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The Bottom Line

There's a ton of music on the Internet. A lot of it is available for free. Some of it will cost you. In either case, you can use Windows Media Player to manage and play your ripped and downloaded files—and to burn those files to CD. Just remember these key points:

  • MP3 has long been the most popular digital audio format, although Microsoft's Windows Media Audio (WMA) promises smaller file sizes and better copy protection at the same level of sound quality—and is the preferred format for official music download sites.

  • When you copy a song from CD to hard disk it's called ripping. When you copy a song from your hard disk to CD, it's called burning.

  • The bit rate you choose for recording an MP3 or WMA file determines the trade-off between file size and sound quality. If you're recording voices only, use MP3's 64Kbps bit rate or WMA's 48Kbps rate. If you want FM-quality music playback, use MP3's 128Kbps bit rate, or WMA's 96Kbps rate. If you want near-CD quality, go with MP3's 256Kbps rate, or WMA's 192Kbps rate.

  • You can also use WMP 10 to copy songs and playlists from your computer to a portable music player (Apple iPods excluded).


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