If you have a microphone attached to your computer, you can record sound that you can save to the local hard drive. Another way to save sound files is to rip the music files off a CD, one that you should legally own, into the MP3 format. Most media players can rip music files for you. The process is explained later in this chapter.
You can record sound files via the attached microphone using the Sound Recorder, shown in Figure 42.8. This simple little utility is found in the Start All Programs Accessories Entertainment Sound Recorder menu. It works by simply clicking the Record button and speaking into the microphone.
Figure 42.8: The Sound Recorder utility can record sound directly into the microphone.
Recorded sound files can be saved using the .WAV file format. The .WAV format is created using the File Save As menu. This format saves all the data without any compressions, which results in file sizes that are much larger than MP3 audio.
When you insert a CD into the computer's CD-ROM or DVD drive, the computer automatically detects an audio CD and loads it into the default media player. Within the media player is a feature that can convert its audio files into MP3 files and save them to the computer's hard drive. This process is called ripping a CD.
Once you rip a CD's audio files, you can play them using the media player without having to insert the original CD again. This is a convenient way to keep your music collection on the computer. It also gives you the chance to shuffle all the songs in your collection into jukebox mode.
Most CDs are protected by copyright laws, and you should rip them only if you own the CD. Copyrighted music files also should not be made accessible where other users can download them.
To rip a music CD into MP3 files using Windows Media Player, follow these steps:
Insert a music CD into the computer's CD-ROM or DVD drive.
The Windows media player automatically loads and begins to play the music CD.
From the Windows Media Player interface, select Rip to open the Rip music tab, shown in Figure 42.9.
Figure 42.9: The Rip window of Windows Media Player includes a button that can begin the ripping process.
Click Start Rip to begin the process.
Each selected file converts to an MP3 file and copies to a folder with the album's name in the My Music folder. You can use the Rip Format menu to change the format between Windows Media Audio, MP3, or WAV. The Rip Bit Rate menu can change the quality/compression rate. The Rip More Options menu lets you change the folder where the audio files are saved.
If you enable the Copy protect music option in the Options dialog box, the ripped files are protected and require media usage rights to load before they are played on a separate computer.