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What is Ripping a CD?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Ripping a CD is simply copying music from a compact disc (CD) to a computer. There are various software tools that will allow a user to rip a CD in minutes. Once the music is on the computer in file form, the format can be changed to accommodate anything from creating a personal “jukebox” list, to making compilations, to transferring files to portable MP3 players.

Many people who copy music from CDs archive the files in a personal library on the hard disk. Over time, the music library grows. Keeping music in an archive provides flexibility for more listening options. Soft jukeboxes, or software designed to play music, can play the user's current favorite tunes while he or she works or plays on the computer.

Another great reason to rip a CD is to make a new CD using only the songs that the listener likes. When digital music files are copied to a disc, this is called burning a CD. In the ripping process, the computer user can choose to only copy certain songs, or he can rip the CD in full, then leave off the tunes he doesn’t want when he burns the new CD. Compilation CDs can easily be made that only feature the best songs from multiple artists in the order the person who's making the CD wants them.

There are several popular programs for ripping and burning, and some are free. Both types of programs often come bundled with the standard software included on new computers, and both shareware and freeware software can be downloaded from the Internet. If a computer user wants a more advanced program that allows files to be edited and converted to a wider variety of formats, a paid version may be needed.

Usually, when a person rips a CD, he can choose what file format he would like for the resulting music files, although some software offers only a limited number of format options. Many people find that the .WAV file format is a better archive format than the .MP3 format, as .WAS files are not compressed, offering better fidelity. If the user intends to burn his music library to CD later, it may be best to use .WAV files or a format of equal or better quality when ripping the CDs.

Someone who requires only .MP3 files can save a lot of hard disk room by archiving music files in this compressed format, but he will be sacrificing quality. Many CD players recognize discs with .MP3 files, but the loss of sound through compression becomes noticeable on a good stereo system versus a small portable MP3 player. People who are not audiophiles may not notice, but if something seems lacking, they may want to try ripping to .WAV files, then burning to CD.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon83579 — On May 11, 2010

I know how to rip a cd and how to burn a cd, but is it possible to rip only a portion of the song? I have a particular song I want to use for something else, but it has a really long intro that I don't like or need before the song begins. Is there a way to fast forward the song and then rip only the remaining portion? Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

By Marcus1289 — On Mar 12, 2010

The sound quality was not that great after I ripped a cd. Any suggestions, please. Thanks

By anon69716 — On Mar 09, 2010

I just installed VortexBox and used it to rip a few CDs. It works really well. Has anybody else tried it?

I want to know others' experiences before I rip the rest of my CDs.

By anon44372 — On Sep 07, 2009

anon40041 Geek Squad CD Ripping sent me all my files and CDs back without any protection stuff like DRM. I did Flac and mp3 and looked at each file - it was perfect - artwork and info with no restrictions.

By anon40041 — On Aug 05, 2009

Do services that rip add DRM when they rip?

By anon40039 — On Aug 05, 2009

Has anyone used the Geek Squad / Best Buy CD Ripping Services? Can you hear the difference between mp3@320 vs. 192? Should I rip in 2 formats?

By anon39047 — On Jul 30, 2009

If I rip a cd will the songs on the cd be erased?

By anon28824 — On Mar 23, 2009

The term ripping is actually somewhat sinister in that you are ripping off the tracks in the sense that you are stealing. Think about the early days of digital media - one of the main reasons to "make an offsite back up copy of a game or CD" was in reality to give it to a friend for free - thus "ripping" off the original copyright holder.

By anon22428 — On Dec 03, 2008

I think the term ripping is an old computer term for removing media from computer data. Because the two are intertwined they have to be "ripped" apart.

This is also true here in CD ripping the music is all in an archaic format on the CD and must be ripped of an reformatted to FLAC or mp3. If you really want to make ripping easy I would suggest an automatic CD ripper like VortexBox.

By anon12646 — On May 11, 2008

The reason it is not called "copying" is because we aren't copying the CD files as they exist on the CD or DVD. These file formats are not made for computers. The ripping process converts them to files the computer can read. Conversely, we "burn" a CD or DVD (rather than copy files to it). Again, a format change takes place.

OTOH you can copy files to a CD or DVD for archiving, but that's a different process...

By mexicana — On Apr 22, 2008

I have always wondered who thought of the term "ripping" as in "ripping a CD. It sounds so much more violent than it actually is! Why don't we just call it copying a cd? So strange!

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