Making Your Music Mobile

With all this great music, you aren't likely to want to limit your listening pleasure to those times when you are working at your Mac. There are two ways in which you can make your iTunes music "mobile": by creating your own music CDs or by using a portable MP3 player.

Using iTunes to Create Custom Music CDs

With a Mac and a supported CD recordable drive, you can use iTunes to create your own music CDs. These CDs can contain specific playlists that you can then listen to in your car, on portable CD players, and so on.


If you have a CD recording application installed on your Mac, such as Adaptec's popular Toast, you might have trouble getting iTunes to record CDs. If you experience problems when you attempt to record CDs using iTunes, remove any other CD writing applications you have installed.

The general steps to use iTunes to record a custom CD are the following:

  1. Install and configure your CD recorder.

    For information about installing and using CD-R and CD-RW drives, see "Finding, Installing, and Using a CD Writer," p. 695.

  2. Create the playlist from which you want to create a CD.

  3. Configure iTunes for CD burning.

  4. Record the CD.


The process of recording a CD is more commonly called burning a CD, which is the terminology that iTunes uses.

Steps 1 and 3 have to be done only once, so after your system is properly configured, you can burn subsequent CDs quite easily.

Configuring Your CD Recorder in iTunes

Before you can burn a CD, you need to make sure that your CD recorder is properly configured.

  1. Turn on your CD recorder (if it is an external model).

  2. Open the iTunes Preferences dialog box and click the Burning icon.

  3. Ensure that your CD recorder appears next to the "CD Burner" text at the top of the Burning pane.


    If iTunes does not recognize that you have a supported CD-R or CD-RW drive, see "iTunes Can't Find My CD Recorder" in the Troubleshooting section at the end of this chapter.

  4. Set the Burn Speed to the appropriate speed. Try the higher speeds first, but if recording doesn't work properly, reduce the speed. A safe recoding speed is 2x. Unless you are in a tremendous hurry to get a CD done, this will probably be plenty fast for you.

  5. To record an audio CD that will be compatible with standard audio CD players, click the "Audio CD" radio button and set the amount of quiet time between tracks on the CD by using the Gap Between Songs pop-up menu.

  6. To record an MP3 CD, click the "MP3 CD" radio button.

  7. Click OK.

Burning a CD

When your system is configured properly, you are ready to create the CD.

  1. Create the playlist you want to put on the CD. Make sure that the songs are in the order in which you want to listen to them. Also make sure that the playlist contains fewer minutes of music than your CD-R media is rated for?select the playlist and look at the bottom of the iTunes window. Most CD-R media is rated for 70-80 minutes so your playlist should be less than this.

  2. Select the playlist you want to place on the CD.

  3. Click the Burn CD action button. You will be prompted to insert a blank CD.

  4. Insert the blank CD and close the drive (unless you have a slot-loading CD-RW drive, in which case this isn't necessary). In a moment, the Burn CD button will be in color and will start pulsing to indicate that you are ready to burn. iTunes will check to make sure that everything is ready to go. When these checks are complete, you will be prompted to click the Burn CD button.

  5. Click the Burn CD button again to burn the CD.


Use CD-R discs for audio CDs you create rather than CD-RW discs, especially if you will be using the CDs you create in noncomputer CD players. If you create an audio CD using a CD-RW disc, the odds are that you won't be able to play it using any CD player except the one on which you created it (which wouldn't be very useful).

When iTunes records your playlist to a CD, it first translates the music into the standard Audio CD format (assuming that you elected to create an audio CD rather than an MP3 CD, of course). The application will translate each of the songs on the CD prior to burning them. This process will take several minutes to complete. Watch the display area for progress and status messages. When it is done, iTunes will begin recording the CD.


The spinning Burn CD icon gives you a clue as to how fast data is being transferred to the CD recorder. The faster the icon spins, the higher the data transfer rate is being achieved. If the icon slows considerably or stops altogether, you might experience errors because data isn't flowing fast enough to keep the CD burning process fed properly. If this happens, quit all applications that might be accessing any disks on your Mac and make sure that you aren't playing any music in iTunes. This will ensure that the maximum amount of system resources are available for the CD burning process. You can also lower the burn speed to reduce the data flow requirements. Doing so will often alleviate this problem.

Depending on the speed at which your recorder works and the amount of data to record, this process can take quite a while. When it is complete, iTunes will play a sound to indicate that the process is done. The CD you created will be mounted on your Mac and will be selected as the current source.


If iTunes stops the process before it is complete, see "iTunes Stops Recording Before the Process Is Complete" in the Troubleshooting section at the end of this chapter.

If the CD you create can't be read on "standard" CD players, such as those in your car, see "The CDs I Make Won't Play in My Noncomputer CD Player" in the Troubleshooting section at the end of this chapter.

Using iTunes with a Portable MP3 Player

One of the best uses of MP3 music is with a portable MP3 player. These players are very small and lightweight and are simple to operate. Plus, they have no moving parts, so they never skip (unlike portable CD players) and they use very little power.

If you have an MP3 player that is compatible with iTunes, you can use iTunes to download music to the MP3 player.

Choosing an MP3 Player

As with everything electronic, there are many different portable MP3 players available. They all do basically the same thing, which is to let you listen to MP3 music on the move. When choosing your MP3 player, consider the following factors:

  • iTunes compatibility By default, iTunes comes with the plug-ins required to support various MP3 players, including some of the most popular models. If you are interested in using an MP3 player with iTunes, you should get one of the supported models. To see which models are supported by the current version of iTunes, visit the iTunes Web site at

  • Memory MP3 players come with a built-in amount of memory. The more memory a model has, the more music you will be able to store and listen to. Typical models come with 64MB of memory or more, which is enough for about an hour or two of music, depending on the encoding method you use. Most MP3 players also use some form of removable memory, such as CompactFlash media.

  • Size and style Most MP3 players are really small (the smallest are the Sony models, which are not much larger than a normal pen). They have various shapes, colors, and so on. Although the style factors don't affect performance, the size and shape of the unit should definitely be a consideration. The whole idea is to carry the unit with you, so you want one that is comfortable for you.

  • Controls Because some MP3 players have been designed largely to make them look "cool," the usability of such a unit's controls can sometimes be compromised. Investigate the model carefully to make sure that the unit has controls that are usable when you are on the move.

  • Cost The largest factor in the cost of an MP3 player is the amount of memory that it has. You can get a "top of the line" MP3 player for about $200.


If you have another device that uses removable memory cards, consider an MP3 player that uses the same format. Then, you can share cards between the devices.

To learn about the major removable memory formats, see "Memory," p. 412.

Downloading Music to an MP3 Player

Downloading music to an MP3 player is quite simple.

  1. Connect your MP3 player to your Mac. iTunes will automatically recognize your player and it will appear in the Source pane.

  2. Select the MP3 player as the source.

  3. Delete music from the player by selecting the songs you want to remove from its memory and pressing Delete.

  4. Drag songs from the Library onto the MP3 player's icon in the Source list. You can also drag an entire playlist onto the icon to add all the songs in that playlist to the MP3 player.


Typically, you should create a playlist to put on the MP3 player. Use the size information to make sure that the playlist will fit in your MP3 player's available memory. Also, creating a playlist will enable you to return that set of tracks to the MP3 at some point in the future.

When you are done, you will see the songs that the player currently has available (see Figure 16.15). You can use the Expansion triangle to view the contents of folders on your MP3 player.

Figure 16.15. The songs shown in the MP3's Contents pane are ready to listen to.



If you don't see your MP3 player in the Source list, see "The MP3 Player Doesn't Appear in the iTunes Window" in the Troubleshooting section at the end of this chapter.

When you have an MP3 player selected as the source, the information at the bottom of the Contents window shows you how much of the player's memory has been used. You can use this information to "max out" the memory so that it contains as much music as possible.


When you click the Action button, which is called Options when an MP3 player is selected, you can rename your player. You can also upgrade its firmware by clicking the Upgrade Firmware button.


Some MP3 players enable you to create folders in which to store music. You can rename these folders in iTunes, but you have to create them using the player's controls.

Using iTunes with an Apple iPod

Although the Apple iPod is an MP3 player, it is much more than most MP3 players. Whereas many MP3 players are limited to 64MB or 128MB of memory, the iPod includes its own hard drive with 5GB, 10GB, or even 20GB of storage space. This means you can store an entire music collection on the iPod (about 4,000 songs for the 20GB model), which eliminates the chore of selecting a small subset of your library to take on the road with you. The iPod uses the FireWire interface to communicate with your Mac, which means that data transfers to and from the iPod much more quickly than it does with most other MP3 players (because most use USB, which is much slower than FireWire). And iTunes is designed to make managing your mobile music with the iPod even easier than it is with other MP3 players. For example, you can set up the iPod so that it is automatically synched with your iTunes music collection, including the songs in your Library, your playlists, and so on.


You even use an iPod to display your contacts and appointments.

The iPod's only downside is its cost, which is higher than that of many MP3 players. The iPod costs $299 for the 5GB, $399 for the 10GB, or $499 for the 20GB model. However, if you consider that the iPod is actually a very small FireWire hard drive and includes a 10-hour rechargeable battery, its price doesn't seem as high. Also, keep in mind that you would have to buy many, many memory cards for most players for them to even approach the amount of music you can store on the iPod.

Another nice feature of the iPod is that its battery can be recharged through the FireWire port. This means that you can recharge your iPod just by connecting it to your Mac.

iTunes is designed to keep the iPod in synch with your music Library.

  1. Connect the iPod to your Mac using the supplied FireWire cable. Your Mac will recognize the iPod as a new source, and iTunes will begin to download all the music in your Library to the iPod. During this process, the iTunes Information window will display the progress of the process, as well warning you not to unplug the iPod while the update is in process. As songs are downloaded, the refresh icon next to them disappears.


    If your iTunes library contains more music than can be stored on the iPod, you will have to manually configure the music on the iPod. You will learn how to do that shortly.

  2. When the process is complete, disconnect the iPod. Your entire iTunes music library is ready to go with you.


iTunes contains a complete online help system for the iPod. To access it, choose Help, iPod Help.

When an iPod is connected to your Mac, it is mounted on the desktop and is available as a source in the Source pane (see Figure 16.16). You can work with an iPod as a source in ways that are similar to other sources.

Figure 16.16. When an iPod is connected to your Mac, it appears on the Source pane.


As you add music to your Library, create playlists, remove songs, and so on, you will want to keep your iPod current with your iTunes Library. You can control how this is done by setting preferences for the iPod using the Player Options button, which looks like the iPod itself.

When you click this button, you will see the iPod Preferences window (see Figure 16.17). The options you have in this window are explained in the following bulleted list:

Figure 16.17. The Player Options button enables you to configure how your iPod is synchronized with your iTunes music library.


  • Automatically update all songs and playlists. When this option is selected, the entire iTunes music Library will be synchronized with the music on the iPod each time you connect the iPod to your Mac. This means that the iPod contains a mirror image of the music you are managing in iTunes.

  • Automatically update selected playlists only. When you choose this option, you select the playlists that you want to be updated. When you connect the iPod to your Mac, only the selected playlists are synchronized. This option is useful if there is music in iTunes that you don't really want to carry with you or when you can't fit your entire iTunes Library on the iPod. Create the playlists you want to keep on the iPod and then have them synchronized automatically.

  • Manually manage songs and playlists. With this option, you must manually move songs to the iPod; you do this just as you do for "regular" MP3 players.

  • Open iTunes when attached. With this check box selected, iTunes will open when you attach an iPod to your Mac.

  • Enable FireWire disk use. You can use your iPod as an external FireWire hard disk. To do so, check this check box and also the "Manually manage songs and playlists" radio button. When you attach the iPod to your Mac, you can work with it just like other hard disks. (You can't use this method to transfer music to the iPod, though; instead you must use iTunes to do that.)

  • Only update checked songs. This option enables you to prevent songs from being copied to the iPod. Check this check box and then uncheck the check box next to any songs you don't want to be copied to the iPod.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle