MLStrand56 asked the Music & Video Software forum about ripping music to FLAC files, which compress the file size without damaging the audio quality.
Most of the music sitting on people's hard drives or in their portable media players use lossy compression formats such as .mp3 and .wma, which throw away some information, hurting the audio quality, in order to save a great deal of storage space.
But the Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) format uses lossless compression, shrinking the files without hurting the sound.
Lossless formats don't compress as much as lossy ones. I ripped a single, nine-minute recording three times: as an uncompressed .wav file, a .flac, and a 320Kbps .mp3 (the type of .mp3 file that does the least compression and the least harm). The uncompressed .wav file weighed in at 92MB, the .mp3 20.8MB, and the .flac 40.5MB. In other words, the .flac was approximately half the size of the uncompressed audio, but nearly twice as large as the .mp3.
Another problem: FLAC isn't a universally accepted standard. iTunes doesn't support the format, and Windows Media Player does so only fitfully. You'll need to install Open Codecs to play .flac files in WMP.
And even then, you can't rip to FLAC in WMP.
But you can in WinAmp Standard. Once you've downloaded, installed, and opened the program, select Options, then Preferences. In the left pane, under Media Library, select CD Ripping. For "Select the format," pick Flac Encoder.
Then put in your CD and let it rip.
Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at email@example.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.