How MP3 Files Work

Converting Files to MP3s

If you have a CD collection and would like to convert songs from your CDs into MP3 files, you can use ripper and encoder software to do just that. A ripper copies the song's file from the CD onto your hard disk. The encoder compresses the song into the MP3 format. By encoding songs, you can play them on your computer or take them with you on your MP3 player.

If you have a writable CD drive in your computer, there are two ways to save your MP3 files on a CD:

  • You can write the MP3 files themselves onto a data CD in order to save them and clear some space on your hard disk. You can then listen to the files on any computer. Some car stereos and DVD players let you play data-encoded MP3s, too. Because the file size is much smaller than a CD file, you can fit many more songs onto a CD when you use the MP3 file format.
  • You can convert (decode) your MP3 files into full-sized CD tracks and then save them to an audio CD. This allows you to listen to your MP3 files on any CD player. But remember that converting MP3 files into CD tracks limits the number of files you can fit on a CD. Also, converting an MP3 into a larger file format doesn't replace the information lost during the original MP3 encoding. In other words, the music files won't sound any better than they did as MP3 files.

Many MP3 encoders have plug-ins that create full-size WAV files from MP3 files, and some of the encoders will also decode. Once you have the full-size CD tracks, then the software that comes with your CD-R drive will let you create an audio CD easily. Other MP3 encoders and players have similar features. It's good to do a little research before you choose your MP3 application -- some are more reliable than others.

The CD-Recordable FAQ is an excellent source of information on getting data and music onto a CD.