A simple guide on how to burn a CD to store your data or music

how to burn a CD
The compact disc (CD) was once the preferred method for storing data long term and for saving audio for playing in CD players. As technology progressed and formats changed, the CD was superseded by the digital video disc (DVD) and then the Blu-ray disc. Nevertheless, it remains an important option for millions of people — and it’s worth keeping your CD-burning skills sharp just in case you need to share data or music with someone who’s only equipped with a CD player. Here, we take a look at how to burn a CD for those occasions when this seemingly archaic technology might come in handy.

The first thing to note in burning a CD is the limitation on exactly how much the format can store. You’ll need to keep that in mind, because while today’s hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSDs) are measured in terabytes (TBs), and both DVD and Blu-ray formats are measured gigabytes (GBs), CDs are measured in megabytes (MBs) of storage. Specifically, the most common CD can store 700MBs of data, which translates to roughly 80 minutes worth of music.

Step 1: Gather your tools and materials

To burn a CD, you’ll need two things. First, you’ll need a CD or DVD recorder drive (a.k.a, a burner). If you don’t have one and you’re using a desktop with an open external drive bay, it’s easy enough to get one purchased and installed. You can also use an external USB drive, which is handy for a notebook that doesn’t have a CD or DVD drive. You’ll spend about $20 for an internal CD/DVD combo drive an external CD/DVD combo drive.

Next, you’ll need a supply of blank CDs. Stick with CD recordable (CD-R) discs to be sure your CDs will be supported on any hardware. You’ll spend around $20 for a 100 CD-R spindle from a reputable manufacturer like Verbatim.

Finally, give some thought to what you want to burn to your CD. If you want to burn data for safekeeping or to pass along to someone else, then the simplest way is to use Windows 10’s File Explorer utility. If you want to burn music that’s most likely to play on either a computer or a dedicated CD player (such as in a car stereo or a boombox), then you can use the Windows Media Player that still ships with the latest versions of Windows 10.

Step 2a: Burn your data CD

Burning a data CD is simple enough. Just place a blank CD-R into your burner and close the tray. Open File Explorer, and then check out the status of your CD burner — you should see an indication that a CD-R is inserted and how much space is free.

how to burn a cd beginning
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Next, decide which data files you can burn to the CD. It’s easiest to create a working folder and then open a second File Explorer window for selecting your data files. Hit Ctrl-A on your keyboard to select all of the files, then right-click. From the context menu, select Sent to and then select your CD burner from the list of options.

how to burn a cd send 2
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

A dialogue will open asking how you want to use the disc. You have two options for how you burn your CD. You can also enter a disc title via this dialog.

how to burn a cd type
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

First, you can select “Like a USB flash drive,” then Windows 10 will not “close” the disc. This means that in Windows XP or later, you can add more files to the same CD-R, edit files, or delete files. The downside is that the CD will not work on any other kind of PC, such as MacOS or a Linux-powered system. Once you’re finished with the CD and want to make sure it can work with any system, then you can go to File Explorer, right-click on your CD burner, and select “Close session.” Note that once you close the CD, you will no longer be able to make any changes to it.

how to burn a cd close session
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Second, you can select “With a CD/DVD player.” Choosing this option will copy your files to the CD and then close the session, making the data available on any PC.

Note that if you copy some kinds of files, such as music (MP3 or WMV) or images (JPEG), those files can be played on supported PCs. They may or may not work on standalone electronic devices such as CD or DVD players, however. If you want to make sure that your music will play on any CD or DVD player, then skip to the next section.

Step 2b: Burn your music CD

Windows 10 has advanced in a number of ways, but it retains some older tools that can still be useful in a pinch. Windows Media Player is essentially a legacy application and hardly the best media player, but it includes a handy CD burner utility that makes it easy to create a music CD that can play just about anywhere.

To get started, go to the Cortana search box and start typing “Windows Media Player.” Once it pops up in the list, click on it. Then, select the Burn tab in the upper right-hand corner.

how to burn a cd wmp start
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Next, go to File Explorer and locate the music files that you want to burn to the CD. Drag them over to the burn list. Windows Media Player will tell you how many minutes you’ve used; make sure you’re not exceeding the 80-minute limit. You can hit “Clear list” to start over.

how to burn a cd wmp add music
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Next, hit “Start burn” to begin the process of burning your music files to the CD. Windows Media Player will provide a progress report as the burn is running. Note that it takes a few minutes to close the session, so be sure to wait until the process is all the way done before ejecting your CD.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it. You’ve now burned a CD that can be used either as a handy USB flash-drive-like storage media with Windows XP or later machines, or as an easy way to share data or music with any other PC or CD/DVD player users. CD-R media is relatively inexpensive, running around $0.20 cents for a 700MB disc, and can last for years without worrying about degradation. There are newer and higher-capacity storage options available today, but sometimes the tried-and-true comes in handy.

Computing

Problems with installing or updating Windows 10? Here's how to fix them

Upgrading to the newest version of Windows 10 is usually a breeze, but sometimes you run into issues. Never fear though. Our guide will help you isolate the issue at hand and solve it in a timely manner.
Computing

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

Excel documents are used by people and businesses all over the world. Given how often they contain sensitive information, it makes sense to keep them from the wrong eyes. Thankfully, it's easy to secure them with a password.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Computing

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents with Adobe or a free option

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Computing

Amazon sale knocks $200 off the price of 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

If you always wanted to buy a MacBook Pro but found it a bit too expensive, now is your chance to save. A base version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is currently on sale at Amazon for $1,600.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. The best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Computing

You don't have to spend a fortune on a PC. These are the best laptops under $300

Buying a laptop needn't mean spending a fortune. If you're just looking to browse the internet, answer emails, and watch Netflix, you can pick up a great laptop at a great price. These are the best laptops under $300.
Computing

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Computing

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.
Computing

Is it worth spending more for the Surface Pro, or is the Surface Go good enough?

The Surface Go vs. Surface Pro — which is better? While the higher price tag of one might make you think it's an easy choice, a deeper dive into what each offers makes it a closer race than you might assume.
Computing

Apple’s 4K 21.5-inch iMac is now $200 off if you pre-order it

Apple's new iMacs are now available and if you pre-order one from B&H you can get the midrange version for $200. That's a near 20-percent saving on one of the most competitive configurations.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s latest breakthrough could make DNA-based data centers possible

Could tomorrow's data centers possibly store information in the form of synthetic DNA? Researchers from Microsoft have successfully encoded the word "hello" into DNA and then back again.