How to Rip Audio CDs in Windows Media Player 12

With Windows Media Player 12, you can consolidate your music collection by ripping all of your CDs and saving each song to your Library. This saves you from the tediousness of swapping out CDs and lets you play any song from your collection on demand. Windows Media Player 12 makes this process even easier on you by automatically retrieving the album information before you rip, including album artwork, artist name, album year, track names and other information. This lets you quickly organize your entire music collection with just a few clicks. In this article I will show you this process in detail.

Importing songs into your library from CDs ("ripping") with Windows Media Player 12 is simple. Begin by inserting an audio CD into your computer's disc drive. Wait a few seconds for your computer to recognize the disc and click on the CD icon, in the Navigation Pane on the left. Note that if Windows Media Player 12 hasn't retrieved the album information yet, it will simply be displayed as 'Unknown Album' next to a generic disc icon.

Step 1: Retrieve Media Information

Before you rip your songs into Windows Media Player 12, it's best to retrieve the media information. This helps you organize your songs before they are imported and saves you the labor of typing in the pertinent details one by one. Windows Media Player 12 queries its own databases to automatically pull all of the album information before you rip so everything gets sorted into its right place when you import.

Begin by right-clicking the default album artwork graphic and clicking 'Find album info'. Note: Windows Media Player 12 might automatically retrieve the information or it may already be saved on your computer. If so, go ahead and skip this step.

When the 'Find album information' window pops up, choose the best match from the list and click Next.

Verify that the track listing is correct and click Finish.

Windows Media Player 12 will add the album information to your Library automatically.

Step 2: Choose Rip Settings

When importing songs into Windows Media Player 12, it's important to choose the ideal rip settings. Rip settings refers to the compression type and audio quality of the songs when they are saved on your hard drive. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the audio quality, the larger the file size. The key is to strike a balance between the two.

By default, Windows Media Player 12 rips to.wma format with CD quality encoding. However, you may wish to change the rip settings depending on your preferred format or the device you intend to sync your music with. To do this, click 'Rip settings' and choose 'More options'. If you don't see these buttons, expand your Windows Media Player 12 window horizontally until they appear.

When choosing between.mp3 and.wma, you can't really go wrong. At higher bitrates, the differences in sound quality are nonexistent to all but the most discerning ears and more and more portable devices are supporting a wider range of audio file formats (including both.mp3 and.wma). It should be noted that in general,.mp3 is much more universally supported file type than.wma. For example,.wma files won't play on iPods and other Apple devices. For more information about the vast universe of file formats, see this feature from Webmonkey, Wired's sister publication. The article is a bit dated, but it's a good introduction to the most popular audio formats.

Note: As you can see, there are a few options that are accessible from the drop-down menu. These are the same options you'll see when you click 'More options'.

In the options window, you'll see all of the rip settings. You can change the format by clicking the drop-down menu. To adjust the audio quality, move the slider to the left or right. Unless you are very tight on disk space, we recommend choosing a 192 Kbps bitrate at the minimum, otherwise, you start to experience noticeable loss in sound quality.

Notice that in the 'Rip settings' section there is an option to 'Rip CD automatically'. With this box checked, Windows Media Player 12 will automatically import all of the songs based on the settings you've chosen in steps 1 and 2 when you insert a disc. CDs that you've already imported will not be ripped, however.

You can also change how Windows Media Player 12 formats the file names. This won't affect how your songs will be displayed in the Library, since Windows Media Player 12 organizes and displays songs depending on their embedded track information. The only time you will actually see the file name of your songs is when you are viewing it in Windows Explorer or on a device that cannot read the track information.

When you click 'File Name' you'll be brought to the 'File Name Options window. Here, you'll see a list of details. Check the box next to the item to include it in the file name. Uncheck it to omit it. You can also arrange the order in which the details appear, as well as what separates each detail. In this example, you can see from the preview that the file name will be 'Track number - Artist - Song title'. So, for the CD that we are ripping, it will be '01 - The Good Life - Album of the Year', '02 - The Good Life - Night and Day', etc. When you're all finished, click OK.

The best file name options to use largely depends on the system you use for organizing your songs on your hard drive. For example, if you keep all of your songs in one folder, you might want to choose Artist - Album - Track number - Song title so you can quickly sort through albums and artists. If you keep each album in a separate folder, you might want to do 'Track number - Artist name - Track' title so it's easier to put albums in the right play order. Whichever file naming scheme you come up with, it's best to keep it consistent so you can easily organize your audio files.

Step 3: Rip Your Songs

Once you've configured your rip settings, you're ready to import your songs to your Library. Once you Steps 1 and 2 completed, you can go ahead and skip straight to this step for subsequent CDs.

You can choose which songs you want to rip. Check the box next to a song to include it and uncheck it to omit it. Check the box at the very top to select all the songs. Finally, when you're ready to import the selected songs, click 'Rip CD'.

When the rip begins, the 'Rip CD' button will change to 'Stop rip'. Click this only if you want to cancel the rip. Also, you'll see the ripping progress to the right of each song.

As each song is ripped, it will automatically be added to your Library. You can watch your Library update in real time, if you'd like, by navigating to the appropriate view in your Player Library. When the rip has completed, you are free to eject your CD.

Note: Although you are free to navigate your Library and play songs while a CD is ripping, there have been some reports of rip errors that occur when playing songs while a CD is importing. To avoid rip errors, you may wish to refrain from playing any songs until the rip is complete, both to avoid rip errors due to your system getting overly bogged down with additional processes and possible bugs in Windows Media Player 12.


There you have it. With these three easy steps, you can bring all of your CDs into one, consolidated collection. Once you choose your settings in steps 1 and 2, you can import your CDs in one easy step so all of your songs are always at your fingertips. Check out some of the related articles for more tips on how to get more out of Windows Media Player 12.