The Definitive Guide To Ditching Your Discs

The Definitive Guide To Ditching Your Discs

Moving, needing cash, running out of storage space—they’re all great reasons to consider backing up and ditching your physical. Here are our recommended methods of saving, selling and trading your CDs, DVDs and video games.

Photo by mutednarayan.

Audio CDs

Backing up: If you’ve only got a few CDs to digitise, either because you’re already on top of your backups or just want a few sacred albums, go ahead and use whatever music manager you’ve got. We’ve found some decent explanatory guides for iTunes, WinAmp, and Windows Media Player, all of which suggest you make sure you’ve got your format settings tweaked to your liking before you commit the time to swapping discs in and out. Photo by joelogon.

What format should you back up to? We can’t tell the future, nor do we know how much of an audiophile you are. The safest bet is to go with a lossless compression method, which doesn’t compress audio information for file size, and so has a better likelihood of being rescued and re-converted if a new format takes over from MP3. Both iTunes and Windows Media Player offer their own lossless formats to convert to in their settings.

The free, open-source alternative is to convert to FLAC, which, while popular among serious music fans and the open-source community, isn’t quite a readily-playable format on MP3 players and devices. You can convert audio CD tracks to FLAC, or most any other audio format, using the free VLC Media Player.

If you do decide to stick with MP3s for your conversion, aim for a higher bitrate—perhaps 256 kbit/s. Some notice audio “artefacts” on files compressed at 192 kbit/s and lower. On most modern hard drives, a library full of MP3s encoded at the 256 rate can readily be fit.

Selling and trading: Your best deals will depend on your collection, with rare or hard-to-find discs, of course, likely to fetch a better dollar. In my own brick-and-mortar experiences, I found that one locally-owned record store (in a different town) wouldn’t bother giving me more than a cursory estimate for about 60 CDs, while another took the time to look for any gems with resale value and provided a final estimate. Photo by brewbooks.

If mailing out your old wares disc by disc isn’t all that appealing, we propose a fun alternative—host an Old CD Party. Email a bunch of nearby friends whose tastes in music aren’t completely appalling, buy some snacks and drinks, and invite everyone to spread their CD collections in personal piles on your floor, just like the baseball card trades of yore. Swap albums, negotiate two-for-one deals, and laugh about what a sullen, sappy, or seriously goofy person you used to be. It’s a lot more fun than getting 50 cents for your Throwing Copper disc(s).


Backing up: Adam really dislikes having DVD scratches and skips interrupt his “stories,” while I loathe looking at my DVD purchases and realizing that, on a per-view basis, they’ve cost me about $5 per hour. How many films does one really intend to watch over and over? Wouldn’t your copy of The Italian Job (the newer, Marky-Mark remake, of course) be put to better use as spare cash or a new DVD than as an entertainment centre bench warmer? It may not be entirely, officially legal, but making a personal copy of a DVD for your viewing on any device is the mildest of infractions these days. (Oz legal note — “Format shifting” is legal in Australia, but circumventing copy control isn’t — but if you don’t share the files, who is going to notice?)

Adam so dislikes dealing with scratched optical media that he made two tools for converting them to digital goodness. His one-click DVD Rip tool for Windows uses the ever-popular DVD Shrink to make it stupid-simple to turn any DVD disc into standard DVD folders–VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS. Rather than make you dig through folders and thumbnail shots to find those ripped DVDs, he also patched together DVD Play to make browsing, playing, and editing the details of those ripped DVD folders much easier, using VLC for the actual playing work.

For any computer, we also recommend the powerful, popular and reliable Handbrake, which offers a bevy of helpful presets for all your devices and screens. The VLC Player itself can also help you rip DVDs, while Mac users can still grab the last free copy of Mac the Ripper for a pretty easy solution. DVD spines photo by ToastyKen.

Selling and trading: As with CDs, DVDs see a drastic reduction in value once they leave their plastic wrap, but videos are even more generally low-priced than their audio brethren. If you’re not up for checking for no-seller-fee periods on eBay, I’ve found the best bet is selling in a garage sale or other face-to-face opportunity. Price your discs accordingly—hit up eBay, find the price for used discs, and go down from there.

Video games

Backing up: If you own a PS3 or Xbox 360, there’s no easy way to back up your games for later second-chance playing—at least no easy method that we (or our brethren blogs) have come across. For the Nintendo Wii, however, Jason recently posted a guide to copying and playing Wii games with an external hard disk that’s not all that difficult to pull off. Photo by NMGilen.

If you’re a PC gamer, some of your older games can likely be copied whole cloth onto blank discs, and any of our Hive Five CD and DVD burning tools can get the job done. Some can’t, or won’t work on installation, because of proprietary copy protection systems. In general, though, most games rely on a serial number to authenticate a game, so keep those backed up somewhere you can’t lose them, like a code-named email to yourself, or on paper you won’t likely lose.

Selling and trading: There’s regular trade-in deals to be had at games retailers, though the margin of return isn’t great. Other than that, the same principles apply (you can try eBay or a garage sale, and rarity counts big).

What tools and techniques have you used to free yourself of unnecessary plastic platters? Where have you found the best deals, and what was the easiest backup method you found? Tell us your tips in the comments.


  • Instead of actually backing up, I purchased DVD & CD folders. I cut the DVD covers to fit into the folder, with the DVD’s on the next page.

    With the CD’s, the sleeve’s just slid straight in without any need of trimming, then placed the disc on top of the cover.

    Once you realize how much space you save after tossing the jewel cases/covers, you’d also appreciate the convenience of having so many in once place.

  • I also spent long hours pulling my Cd cases apart and putting them into folders roughly by type – Band/single/Dance/Rock/soundtracks ect ect While I access the folders rarely, Its great I still have them and still provide unlimited ripping/listening on what ever machine I will want to put them on – long after my Itunes music dies on my 5th Pc ( Up to 3rd at the moment.. )

  • I was about to do this myself. I had a great plan to recycle all the cd boxes and stick all the discs in a wallet… and then I found out that you can’t actually recycle cd boxes ’cause they’re made out of polystyrene, so they’d end up in the landfill. :o(

  • By all means copy your CDs to your computer, but then you have to keep the discs themselves. If you sell/swap the original whilst retaining the digital copy, you’re illegally copying the disc.

  • a better music manager is Banshee, which works on every platform under the sun (except Windows), or Media Monkey.
    they have built-in audio ripping and plenty of options for lossless formats.

    WMP and iTunes tend to be slow, ungainly beasts and demand a level of control over the format, naming and placement of your files, and convert files very slowly if at all.

    for video, you could do a lot worse than StaxRip, MagicDVDRipper or my favourite, CloneDVDMobile — they work a treat with AnyDVD, even on some damaged discs.

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