How to Rip Music CDs to your iPhone/iPod

If you are a music lover with a collection of CDs, your number one priority after you buy an iPhone or iPod touch is to get them on your device. The process of "ripping" your albums into the proper format and copying them onto your iPhone/iPod is relatively easy. But if you've never done it before, there are steps in the process that are not all that obvious. This step-by-step guide will help you get your beloved collection of music CDs onto your device.

The best way to rip your albums onto your device is to use the Mac or PC version of iTunes, which not only lets you purchase music from Apple's online store, but also acts as a media player and library for your media content. The program is free to install and there are no fees for using it to rip CDs. To download and install iTunes to your Mac or PC, go to

Ripping music CDs with iTunes

  1. Launch iTunes after you have installed it.
  2. Set your CD import Preferences before you do anything else: Open Preferences (under the Edit menu in Windows, under the iTunes menu on Macs), click on the Advanced tab, and then on the Importing tab. Here, you can set what you want iTunes to do when you put a CD into your disk drive (in the "On CD Insert" drop-down menu) as well as set what type of audio file you want the songs to be imported as (in the "Import Using" drop-down menu). See the "File Formats" sidebar for more on this. After setting the other preferences on the screen, click OK.

    Thumbnail: Setting your preferences in iTunes before ripping music CD's

    Set your import preferences in iTunes before ripping music CDs.

  3. Create a new playlist for the music you are going to rip (or use one of the existing ones): Along the left side of the iTunes screen, you will notice a "Playlists" section with a number of pre-set playlists underneath. Playlists are used to sync music and are a great way to organize it. You don't sync individual songs—you sync playlists with songs in them. You can either use the default playlists that come with iTunes or you can make your own. To make a new playlist, click on the "+" button at the bottom left-hand corner of the iTunes window. A new playlist will appear at the bottom of the pre-set playlists (labeled "untitled playlist"). Type in a desired name for the playlist and click Enter. You can also create a Smart Playlist that will use the "Live updating" option to have iTunes automatically include newly imported tracks that meet your set criteria (File >New Smart Playlist).
  4. Rip your CD: Put a CD in your computer's disk drive and wait for iTunes to recognize it. (Note that the default settings in iTunes will automatically retrieve CD album and track names and information from the Internet and create the names in your Music Library. You can change these options in Preferences >Advanced >Importing.) Once the CD is recognized, the album tracks will appear in your Music Library, which can be accessed by clicking on the Music icon in the top left of the iTunes screen. Note that all of the tracks have a checked box to the left of their name—you can uncheck the boxes next to the songs that you do not want to import. Once you are ready to import the tracks to your library, click "Import CD" in the lower right-hand corner of the iTunes window. The status bar (with the Apple logo) in the center of the top taskbar will tell you the progress of the CD rip.
  5. Sort the ripped tunes into playlists: After you have ripped your CDs to iTunes, you have a number of different actions you can take before you sync them with your iPhone/iPod. First, notice that you can sort your music by Name, Time, Album, Artist, or Genre by clicking on the appropriate column heading in your Music Library. Also note that you have three different viewing options in the Music Library that can be accessed by clicking on the three View buttons on the top right side of the iTunes taskbar—you can choose to sort by list, grouped with artwork, or Cover Flow. (For information on getting album cover art, see the "Getting Cover Art" sidebar.)
  6. Once you have chosen how you want to view your music, you can start putting it into your playlist(s). To do this, select a song, a group of songs, or an album, click and drag them to the playlists on the left side of the iTunes window, and let go when the desired playlist is highlighted and a "+" sign appears below your mouse. Note that you can select an entire album by going to the "Grouped with artwork" or "Cover Art" view and dragging the album art graphic into the playlist.

    The "grouped with artwork" view in the Music Library window allows you to view albums grouped together with their cover art and also to move whole albums to a playlist.


Sync music to your iPhone/iPod

Now that you have ripped your CDs to iTunes and put them into playlists, you can load (or "sync") your music onto your iPhone or iPod!

  1. Connect your iPhone/iPod to your Mac or PC via the USB cable that came with the device. iTunes will automatically detect the device, and it will be displayed under "Devices" along the left side of the iTunes window.

  2. Click on your iPhone or iPod under Devices. This will display a screen with seven different tabs (for the iPhone/iPod touch) along the top: Summary, Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Photos, and Info. Click on Music.
  3. In the Music tab, you can select which playlist(s) you want to sync. You can choose the "All songs and playlists" option or the "Selected playlists" option, which then allows you to check the boxes next to those playlists that you want to sync.

    The Music tab allows you to sync your music to your device.
  4. Once you have made your playlist selections, click on the Sync button in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. iTunes will begin to sync all of your music content with your iPhone or iPod, and a "Sync in Progress" screen will appear on your device. You can cancel the sync by sliding the slider on your device or clicking the "X" button in the status bar along the top of the iTunes window. Note that there is a Capacity bar that looks like a thermometer along the bottom of the iTunes window that keeps track of how much space you have available on your iPhone/iPod—each type of media file is indicated by a different color on the bar.

Other options

If you have a lot of music CDs and don't want to spend time ripping them, you can have a professional ripping service do it for you. This involves shipping your CDs out to the company and waiting about a week for them to send the converted files back to you on DVD. You can then import music into iTunes and sync them with your iPhone/iPod. The service costs $ 0.70-$1 per CD. Companies that offer this service include,,,,,, and others.

You can also use a CD/DVD copying device such as the iLoad (above) ( that copies your CDs directly to your iPhone/iPod.

A device such as the iLoad will copy your CDs directly to your iPhone/iPod.


File Formats

There are five types of file formats to choose from in the Advanced >Importing tab under Preferences. The AAC and MP3 formats are compressed, meaning that small parts of the audio source files are not copied so that the files will take up less space. The Apple Lossless format is also compressed, but it keeps the entire audio spectrum and thus has all the quality of the audio source files at about half the file size. The AIFF (primarily used by Macs) and WAV (primarily used by PCs) formats are uncompressed, meaning that they contain all the data on the audio source file, but take up more storage space. Also note that you can customize these formats (except Apple Lossless) to your own quality level in the "Setting" drop-down menu in the Importing tab.


Getting Cover Art

One of the coolest features of the iPhone and iPod touch is the "Cover Flow" feature that allows you to browse all of your albums in a catalog of covers that you can flip through with a flick of your finger. If you don't get the cover art from iTunes, however, the albums on your iPhone or iPod touch will appear without any cover art. Luckily, iTunes makes it easy to get cover art—simply click on Advanced >Get Album Artwork and iTunes will search its massive catalog and upload the cover to your library (you must have an iTunes account for this feature to work). Note, however, that not all artists have licensed their music with Apple, and iTunes may tell you that an album cover is not available.

If you want to get album art without signing up for an iTunes account or if you want to find one that isn't available on iTunes, you can upload your own. To do this, find a graphic file of the cover on the Internet ( is a good source) and save it to your computer. In iTunes, highlight all the tracks that you want the cover art applied to and go to File >Get Info. Then click on the Artwork tab, click on the graphic file that you saved, and drag it into the white box in the Artwork tab—iTunes will automatically apply the graphic to all the songs that you highlighted.


The iTunes apps on your PC or Mac is the best way to rip music CDs and download content
October 2008 (Premier Issue)
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