10.4. Ripping CDs
Early hackers used the term "ripping" to describe the process of snagging music, graphics, and digital grunts from their old video games . Twenty years later, a new generation defines "ripping" as copying a CD's songs onto a hard drive. From there, you can copy the songs to a portable music player, save them onto a customized "Greatest Hits" CD, or convert them to other sound formats (Section 7.3.1) to work with different portable players.
Some people even use the term "ripping" to describe copying sound from a phonograph record (Section 7.2.4) or VHS tape onto a hard drive. (iTunes dignifies the term by labeling the process, "importing.") This section explains ripping with both Windows Media Player and iTunes.
10.4.1. Ripping CDs with Windows XP's Media Player
Windows XP's Media Player can rip CDs, but with two pretty important caveats:
Digital Rights Management . When Windows Media Player rips a CD to your hard drive, it wants to compress the songs into copy-protected WMA files, Microsoft's early attempt to rule the digital recording industry. But most digital music players play MP3 files, not WMA files. And some WMA players can't handle copy-protected files. To keep Media Player from adding copy protection to your ripped WMA files, head to Tools Options Rip Music tab and turn off the checkbox marked , "Copy protect music." Even better, bypass WMA completely and rip your CDs to MP3 files, as described in this section.
Lower quality . Media Player rips songs and leaves you with either MP3 or WMA files, both of which are compressed formats that remove some of the song's quality to reduce its file size . That's great for packing more files onto an MP3 player; few people notice the quality difference on tiny earbuds.
But it's not so good if you're looking to create a "Greatest Hits" CD. Songs never sound as good when they're ripped to the MP3 format and then burned back to an audio CD. To avoid that kind of sound degradation, skip Media Player and create your CDs with a third-party program like Roxio's Record-Now (www. roxio .com). It copies songs from several CDs onto your hard drive, but doesn't compress them into MP3s, thereby preserving their fidelity. Then the program copies those decompressed songs back onto a blank CD in the order you choose. You need nearly 1 GB of free hard drive space to serve as a temporary holding tank during the processbut in exchange, you get a copy of your songs in all their high-fidelity glory .
Before ripping, be sure you're using Windows Media Player 10. (To see your version, choose Start All Programs Media Player Help About Windows Media Player.) As opposed to all earlier versions, Media Player 10 lets you rip MP3 files for free rather than paying $10 for the privilege. If you need the new version, download it (www.microsoft.com/mediaplayer) before ripping your CDs.
Once you've installed Media Player 10, follow these steps to rip a CD to an MP3 file.
Insert your CD label-side up into the CD drive's tray, close the tray, and choose File CDs and Devices Rip Audio CD .
Or, start ripping by clicking the Rip button at the top of the Media Player window. If your PC has two drives , you also need to choose the drive containing your CD.
Choose which songs to copy to your hard drive .
Media Player normally selects all your CD's songs, skipping any that you previously copied . Turn off the checkboxes next to any awful songs to keep them off your PC.
Click Rip Music .
Media Player begins copying your selected songs from the CD, converting them to MP3 files, and placing them inside your My Music folder (Start My Music). For example, if youre ripping a copy of Ravi Shankar's "Ragas," for instance, Media Player creates a folder named Ravi Shankar, and then puts your songs in the Ragas folder inside that folder.
If Media Player creates a folder named "Unknown" instead of "Ravi Shankar," make sure you've allowed Media Player to connect to the Internet (Tools Options Privacy "Update music files by retrieving media info from the Internet). That lets Media Player grab the information from an online database. If you're ripping CDs while offline (say, on an airplane), or the names are wrong, you need to fill out the tags manually (Section 8.5.6).
10.4.2. Ripping CDs with iTunes
Compared to Media Player's minimal ripping options, iTunes (Section 8.3) offers a vast array of options for transferring a CD's songs onto a hard drive. That lets the experts fiddle around, and the impatient beginners whip through using the factory-set options. iTunes takes three basic steps to rip a CD.
Rip the CD .
Once iTunes has identified your CD's title and song names, weed out the mood killers by turning off the checkboxes next to their names, then click Import in the screen's upper-right corner. iTunes rips the songs from the CD and stuffs them into its library.
For more information about iTunes and iPods, check out Section 8.3; for a full reference, pick up a copy of iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual .