. 🙂

  5. I’ve used ogmrip with various degree of success (worst problem is some strange problem with sound and video being out of sync and danish subs being goofy – æøå problems) and decided to try handbrake.

    I do like the program and it seems sofar to leave ogmrip in the dust except for one thing: It seems only to be able to print subs directly onto the film.
    Personally I only use the forced subs and subs in for instance asian movies, but I do have children, so I’ll have to figure out how to fix that issue.
    Maby rip to matroska and add the subs manually later?

    • @Johan That’s interesting and it’s a good job you tested the subtitles cos I never even thought of it (blush). I’m a typical Englishman I suppose, I do watch some French films but they mostly have the subs on the actual film. I need to learn more languages but it’s finding the time. Good to hear how you got on with subs in Handbrake though, maybe they can improve this in future

  6. Well I seldom miss subs in english movies (usualy they are quite fauty and just distracting anyway).
    Anyhow, it seems they have soft subs on the roadmap for next release, I’ll just have to wait with those asian movies then 🙂

  7. handbrake has great encoding options. the MKV option is great since i watch a lot of foreign films and can combine the subtitle files into the MKV container. there is no lossless audio option however which is rather sad. it would be cool to see a lossless video option for archival of smaller clips as well…

    • @nou Yes those options would be useful, perhaps suggesting them to the developers is a good idea. They seem quite receptive 🙂

  8. Handbrake is a great option, but does not handle properly encoding from a dual audio track video file (Think Asian MKV with a Japanese and an English track) If you are trying to encode the second track the audio will encode garbled. This is an issue which is expected to be fixed in a future release.

    • @Chris I haven’t run into this problem as I don’t have lot of foreign DVDs but it’s good to know they’re planning to fix it in future

    • @nou Nice work, all open source projects rely on feedback. That’s something I’ve learned from talking to developers about some program which doesn’t work the way you expect and they often reply “we could have fixed it if only someone had told us” logging issues is tedious but can be so important 🙂

  9. Tried it and it didn’t work in the few cases I needed. OGMRip worked much better, and it was just as simple. Tried to get help and their IRC chat room is known for their trolls. Stay away.

    • @Avuton OGMRip is an interesting program, I tried it once or twice but it didn’t have the range of options for targeting specific devices I found in Handbrake. That being said I haven’t looked at it in a while and I did like it. I’ll go back and check it again, also thanks for the tip about the IRC channel. That’s a real shame, sounds like they need some decent operators to tame it, it can’t be good for the project or people wanting to get involved.

  10. I have been building Handbrake from source for a long time…tried many and not one has consistently delivered for me in the face of all manner of obstacles. Not saying its perfect but it has worked very well for us. We basically used Handbrake to rip our entire (well most) DVD collection onto a pair of 2TB NAS units which now feeds our house. The only real pain here was having to name all the tracks and stuff correctly. There didn’t seem to be anything out there so we kinda hacked together some OSS to do it and now use bits of libdvdread to hash the physical disc, then the ripper connects to our sqlite database on Python via XML-RPC on the back-end and if the disc is there all track and other metadata is returned and the disc is ripped into folders with all extra features, episode names/numbers (for shows), etc. Not trying to distract from your review; rather while right now this thing is purely a combination of components and python, we are porting this to a C style plugin for GHB and possibly for VLC…Anyhow, sorry to nerd-out. I have been working on enhancing and automating this whole system for years and its refreshing to see others interested too…

    • @Jeff No need to apologise, that sounds like a very interesting project. I’m sure others will be interested too. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  11. Acidrip and k9copy are programs that are great and Acidrip gives the option of encoding too. They’ve been around for years and are GUI programs.

    • @DiBosco Oh yes I know there are plenty of other DVD ripping programs available on Linux with a GUI, I’ve tried most of them but just found Handbrake an easier to use and well thought out interface. It’s just a personal preference, people should try out different things to find what they like best definitely.

  12. I just use K3b. One click and it creates an ISO image of the disk. Put in a blank disk and it burns an exact copy. Simple, clean, fast.

    • @The Doctor Yes this is a good solution if you want to just duplicate a disc onto another one but my goal was to get the data into a video file I can play on my computer and perhaps even other devices. You’re right though if you want to duplicate a disc this is a good method, thanks 🙂

  13. One thing I would like to add to this discussion is that HandBrake will either be your best friend or worst enemy, depending on what you run it on, if its optimized for that platform and if what your intent or desired usecase is. The reason I say this is that one thing I have noticed over all of the other pure-play rippers is that HandBrake alone *seriously* takes advantage of multiple cores. This means on a decent dualcore box I can get transcoding rates in excess of 250 fps. Now for me, where the point is “get the job done”, this is the best of all worlds. Other rippers all seem to run about about the same rate and tend to use about the same amount of CPU. So if your point is to rip in the back-ground while playing , your experience may be sub-optimal. Personally, I wish OGMRip and the rest used the CPU as fully as HandBrake.

  14. Please, learn some grammer. Your usage of “it’s” is half of the time incorrect. And English is my third language and it is still obvivous!

    • @me I don’t claim to be a language scholar, my advice would be don’t read this if it annoys you. I always check, double check and do everything within my power to get things right but we can’t all be infallible like you. Thanks

  15. ME: It tickles me that in your berating of Dan about using correct grammar, you misspell obvious. It’s obvivous English is your third language. Perhaps you should consider not pointing out others’ errors when you are making some yourself.

    • @De5olate1 Thanks. I accept I make mistakes, nobody is right 100% of the time and anyone who says they are clearly has a problem. No need to start a fight over it though, I suspect this person won’t be back so I don’t want to build this up into anything more than it is. Nothing wrong with constructive criticism, I’m all for that, I just didn’t appreciate the tone. Let’s draw a line under it 🙂

  16. I’ve been trying to rip my DVDs with DVD::Rip, but there always seems to be some kind of horizontal digitalness happening in places throughout the movie (interlacing?). Anyway, although it said I had all the dependencies I couldn’t get Handbrake to work on my Ubuntu 8.04 machine (it said that it needed a dependency that I had). But, it installed flawlessly on my Mint 6 Notebook. Furthermore, the video quality was great. Thank you for the suggestion, Dan.


  17. @Rob Not a problem glad it helped in some way. I wonder why it didn’t work on Hardy? Seems odd. A bug perhaps, maybe a wrong version of a library or dependency, who knows. Thanks for reading 🙂

  18. Dan, Appreciate all the good discussion. I just downloaded Handbrake on my iMac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger.
    I’m ripping my first DVD, and it’s telling me it will take over 7 hours. I suppose I can live with that for overnight rips, but surely that’s not the standard is it?
    Any thoughts?
    Cheers, BBones

    • @BillyBones – Hi, I’m afraid I don’t know much at all about Mac but I could ask some friends. That does sound slow. How long is the DVD? Also, it’s possible that it’s just crap at estimating the time it needs like most programs, quite often they tell you hours then half the number and then half it again in a minute or two. I’m not sure how they make these numbers up. So it may not actually take 7 hours 🙂

  19. Dan, Thanks for the rapid reply. And I now see that you’re the “Linux” guy- didn’t catch that the first time around.
    Just in case there is some Handbrake similarity among OS, I;ll ask…
    Does it matter which output options are selected? I accepted all the default settings (Format: MP4 file), (Codecs: AVC/H.264 Video/AAC Audio), (Framerate FPS: Same as Source 23.976), (Encoder: x264 h,264 Main), (2-pass encoding), (Turbo first pass), (Picture Settings: 716 x 480).

    Not sure what any of that means, but I didn’t change anything for the first test rip.

    Only 3 hrs 46 mins to go!

    Cheers, BBones

  20. @Billy I would guess the quality settings make a difference to the speed of the operation but I don’t know that much about digital video sorry. 7 hrs still seems a long time to me but as I said in the article Handbrake isn’t quick on any system really. It’s simple and does a good job though from my experience. Have to see how it turns out. Good luck!

  21. For anyone running Mandriva Linux, you can get a rpm of a recent svn build of Handbrake (newer than 0.9.3 release) on my website at:


    It’s built on 2008.1 but it should work on 2009 too.

  22. Has anyone used the Mandriva version of Handbrake??? I would really like to know how it is.


  23. Thanks for the article Dan.

    I’ve used OGMRip previously with good results. There weren’t that many rippers around that would do x264 to mkv when I started looking, and I wanted the ability to rip my DVD’s with multiple subtitles. Anyway. The latest OGMRip seems to have stopped playing nice with the latest Mencoder, so I was delighted when your article pointed me at Handbrake, which did the job. Just have to find the ideal profile for playing back on my MythTV box…double framerate for 25fps deinterlaced PAL would be nice…maybe I’ll find it if I keep playing.

    I really like the polite way you handle the bloggers too. The web cold do with more of your sort!


    • @Marius – Thanks, that’s a really nice comment. I do my best. Hope you find the perfect MythTV profile you’re looking for. Maybe you could suggest that to the Handbrake developers. Adding a preset for MythTV to the options. I’m sure other people would use it too. Good luck.

  24. Hi,,,
    I’ve used HandBrake successfully to rip an european DVD (PAL) to both .MKV and .M4V format. The only difficulties I had was getting the French sub-titles. If someone knows how to fix this, kindly advise with an email. Thank you

  25. Handbrake worked GREAT!!! , and I have a Very clean mv4 on my drive, now… how to put it onto a 4.7 size backup dvd disk? Any, non Terminal suggestions would be great!
    Thanks, Later Tater

    • @curtis – For burning DVDs I would recommend Brasero, it’s my favourite burning program. K3b is also very good for video discs, you probably have at least one of those installed already with your distribution. Good luck 🙂

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