Sometimes companies can get blindspots for a specific technology. With Apple, that blindspot is Blu-ray. They’ve never truly taken the format seriously, largely because it’s bound to physical discs that Apple dismisses as archaic and pointless. In fact, you can’t play Blu-ray discs on macOS by default.
As a result, you’ll need to download third-party software to playback Blu-ray discs on your Mac. Fortunately, there are excellent, open-source options available. We will use VLC in this guide, which is frequently ranked as the best free video player. Other options also exist on the free and paid spectrum, like Elmedia.
Of course, the option also exists for ripping a Blu-ray to your hard drive and converting the digital video files to a usable format. If that’s appealing, you can learn how to rip discs to your Mac and convert video files on macOS in this article.
Enabling Blu-ray Playback in VLC
Once you have VLC 3.0 or greater installed, you’ll need to install the necessary keys. These cryptographic keys allow VLC to decrypt the Bluray stream and play back the codec from the disc.
You can visit http://vlc-bluray.whoknowsmy.name/ to download the necessary keys and AACS dynamic library. Both files are required for playing Blu-ray discs on macOS directly from the disk. Without these files, you won’t be able to decode the data streams and play back the Blu-ray discs with VLC.
To download the necessary accessory files for VLC, first click on the “Get This File” link below the “Keys” header, as indicated below. Then click on the link for the macOS AACS dynamic library, as indicated below.
Once downloaded, you’ll need to move the files to the correct location on your hard drive. Both files must be moved manually from the Downloads directory to the specified file path. If they’re not in the correct location, VLC won’t be able to discover the files and the playback won’t work.
Move the downloaded file, named “KEYDB.cfg,” to the file path “~/Library/Preferences/aacs/.”
If the directory does not already exist, create it and place the KEYDB.cfg file inside.
Move the AACS file, named “libaacs.dylib,” to the file path “/usr/local/lib/.”
If the directory does not exist, you should create it and place the “libaacs.dylib” file inside.
Restart VLC, then choose “File -> Open Disc” and choose the Blu-ray disc from the dialogue box. Playback should proceed normally.
If you still own Blu-ray discs, with the above steps you will be able to play Blu-rays on macOS. In fairness to Apple and VLC, Blu-ray is a somewhat dated format. Requiring specialized hardware is a very 2012-style limitation, and the media market is growing beyond physical media. Whether you appreciate the change or find it abhorrent, digital assets are becoming more and more the norm for large segments of the entertainment-consuming masses of the United States and beyond.
Handbrake is a great tool for converting your collection of Blu-ray discs to digital files that can be easily backed up, converted, and consumed. It does technically violate the license in the United States, but it’s certainly a grey area morally and unlikely to cause any major trouble when you get to the pearly gates. Pay for your movies, then use them the way you like, that’s how most folks see the problem.