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By Harold Bentsen - Last Updated: Contact Author

Review 2020: HandBrake for Video Conversion

What Is HandBrake?

HandBrake can be defined as a free and open source video converter for Windows, Mac and Linux. Its supported media forms range from physical DVDs to Matroska (MKV), Audio Video Interleave (AVI), MPEG-4 Part 14 (MP4), VIDEO_TS and several others. After nearly 17 years since its development (in 2003), Handbrake video converter is still popular. Before we go in deeper, let's recap the basic information first:

  • Current Version: 1.3.1
  • Developer: HandBrake Team (initially Eric 'titer' Petit, and later Rodney Hester and Chris Long for MediaFork project)
  • Operating Systems: Windows 7, 8.1, 10 (64 bit); Mac OS X 10.11 and later, Linux Ubuntu deb, Flatpak
HandBrake Video Converter

If you are new to HandBrake, you may want to know whether HandBrake is the best video converter for your computer, what other people say about it, what the greatest strengths and weaknesses are. All you need to know about this video transcoder will be buttoned down in the following text.

Is HandBrake the Best Video Converter?

You might have read through a wealth of professional reviews before downloading the program. Actually, these points of views are similar and can be concluded into two aspects:

1. HandBrake is more suitable for advanced users than beginners.

2. HandBrake is easier to be used on a Mac computer than Windows.

Natively, HandBrake was not the best video converter for universal users. The reason is obvious. At the very beginning, HandBrake was developed for ripping a movie DVD (for storing on a device) on Mac only. More people used this software for DVD ripping than video conversion in early stage. Anyhow, after various revisions and changes, from beta version to the percent, HandBrake has become mature and has been recommended as a solid choice for free transcoding.


  • - It is totally free and comparatively stable.
  • - It can convert both DVDs and videos to popular formats.
  • - It has vivid options and customizing freedom for professionals.


  • - The supported video formats are limited – only the common ones. For example, it only has three output container formats.
  • - HandBrake does not rip copy-protected DVDs. It does not circumvent copy protection natively. For removing DRM, users have to install the latest version of libdvdcss, in combination with VLC Media Player.
  • - Problems occur from time to time, according to users, such as HandBrake not copies part of movie, does not complete encoding, for example:
"HandBrake took a couple tries to correctly convert a 15-minute video file the first time. It seemed to shut down without finishing, but eventually it worked. That took about 40 minutes to finish converting and encoding." – quoted from CNET.
If you want a video converter that is faster, safer, easier to use and supports more formats, please download VideoProc and give it a try.

How Do I Convert a Video with HandBrake on Windows or on Mac

After downloading and installing the right version on your computer, you can encode your video through the following steps:

Step 1: Insert the source file.

There are three ways to import the source video file to HandBrake:

  • 1. Drag your source file directly to HandBrake.
  • 2. Click on the 'Open Source' option on the top left.
  • 3. Click on 'File' on the topmost and choose 'Open', then you can either click 'file' / 'file folder' or drag the source file directly to the dark area on the right.

Step 2: Choose a container format for output.

On 'Summary', you can choose MP4, MKV or WebM as your output format. You can also choose an option in the Preset area on the right. There are vivid options like 'General', 'Web', 'Device', 'Matroska' and 'Production' that are classified based on encoding speed, quality and usage.

Step 3: Adjust dimension.

Click on the 'Dimensions tab, next to 'Summary' to crop your video or change the width and height.

Step 4: Apply filters if necessary.

The filters are different from that of video editing software. There are 'Detelecine' to improve telecined video, 'Decomb' for deinterlacing, 'Denoise' if your video is grainy, 'Deblock' to remove blockiness supposedly. But not all of them are useful for all situations. You should turn on some filter only when you need it.

Step 5: Adjust detailed video/audio parameters.

You can change video / audio codec, frame rate, and make as many presets as that are provided in HandBrake video converter for adjusting the output quality and file size.

Note: 'Subtitles' and 'Chapters' tabs are more useful when ripping a DVD.

Step 6: Choose a destination folder to save the output file.

After completing all presets, you should click 'Browse' next to 'Save As' to save the output file.

Step 7: Start encoding.

Click 'Start Encode' on the top.

Why Do People Like HandBrake?

You may notice that the domain of HandBrake ends with .fr. But the product has virtually nothing to do with France. HandBrake has users around the world, including India, Iran, Canada, Australia, but 18% come from the United States. Until now, it still has around xxx traffic from the United States. Why does HandBrake have so many users, especially American users? From my personal view, there are 4 possible reasons apart from the product features:

1. People like Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), and HandBrake was created not for money making. Yes, it is totally free.

2. The GUI of HandBrake is in line with the operating habits of people in Europe and the United States. Especially, HandBrake is friendly to Apple Mac; Americans use Mac.

3. Most American people are highly educated and geeky. The technical terms, although not well explained on the GUI of HandBrake, poses no barrier to them. Customizing bit rate, file size, sample rate and so on is also a piece of cake.

4. HandBrake was developed in 2003 when DVDs are still prevailing and there was no other way to get them digitalized (meaning there was bare of competitor). After using for years, users get used to it for both DVD ripping and video conversion.

However, with the decrease of DVD users and the impact of other commercial software, the user base of HandBrake has gradually declined.

What People Don't Like HandBrake:

1. Some features in HandBrake are hidden and are hard to find.

2. The latest version (1.3.1) of HandBrake video converter has no AVI and WMV options or the like as output formats. So if you need to convert MP4 to AVI or WMV, you have to find the other way, such as download or downgrade to the early version or turn to other video converter.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is HandBrake Video Converter Safe?

HandBrake software itself is safe and is not a virus. But back to May 2017, HandBrake Mac users had undergone a bad experience of Trojan attack, with whopping 50% risk rate. The issue was found and the malicious app was removed soon. But on one dare to say there will be no more such risk in future since open OSS is easy to get hacked since its source code is open to anyone.

Even now when you are trying to download HandBrake video converter to your computer that is installed with a sensitive antivirus program, it would prompt you to clean up the downloaded file.

What Are Alternatives to HandBrake?

As said above, HandBrake may not be the No.1 choice for parts of users. For example, beginners may not know how to operate from the get-go, or how to control the hard-to-understand parameters to achieve ideal effect; Windows users have many better options for video format converting. Is there any software similar to HandBrake for Video Conversion?

Yes, indeed. For example,

- Free alternatives to HandBrake, including FFmpeg, MakeMKV and Avidemux.

- Professional alternatives to HandBrake for Windows: VideoProc, WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe,

- Powerful Alternatives to HandBrake for Mac: VideoProc, MacX DVD Ripper Pro, Any Video Converter, Xilisoft Video Converter.

- HandBrake Replacement for Linux: Avidemux, FFmpeg, MEncoder

Among them, the underlying technology of FFmpeg is used for the development of HandBrake; Avidemux is the representative of free HandBrake alternative, and VideoProc is the representative of commercial video file converter for Mac and Windows.

VideoProc has virtually all that HandBrake has. It can help everyone transcode or remux DVDs, videos, audios like a pro, supporting the latest codecs and container formats. It has hundreds of ready-made profiles, delivers 47x real-time conversion speed with Full GPU Acceleration, offers up to 99% compression ratio. What's more, it can edit (cut, merge, crop, rotate, stabilize, remove noise, add effects, etc.), download and record media files as a rich toolbox. Download it to have a try!


Harold Bentsen

Harold Bentsen worked on tech writing in Digiarty Software earlier than anyone else. Now as a senior editor-in-chief and immersed geek, he pursues common progress with his team and expects to share more creative content and open-source information to readers. He on the flipside is a symphony amateur and pretended arts connoisseur who is also trying not to be only a dreaming world traveler.

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