How to digitize your CDs
To turn your music CDs into digital audio files, start by downloading a free music-management program, such as Musicmatch or Apple iTunes. For this demonstration, we'll use iTunes, but the same settings can be applied to other programs.
These programs have a feature that allows you to convert CD tracks into various digital file formats, with MP3 and WMA being the most popular.
Before inserting your CD into your computer, you should set the type of file format you want your digital music to be in and the bit rate you want to encode at. In iTunes, the Preferences tab is located under the Edit tab at the top of the page. Under Preferences, you'll find a tab called Importing.
Because MP3s are compatible with the largest number of devices, we recommend MP3 encoding at a minimum of 160Kbps. The higher the bit rate, the better the sound quality--and less compression--but file sizes get larger as you increase the bit rate, thereby taking up more storage space on your computer's hard drive.
We also recommend you select variable bit-rate encoding, or VBR. In iTunes, you can toggle on variable bit-rate encoding by selecting Custom from the Preferences > Importing menu. Simply click the check box next to "Variable bit-rate encoding" to activate it.
This is optional, but if you don't like where iTunes puts encoded MP3s, you can tell it to save them in another place. This is particularly useful if you decide to store your music on a second internal hard drive--or an external hard drive.
When you have the settings you want, you're ready to start "ripping."
As long as you're connected to the Internet, most music-management programs will go out and automatically find your album and track names using Gracenote's music database. Once the track names appear, just click the Import button to encode the disc.
Depending on the speed of your computer, importing a whole album should take only a few minutes. Once you're done ripping the album, remove the CD from the tray. You won't need it anymore.