Don't worry — you haven’t been hurled back in time. We are in fact running a tutorial on burning CDs using iTunes, and we’re not crazy. The thing is, when you’re immersed in the world of technology and armed with new toys, it’s easy to forget not everyone else is. CDs might be on the way out, but there are plenty of people who own older kit, yet to leap aboard the MP3 train, or with a car lacking the capability to play anything other than a shiny disc.
Read next: Apple SuperDrive review
The legal bit
First, we must doff our cap to the law.
Depending on where you live and the content you've bought, it may or may not be legal to make a copy of music you own - even if it's for your own personal use. It's unlikely that a SWAT team will smash through your windows the second you click Burn on your Mac, but if being squeaky clean is important to you, research your rights.
Be mindful that rights vary wildly from service to service and country to country; what you see on an Apple US page won't necessarily be relevant in Europe, but also 'default' rights can be overridden by the rights owner, who might allow you to do more with their content.
Burning a CD
Once you’re determined to make a CD, in iTunes go to File > New > Playlist (Cmd+N) and create and name a new playlist. Drag tracks to it from your music library and drag to reorder them however you wish. Preview the running order, to make sure everything flows well.
Be mindful of the length of the playlist. If burning an audio CD that should work in any standard shiny disc player, you’ll get an absolute maximum of 80 minutes. If you’re planning on burning an MP3 CD, which will only work on systems that specifically support MP3 CDs, you’ll get about 700 MB. To see how much disk space your playlist takes up, go to View > Show Status Bar. At the bottom of the iTunes window, you’ll see the songs, minutes and disk space values. Read: How to create playlists on your iPhone or iPad
When ready to record, pop a recordable CD into your Mac’s optical drive (note that CD-Rs are generally more compatible than relatively expensive rewritable CD-RWs), and go to File > Burn Playlist to Disc. In the Burn Settings window, choose the gap size you’d like between songs, and choose the disc format. If your song volumes are very different and you’d like to make them more similar, tick Use Sound Check, although be aware this setting sometimes causes distortion. Click Burn to continue.
Your CD will be prepared and written, and the progress will be shown in the iTunes playback area. Once iTunes is done, the CD will be mounted and accessible from the Devices section in the iTunes sidebar, so you can check it worked.
Macs without CD drives
If your Mac lacks an optical drive, you’ll need to buy an external unit or use another Mac that has one. (Annoyingly, Remote Disc is not an option for burning media.) In the former case, Apple sells a sleek [USB SuperDrive] for £65, but cheaper alternatives exist; just ensure you carefully check for Mac compatibility before you buy.
When using a second Mac, you have a couple of options: drag the playlist items to a Finder folder, copy the folder to the other Mac, and import the tracks into iTunes; or turn on Home Sharing on your Macs and ensure you’re signed into the same iTunes account. You’ll then find your library available in the Shared section of the sidebar on the second Mac. Tracks can then be dragged from the remote playlist to a local one. If using the first of those options, you may still need to authorise the second Mac in order to play and burn content purchased from the iTunes Store.
You can read more iTunes tutorials over in our iTunes topic zone, including:
- 10 amazing tips and tricks for using iTunes on the Mac
- How to authorise your computer in iTunes
- How to burn a CD on a Mac using iTunes
- iTunes syncing tips for iPhone users
- Tidy up iTunes by removing duplicate songs
- How to add lyrics to iTunes
- How to sync iPhone to iTunes without erasing the content
- How to move your iTunes library to a new computer or external hard drive