Convert Your DVDs and Blu-Rays to MKV

About two months ago I made a major change in my living room. For several years I had used a home theater computer (HTPC) to access all of our ripped DVD’s, music and digital photos. I did not use Windows Media Center for its primary focus, which is watching and recording live TV, so when the PC aged and began to slow down I decided to replace it with a cheaper alternative.

Instead of building a new HTPC I opted for a Google TV box. I got the same functionality I had been using Windows Media Center for thanks to the Plex server and app. However, many of our discs had been ripped as ISO files — a format that Google TV, even using Flex, can not handle. I needed to convert the files and options included MKV, MP4 and AVI. All would work, but I opted for MKV.

MakeMKV

In searching for a file conversion app I stumbled up MakeMKV, which bills itself as a one-click solution to convert video that you own into a free and patents-unencumbered format that can be played everywhere.

Features:

  • Reads DVD and Blu-ray discs
  • Reads Blu-ray discs protected with latest versions of AACS and BD+
  • Preserves all video and audio tracks, including HD audio
  • Preserves chapters information
  • Preserves all meta-information (track language, audio type)
  • Fast conversion – converts as fast as your drive can read data.
  • No additional software is required for conversion or decryption.
  • Available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux
  • Functionality to open DVD discs is free and will always stay free.
  • All features (including Blu-ray decryption and processing) are free during BETA

That last part implies that this software may not remain free, or perhaps will simply have free and Pro versions. Version 1.8.1 of the app is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, including 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the operating system.

Getting Started

The installation is straightforward and the app of “Softpedia Certified”, meaning it contains no spyware, adware or viruses. Once it is installed and opened it will immediately begin searching for optical drive for a disc.

The dropdown menu allows you to select between different optical drives and also recognizes virtual drives such as ones created by CloneDrive and Daemon Tools. Windows 8 also allows for mounting of ISO files as a built-in functionality.

Menus

MakeMKV keeps it simple and, to that end, there are only three items in the menu bar — File, View and Help. Each contains a sparse but useful amount of options.

Files allows you to open a file or access a disc, eject disc, set your output folder and several more options. View contains options for Toolbar, Clear Log and Preferences (more on that in a moment). Finally, Help is self explanatory — access to online help, the About page and a bit more.

Preferences

Preferences is also sparse, but useful The first tab is for video and it simply gives you the option to choose where your output file lands. By default, this is set to “Auto”, but I prefer to choose my own destination, so I changed to “Custom” and browsed to my chosen folder.

The rest of the preferences, while worth exploring, can largely be left alone. Unless you have a pressing need to make a change, then these are all set at their optimum.

The Menu Icon Bar

There are also a few icons across the top bar, just below the menu. These also are simple — the app aims to make everything as easy as possible.

Icons:

  • Open
  • Backup
  • Savel selected items
  • Stream
  • Preferences
  • Eject disc

Ripping a disc

Now that we are familiar with options and settings, let us get down to the business of actually ripping a DVD. After all, that is what the app is for and why you are reading this article.

Since I have Virtual CloneDrive installed, and my discs are already ripped to ISO files, that is method I need to use here. The program is network aware, so even if your files are stored elsewhere, as mine are, you will be fine. Click the file to begin scanning.

Once completed, you will be presented with a very simple menu. In fact, the only option is “Make MKV”. This is not a particularly quick process, but it is not overly long either. File conversion is never an easy task — a two hour movie took approximately 30 minutes.

If you left the destination folder set to default then the program will create a new folder using the name of the file. Not a bad thing, but as I said previously, it is best to create your own.

Alternatives

There are numerous file conversion programs out there — for multi-purpose I find FreeMake works the best. It can convert almost any format into almost any other. There are also several good paid programs, but with the free ones available, I see no need. If you are starting with a DVD or ISO then any ripping program will also work (which is really what MakeMKV is).

The Verdict

MakeMKV worked extremely well with the first two ISO files I threw at it. It was quick, gave no quirky error messages and did the job as it promised.

the program is free (in beta) but for added functionality it seems you will have to pay. That is likely for Blu-Ray and perhaps a few other features. Settings are lite, but in a good way. On the whole, that makes this app a win-win all around. If you can use MKV files — and most systems can (including Windows Media Center if you install Haali Media Splitter) then this is what I would recommend.

 


Summary

Convert DVD's and Blu-Rays to MKV files.

  • MakeMKV 1.8.1  | 
  • Free  | 
  • GuinpinSoft