Ask Unclutterer: CD storage

Reader Christy submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I use iTunes and have burned all my CDs to iTunes. I also have a huge box in my basement of all the hardcopy CDs.

Is there any reason I would need to keep them (computer crash or something), or am I safe to start giving them away?

Christy, the idealist in me says that if you have burned all of your CDs in a lossless format and you have your computer backed up to a secure online location, you should be fine getting rid of your physical CDs. However, the pragmatist in me has to admit that there is a box of CDs in my basement and I wouldn’t even do what I just suggested.

Also, from a legal standpoint, you aren’t supposed to have a digital copy of a CD without also having the physical copy.

I guess when it comes down to it, my official advice would be to simply get rid of the jewel cases (they can be recycled in most communities) and store all of your hardcopy CDs in a CD Notebook. If you do this, you won’t have to pay the fees to store all of your lossless music data online and you’ll cover your arse if the RIAA ever comes knocking at your door.

Thank you, Christy, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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61 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: CD storage”

  1. posted by Erin on

    @Kara – I think all of the posts preceding mine made it very clear that as long as you aren’t selling the CDs you ripped, you aren’t doing anything illegal by converting them to an electronic format and getting rid of the boxes of discs people have in their basement. The only thing you are doing is uncluttering.
    And judging by your snarky comment, I’m guessing I’d have declined the invitation had their been one.

  2. posted by Stephanie on

    I burned all my CDs onto my computer last year (and then sold them, yes). But earlier this year my computer crashed, and I lost everything. As much as I liked having the space freed up, oh how I wish I’d kept them for a year in a box somewhere. Rebuilding the whole thing has been a pain in the ass.

  3. posted by milos on

    Hello everyone, what format you use for ripped?

  4. posted by Karyn on

    @ Chris I. – “If it was legal to rip the CD because you bought it, but then sell the CD and keep the digital copy, then the person you sold the CD to could use the same logic to do the same thing, and so could the next person he sold the CD to, and so on. In the end everybody would have purchased a copy, while the producer would have only sold one copy.”

    As the original purchaser of the CD, I’m the only one whose money went to pay royalties to the artist. The artist still has my money, whether I keep the CD in perpetuity or give it, trade it, sell it, or burn it in a fit of This Music Is EEEEEVVVVUUUULLL madness. Hence, I’d think whatever rights I “bought” with that money would remain mine, and not that of subsequent buyers.

    Of course, in practice the whole business is (as others pointed out) rather gray-area and not particularly practical to enforce. Also rather difficult to demonstrate, short of keeping all of my receipts, that one paid for the album as a new item and thus is the one who gave the artists their due. I’m by no means an advocate of mass pirating and sharing of files, but making a digital copy for personal use only should not be a problem.

    What I’m objecting to, mainly, is the bloating ad absurdum of legitimate interest in preventing illegal distribution of content. It’s bad enough I have to keep tax forms and other documents for-freakin-ever; do we REALLY have to start documenting every aspect of our lives, birth to death, right down to proving that we really really did make a purchase of that CD back in tickety-two?

  5. posted by lurker on

    I have looked at this problem too for some time.

    I have also put everything on the harddisks.
    As i want to keep the discs in good order indefinately i store them in the safest possible way:

    1. Vertically
    2. In Amarax boxes (they’re patented locking system puts just enough balanced stress on the hub to prevent warping)
    3. In a closed larger box, kept at the same temperature/humidity level all year long.

    The recommended CD notebook method will slowly kill the discs over time(warp and pressure damage).

  6. posted by DJ Cubishe on

    hello wveryone i need help with something that it might be easier to do than i think it is the deal is that i have burned all bunch of cds and i want to know what is the easiest program to make the jewel information just for me to know what is in each cd such as title of the song plus artist, i know i can do it manually but really? i mean it will take forever is there any program that i can pop my cd on my computer and just drag whatever information ?????. thanks

  7. posted by Maggie on

    I am ready to give up all of my cd’s, period. Don’t need them in a notebook, don’t want them. I put them all into a notebook awhile back, and now am ready to be free of that as well.

    There is a local record store that buys used cd’s but will not take them without the jewel cases.

    What is a girl to do now? Is ebay my only option? I have over 500 cd’s that I don’t want, sans jewel cases.

    (And if anyone thinks I can just give them away they’re nuts, we’re in a recession here people!;))

    Please help:)

  8. posted by Doug on

    A few people above are worried about better formats in the future. The keyword from Erin’s post was LOSSLESS. Lossless formats, such as FLAC, APE, and Apple Lossless, will keep the information exactly as the original. You can keep the lossless format files for storage purposes, and also have MP3 versions for your iPod. If there’s a newer, better MP3, you can make new MP3s (or other new format) from the lossless files. You can even change one lossless format for another without losing any audio information.

    The downside of lossless formats is the size. They take about 5 times the hard drive space of MP3s. Although, one CD will be about 350 MB in a lossless format. For 1000 CDs that’s about 350 GB. Not bad now that TB drives are out there.

  9. posted by Robert on

    The RIAA? Really? If all you’re doing is ripping CD’s to your computer, there’s no way that The Man is going to find out about it. There’s no reason for the RIAA to start suing the crap out of you if all you do is rip your own CD’s.
    Now, if you’re illegally downloading music and they find it out from your ISP, then that’s a different story… but the RIAA doesn’t have an X-Ray telescope that tells them exactly what’s on your computer’s hard drive, nor do they come knocking on random people’s doors. That’s just paranoid.

  10. posted by Herb on

    What about this – I have several hundred CDs, mostly classical and opera. When I play a CD, I often want to read the sleeve note or follow the (Italian, German, whatever) libretto. How do I do that when I’ve put all my music on Sonos? It seems to me that until someone invents a simple way of allowing me to do that electronically, I’m better off keeping my CDs in their fragile jewel boxes… unless you know different?

  11. posted by Jess Q. on

    Herb – What I would do is scan those sleeves front and back, and save them as a PDF. (Or some other file format that won’t degrade, such as PNGs, BMPs, PSDs, etc.) A PDF seems like the best solution because it can have multiple pages. Then I’d save all those PDF files in a folder (probably a subfolder of my Music folder) and reference them as needed.

    I’m pretty sure you’d even be able to print those booklets again directly from the PDF in almost the same quality as the original, which might be useful. Good luck!


    The wannabe minimalist in me wants to buy all music off iTunes (or digitally, anyway) from now on, to avoid anymore space conflicts. But the music/art lover in me wants to continue buying select albums from artists I really like in a physical copy so I can feel closer to the music and art. Such a dilemma!

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