Understanding Ripping and Burning CDs in iTunes

CD being inserted into a laptop

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Not as many people use CDs these days as did when iTunes was first introduced, but from nearly its very beginning, there have been two CD-related features at the heart of what iTunes can do: ripping and burning. These terms are related to each other: the first is about getting music into iTunes, the second about getting it out. Read on to learn more detail about each of these things and how to do them.

Ripping CDs Explained

This is the term used to describe the process of importing songs from CDs onto a computer, in this case, specifically into iTunes.

Songs are stored on CDs as high-quality, uncompressed files to deliver the best possible sound quality (digitally at least; audiophiles contend that music on CD never sounds as good as it did on vinyl records). Songs in this format take up a lot of storage space. That's why most CDs only have 70-80 minutes of music (or 600-700 MB of data) on them. Storing music files that large on a computer or iPod or iPhone wouldn't be practical, though. As a result, when users rip CDs, they convert the files to lower-quality versions.

Songs on CDs are generally converted to the MP3 or AAC audio formats when "ripped." These formats create smaller files that have slightly lower-quality sound. The trade off is that they take up only about 10% of the size of a CD-quality file. That is to say, a song on a CD that takes up 100 MB would result in a roughly 10 MB MP3 or AAC. That's why it's possible to easily store hundreds or thousands of CDs on an iPhone or iPod.

Some CDs use digital rights management, or DRM, which can prevent them from being ripped. This is designed to stop the contents of the CD from being pirated or shared online. This practice is less common today than it was in the early days of MP3s and MP3 players.

Example:
If you transferred a CD to your iTunes library, you would say that you ripped that CD.

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Burning CDs Explained

Burning is the term used to describe creating your own CD or DVD using your computer, in this case using iTunes.

Burning allows you to create your own music, data, photo, or video CDs or DVDs using files on your computer. While there are many programs used to burn discs, iTunes and Mac OS X's Finder program both have burning features built in. On Windows, you can use iTunes or any number of third-party programs to burn CDs or DVDs.

For instance, if you want to make a mix CD that contains songs from a number of different CDs, you'd create the playlist for this CD in iTunes or a similar program, and then insert a blank CD or DVD and record the songs onto the disc. The process of recording those songs to CD is called burning.

Example:
If you recorded your own custom mix CD with your computer, you would say that you burned that CD (though the term applies to all kinds of CDs or DVDs you make, not just music).

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