How to Rip Content from CDs Onto Your Computer (2023)

How to Rip Content from CDs Onto Your Computer (1)

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Compact discs may be less fragile than your old records, but music purists insist CDs can never match the aura of vinyl.

The sounds of nicks and scratches are part of vinyl’s charm. CDs “were never about romance — they were about function,”Rolling Stonecontributing editor Rob Sheffield wrote in January. “They just worked. They were less glamorous than vinyl, less cool, less tactile, less sexy, less magical.”

Yet just asvinyl has been undergoing a renaissancelately, it appears CDs have also hit the comeback trail. Sales of the discs jumped 21 percent in 2021, to $584.2 million, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Sure, that’s just 3.9 percent of total revenues for all recorded music formats, but it’s the first increase for CDs in 17 years. Of course, most music aficionados nowadays get their fix listening through Spotify, Apple Music or anotherstreaming service.

While you may not be buying as much — or any — new music on physical media as you once did, many of you have also proudly held on to your old CD collection. And you still listen to the discs on your prehistoric CD player, though CD-capable players are still available from brands that include Cambridge Audio, Marantz, Onkyo, Panasonic, Sony, Technics and Yamaha. DVD and Blu-ray players also can play standard CDs.

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But you may want to convert the CDs into digital audio files that will let you listen on a PC, Mac, smartphone or in the car. Adding tunes to a digital library means you won’t have to schlep physical CDs. Plus, you’ll have a digital backup should the physical disc get damaged.

You can easily do so by ripping, or copying and importing, the music off a CD onto a computer. It’s legal, provided you own the CD and are ripping it for personal use.

You will need a CD or DVD recorder drive or CD burner if there isn’t one already built into your computer — extremely unlikely unless you use an older machine. Fortunately, external USB CD/DVD drives that’ll do the trick are generally cheap, in some cases a little more than $20 — less than you might pay for two new CD music albums today.

Ripping should not be confused with burning, which refers to copying music or other files onto a blank CD or DVD.

How to Rip Content from CDs Onto Your Computer (3)

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After you have launched the Music app on a Mac, you’ll see this menu. Make sure the General tab is highlighted.

Ripping a CD using a Mac

In the absence of a built-in CD/DVD drive, start by connecting an external drive to the computer. Launch the Music app, and from theMusicmenu on the upper left of the screen choosePreferences.

Make sure theGeneraltab is highlighted. At the bottom of the Preferences window, click theWhen a CD is insertedpop-up menu. You can chooseImport CD, Import CD and EjectorAsk to Import CD.The first option is good if you just want to automatically import the CD, the second if you intend to import a lot of CDs and the third if you want to decide each time. TapOKafter you’ve made your selection.

How to Rip Content from CDs Onto Your Computer (4)

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If multiple titles are found on the internet for your CD after you insert it into the drive, you’ll be asked to confirm which one you want to use.

Now insert the CD you want to rip into the drive. If you selected the Ask to Import CD option, a pop-up asks if you want to import the CD into your music library. On all mainstream albums and many obscure ones, too, the names of the album and individual tracks will be correctly recognized through an online database, though in some cases you may be asked to confirm names if multiple matches are found.

If an album cannot be identified, make sure theAutomatically retrieve CD track names from Internetbox in Music Preferences has been selected. If the contents are still not recognized or if you’re not connected to the internet, you will see generic listings of Track 01, Track 02 and so on. You can manually change track names later.

ClickYesto continue (orNoif you decide to bail).

When you clickYes,the computer begins copying all the tracks that have a check mark next to their name. So if you’d rather live without a song on the album, click the box with the check mark to deselect it.

How to Rip Content from CDs Onto Your Computer (5)

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A a spinning white circle with a red border signifies a track is in the process of being copied; a circled green checkmark signifies a track has been successfully imported.

You’ll see a spinning white circle with a red border while a track is in the process of being copied. A circled green checkmark will appear next to tracks that have been successfully imported.

ClickStop Importingto cancel a job in the middle; any songs already copied will be added to your music library. When you’re finished and all the songs you want have landed in your digital library, click theEjectbutton near the upper right corner of the Music window to automatically remove the CD from the drive. On some CD/DVD drives, you must press a physical button to eject a disc.

Incidentally, you can continue to listen to other tunes in the Music app while a CD is being copied and imported.

It’s also worth noting that after inserting a CD into the drive, you can tap aCD infobutton in the Music app window to discover more about an album, including the artist, composer, genre and year it debuted. You can edit the information to fix errors.

If you click theImport CDbutton in the app window, you can change the format settings dictating how songs are encoded, copied and compressed. Apple goes with a default format called AAC, or Advanced Audio Coding, which the company explains rivals the quality of audio CDs and sounds as good as or better than MP3 files encoded at the same bitrate, referring to the amount of data that goes into the sound files.

In general, the higher the bitrate, the higher theaudio fidelity, which you can change in theImport Settingswindow that pops up. Click on aSettingdrop-down menu, chooseCustomand thenStereo Bit Rate.An alternate method is to go to theMusicpulldown menu up top |Preferences| theFilestab |Import Settingsbutton. Then you canImport Usingone of five options in the resulting menu.

But most of you will be just fine sticking with the defaults.

Ripping a CD using Microsoft Windows

As you would with the Mac, insert a CD into thePC’sbuilt-in or external CD/DVD drive. Launch Windows Media Player, Microsoft’s equivalent to the Apple Music app, if it doesn’t open on its own.

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A a spinning white circle with a red border signifies a track is in the process of being copied; a circled green checkmark signifies a track has been successfully imported.

ClickRip settingsand thenFormatto choose how music files are compressed and stored. You can pickWindows Media AudioorWMA file,WAV file,MP3or another format.

If Windows Media Player wants to play the CD automatically, hover your mouse over the right side of the black bar above the album cover. You’ll find a tinyRip CDicon and aSwitch to Libraryicon. Click on the Rip CD icon, and all will import automatically; the other will give you the options mentioned above and below.

From the same menu, clickAudio Qualityif you want to change the bitrate. And clickRip CD automaticallyif you want the player to kick into action to import music when you load a disk. You can also clickEject CD after rippingif that’s your preference.

How to Rip Content from CDs Onto Your Computer (7)

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You will see “Ripped to library” after a track has been copied to your PC, “Ripping” with a percentage shown in parentheses when a track is still being copied or “Pending” for tracks not yet touched.

If you’re satisfied with such settings, clickRip CDat the top of the window to begin ripping a disk. ClickStop ripto pause the operation. Windows Media Player also has boxes similar to the Mac Music app that you can uncheck to leave a song out of your new digital collection.

Keep an eye on the rip status as the files are being copied: You will see Ripped to library after a track has been copied; Ripping with a percentage shown in parentheses when a track is still being copied; or Pending for tracks not yet touched. As with the Mac Music app, most album names, artists and tracks will be recognized by an online database.

Ripped files are copied to the Music folder on your computer unless you change the location by clickingRip settings,thenMore optionsand then adding a new file path under Rip music to this location.

One key footnote for people on the new Windows 11 operating system: Microsoft last month rolled out a redesigned Media Player app that currently doesn’t let you rip CDs, though the company is testing CD functions in Windows 11. Thus, you must rely on the legacy Windows Media Player to digitize your CD collection. To find it, click theStarticon, tapAll appsand scroll down toWindows Tools,where it lives.

You may still want to hang on to your old CDs. But digitizing them provides a more portable alternative if you want to transfer some of your music collection to your smartphone so you canlisten while exercisingor traveling.

New life for old media that you have around the house

Got a box of home movies on VHS tapes? Or a bunch of family photos on an old floppy disk? In our constantly evolving digital world, it’s a good idea to get that ancient media transferred to modern formats. You already have the instructions to transfer your CDs. Here’s the path to save the rest of those memories and that important data.

What you haveWhat you needWhat you’ll get
Printed photosScannerJPG digital photos on your computer or stored in the cloud
LPsTurntable + USB cable (and maybe an adapter) + computer + audio softwareMP3s or high-quality WAV, AIFF or FLAC files to play on your computer or phone
Cassette tapesCassette player + USB cable (and maybe an adapter) + computer + audio softwareMP3s
VideotapesUSB video converter + computerDigital video files in MP4, AVI or WMV format to play on your computer
DVDsComputer + DVD drive + video softwareDigital files in MKV or MP4 format
Floppy discsExternal floppy disk reader (and maybe an adapter) + computerNew files on your computer hard drive
Source: AARP research

— Chris Morris

Edward C. Baig is a contributing writer who covers technology and other consumer topics. He previously worked forUSA Today, BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World ReportandFortuneand is the author ofMacs for Dummiesand the coauthor ofiPhone for DummiesandiPad for Dummies.

Chris Morris is a contributing writer who covers technology and video gaming. He previously was an editor at CNN Money and Yahoo! Finance. His work also appears inFortune,on Nasdaq.com and on CNBC.

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