Ripping MP3 files in Windows

on Friday, August 15, 2008

As I mention earlier, the process of turning audio files into MP3 files is sometimes called encoding or ripping. Microsoft provides a free audio-player program called Windows Media Player — WMP for short. It comes with Windows, and you can download the latest version from Like Apple’s iTunes for the Macintosh, WMP allows you to copy music from audio CDs to your hard drive in a high-quality (yet compact) format. Unfortunately, as delivered, WMP does not rip files in MP3 format. Instead, it uses the Windows Media Audio (WMA) format.
Windows Media files are about as small as MP3 files, but it’s a proprietary format: Most video-editing programs (including Pinnacle Studio) cannot import WMA files directly. If you want to import music from CDs into a Studio movie project, it’s better to copy the music directly from within Studio.

If you really want to be able to copy music onto your hard drive in MP3 format, you’ll have to obtain commercially available MP3 encoding software. Such programs are available at most electronics stores, and you can also download software from Web sites such as I use a tool called CinePlayer from Sonic Solutions ( This $20 tool works as a plug-in for Windows Media Player in Windows XP, and allows WMP to both encode MP3 files and play DVD movies. After it’s installed, I simply open Windows Media Player and choose Tools➪Options.
Then, on the Copy Music tab of the Options dialog box,
I can choose MPEG Layer-3 Audio in the Format drop-down box, and adjust quality settings as I see fit. The MPEG Layer-3 option is available here only because I have the CinePlayer plug-in installed. With these settings, WMP uses the MP3 format instead of WMA when I copy music to my hard disk.