To configure Windows Media Player 11 for CD ripping, open the Rip menu by click-ing the small arrow under the Rip toolbar button and then choose More Options. This displays the Media Player Options dialog box with the Rip tab opened.

There are a number of options here, but I am primarily concerned with Rip settings,which determine the file format Media Player will use for the music you copy. By default, Media Player will rip music to Microsoft's proprietary Windows Media Audio (WMA) format. I cannot stress this point enough: Do not-ever-use this format.

Here's the deal. WMA is a high-quality audio format, and much more desirable froma technical standpoint than competing options such as MP3 or Advanced AudioCoding (AAC), the format Apple uses for its own music. But because WMA is notsupported on some of the most popular music devices on the planet (read: the iPod),I advise against storing your entire collection in a format that could be a dead endin a few years.

So what do we recommend? We recommend the MP3 format, which is a de factoaudio standard that is supported by every single audio application, device, and PC onthe planet. Yes, MP3 is technically not as advanced as WMA, or even AAC for that mat-ter. But that's okay. Thanks to today's massive hard drive sizes, you can simply encodemusic at a high bit rate. The higher the bit rate, the better the quality. (And, not coinci-dentally, the bigger the resulting file sizes. But again, who cares? Storage is cheap.)