MakeMKV review

Screenshot of MakeMKV on Windows 10

If you want to make backups of your DVDs or Blu-Ray discs, or watch them on a device without an optical drive, then MakeMKV is a tool that you should consider.

MakeMKV takes the content of your DVDs, and creates a Matroska (.mkv) file that can be read by many media players, including the likes of VLC, Plex and more recent versions of Windows Media Player. Matroska is a very forgiving container format that can accommodate just about any video and audio codec, and has excellent support for subtitles.

What sets MakeMKV apart from tools such as Handbrake is that there’s minimal transcoding. That means that the MKV file will match the quality of the original source, with the same aspect ratio. Handbrake will typically transcode the video into another format and offer to up-scale the video to HD. This will probably result in a smaller file, as newer video formats are more efficient, but every time you transcode a file using a lossy compression algorithm, you lose some of the quality. It also takes longer to convert files using Handbrake because of the transcoding.

The files created by MakeMKV will include subtitles, where these are provided on the original disc, and they’re not ‘burnt in’ so can be enabled or disabled by playback devices. Chapters are also retained.

Overall, it’s easy to use, and doesn’t offer the dizzying array of options that Handbrake offers.

Currently, MakeMKV is beta software, and has been for over a decade – this may explain the rather dated-looking web site. It is shareware, albeit free to use whilst in beta. However, if a final release is ever made, expect to be asked to pay for it. If you want, you can buy it now for $60 (currently £54.25 including VAT).

Be aware that it’s currently illegal to copy DVDs in the UK, even for your own personal use.

Media Player Classic

A screenshot of Media Player Classic on Windows XP

This post was originally written in 2004; I’d now recommend using MPC-HC, an improved fork of Media Player Classic.

Does this program look familiar to you? It may well do, because it’s rewrite of Windows Media Player 6, except it’s open source and released under the GNU GPL, and doesn’t have the annoyances of MS’s original. The interface is similar but a little more up-to-date and XP friendly, and comes with some more advanced features.

But probably the best thing about this player is the range of formats it supports. It’ll play just about anything you throw at it, whether it’s an MP3, an Ogg, a WMA, even a QuickTime file. And with Real Alternative (which Media Player Classic is bundled with), you can add RealMedia files to that list, negating the need for RealOne Player, which has to be enough reason to download it in itself.

You can also (probably) ditch QuickTime while you’re at it, since MPC doesn’t take an age to load, doesn’t annoy you with an ‘Upgrade to QuickTime Pro’ popup and lets you view movies in full screen. Unless you have iTunes installed in which case you’ll need to keep it.

Media Player Classic is available on its own from SourceForge but I’d recommend also installing Real Alternative and then deleting RealOne Player, since you won’t want to use it anymore. Anil found Real Alternative about the same time as me, and came to similar conclusions, so you needn’t just take my word for it.