If you haven’t ripped your music CDs to audio files on your computer yet because you don’t know how to, this will help you. All it takes is a CD drive and your time. When you’re done, your physical music collection will become your digital music collection.
You can listen to that music on your computer or copy it over to your smartphone. There are even many free services that will let you store that music online and stream it from anywhere.
Choose Your Ripping Software
This is where you need to decide the ripping software you want to use. Many popular programs you already use have CD-ripping capabilities. iTunes on Macs and PCs has this built in, when you insert a CD while iTunes is running, it will ask to “Import” the CD into iTunes, ripping the music on it into digital files. Encoding settings can be controlled by clicking the “Import Settings” button in the iTunes Preferences window.
Windows Media Player also has this built in and is even still included by default on Windows 10. Launch Windows Media Player and you’ll be able to use the “Rip” button to rip the files on it to your computer. But it is better to use iTunes. If you do use Windows Media Player, make sure you don’t rip to WMA files and ensure copy protection is disabled so you don’t create DRM’d files that are limited in how you can use them.
Many audiophiles swear by Exact Audio Copy on Windows, also known as EAC, which incorporates advanced error correction features for near-perfect rips. You’ll also need to download the LAME MP3 encoder separately and provide it to EAC. CDex may not work quite as well as EAC, but may be simpler to use. Mac users should probably try Max, which also incorporates error-reduction features. LAME is the best-in-class MP3 encoder, and EAC, CDex, and Max can all use it.
Pick a Format and Bitrate
When you are ripping your CD, you’ll need to choose a format and bitrate. Different formats have different compatibility. The best format is MP3 but AAC is more efficient and produces smaller files at the same quality level.
You’ll also need to choose a bitrate, or quality level and the higher the quality, the larger the files. All these decisions are up to you. People who are just after high quality prefer to rip music into lossless FLAC or ALAC files for archival purposes.
If you just want to rip to a collection that sounds good and will play on almost everything, MP3 is probably the best. When ripping to MP3s, you’ll probably want to use the LAME encoder and pick 256 kbps VBR as your quality setting.
If you primarily use Apple software and devices, AAC or Apple Lossless is certainly a fine option that will work for you. Even Android smartphones play AAC files.
Tag Your Songs Automatically
The ripping program you’re using should be able to detect the discs you’ve inserted, look them up online, and automatically fill in the appropriate tags for each song like the artist name, album name, track title, release year and other things. iTunes has this built in, and it’s named “Automatically retrieve CD track names from the Internet.”
Depending on the program you use, you may need to tweak your metadata provider settings and confirm that program is automatically tagging your music for you. This will save you a lot of stress and time.
You may also want to modify the folder and file naming schemes. iTunes handles this for you by adding the ripped music into your iTunes library folder, but programs like EAC and CDex give you more control.
Make sure you backup your music collection onto by copying it in an external hard drive once you are done ripping it. You won’t want to go through the entire process again if your hard drive ever dies and you lose the files.