The problem: a big collection (about 100 DVDs) of old home videos which have been burned to DVDs. Some of them are already damaged and are barely playable (often depending on the used DVD player).

Now they should get backed up to an external hard drive for future use.

The way i see it there are basically two options:

  • Creating .iso images (or similar image formats)
  • Ripping the video contents (with software like DvdShrink or similar)

Iso images may be more difficult to play from the hard drive when backed up, although i think VLC media player for example can handle DVD iso images just fine.

When ripping the video, doesn't this introduce additional errors (because of the decoding/encoding)? In this case it is probably not significant enough because of the already quite poor video quality.

To make this clear: these are home videos, so there is no copy protection or anything in that area, however some of them don't play back very well on certain DVD players.

My question is: What would be the better way to go in this case? If the material/DVDs are already partly damaged does one of these methods work better? Which method is better for creating new copies in the future?

I know that similar questions already exist such as this, however because of the nature of the source material and the different possibilities, i think my question is a different one.

  • When you decide to backup to .iso images and you use a player not supporting those, you can always mount the images and directly access the content. It works with every player.
    – Marco
    May 4, 2012 at 16:16

3 Answers 3


I would first start by doing the easiest thing, and storing the exact byte-for-byte copy of the discs on your hard drive in .ISO format. There are various software tools that can do this for you, although you will want to find software that can handle any read errors gracefully.

Personally, I would archive all of the media using the H.264 codec, and store the files in .MKV containers. This will allow you to store the DVDs at very high quality, while maintaining a decent file size. Furthermore, the .MKV container allows for you to setup chapters in the video stream, and you can also find tools to convert DVD chapter formats to the MKV-style chapters.

When ripping the video, doesn't this introduce additional errors (because of the decoding/encoding)?

It depends on the condition of the storage media, and what you do with the files afterwards. Most commonly, you might find a few bit errors in the source media. These can be ignored, at the expense of visual artifacts.

You could try to overcome this with software tools that support attempts to read bad sectors off of the media, but in most cases, there's not much you can do except ignore the error (it shouldn't make a huge difference when dealing with video streams). If the actual MPEG transport stream itself has been corrupted, there are software tools to rebuild/fix the stream headers.

You will also incur a slight loss in quality if you choose to re-encode the stream, although this is arguably negligible depending on the codec, encoder quality, number of passes, and bit-rate. If selected appropriately, this should not visually or audibly affect the video stream in any way.

  • Any tips regarding a good (preferably free) software that creates ISO images and can cope well with errors. I have used ImgBurn before, has anybody had better experiences with other tools?
    – NoUsername
    May 4, 2012 at 16:21
  • @NoUsername I would argue that ImgBurn is one of the best tools out there for this type of job (and you can't beat the price :). To actually encode everything, you might want to consider MeGUI, but again, there's a ton of alternatives for this type of job. May 4, 2012 at 16:23

ISO Images being self contained sounds like a much easier to handle task if and only if VLC really supports that. Otherwise it'll be hard to simply watch one of those videos, let alone sharing them, et cetera.

Ripping DVDs with video encoders like XviD or x264 will always result in information loss over the original. You will get smaller files though, but I would suggest going for a decent enough bit rate or quality setting.

The choice is up to you. If you have enough disk space and ISOs are easy to watch, then go for this. Re-encoding a DVD takes time, and it's faster to just image the disc.


If you're in the United States of America there is no legal way to back up your DVD collection. Just a heads up, using any software to "rip" or "backup" or "convert" any media that is DVD or newer is a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) as you are breaking copy-protection seals. This is the price you pay for allowing such legislation into the situation.

If you're in Canada I recommend ripping DVD's to ISO's as you then get all the menus and goodies. It effectively puts it into a lossless state too!

If you're in the UK, I'm sorry to hear that.

If you're in other parts of Europe, I'm not sure about your laws, but if they allow it, follow the ISO bit.

The rest of the world probably doesn't have anything like the DMCA, feel free to rip to ISO.

(for the nerdy, I mean ISO9660 OF COURSE)

  • 8
    "a big collection (about 100 DVDs) of old home videos"... I think he's perfectly entitled to copy his own original creations, regardless of where he lives. May 4, 2012 at 16:01
  • @Breakthrough this is accurate.
    – BloodyIron
    May 4, 2012 at 16:03

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