2015 Donald R. Snow

These Freeware notes are published in TAGGology, our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG) monthly newsletter, and are posted on  http://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html  where there may be updates, corrections, or additions.

Ripping a CD means copying it digitally.  The tracks of most commercial music CD's are in the file format .cda (CD Audio), which is only one of several standard CD formats.  Commercial CD's are made by pressing holes in the plastic, whereas "homemade" CD's are done by burning the holes in the plastic with a laser beam.  Commercial CD's, in general, last much longer than laser-burned CD's.  Sometimes when you own a CD, you want to make a copy to listen to on an mp3 player or something similar.  That's one reason for ripping your CD's to your computer, so you will have a digital copy that you can copy to a flashdrive or an mp3 player, etc.  Another reason is so that you can put the CD away and not get it scratched, but still listen to the music via the ripped version.  It is illegal to copy commercial CD's and sell them or even give them away.

There are lots of CD ripper programs, many of them free.  A CD player, that is also a ripper and that I have found works well and is able to even copy CD's that are badly scratched, is called FAIRSTARS CD RIPPER.  You can download it for free from -- http://www.fairstars.com/cd_ripper/index.html .  There are versions for Windows 7 and 8, both 32 and 64 bit operating systems, and it has received various awards.  It seems to be able to play and copy CD tracks that other programs can't due to physical imperfections.  It allows ripping in several formats, e.g.  wma, wav, and mp3.  I usually rip CD's to the highest quality copies for archiving, e.g. wav, and then, if I want it for an mp3 player, I make the mp3 from the good quality copy.   FAIRSTARS queries the online Free CD Database to get the exact information (artists, track title, length, album name, etc.) for the CD and includes it in the metadata of the copy.  You can select the order you want for the data in the track titles, so you can find them the way you are used to looking for them.  I usually put the track number first and include the album name and artist in the title so they all show up in the searches with the freeware program EVERYTHING available from  http://www.voidtools.com/  .  Then searching my computer for the artist or song title brings up all such songs.  Before you rip the CD you can preview the final result to see if it is the way you want.

On the program itself there are tutorials under the Help menu.  To rip a CD insert it into your CD drive and open FAIRSTARS.  You will see the CD album name, artists, track titles, length of each track, etc., in the program and you can play any or all the tracks, if you want.   There is a Query button to click to have it check the website  http://www.freedb.org/  for updated information, if needed.   This database has information on a great many CD's and is being updated all the time.  I have found very few CD's not in it.  For those not in it, I have had to type in the album name, artist, track titles, etc., myself.  The options allow you to query other online CD databases, but I have never used any other CD database.  Even if FAIRSTARS has found the album data, you can edit any of this data by right clicking on it, should you want to.  Clicking the Preview button will show how the labeling of the final ripping will appear, so you can decide if you want the information in the titles to be in a different order or if you don't want some of it there at all.  You can select the type of copy you want, and I usually use .wma for the archive copy.  For the location of where to put the ripped files click on the Output folder and select the folder or select New Folder and give it a name.  I file my music CD's by Artist > Album Title > Tracks, so, for example, all 20 tracks of Benny Goodman's Past Perfect album Stompin' At The Savoy are in the folder "CD's-wma/Benny Goodman/Stompin' At The Savoy/".  You can edit any of the track data even after the ripping, if you want.  The genre is selected automatically, e.g. classical, jazz, blues, country-western, Christmas, etc., but you can select a different one, if you prefer.  When everything, including the location for the copy, is set the way you want, click on Extract and it starts ripping.  An entire CD only takes a minute or two and then you have a good quality copy on your machine and all words in the track titles are searchable, so you can find them easily.  The ripped CD tracks can be played using any sound player that you want.  I usually use the freeware VLC as my default music, video, and podcast player.

High-quality audio files take up lots of space on your hard drive, but storage space is very cheap these days, so I don't worry much about the space taken.  For a mobile device I usually convert the wma file to an mp3 file and those are only about one-tenth the file size of wma's.  But they are smaller at the expense of lowering the sound quality.  That is, it clips off highs and lows and makes it less "sharp".  For most uses mp3 is fine, especially for mobile devices or poor quality equipment and in noisy surroundings.  But with good equipment and in a quiet room, I can tell the difference even with my poor hearing, so I usually archive better quality copies than mp3's.

The program FAIRSTARS CD RIPPER is only one of many free CD rippers, but it seems to work better than the others that I have tried and it will copy CD's that have been scratched so badly that they won't even play with other CD players.  Once you have a good quality rip you can make yourself a new CD that will play in other machines.  However, remember that you can legally only make copies for your own use and not to sell nor even give away.