Ripping a DVD – how hard could that be? Must be just like ripping a music CD! That was my impression when decided to try it out! However, once I tried out many of the instructions that come up in a Google search, I realized that it was not such an easy piece of cake. Because because I was running Windows 7 and most of the how-to's were written with Windows XP in mind. So I explored several options, and finally found success – using software that is available freely on the internet.

These are the steps that finally worked.

1) DECRYPTING: DVD43 works like a charm. The program has been consistently available for a while now – just by searching its name. Once installed, it sits in the windows system tray as a yellow smiley. When an encrypted DVD is loaded, it starts working and turns green when its ready. It even reads region incompatible DVDs. (Note: This step is not needed for un-encrypted DVDs.)

2) COPYING THE DVD FILES: It is probably better to copy the DVD Video files, contained in the VIDEO_TS folder, to a hard disk, rather than ripping directly. This is because ripping could take a long time and cause the drive to spin continuously for hours – which may not be a good thing.

3) CONVERTING TO AVI (Xvid / DivX): The key step. After trying various options, the one that worked best for me was AutoGK. It is availalble from various sources, and you can get it by searching for its name on any search engine. Download and install the latest version.

The program has a simple interface. You need to select the IFO file from the VIDEO_TS folder that corresponds to the main program / movie on the DVD as the input. This is easy as this IFO file will have the maximum number of corresponding VOB files. Then, select the appropriate audio track and subtitle track (optional).

It is better to specify the "output size" rather than "target quality". This leads to a 2-pass encoding, which gives better quality. A standard length movie should compress well to a size of 1-2 CDs (700-1400MB). Homing on the ideal size – based on the length and quality of the DVD – will get better with a little practice!

You may also fiddle around with the advanced settings. A detailed online tutorial is available at the AutoGK site.

Finally, hit "Add to Job" and "Start". You will soon have your own own ripped AVI file. Enjoy!