Backup Protected Video DVDs to your Hard Drive for Free

I love collecting nature documentaries and I have a number of them in DVD format. Since they are original DVDs I take real great care when handling them but accidents can happen which may end up with a ruined and unplayable disk. Also, taking DVD’s around when I’m traveling can be cumbersome and it makes me paranoid on the possibilities of losing the discs. To remedy that, I make backup copies/ISO disc images of my DVDs on my hard drive!

Unfortunately, copying a DVD requires more than just a DVD writer. Most video DVDs are encrypted to prevent piracy and to copy those the copy-protection mechanism must be bypassed. To do that we will use a freeware called DVD43. After cracking the encryption on the disk we will create a disk image using another freeware called ImgBurn.

Please do not use this article as a guide to make illegal copies of copyrighted discs. Only make backups of discs that you own.

First you’ll need to get the software. Here’s a rundown on what they are and where to get them.

DVD43 DVD Decrypter

DVD43 is a free on-the-fly DVD decryption application that runs almost transparently in the background. You will need DVD43 to bypass copy-protection and expose the DVD so that ImgBurn can copy it. You may download DVD43 from the links on the official website. Make sure you download the DVD43 app and not the DVD43 Plugin.

Once downloaded, install it and restart your PC when it prompts you to. A successful installation will put a smiley face icon on the system tray on the taskbar like the one in the picture below.

DVD43 is scanning drive

DVD43 system tray icon while scanning a disc


ImgBurn is a freeware CD/DVD/HD-DVD/BD burning application. It’s simple and lightweight – two of the things I really like about it other than the fact that it’s 100% free. You’ll be using ImgBurn to copy a DVD to an ISO disc image which will reside in your hard drive. Download the application from the ImgBurn official website.

A screenshot of ImgBurn

A screenshot of ImgBurn

The installation is pretty straightforward. Just run the installer after downloading and follow the prompts.

Now what?

With the required software installed you’ll now have them to your disposal. When you insert a disc DVD43 will automatically scan it and pop a notification bubble like the image I attached earlier. The system tray icon will change to a green smiley face when scanning is complete.

With scanning done you may start ImgBurn. To create a backup click on the large Create image file from disc button in the ImgBurn window. A message will pop up informing you that the disc has copy-protection in case DVD43 fails to decrypt it. Otherwise, the window content will simply change to something like the image below.

Create Image from Disc

Pick the correct DVD drive from the source drop down list if you have multiple drives then set a destination directory and filename. You can do the latter by clicking on the tiny folder icon which you can find near the center of the window inside the destination box. The text at the left of that icon will reflect the chosen directory and filename. Once that is all set click on the large image button on the lower left. From here you just have to wait until it completes which will be signified by a notification box and some nice music.

A disk image created from a dual layer or DVD9 disk will generally be larger than 8GB in size. A NTFS formatted drive is recommended to store such images. ImgBurn by default will automatically split an image into separate files in case a FAT formatted drive is used. I have written a guide on how to convert a FAT formatted hard drive to NTFS earlier for anyone who might need it. Additionally, an extra image layout file (MDS by default) will be created alongside the disc image.

You may burn your backup to a disc by opening the created ISO or MDS file in ImgBurn. You may simple double-click on the image files to open ImgBurn if the file type is associated with the app. If not you can right click on the file and click on Burn using ImgBurn. You will need a DVD writer and a writable disc with a capacity larger than the disc image size to proceed, of course. There is a way to shrink a dual layer DVD to fit into a smaller DVD5 disc but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Mounting disc images to play them without burning to a disc

A disk image can also be mounted to a virtual drive for those who wish to watch the DVDs on their computer or laptop without the need for burned backups. You’ll need an application like Daemon Tools Lite, Virtual CloneDrive, MagicDisc, Alcohol 52% Free Edition, WinCDEmu, and a few more to make this possible. All of the mentioned software are free. I prefer to use Daemon Tools Lite as it offers support for many image formats.


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