Backing up Windows Media Audio Files


I received the following message from one of my customers:

“I am relatively new to digital media activities.  I have copied appx. 5 GB of CD's onto my Dell hard drive using WMP, and enjoy listening to all of the music via a playlist I created, great! By the time I am done, I will probably have copied 20 GB of CD's.

My problem is this:  I want to back up all of these copied WMP files to CD-ROMs so that they will be easy to reload if I have a system crash.  I do not want to have to copy all of these CDs again from scratch, know what i mean?

Also, I am not always online.  I often travel to remote locations without Internet access.  I cannot get CD info without Internet access, and I sure wouldn't want to have to recopy every CD that I have already copied, AND have to manually enter every track and CD name manually, aaauuuuggghhhh!

Every time I try to copy my individual CD folders that contain each CD's songs from my hard drive to a CD-R, my machine hangs, and locks up my CD player.  I have to reboot my system to cancel the copy effort and remove the CD-R.

How do I backup these CDs I have copied to the hard drive, and how do I keep their track and CD title information when I do it?”

So I figured it’s time to lend a helping hand and offer some advice.  As you can see from the message (with a few minor edits on my part), there are a couple of issues here.  Lets kick things off by talking about backup, backup media, things to look out for, etc.


I make regular backups of my machines.  I don’t use the Windows Backup utility because I purchased the Ghost product for my machines.  However, the message above got me thinking about those backups and some of the songs I have.  You see, some of my songs weren’t ripped using the original CD.  I know what you’re thinking… No I didn’t steal a song.  I actually paid for them at the store.  Well, in reality I didn’t pay for them.  I got a gift card.  We’ll come back to digital rights management in a minute.

In the message above, Myra wants to use CD media as the backup storage medium.  That’s ok if it’s all you have, but I no longer use CD media for backup purposes.  I use either DVD media or external hard drives.  DVD’s obviously store a lot more, especially if you are using dual layer media.  However, dual layer media is still for the rich and famous.  A regular DVD will store about six times the amount of a CD and unless you are using a laptop or car stereo without the ability to read a DVD and the .WMA files, it would seem to make more sense.  You can store a lot of .WMA files on a 4.7gig DVD disk.

If your .WMA player is a laptop or desktop machine, then you should also consider an external hard drive.  Since Myra indicates a heavy travel schedule, it might make sense to buy a 2.5” hard drive and put it in an external USB 2.0 enclosure.  I use Hitachi 60gig 7200 RPM drives almost exclusively now.  They are fast, quiet, and run cooler than other drives I’ve used.  A 7200 RPM drive is probably overkill for audio data so if cost is a factor, look for a deal on a 4200 or 5400 RPM drive.  The cases I use are Vantec NexStar 2.5” USB 2.0 enclosures.  The are slim and light but because of the aluminium box construction, your hard drive will have some extra protection. 


When you start moving files around, you might consider automating some of the process.  Dr. Scripto wrote a really kewl article on Using Scripts to Manage Your Music Files and Playlists.  This article is primarily for the dev geeks among us that are comfortable using a programming language.


Organising your music collection is pretty easy.  However, taking the goods on the road means you might want to sync all or part of your collection to the device you are taking with you.  Fortunately, syncing data and play lists is pretty easy.  See the Take Your Music and Video With You article for instructions on how to setup a sync device, sync methods and priorities.


As I mentioned before, I have some songs I got from the store.  They are protected from illegal use using the Digital Rights Management (DRM) features of Media Player 10.  As you might suspect, there’s a section in the Windows Media Player FAQ on DRM.  In my case, I went to play one of those music files that is now on another computer and I was prompted to upgrade my security components.  It was as simple as installing the required ActiveX control and logging into Passport.  A few seconds later Alice In Chains was blaring and my dog was barking.  He apparently doesn’t like roosters.  His name is Elvis so maybe I should have picked Blue Suede Shoes.

Your mileage on DRM will vary so be sure to check with the store you purchase from on their backup and recovery procedures.  Be sure to do that before you move files from one machine to another.  I’d hate to hear you painted yourself in a corner.


Haven’t you ever wanted to throw your computer off a 10 story building like David Letterman?  We all get frustrated with the darn things.  Myra mentions above that the computer hangs on a folder copy from the hard drive to a target CD that is being burned.  There isn’t very much information to go on above, but Section 7 of the Windows Media Player 10 FAQ talks about Burning to CD.  I would also suggest consulting your media management products support site if you are using a non Migrosoft “drag to CD” style product.

See;en-us;324129 for an article on troubleshooting issues that occur when you try to write data to a CD.




Comments (2)
  1. Blake Handler says:

    Once again, thanks for the well thought out article — I was wondering if Microsoft’s "new" SyncToy would be a good solutino for syncronizing music?

  2. Keith Combs says:

    Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet. For those of you wondering what we are talking about, see

    I’m always a little leary of doing automatic syncs of my data. I rebuild my machines so frequently, it’s hard enough just making sure I get everything I want. I know, excuses excuses… 🙂

    Actually, a lot of my play time is consumed by SQL Server 2005 and Windows Vista. There’s plenty to learn in both products so them seem to be getting my "work" cycles.

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