There are two basic ways to copy your movies for backup purposes: you can buy a package to clone your movies directly to a second DVD, or you can go through a process of rip – save to hard drive – burn to DVD that generally takes longer.
The cloning process is limited. You'll only be able to copy your movie exactly as it is on the original DVD. However, it's generally more reliable and allows you to retain the original menu structure of your DVD.
If you go through the ripping process instead, you can find freeware downloads to rip for you, and then use Windows XP processes to burn your movie to your own DVD recorder. Legal Issues
For obvious reasons, Hollywood is nervous about movie copying. And for years after the first DVD burners came out, they tried to stop movie copying by encrypting DVDs with military-quality encryption. It didn't work. Hackers broke the encryption as fast as they put it together.
Next, they tried to make it illegal to copy movies. In some countries and some states, they succeeded. But overall, the courts decided the same way they've decided in myriad other media cases: if you own the music or movie, you have a right to make copies for your personal use. Of course, if you sell copied movies, that's video piracy and punishable in all kinds of ways.
Hollywood seems to have stopped trying to encrypt movies to make them uncopyable, but you'll still need modern DVD burners and a current version of a DVD ripper or cloner in order to make your own copies. Older versions will not work with many new movies. Equipment:
Make sure your DVD-RW or DVD+RW drive has the appropriate type of media to record to. DVD-RAM, an older DVD format, won't create DVDs that play in a standard DVD player, so if that's what you have you will want to consider upgrading. Older DVD players may have problems with certain formats as well, so if you have an older player, test your first movie before copying your library. Again, consider upgrading if there's an issue.
Even though your DVD burner has played DVDs perfectly for years, to burn you should be certain you have drivers compatible with Windows XP. There's nothing more frustrating than getting to the end of a burn and, after hours of waiting, find that your DVD won't close out the files properly because of a driver issue. Check online for the right drivers, or reinstall to Windows and let Windows XP choose the right ones. Cloning Your DVD
This is the easy part. Run your DVD cloning program, with your DVD in the player slot and your DVD to be burned to in the burner slot. If you don't have a dual DVD system, start with your DVD to copy from. You should be able to easily follow the directions of your clone program to finish this out. Ripping A DVD
This is the harder method, but often works with DVDs that won't clone. Find a recent DVD ripping program compatible with Windows XP, and save the files to your hard drive. You really need the space on your computer to save these; you want to rip and burn in two different steps.
Alternately, if you have the right A/V connections on your computer, you can record movies on your computer directly from cable or HDTV, and then transfer them to DVD later. Decrypting Your Movie Files
Most movie files today are encrypted with CSS encryption. If you have a ripping process that seems, well, really easy, you'll probably need to decrypt the files before burning them, or they won't work properly. You should be able to find a freeware DVD decrypter; just search Google for exactly that term. Burning A DVD
Though Windows XP does offer support for CD burning, you'll have to go through more than a drag-and-drop process to burn a DVD file. Make sure your movie is saved in DVI-AV (NTSC) file format; to check, open Movie Maker and your file, then click File | Save Movie. For movies that will be played in Europe or a European-make DVD player, select PAL instead. Fill in your display information as well, if nothing comes up; this will be useful later in your DVD menus.
Now import your movie to your DVD burner program, the one that came with your DVD burner. If you're not sure what the program is, look for Ulead or Sonic DVDit, or possibly neoDVD. From here, burn your first DVD. Remember that burning DVDs is a task with a steeper-than-usual learning curve, so your first one may have some problems. You should also make sure to give plenty of time for the DVD to burn; though today's burners are faster than the original ones, they will still take some time to burn your video.
In addition, you'll probably find that the original contents of the DVD are too extensive to fit on a single DVD. Remove optional things, like special features. Check to see if your movie had both a wide screen and standard version, and record only one. The more files you can eliminate on your original DVD, the more compact your resulting DVD will be.
And now, practice. Experiment with your DVD burning programs to see what you want to do. You may be able to make your own menu options, incorporate fresh images on the menu background, or even include your own movies on the DVD. Playing around will enable you to personalize your DVDs until they do what you want them to do.
Free DVD utilities you may need.