How to Choose the Best CD Burning Software
The top performers in our review are Roxio Creator NXT 5, the Gold Award winner, DVD MovieFactory Pro, the Silver Award winner; and Nero Burning ROM, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 applications.
Why Should You Buy CD Burning Software?
In days gone by, thousands of compact discs filled the shelves of music stores. The primary way software companies delivered products to their customers was via CD. Even popular video gaming systems used CD-ROM technology. Today, CDs are far less common. DVD, Blu-ray, digital downloads, streaming services, the cloud and others have chipped away at all of the uses for CDs.
Additionally, personal computers are moving away from optical discs altogether. For nearly two decades, most new computers came equipped with optical drives capable of reading and burning both CDs and DVDs. But in recent years, they've become less common too. If you have a newer computer, you may need to invest in an external optical drive to make new CDs.
But that doesn't mean the compact disc is dead – far from it. These days, CD burning software allows you to make your own personalized CD. Burning an audio CD today is far easier and more affordable than ever before. This is a great way to custom-make your own musical album out of a playlist or even store your original compositions.
There is also something to be said for backing up your important data to compact discs. External hard drives often fail, and cloud backup services may not always be available. But you can easily store a CD with all your critical documents on it for the day you need it the most. You can also copy critical files that you can then share with others.
Key Attributes to Look For
Most operating systems have the ability to burn files to discs without the need for CD burner software. Additionally, free applications like iTunes allow you to import, copy and burn audio CDs. If all you want to do is burn your favorite playlists to a blank disc, you may be better served with these free alternatives.
However, these free options don't offer all the extra tools and features found in the best CD burning applications. For example, iTunes cannot build a true data disc with files and folders from your computer. The best CD burning software gives you the ability to burn both audio and data discs. It also burns new discs quickly, creates custom discs, erases rewritable discs and more.
All of the programs in our lineup create both audio and data CDs. However, none of them are exclusively CD burner programs. They all have the ability to burn DVDs, and the best programs can even burn high-definition Blu-ray discs. The true value of any CD burner software is its versatility to burn to any blank optical disc you happen to own.
If you're only burning a single CD or two, it probably doesn't matter how long it takes to complete the burning process. However, if you're creating multiple discs, the faster, the better. The best CD burner programs can create new audio discs in two minutes or less and a new data disc in about three minutes.
The best CD burning software also has the ability to erase rewritable CDs. This is great because it allows you to recycle blank CDs rather than buying a new spindle.
One of the biggest differentiators between the best CD burning software applications on the market and run-of-the-mill applications is their ability to create custom discs. Several of the programs on our side-by-side comparison chart are restricted to making rote copies of existing CDs and DVDs. The best CD burning programs, though, allow you to build completely new discs from the ground up. This is an excellent tool for backing up sensitive data or burning an audio disc to play in your car or give to your friends.
The top-scoring products in our lineup provide you with basic audio-editing tools so you can fine-tune your sound files before burning them to a disc. They also allow you to edit your new disc's metadata so if you're making an entirely new creation, your disc will be complete with information such as album name, song title, artist and composer.
Help & Support
Even the best CD burning software can be frustrating at times, and chances are good that you will spoil a few discs before you work out all the kinks. Good documentation can be a real lifesaver. Look for an application with contact information and a built-in help reference. In case you encounter a problem that you cannot resolve using the application's help resources, it's always good to have a reliable phone number or email address to contact the manufacturer for support.
CD Burning Software for Mac
All the programs on our side-by-side comparison chart are Windows-based programs. Only one has a Mac counterpart. If you are a Mac user, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to burn CDs on your machine. This is because Apple is moving away from optical disc drives and no longer builds them into new computers. However, if you have an older Mac or hook up an external CD burner, the Mac operating system (macOS) gives you the ability to burn data discs natively, and you can burn audio discs easily with iTunes.
If you want more than these simple burning features, you can look into some of the best Mac CD burning software such as Roxio Toast, NTI Dragon Burn and Express Burn. All of these programs have tools that allow you to create and customize not just CDs, but also DVD and Blu-ray discs with your Mac. Keep in mind that if you have a newer Mac, you’ll have to invest in an external optical drive and possibly adapters to burn new CDs on your Mac.
CD Burning Software: What We Tested, What We Found
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of the average consumer. We obtained all 10 programs on our lineup by purchasing each of the products. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our testing methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. The results of our evaluation were not provided to manufacturers in advance of publication.
We subjected each of the CD burner programs on our lineup to the following tests to determine which ones were the best:
We burned multiple audio discs with each CD burner application. Our audio experts then listened to each of the new discs, comparing the audio quality of the new discs against the original files. Each application created new audio discs with no loss in quality. In fact, the music on the new CDs was indistinguishable from the original files. So no matter which program you choose, you can expect a crisp, clear audio experience.
If you're creating multiple CDs, the time it takes to burn a single disc is quite important. In addition to the audio discs we burned, we created several data CDs using an assortment of documents, spreadsheets, images and more. The best CD burner programs burned new audio discs in two minutes or less and data discs in under four minutes. Lesser applications can take as long as six minutes to complete the same task. All of the top three programs had fast burn times and can save you hours if you're burning discs one at a time.
CD burn software should be accessible to everyone, no matter their computer skill level. We evaluated each program's interface and ranked it based on how simple it is for you to access the tools, complete common tasks and navigate the workflow. We found that all these programs are generally easy to use and learn. Some products buried more advanced features like disc erasure and audio-editing tools deep within the program, but it's nothing that you shouldn’t be able to figure out within a few minutes of launching the program.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
After completing our evaluation, we found the following products to be the best CD burning programs available:
Roxio Creator NXT 5 – This program is the perfect example of a versatile program with an excellent CD burning module. It earned the highest ease-of-use score and clocked some of the fastest burn times during our testing phase.
However, its true value lies in everything else it can do. Roxio Creator is a full creative suite, offering complete audio-editing tools plus video- and photo-editing tools, so whether you're creating a music or data CD, you have a complete array of tools at your disposal to customize a disc exactly the way you want it.
DVD MovieFactory Pro – This application, our Bronze Award winner and a highly versatile program, focuses mostly on creating DVD and Blu-ray discs. While CD burning isn't the star of the show, you'll find great audio-editing and disc-customization tools that allow you to burn the exact CD you need.
Nero Burning ROM – This is one of the most advanced and versatile programs on our side-by-side comparison chart. It has tools and features that allow you not only to create music and data CDs, but also to burn DVDs and Blu-rays from a disc image. It’s not geared toward the average user, and you’ll have to take some time to learn to use everything it has to offer. But if you’re creating complex projects, it's definitely worth your time.
Optical media may be on the decline, but it's not dead yet. The best CD burning software allows you to not only to make new musical and data CDs, but also construct custom DVD and Blu-ray discs. As long as you can buy an optical drive, you'll always be able to use the discs you create with these products. For more information, visit our articles about CD burning software.