Editor's Note: Some of the products reviewed here allow you to circumvent copy encryptions contained on commercial discs, an act that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) forbids, even for personal use. Top Ten Reviews does not endorse piracy or any other illegal activity. Some consumer advocates are actively seeking exceptions to the act's provision for personal use of copyrighted material purchased by consumers. There's no evidence that any consumer has been prosecuted or sued for circumventing copy protections for personal use.
The top performers in our review are DVD Cloner, the Gold Award winner; Xilisoft DVD Copy, the Silver Award winner; and 123 Copy DVD Gold, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 applications.
Not too long ago, DVD was the king of home entertainment. It quickly dispatched the aging VHS technology. But as the digital age marches on, DVD has been overshadowed by high-definition Blu-ray discs, digital download services like iTunes and Amazon, and streaming content through sites like Netflix. Disc players are quickly being replaced with set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku.
None of these mean that DVD is dead. But, like all technology, one day it will become obsolete. DVDs don’t last forever, either. Discs regularly get scratched, broken and lost, all of which render your DVD unusable. And in a time when physical media is in decline, the day will come when they stop selling DVDs to replace them.
Over the years, you've spent a lot of money on your DVD library. You can use DVD burner software to make new copies of, customize and archive your discs. These programs enable you to extend the life of your DVDs long after the originals have been damaged, destroyed or thrown away.
How It Works
Every DVD movie contains an ISO file. This is a disc's blueprint that contains everything on the DVD, including the movie, bonus features and closed captions. DVD burner software scans this file, copies it onto your hard drive and then burns it onto a new blank disc.
Almost all commercial DVDs are protected with encryptions meant to prevent illegal piracy that don't allow you to burn new copies. The best DVD burners have built-in decryptors that bypass these protections and allow you to burn, archive and customize the movies you already own.
Blank DVDs come in two sizes, DVD-5 and DVD-9. The former has about 5GB of storage and the latter about 9GB. If you want to burn an exact 1:1 copy of your DVD movie, you'll need to use the larger-capacity DVD-9s. This is because DVD-5s don't have enough space to hold all the contents of a commercial movie disc. The best DVD burning software has the ability to compress the contents of a commercial disc to fit onto a DVD-5.
If you choose to burn a commercial disc to onto a DVD-5, you will notice quality loss from the original. All the applications in our side-by-side comparison produced at least some pixelation, compression artifact or other imperfections in the picture of the movie. However, some were much better than others.
There are options to avoid this quality loss and still use the less-expensive blank DVD-9s. The best DVD burning software gives you the ability to burn the contents from a commercial disc onto two separate blank DVDs – one with the main movie and the other with all the bonus features. An average-length movie should fit onto a blank DVD-5 with little to no compression. The best DVD burners allow you to pick and choose exactly what content you want before you burn a new disc.
One of the most useful features of DVD burner software is the ability to save a disc's ISO file to your hard drive. When you have it on your computer, it acts as a virtual disc that you can watch with DVD player software the same way you would a physical DVD. You can also use this file to burn new copies of your DVDs as long as it is on your computer. If you have a large DVD library, it may be worth archiving the ISO files of all your discs so you can use them long after DVDs have lapsed into obsolescence.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of the average consumer. We obtained the programs in our comparison by purchasing each of the products on our side-by-side comparison chart. The manufacturer had no input or influence over our testing methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to manufacturers in advance of publication.
In our review of the DVD burners, we put every product on our lineup through a series of tests to determine which is the best.
Every product on our review had the ability to burn an exact 1:1 copy of our test DVD. When we watched each of the new discs, we found that all the products on our lineup burned flawless copies onto blank DVD-9s.
The big difference between the products was the quality of the compressed copies. All had quality loss, but some had far more pixelation, motion blur and compression artifact. Our video experts assigned each program a letter grade (A-F) based on the quality of the compressed movie's picture.
If you’re burning multiple DVDs, the time it takes each program to complete the process becomes very important. We timed how long it took each program to burn a new disc, from the moment we clicked Start until the moment the disc drive popped out the burned disc. In general, we found that it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to burn a full copy. The best programs took considerably less time.
Ease of Use Test
DVD burning can be a complicated process for the uninitiated. The manufacturers of the products on our lineup understand this and have endeavored to make the process accessible to users of all computer skill levels. We tracked how intuitive each product's interface is to learn and use. We looked at how complicated it is to perform common tasks like beginning a burn, using customization tools and saving an ISO file to your hard drive. We also took into account how many bad discs each product made, which would require you to perform the burn over again.
We found that all the products we reviewed are quite easy to use. Many give you the ability to begin burning a new disc in a single click. Some even put all their features into the interface's main window so you don't have to search the menus for the tool you want to use. There are no products in our review that would be hard for anyone with basic computer skills to learn.
At the end of our evaluation, we concluded that the following DVD burners are the best you can buy.
DVD Cloner – This is not only the fastest DVD burner on our lineup, but it also produces the highest-quality compressed burns. Its dual-mode interface allows you to either begin a burn as quickly as possible or customize and configure your burn before you start. It also has some unique features like the ability to burn the movies from multiple DVDs onto a single Blu-ray disc.
Xilisoft DVD Copy – Like DVD Cloner, this program is quick and burns a high-quality disc. It also makes it simple to copy a disc's ISO file onto your computer for archiving or future burning. It doesn't have all the customization options we look for, but what it does have is useful and accessible to any user.
123 DVD Copy – If you want to burn more than just copies of your DVD movies, this program gives you the tools you need. It’s a full-bodied DVD utility program that not only allows you to burn new discs, but also to build new DVDs from the ground up and convert movies into a video format you can watch on your computer and sync to your mobile devices.
DVD burning software allows you to customize, archive, convert and burn new copies of your DVD movies. All the products on our lineup have simple tools for many or all of these tasks. The largest differences between the products are their abilities to produce high-quality compressed burns and how quickly they make new copies. For more information consult our informative articles about DVD burning software to help you make an informed decision.