When you have all of the software you need, it's time to gather some songs. You may want to take songs directly from your CD collection. To do this, you need to "rip" the songs -- copy them from your CD to your computer's hard drive. You'll need an extraction program to do this. To copy a particular track, insert the CD into your built-in CD-ROM drive (or the CD-burner itself) and select the song you want through the extraction program. Essentially, the program will play the song and re-record it into a usable data format. It's legal to make copies of songs you own, as long as the CD is only for your personal use.
You can also gather MP3s over the Internet. You can download MP3s from pay-for-music sites or with file-sharing programs. Some MP3s are free, and can be legally downloaded and copied onto a CD. Most are illegal copies, however, and it is a copyright violation to download them and burn them onto a CD. To search for MP3-related Web sites, click here.
MP3s are compressed files, and you must expand (decode) them in order to burn them onto a CD. Standard music-management programs can decode these files. If you don't have the right software, there are a number of decoding programs that you can download over the Internet.
Once you've gathered the songs, you can use your music manager to arrange them in the order you want. Keep in mind that you have a limited amount of disc space to work with. CD-Rs have varying capacities, measured in both megabytes and minutes. These days, most CD-Rs are either 74 minutes or 80 minutes long. Before you move on to burning your CD, you should make sure that your mix isn't too long for the blank disc.