What Does it Mean to Burn a CD?

Techwalla may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Almost everyone has heard the term "burn a CD." But what does it actually mean? To "burn" a CD simply means to copy or write information onto a compact disc, or CD. CD drives that are capable to writing CDs will use a laser to "burn" the information onto the underside of the CD and allow it to be read in CD players or CD-ROM drives. The following provides essential uses and steps for creating, or burning, your own CD.



The principal reason to "burn" a CD is to copy information from your computer onto a writable disc. Most computers come with an existing CD/DVD burner and have pre-installed software that makes burning a disc simple and straightforward. If you don't happen to have software to burn a CD, there are plenty of free programs available online to help you with the process. By going to download.com and typing in "cd burning," a slew of free or trial programs will be displayed to download. Most programs have user friendly interfaces that will guide you through the steps of creating a burned CD.


Video of the Day


Depending on the information you would like to "burn," there are several different ways you can create a CD.

If you are looking to create a CD that can be played on a standard CD player, you want to create an audio CD. You can place compatible music files, like an mp3 or wmv file, and compile them into a tracklist. Standard length on a writable CD is 80 minutes.


If you wish to create a CD that contains files that you want to backup or store, create a data CD. A data CD can only be read from the CD-ROM drive on a computer, and the files will look like they do when they are saved onto your computer's hard drive. Most CDs can store up to 700 MB of data.


Some audio CD players or DVD players have the capability of playing mp3 discs, and these can be created as well. The advantage of an mp3 CD compared to an audio CD is that an mp3 CD can hold many more songs than the standard audio CD. This process is similar to a data CD, where the mp3s are stored the same way that they are stored on your computer's hard drive.



There are many benefits to being able to "burn" your own CD. With an audio CD, you are able to create your own mix of favorite songs or copy an existing album to share with friends. A data CD will let you back up and store information in case of a computer crash, and make your files portable. You can store your entire photo album on a CD and send it to family to share memories and events. Students or educators may also wish to create CDs for presentations or class projects.


Time Frame

The time it will take to "burn" the CD will vary based on several factors--how much data is on the disc, the writing speed of the CD drive, and the type of CD that you are burning.


The more data that is going to be placed on the disc, the longer it will take to "burn" the disc. A data or audio CD that is at its capacity of information may take between 5 to 30 minutes to burn.

The writing speed of the drive will determine how fast it places the data onto the disc. The speed is measured in times (x) faster than the amount of data. Standard speed of CD drives is between 24x and 52x. A 52x speed means that it will burn the information 52 times faster than the amount of information that will be copied.


An audio CD will generally take longer to burn than a data CD because the software must convert the music files to be able to play on standard CD players.


Backing up information on a CD is a great way to store and protect your data. Most CD-burning programs include a section that simplifies backing up files and lets you select the most important data that you would like to copy onto a disc. This can protect your files in case of a hard drive crash or computer virus.