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How to Burn a CD Using iTunes


As the music industry continues to shift to digital media, the distribution of music to physical media, like CDs, has become less common. However, there are still several situations where you'll find that CDs are the optimal way to share or store your music, but over the years iTunes has made it a bit harder to do so. 

In this tutorial, I will teach you how to burn a CD in iTunes, thus turning your digital media into physical media that can be played and shared nearly everywhere.

Getting Started

For this tutorial, you will need:

  • A Mac with either a built-in or external recordable optical drive
  • iTunes 11
  • Blank CDs
  • Music

In this tutorial, I'll be using my 2010 iMac, which comes with a built-in SuperDrive, which is a recordable optical drive capable of burning CDs. If you have a newer Mac that doesn’t have a built-in disc drive, you will need to purchase an external drive in order to do this tutorial.

Tip: If you are unsure whether or not your Mac is able to burn a disc, open a Finder window and go to Applications > System Information > Hardware > Disc Burning, and check Burn Support. If it says Yes, you’re good to go; if not, you will have to invest in an external recordable optical drive to do this tutorial.

1. Make a Playlist

First, open the iTunes app. In order to burn a CD in iTunes 11, you must first create a playlist.

Making a Playlist

To create a new playlist, you will want to go to the Playlists tab at the top of the iTunes window, then press the Plus icon in the bottom left corner. From that menu, select New Playlist. A sidebar should appear titled Playlist. Rename it to whatever you want, then drag the songs, albums, or artists that you want on your CD to the sidebar to add them to the playlist.

You can also add songs by clicking on the arrow icon > Add To... > Playlist > [Playlist Name].
You can also add songs by clicking on the Arrow Icon > Add To... > [Playlist Name].
Tip: Most CDs hold 700MB of data, which translates to around 80 minutes of music. This is something you may want to keep in mind while creating your playlist, as a playlist too large will not fit on a single CD.
Tip: Make sure the playlist is in the order you want it to be played back, as you will not be able to change the order of the songs on the disc itself after it has been burned.

2. Burn the Disc

Burning the disc

Once you are happy with your playlist, click the Done button. Now, you can burn it to a CD. To do this, go to File > Burn Playlist to Disc.

A window called Burn Settings should appear on your screen. You are now ready to begin the process of burning your CD.

Step 1. Choosing Your Disc Burner

Selecting the disc burner

For those who only have one CD drive, you can disregard this step, as Disc Burner will already have your disc drive listed as the burner, as pictured above.

Selecting the disc burner

If, however, you have more than one disc drive you will have to select the drive that is able to burn a disc from the drop-down menu.

Step 2. Choosing a Preferred Speed

Selecting the preferred burning speed

The Preferred Speed field determines how fast data will be copied to the CD. To determine what speed you should use, check the label of the CD—it will be listed as a number followed by the letter X (i.e. 52X).

If the number on the CD is higher than any of the other listings in the Preferred Speed field, select the Maximum Possible option. If the number is lower, select the speed that matches the number on the CD. This will help eliminate potential issues of your CD drive burning data faster than the CD can record it.

Step 3. Formatting the CD

Formatting the CD

Burn Settings gives you three options for the type of CD you burn: Audio CD, MP3 CD, and Data CD or DVD. For our purposes, we will be using the Audio CD setting. Audio CD is the same format as the standard CD you’d pick up at the store, making it the most universal format as it should play in any CD player.

Under the Audio CD option, you will be presented with a few other settings to help tailor the CD to your liking. This is where you will be able to really tailor the CD to your liking, as none of these settings are absolutely required for the burning process to run smoothly.

Adjusting burn settings

The first setting is Gap Between Songs. This setting creates space between tracks during playback. The default setting is 2 seconds, but the gap can be altered to be up to five seconds long. You can even opt to have no gap between songs at all.

Using Sound Check

The next setting is Use Sound Check. This setting is a volume equalizer, which, when selected, makes all the tracks on the CD play at the same volume. Last, there is Include CD Text. With this setting selected, information such as artist and track names that can be displayed in some car CD players will also be included on the disc.

Step 4. Burn Your CD

Choosing an action on inserting a CD

Once you have everything set up as you want it, insert a blank CD into the proper disc drive. A prompt stating that a blank disc has been detected should appear on your desktop. You can either select the Open iTunes option or press Ignore, since you already have iTunes open.

Progress bar showing writing of CD

Once you address the prompt, press the Burn in the Burn Settings window. iTunes should now show the progress of the burn at the top of the app window. Burns typically take no longer than five minutes from start to end when the Maximum Possible speed setting is selected.

CD play list

After your burn has finished successfully, iTunes will recognize it as a new CD. Eject the CD from the disc drive and you’re good to go.

Enjoy Your New CD!

In this tutorial I taught you how to create a new playlist, how to navigate the Burn Settings to configure the most efficient burn and tailor your new CD to your liking. If you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment down below.

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