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How to burn music CDs in iTunes

You’ve made a great playlist in iTunes and want to listen to it in the car or share the songs with a friend. What’s the best way to burn them onto a CD? Well, that all depends.

The first thing to note is that iTunes only lets you burn playlists. They can be smart playlists or regular ones. If you don’t need the playlist for anything other than burning the CD, you can delete it after you are done using it to burn the disc.

Using the “Burn Playlist to Disc” option, iTunes let you burn discs in three formats:

  • Audio CD
  • MP3 CD
  • Data CD or DVD


An MP3 CD will only play in newer CD players that know how to read MP3 CDs. But if you have one of these players, burning an MP3 CD will let you fit more songs onto a disc than an Audio CD. How much you can fit will depend on numerous factors including which bit rate was used to record the songs. You should be able to get five hours of music. Possibly ten hours or more.

Here’s how to burn an MP3 CD.

Video too small? Watch full screen by clicking the YouTube Full Screen button button here

If you try to burn an MP3 CD and some of the songs in the playlist are not in MP3 format, iTunes will warn you and give you the option of canceling or burning the CD with the songs that are in MP3 format.

BONUS TIP: You can try to convert non-MP3 files to MP3 format by selecting them and then choosing the “Create MP3 Version” option in the Advanced menu. This should work unless the file is a protected format. In that case, you’ll likely receive a message like “‘Song Name’ could not be converted because protected files cannot be converted to other formats.”

Audio CD

An Audio CD is the same format as a commercial music CD so it will play in almost any CD player. But since the songs are stored in an uncompressed format, most Audio CDs will fit at most 80 minutes of music.

Here’s how to burn an Audio CD.

Video too small? Watch full screen by clicking the YouTube Full Screen button button here

Be sure to check the “Include CD Text” checkbox so that the track names can be displayed on CD players that support that (as many newer car radios do).

If you are sharing this Audio CD with someone else or are going to play it in a different computer, use the “Submit CD Track Names” option in the Advanced menu. This will upload the CD’s track information to a service that will let other computers see the track’s names, artists, genres, etc. Here’s how:

Video too small? Watch full screen by clicking the YouTube Full Screen button button here

Data CD or DVD

Finally, to back up your music files regardless of file format, iTunes offers the “Data CD or DVD” option. Don’t expect a disc burned this way to work in anything besides a computer. It’s really just meant as a means for backing up your music collection, which is why it lets you also burn to a DVD, which holds more than six times as much as a CD.

So, to review, here are the pros and cons of each CD burning format:

Audio CD MP3 CD Data CD or DVD
Readable by Practically all CD players, computers Newer CD players,
all computers
Likely just computers
Capacity 74 or 80 minutes varies,
5-10+ hours
varies, 5-10+ hours (CD),
30-60+ hours (DVD)
File formats All converted to uncompressed audio MP3 only All
{ 9 comments… add one }
  • DKP July 7, 2011, 7:58 am

    The videos will not work on the sent email.

    • Steve July 7, 2011, 11:26 am

      The videos are working for me now but I’ve seen this problem before on sites (like MacHelpForMom) that embeds videos from YouTube. The solution that always works for me is to simply shut down the browser and start it back up again. That seems to clear out whatever is causing the problem. Let me know if that doesn’t work.

  • DKP July 7, 2011, 6:39 pm

    Hi Steve,
    Well, I came back this evening and YouTube was working as it had before I updated my system to 10.6.8. Don’t know what was changed but I did call Apple and they might have been aware of the problem. I also got in touch with YouTube and they might have done some tweeking. We’ll probably never know!
    But now I can watch your videos. Thanks.

  • Wanda October 11, 2012, 9:44 am

    Watched all your videoson making a cd and submitting to gracenate to get track names. Not on a Mac but a PC.
    What happens after a few days when gracenote give you information for track names. Do you just put cd back into drive and it automatically updates track?
    Been trying to do this for couple of days very frustrated.

    • Steve October 11, 2012, 10:37 am

      Hi Wanda. I want to make sure I understand. Did you already have the track names on one computer and you’re waiting for them to appear when you take a CD burned on one computer into it into another computer? That’s what the “Submit CD Track Names” function is for. If you’re waiting for track names to appear when you insert the CD into another computer and you think you’ve waited long enough, try this test: Put the CD back into the original computer and see if the track names appear when iTunes is displaying the tracks on the CD. If not, then I’m afraid something got messed up in the beginning and I doubt the track names will ever appear on other computers. You may have to burn another CD and try again.

      If you never had track names in the first place, “Submit CD Track Names” won’t help. For that you should try the “Get Track Names” function that’s also in the Advanced menu.

  • Jo January 12, 2013, 11:58 am

    Hi. I am trying to burn a CD from my iTunes library. I have created a playlist of the songs I want on the cd. When I click on burn it all seems to go through ok in terms of writing to cd (all songs appear in progress bar at top of screen) and burning. But at the final stages the progress bar at the top gets stuck on ‘accessing iTunes Store’. When I try and play the cd only the first 4 or 5 songs play (though it says there is 70 ish mins on it) …. any suggestions?? Not very techno minded so a simple explanation would be great if possible! Thanks.

    • Steve January 16, 2013, 9:38 pm

      Hi Jo, that does sound strange. The first thing I’d check is if (a) only 4 or 5 songs got copied onto the CD, or (b) all the songs got copied but something got corrupted so only the first 4 or 5 songs successfully play. You can check that out by putting the CD back into your computer and seeing how it looks in iTunes. Please report back.

  • Alex October 8, 2013, 11:11 am

    Thank you! That helped so much

  • Martin Grant May 12, 2020, 7:05 am

    Just read your post and feeling great. These videos are so described and complete. I must have to try now. Thanks for sharing.

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