RealDVD lets you take your DVDs with you

New software from Real allows you to legally save your DVD collection to your hard drive--but with a major caveat.

The advantages to digitizing your DVD collection are clear: Once you've loaded your discs to a hard drive, you'll no longer have to fumble around with easily scratched discs. And it's far more convenient to put a bunch of movies on a laptop so you can have your entertainment library with you at all times. With the announcement of a new software program, RealDVD, Real Networks is providing the first mainstream means of legally transferring DVDs to a hard drive--with extras. The new $US40 software is the first application to enable individuals to save DVDs on a PC hard drive without breaking copyright laws.

This isn't to say "ripping" DVDs hasn't been happening for years now: Plenty of software utilities that strip away a DVD's copy-protection scheme have made the rounds. But stripping away the copy-protection violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and has caused issues in the past.

RealDVD gets around this by actually preserving the copy-protection on a disc and copying a DVD's contents exactly as they are structured on the DVD itself to the hard drive. For the time being, RealDVD supports only regular DVDs--there is no Blu-ray support--and each DVD uses about 5- to 9GB of disk space (the space varies, depending upon the disc's contents), so you will need a fairly large hard drive to save more than a handful of DVDs.

RealDVD is scheduled to be available for download from Real's Web site within the month. Fees are $40 for the first activated PC and $20 for each additional activated PC, which strikes me as a little expensive. RealDVD runs on Windows XP and Vista; a Mac version is in the works. We reviewed a late beta version of the software.

Saving a DVD is simple: launch RealDVD, insert a DVD into your computer's DVD drive, and press Save. RealDVD does the rest. The time it takes to save a DVD varies depending on the DVD drive's speed, ranging from as little as ten minutes to nearly an hour. My test notebook took roughly 35 minutes to save a typical movie DVD. You can begin playing the movie while it is being saved, in case you're feeling a little impatient.

RealDVD downloads information about each DVD from Gracenote, including cover art, a synopsis, and cast information. You can view DVDs by genre, MPAA rating, cast members, and director; so you can view only comedy films, for example, but you can't narrow it down to, say, comedy films with a PG-13 rating and starring Christopher Walken. Additionally, RealDVD includes parental controls so you can limit which DVDs can be played back on your PC based on the MPAA rating.

As enticing--and long-overdue--as all of this sounds, RealDVD carries one notable caveat: DVDs transferred to a hard drive are locked down to the specific drive you save them to. This means you can't save a DVD to your desktop's hard drive, and then copy that saved file onto your laptop's hard drive to watch on a business trip, for example. It also means that if you're using two or more hard drives striped together in a RAID configuration, and one of those drives fails, you'll lose your digitized DVD collection--a collection that will take some time recreate.

And the biggest reality of this gotcha: You cannot copy DVD titles onto another hard drive, even for backup purposes. This omission severely limits the usefulness of an otherwise well-done application. Providing a mechanism to easily back up and restore saved DVDs would, at the least, go a long way toward improving this situation. You can store DVDs across multiple external hard drives, and attach that drive to any RealDVD-activated machine, but this ability doesn't address the initial concern.

The bottom line? RealDVD is an interesting product; the idea behind it is great, and for the most part it is well-executed. But its strict copy-protection scheme dampens my enthusiasm.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nick Mediati

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?