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Windows Media Player Ripping: Pros and Cons

For Windows users, Windows Media Player is the most convenient and easy way to copy your CD collection to your hard drive. It is also powerful enough to meet most people's needs. It does have limitations, however.

This guide will help you decide if Windows Media Player is right for your particular situation.

Windows Media Player icon

Ripping with Windows Media Player


  • Easy to learn
  • Little to no work to rip music once configured
  • Nothing to download or install
  • Can automatically rip upon inserting a CD


  • Small album cover art
  • No volume normalizing
  • Limited to Windows and MP3 formats
  • Inflexible MP3 file and folder naming
  • Less flexibility in choosing sound quality


  • Easy! Easy! Easy!

    Ripping CDs with Windows Media Player is easy to learn. Once configured, it requires three mouse clicks or less to rip a CD.


  • Nothing to Download or Install

    Windows Media Player is built-in to Windows. You need only launch it from the Start Menu.

    Note that ripping to MP3s does require at least version 10 of Windows Media Player. Windows XP comes with version 9 by default. You can download the latest version for free.


  • Automatically Inserts Album Cover, Song Titles

    Windows Media Player automatically downloads all the information about the CD you're ripping and embeds the information in the MP3 files. Your files will have the name of the album, artist name, song title, year and more. You will also get a small image of the CD cover (though other ripping methods will get you a larger album cover).


  • Rip CDs without Pressing a Single Button

    Ripping with Windows Media Player can be so easy that you need only insert your CD. No programs to run. No buttons to click. Just insert your CD and Windows Media Player ejects the CD when it's finished ripping. This kind of convenience is hard to beat!

    See Knowzy's Step-by-Step guide Automatic CD Ripping with Windows Media Player to learn how to set up this capability.




  • Small Album Art

    The picture of the CD cover downloaded by Windows Media Player is typically 200x200 pixels. Other CD ripping programs pull down images of 300x300 pixels or better.

    This 33% increase in picture size can make a difference in your ability to read smaller type and seeing smaller artwork details.

    Ripping software utilizing as their source for album covers will have these larger images. MediaMonkey is a good example of a free program that does this.


  • No Volume Normalizing or Leveling

    You'll find that when you mix your CD collection, some albums will be louder than others. Unless you compensate for it, you will be constantly adjusting your volume control in shuffle mode.

    Today's mainstream music is engineered for maximum volume. One technique "clips" the loudest part of the music; minimizing the difference between loud and soft sections of the music (called "dynamic range"). See the damaging effect this has on music by scrolling through this timeline of popular music over 1990's: The decade in which music literally got louder.

    A feature called "Normalizing," effectively maximizes the volume of the CD without destructive clipping. Normalizing gives your CDs recorded at a more modest volume level a fighting chance at being heard. Programs like Audiograbber can normalize your music. Windows Media Player cannot.


  • Limited to Windows and MP3 Formats

    The MP3 is simply the most compatible format available. Whether you want to copy your music to an iPod, a cell phone or a Mac, if you choose MP3, it will play.

    However, other formats offer features the MP3 doesn't. Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format and the AAC format (preferred by iPods) offer smaller file sizes. FLAC and similar formats offer an exact copy of the CD (versus MP3's really, really close to exact). Other formats offer surround sound.

    With Windows Media Player, you only have two format choices: MP3 and Windows Media Audio.


  • Inflexible File and Folder Naming

    When you create music files from your CDs, folders and files use a naming scheme based on the artist name, song title, album, etc. While Windows Media Player offers this feature, it is a little rigid.

    For example, one thing you can't do is prefix the album title with the year it released. By naming your folder "1972 Dark Side of the Moon," all of your Pink Floyd albums will be in chronological order.


  • Limited Sound Quality Choices

    A feature of MP3s is the ability to sacrifice audio quality to save space on your hard drive or MP3 player. The MP3 format offers 18 levels of quality, with variations on each level. Windows Media Player offers exactly four levels.

    This means if you want your MP3s a touch below CD quality to save 15% in space, you will have to look elsewhere. The closest Windows Media Player can come is a 25% reduction in quality.



Originally Published:  Sunday, July 1, 2007, 5:00 PM PT

Last Updated:  Monday, June 27, 2011, 4:25 PM PT

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