Difference between Ripping and Burning a CD

It is very common to hear people say ‘rip’ or ‘ripping’ as well as ‘burn’ or ‘burning’ when compact discs (CDs) are involved. It can be confusing to understand the difference since they don’t mean the same thing. Read through this article to understand the difference between these two sets of terms.


Ripping a CD
Ripping a CD using Windows Media Player

Ripping a CD, or to rip a CD, is a term used to refer to the action of copying content such as music from a CD using a media player. This method converts the music on the CD into an MP3 format in the computer. Once the songs are in an MP3 file on your computer, you can then play them or burn them into another CD.

Burning a CD
Burning a CD

Burning a CD, or to burn a CD, means the opposite of ripping a CD. It is the action of putting data on a blank/empty or rewritable CD. Using a media player or other software, you get the music burned or written on the CD from a folder or file in the computer.

Comparison Chart

Ripping a CD Burning a CD
Data is copied from CD to computer Data is copied from computer to CD

Ripping vs Burning a CD

What is the difference between ripping a CD and burning a CD? The difference between these two actions lies in the direction of movement of data.

Although burning and ripping a CD can be done using the same software, they are the opposite of each other.

  • Ripping a CD is similar to copying from a CD into your computer. While copying can be done either by right-clicking and selecting copy or by use of the shortcut “Ctrl + C”, ripping occurs when you use software such as Windows Media Player or iTunes. The software converts the data from the CD, usually music, into a digital file such as MP3, and saves it in your computer. You can then convert these files into different formats that are playable by your computer or other by devices at a time that is convenient to you. The term ‘ripping’ is due to the act, i.e. you ‘rip’ through the CD as you copy the music to your computer. Ripping is a way of saving content on a CD into your computer in a different format to allow you to use that content on different media players and devices. It is also used to enable you to edit the content, duplicate it or create back up of the content. Ripping is legal as long as you do not share the files you create with other people.
  • Burning a CD (also referred to as optical disc authoring) is the opposite of ripping a CD. Here, data is moving from your computer into the CD. This is done by use of either a media player or other specialized software. Data, commonly music and videos, is put together in a file. Software such as Windows Media Player or iTunes is then used to ‘write’ those files onto a black CD. The term ‘burning’ is due to the fact that a laser is used to ‘burn’ the data onto the blank CD. Burning a CD is mainly used as way of duplicating content for record keeping.


Here is a video that explains how to burn music from your computer to a CD using iTunes: