What CDs to Use to Burn Music

By Chris Anzalone

Blank CDs allow you to transfer music from your computer onto a disc, using a process called "burning." Not all blank CDs function in exactly the same manner, and so before you shop for discs, you should understand some basic information about CDs.


A CD-R, or compact disc-recordable, allows you to copy music one time. In other words, once you copy a song or set of songs from your computer hard drive onto the disc, you can no longer make any changes to the CD-R. The recording becomes permanent. Some CD-Rs can hold 74 minutes of music, while others can hold up to 80 minutes, so check the label before buying.


A CD-RW, or compact disc-rewritable, allows you to burn music multiple times. In other words, you can burn one album of music onto the disc on Monday, and then overwrite it with a new album on Tuesday. Whenever you burn new music onto the CD-RW, old music gets erased in the process. Like CD-Rs, a standard CD-RW can hold between 74 and 80 minutes of music.

Choosing Between Them

Each type of disc has advantages and disadvantages. A CD-RW allows you to burn music multiple times, but it does not have the same compatibility as a standard CD-R. While newer CD players should have no problem playing CD-RW discs, some older CD players may have difficulty reading them. CD-R discs should play in almost any CD player.

The Burning Process

You can download some CD burning software for free, like iTunes, Windows Media Player and Mediamonkey (see Resources). After installing the software, select your "Playlist" or "New Playlist," which functions as a digital music folder. Add the songs that you want to burn to the playlist, then insert the CD-R or CD-RW into your computer and click the "Burn" button. If asked to choose a CD type, you must choose "Audio CD" if you want your disc to play in all conventional CD players.