How to burn a CD
in Windows XP

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Burning a CD means putting or entering data (or recording digital information) on a blank CD. That data could be music, photos, text, or computer files. Burning a CD in Windows XP is a piece of cake. Once you know how to do it, you will want to make many CD's of your music, photos, and other creations like digital paintings or drawings for yourself and for your friends and family. And one of the best hassel-free and economical methods of safeguarding your computer data (a.k.a. backing up) is to make copies in a CD and then saving the CD in a safe place. The only requirement is to have a CD-ROM drive in your computer that is capable of burning CD's. Older computers may only have a CD-ROM drive that is capable of reading from a CD and playing music from a CD. But chances are if you are using Windows XP, you are using it in a newer generation computer and it most likely is capable of burning CD's. It might even be a system requirement for running Windows XP. I am not sure.

Let me clarify one more point before we proceed. Blank CD's come in two different flavors. The first one is called CD-R (CD Recordable). The other one is called CD-RW (CD Re-Writable). The second one lets you write over older writings (older data gets erased). In other words CD-RW is reusable, just like the old floppy disks, or audio or video cassettes. The CD-RW disks are a little more expensive than the regular CD-R disks. Again, Windows XP can write on both kind of disks, but you have to make sure your computer's CD-ROM drive can write on both kinds of disks (all CD-ROM drives cannot write on CD-RW disks) before you buy the blank disks.

That said, let's see how to burn a CD with Windows XP.

1. Insert a blank CD in your computer's CD-ROM drive. In a few moments you will see a dialog box popping up on your monitor that looks like the screenshot below.

CD Drive (D:) dialog box. What do you want Windows to do?
Figure 1
CD Drive (D:) dialog box.
What do you want Windows to do?

Select (click on to highlight) "Open writable CD folder using Windows Explorer", then click on OK. (If you want Windows to perform the same action every time you insert a blank CD in the drive, then put a checkmark in front of "Always do the selected action" before clicking on OK.)

The above action will bring up a temporary folder where you can drag and drop the files you want copied on the CD. You can bring here as many files from your computer as you want so long the total file sizes do not exceed the CD's capacity. An average CD can hold upto about 700 MB. If you exceed this limit, Windows will notify you. In that case, delete some files from this folder to stay within the limit. After you bring your files to this folder, the folder will look similar to the one shown below.

Drag and drop on this folder the files you want copied on the CD
Figure 2
Drag and drop on this folder the files you want copied on the CD.

You are almost done. Now click on "Write these files to CD" the left panel of the folder. (Please see Figure 2.) That will bring out the CD Writing Wizard as shown below.

CD Writing Wizard dialog box. Just type a name for your CD here.
Figure 3
CD Writing Wizard dialog box.
Just type a name for your CD here.

In the above dialog box, just type a name for your CD. By default, Windows inserts the date on the CD name box. You can put anything you want. If you want, put a checkmark in front of "Close the wizard after the files have been written" option. If you don't put a checkmark there as shown, after your files have been written on the CD, the wizard will ask you if you want the files to be copied to another CD. This is a great convenience when you want to create multiple copies of your CD. You don't have to start from scratch again. So do whatever suits you better, and then click on Next.

At this point, CD Writing Wizard starts writing the files on your blank CD and displays a progress bar as shown below.

CD burning progress bar
Figure 4
CD burning progress bar.
Shows estimated time left.

Please note how fast the files can be copied to the CD depends on the speed of the blank CD. Some CD's are faster than the others and they cost more. The speed is always written on the blank CD.

One last note. If you have burned a CD and later realize that a lot of empty space has been left out on the CD, you can add files to that CD to fill it up. Just remember, files having the same name will be overwritten and if some of these files have changed, the latest version of the file will be written to the CD.

Now let us discuss the reverse process. You have files written on a CD and you want to copy those files in your computer's hard drive. I have recently done such an operation. I had some photos in my laptop computer. I wanted to transfer them to my desktop computer. So I first copied the photo files from my laptop on a blank CD following the procedure described above, and then inserted that CD in the CD-ROM drive of my desktop. In a few seconds, a window showing the contents of my Drive D (CD-ROM drive) showed up on my monitor that looked like Figure 5 below. (A note about music CDs: Normally, when you insert a music CD in your computer's CD-ROM drive, Windows Media Player or RealPlayer or whatever is set as your default media player opens up and starts playing the CD automatically. If you want to copy the music files in your computer, you have to close that player, open My Computer and then open up the CD-ROM drive (usually Drive D) by double-clicking on that drive. You will then see the window that looks like Figure 5.)

Shoban Sen's Windows XP Tutorials. How to copy files from CD to computer.
Figure 5
Window showing the CD name on the Title Bar
and Files Currently on the CD.

Now choose the files you want to copy in your computer by highlighting them. You can, of course, choose all files if you want to copy all the files in your computer. Figure 6 below shows I have chosen some files to copy to my computer.

Shoban Sen's Windows XP Tutorials. How to copy files from CD to computer.
Figure 6
Select the files you want copied to your computer here.

Now click on "Copy the selected items" on the lefthand panel. See Figure 6 above.

Immediately a window showing your computer's folders and subfolders will show up as shown in Figure 7 below.

Shoban Sen's Windows XP Tutorials. How to copy files from CD to computer.
Figure 7
Window showing my computer's folders.
To see a subfolder, click on the plus sign
next to the folder.

Here you have to navigate through the various folders of your computer and highlight the folder where you want the files to be copied. In the above screenshot, I have chosen My Pictures folder (under My Documents) where I want the photo files to be copied. Once you indicate your choice by highlighting the folder, just click on the button below that says "Copy" and that's it. Your selected files on the CD will be copied to the selected folder in your computer. What can be easier than this?

Note: The files on your CD still remains on the CD. They are not moved or transferred. They are only copied.

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