Though they're quickly falling out of fashion, there’s still plenty of need for physical copies of music albums that you want to enjoy on your hi-fi or in your car. Here’s how to take MP3s or other digital files and burn them to a CD.

What do I need to make an audio CD?

There are a few requirements for burning your own CDs at home.

First, you’ll need a CD/DVD drive which is often absent from new laptops and PCs. If your computer doesn’t have one built-in, then a quick trip to Amazon can bag you one like the Jokdeer external CD/DVD burner for around £20/$20.

While there you should also pick up some blank CDs (CD-Rs) which are now very cheap. We found a pack of 50 CD-Rs by Maxell for £8.65 including delivery through Amazon Prime and Amazon USA customers can avail themselves of 100 Maxell CD-Rs for $18.89.

On the software side, Windows Media Player is free, comes with Windows and will do the job. But there are also some fine alternatives such as VLC Media Player and the trusty CDBurnerXP which are well worth trying if you prefer other options.

How to use Windows Media Player to burn a CD

Open Windows Media Player (you’ll find it in the applications list of the Start Menu) and select the Burn tab along the top of the right-hand pane.  This will open up an area beneath where you can drag and drop items that you want on the CD.

how to burn a cd

If you want to create an audio CD that you can listen to in regular CD players (such as one in your car) then be sure to only add songs and spoken word tracks to the list. Once there you can drag them up or down to change the order. Bear in mind that the longest an audio CD can be is 80 minutes, so tot up the length of the tracks to be sure that they all fit.

Should your playlist be longer than the allotted time, Windows Media Player will automatically split it across multiple discs.

For other types of media – home movies, photos, files, etc. – you’ll have up to 700MB to play with on a standard CD-R. Should you need more, and the hardware you have supports it, then you can use a DVD-R instead.

With your list assembled, click on the Burn options icon (the one that looks like a notepad with a green tick in it) found just below the Sync tab.  

how to burn a CD

From the menu that appears you can select either Data CD or DVD or Audio, depending on the type of disc you want to create. There are also options for naming the disc and other details that you can include if you like. If your CD player supports CD-Text, be sure to enter, or edit, the track name and artist of the songs or files so that they're displayed correctly. If you care about that sort of thing, that is.

To start the process, click on the Start Burn button.

how to burn a CD

As the name suggests, Windows Media Player will now begin the process of burning the disc. It can take a while, depending on the speed of your drive, but once it’s finished you will have a CD that can either provide tunes for your CD player or a physical backup of your precious data. Bear in mind that it's a much better idea to use DVDs - or even Blu-ray discs - if your drive supports them, as CDs are far too limited in capacity for most data these days.

For more tips, check out our How to rip DVDs in Windows 10 guide.