How to Make Your Own CDs With iTunes

Illustrations of burned CDs

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These days, our iPhones or other mobile devices are where our music libraries live. Having instant access to thousands of songs literally in your pocket is pretty much the best way ever to enjoy your favorite music.

But what if you want to create a custom collection of songs to share with other people? Sure, a shared playlist is nice, but that can require the person you're sharing the playlist with to subscribe to Apple Music or Spotify. No, sometimes you still have to do things the old-fashioned way. Sometimes, you just need to burn a CD.

Despite all of the things it can do, the iPhone can't burn a CD for you. But iTunes can. In fact, creating your own custom CDs using iTunes is pretty simple. 

Instructions in this article apply to iTunes v. 12.8 and higher.

Create a Playlist to Burn to CD

To burn a CD in iTunes, begin by creating a playlist. The exact steps for creating a playlist depends upon what version of iTunes you're using, but all recent versions generally follow something like these steps:

  1. Select the File menu.

    The iTunes interface in Windows.
  2. Select New.

    Selecting New in the File menu in iTunes.
  3. Select Playlist.

    Selecting new playlist in iTunes.
  4. The new playlist appears in the left-hand column of iTunes. Begin typing to give it name, then press Enter to save the name.

    Renaming a newly created playlist in iTunes.

You can burn a song to CD an unlimited number of times. You are limited, however, to burning 5 CDs using the same playlist. After 5, you need to make a new playlist to burn more CDs. Additionally, you can only burn songs that are authorized to play through your iTunes account.

Add Songs to the Playlist

Once you've created the playlist, you need to add music to the playlist and put it in the order you want it to be on the CD by following these steps:

  1. Add songs to the playlist. There are two ways to do this. Begin by navigating through your music library to find the song you want to add. Then, either drag and drop the songs onto the playlist in the left-hand column, or select ... next to the songs as your mouse hovers over it, then select Add to Playlist > New Playlist or the name of a playlist listed.

    Adding songs to a playlist in iTunes.
  2. Once you've added all the songs you want to the playlist, you need to put the songs in the order you want them on the CD. The simplest way to do this is just to drag and drop the songs into the order you want.  

    Re-ordering songs in iTunes playlist.
  3. If you want iTunes to do some sorting for you, though, there are some options. Select View > Sort By. Sorting options are as follows:

  • Playlist Order: The drag-and-drop order from Step 2.
  • Name: Alphabetical by song name.
  • Genre: Alphabetical by genre name, grouping songs from the same genre together alphabetically by genre.
  • Year: Groups songs by the year they were released.
  • Artist: Alphabetical by artist name, grouping songs by the same artist together.
  • Album: Alphabetical by album name, grouping songs from the same album together.
  • Time: Songs arranged longest to shortest, or vice versa.
  • If you sort using one of these options, you can also choose to view the sorted playlist in Ascending or Descending order.
Sorting options for playlists in iTunes.

Insert a Blank CD and Choose Burn Settings

Once you have the playlist in the order you want, follow these steps:

  1. Insert a blank CD into your computer.

    Notification of blank CD insertion.
  2. After the CD loads, select File > Burn Playlist to Disc.

    Selecting to burn a playlist to a CD.
  3. In iTunes 11 or later, a pop-up window will ask you to confirm the settings you want to use when burning your CD. Those settings are:

    • Preferred Speed: This controls how quickly iTunes creates your CD. In most cases, you'll want Maximum Possible.
    • Disc Format: To make a CD that can be played in stereos, cars, and other standard CD players, choose Audio CD. To burn a disc of the MP3s of the songs so they can be transferred to another computer, but can only be played in CD players that support MP3 CDs, choose MP3 CD. To create a CD or DVD that stores only data and is only used in a computer, choose Data CD or DVD.
    • Gap Between Songs: If you choose Audio CD, you can control how much silence there is between each song. Some CDs are designed to be listened to without the short gaps of silence between songs. These "gapless" CDs are often used for classical music and concert recordings, among others. 
    • Use Sound Check: The Sound Check feature of iTunes checks all of the songs on your playlist and tries to adjust them to equal volume (not all songs are recorded at the same volume).
    • Include CD Text: Some CD players, especially in cars, can display the song title or artist name for the song that's playing. If you have one of those CD players and want this information to appear when the CD is playing, check this box.
    CD burning options.
  4. When you've selected all of your settings, click Burn.

    Getting ready to burn a CD in iTunes.
  5. At this point, iTunes will begin to burn the CD. The display at the top center of the iTunes window will display the progress.

  6. When it's complete and your CD is ready, iTunes will alert you with a noise.

Now you've got your own custom-made CD. You can listen to it using iTunes to make sure it came out how you wanted and then it's ready to give away, use in your car, or do whatever else you'd like.