digital library
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With media content such as movies and music surging ahead in its availability in digital formats, the time to convert those old DVDs and CDs to your own digital library has never been better. Before you begin creating your very own Pandora’s Box of digitally enhanced wonder, there are a few things you should consider.

The Red Tape

First and foremost, some legal stuff. It may come as a surprise to some, but ripping the content from a CD or DVD (or ebook) and making a copy can be illegal.  However you can rip a CD if you own the original copy but you are limited to one copy.  You can also transfer digital music files to an MP3 player but only if you own the original CD.  You can never rip or copy CDs you have borrowed from friends.

This creates a certain complication for the creation of our dream digital library. Not that we aren’t happy to abide by the laws of the land (obviously), but the law doesn’t entirely apply to our personal usage. A largley symbolic piece of legislation, as long as you’re not uploading the resulting files to torrent sharing sites, or selling dodgy copies on to the street, the police aren’t going to be kicking your door through anytime soon. As such, we shall plough on ahead with the creation of our digital archive, well aware of the confusing legalities that surround it.

Get yourself some storage

One thing us digital media lovers can prosper from is the ever enhancing world of storage. The greater size and increased value of today’s external hard drives are making the process of cramming all our content onto them a doddle.


hard driveBefore you go investing in the appropriate piece of hardware, you need to consider how much room you’ll need. For that, you need some guidelines to file sizes. The size of various forms of media is not an exact science, but using the rough guide below, you can get a gauge of how much room your music, films and TV shows will be taking up.

Media Format File Size
Music Album 80-120MB
TV episode (45 minutes) 200MB
TV episode HD (45 minutes) 600MB
DVD Movie 750MB-1GB
Blu-ray Movie HD 4-6GB


Obviously, the size of files can vary greatly depending on the length and resolution quality of the content on board the disc. Given the competitive pricing on external drives today, it’s always better to go big and leave room for expansion. A 1TB hard drive, with the capability to store in excess of 150 Blu-Ray movies, is pretty much the entry level for creating a digital library. Starting from less than £50, a terabyte of storage will be more than enough for those of us mainly concerned with a musical back catalogue.

Consider the Cloud

An alternative method for storing your entertainment powerhouse is in the cloud. A number of tech’s biggest companies are throwing a greater amount of resources behind the concept, and it certainly holds a few key advantages over its rival, the external hard drive.

Quickly scouting around the various cloud storage services on the market, 1TB of storage online will set you back about £6 a month. For that, you can upload all your content (providing the file size doesn’t exceed the maximum limit per file) and access it via platforms such as your smartphone and tablet. The choice then, comes down to the increased portability of cloud storage, but at greater long term cost, or the external hard drive, which can of course can also be accessed when offline.

You could of course, invest in some Network Attached Storage (NAS). Utilising both a hard drive and the cloud, NAS is essentially you’re own personal cloud. A NAS will offer greater (and upgradeable) capacity, but greatly increases the cost.


cloud storage

Let it Rip

To get the meat of a DVD or CD’s content onto your computer, you’ll need to rip it straight from the disc. There are many, totally free, ways in which this can be done. CDs for example, are pretty easy. Media playing programmes such as iTunes and Windows Media Player have the inbuilt capability to rip the content of your favourite albums onto your system.

Due largely to the legal constraints of DVD ripping, these media programmes shy away from transferring movies from discs to digital. Indeed, movie distributors go to great lengths to halt your attempts at digitalising their creations. A number of sites, such as Ultraviolet, provide you with a digital copy of a recently purchased Blu-ray movie.

To truly liberate your content however, you’ll need one of the many free video converters available online. For all your DVD needs, Handbrake is the best place to start. Using Handbrake, you can convert content to a number of platforms in a resolution and frame rate entirely of your choosing. Protected Blu-ray ripping can be a little more complicated however (look online for pointers).

cd rippingGet Physical

Despite the impracticalities that storing countless DVDs and CDs can bring, it’s still arguably the most cost effective means of getting hold of content. Sure, the latest DVD releases are a little heavy when first released, but the second hand market is perfect for picking up a physical copy of your favourite films and albums.

Renting and buying movies online through services such as Amazon Prime and iTunes is a costly process. To make matters worse, they often limit you to watching them via their tailored websites or software. Similarly, online music downloads are wildly overpriced, and often hunting down a second hand CD and ripping it to your MP3 player is a more cost effective, if less practical, method. Owning the physically copy itself also opens up the freedom to rip your content to whatever device you choose.

If signing up for subscription services such as Netflix and Spotify isn’t your bag, plunge into the second hand market and rip your DVD, Blu-ray and CD collection to an external hard drive for the ultimate digital entertainment back-catalogue.

For all your storage needs, check out the extensive range of devices at


* Prices correct at time of posting.


  1. That’s all very interesting, but if you listen to a wide spread of musical genres the burning question is :- What cataloguing software is the best?
    This matters because with no physical record or cd cover available finding, and sometimes even just remembering, the location of a piece of music gets problematic.
    Anyone have any recommendations?

  2. @Roger I used to be OCD with sorting and renaming all my music exactly how i wanted it and i know i used to use MediaMonkey for all my needs, by far the best out there imho.

  3. I use s program called tag and rename to sort my mp3/mp4 out. And ezcd extractor to rip cds.

  4. As far as I know Handbrake won’t convert DVD unless you have already removed the copy protection using a different program. Once the copy protection is removed, Handbrake also does a good job of converting blu-ray.

  5. Use MAKEMKV to decrypt and then I use Freemake to convert DVD discs to MP4 For file size and compatibility across all devices. I don’t deal in Blu-Rays yet so don’t know about them too much.

  6. @Roger Banks if you can invest a small sum in a desktop PC to use as a media server/HTPC I would seriously consider Plex. I bought an Acer Revo One for £250 and use it as a media server and I can access my content anywhere either via Plex website, android apps, iPhone apps, play station etc etc


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