Recording audio in Windows is a simple matter of plugging a microphone or an audio device into your PC’s microphone and line-in minijacks. You can then record the input with the right software.
However, you might not realise that you can also record any audio that is playing on your PC or laptop, whether it's from a program or a website. Whatever sound comes out of the computer's speakers can be saved to a file and played later.
It's not too hard to see that there are several uses for this. You might want to record VoIP (Voice over IP) internet telephone calls like a conversation over Skype. It would be useful if you are conducting an interview or business call and it would save you having to write notes as you go. Just bear in mind you should always ask permission before recording phone calls.
Live webcasts viewed in a web browser can be recorded and listened to later and you can record internet radio broadcasts. If you can’t tune in to your favourite radio programme because you are working, busy or doing something else, you can record it and listen to it later when you have more free time.
There are some fantastic radio stations streaming every music genre you can imagine at shoutcast.com, sky.fm, live365.com and others. Just as with TV shows, it can be much more convenient to listen to music when it suits you rather than when it is being broadcast.
Is it legal to record internet radio? We’re not legal experts, but if you can record a TV show and watch it later, you can record from internet radio and listen to it later too. That’s not an issue. It's when you start burning those recordings to CDs and selling them at car boot sales that you could get into trouble.
Here, we'll show you step-by-step how to enable a hidden Windows setting that allows you to record audio as it is playing using free audio editing software. This works on most, but not all PCs. You need Windows Vista, 7 or 8 and the sound card needs to have this recording capability. You don’t need an expensive PC or a top of the range sound card and the Realtek audio often found in budget PCs works fine. The audio must be playing with the volume turned up, but speakers can be unplugged or switched off. Turn on the speakers later when you replay the recording.
How to record any sound in Windows
1. You need to make some changes to the audio configuration in Windows, so go to the right-hand side of the Windows Taskbar and then right-click the speaker icon. Left-click Recording devices in the menu that pops up.
2. The Sound window is displayed and, if the Recording tab isn't selected, click on it. There will be one or more recording devices displayed, but some might be hidden. Right click in the empty space and select Show Disabled Devices.
3. Hopefully you can see Stereo Mix in the list of recording devices. It may be initially disabled. If so, it can be enabled by right clicking it and clicking Enable. Also select the option to set it as the default device.
4. Select the Stereo Mix device and click the Properties button. They should be Ok, but it is worth checking things like the volume on the Levels tab (try 50), and the quality on the Advanced tab (CD quality).
5. Audio recording software is required and you may already have a program on your computer. If you don’t, download Audacity from audacity.sourceforge.net. The Lame MP3 encoder on the Downloads page is useful too.
6. Install and run Audacity. The settings must be configured to use the right input source. Select Edit Preferences and, under Devices, set the recording device to Stereo Mix. If you're running an older version of Audacity, you will find the same settings under the Audio I/O tab.
7. You are ready to record, so let’s find something to listen to. Start your web browser (Chrome is a good choice) and go to sky.fm or somewhere similar. Select a radio station and click the button or link to start it playing.
8.Switch to Audacity and click the record button. Speakers don’t need to be plugged in or switched on, but you do need to adjust the volume. Adjust it using the speaker icon in the Windows taskbar if necessary.
9. Click the Stop button when you have recorded the broadcast. Go to the File menu and select Export as MP3 (you'll need the Lame encoder for this) or WAV. Once the file is saved you can play it using Windows Media Player or another music player.