Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

I use Windows Media Player 10 and have all my .wma files on my computer. How do I back them up, so I don't lose my music library if my computer ever crashes and dies? I know how to back up licenses, but I'm talking about the actual music that I've painstakingly taken hours to transfer from my CD's to my hard drive.

The really good news is that you've already backed up the part that most people miss: the licenses. The rest ... well the rest is pretty easy.

The short answer is to simply backup the contents of your My Music folder, and all sub-folders, either by copying it to a different computer on your network, or burning it to CD(s) or DVD(s).

Now, if you've actually transferred all your music files from CDs to begin with, you are, effectively, already backed up. But as you point out, that's hours of painstaking transferring (or "ripping", as it's more commonly known as). By backing up the .wma files (or .mp3 files or other compressed music files), restoring them later is significantly faster ... it's a simply copy operation back into the "My Music" folder, or wherever you had them. And the .wma files are compressed, so what might have been 6 or 8 CDs on your bookshelf may well fit on a single backup CD.

This might also be a situation where it's pretty nice to have a DVD burner of some sort. Like you I've ripped most of the CDs on my bookshelf onto my PC so that they're quick and easy to listen to as I live my life at my computer. In addition, I've also purchased a fair amount of music using Apple's iTunes so in among my MP3 files that I could restore from my original CDs are a number of Apple's M4P files that I have nowhere else. In my case, that's 16 gigabytes of music right now. It'd be much better to back that up to, say, 4 DVDs than it would to try and manage the roughly 25 CDs it would require for backup. (And I really should get around to backing it up.)

One final note: naturally I recommend backing up more than just your music. I'm sure there are lots of things on your computer that, if lost, would also be painful, if not impossible, to restore. As I've discussed in a prior article, "What backup program should I use?", the simplest solutions are backup packages that simply backup your entire hard disk. That would, then, include your music, your work, your email and whatever else you had on your machine.

But one way or another, do back up. Someday you'll thank me.

Article C2387 - July 20, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

August 30, 2006 9:46 AM

I've run into a problem that I can't find mentioned. I backed up my licenses, and then copied the My Music folder to a second hard drive. Immediately, none of the DRM songs I purchased from msn music would work. I tried MS support, but they couldn't figure it out either. At this point, I cannot verify licenses through media player, and I cannot access msn music at all. I'm considering a Windows reload as the only solution to getting everything back. Is there anything we can do to backup DRM'd music?

September 2, 2007 8:31 AM

I've used you help for several issues and have always found the info very helpfull! Thanks!

Allen B
November 24, 2007 3:13 AM

Your comment was almost useless. Why no consideration of the metadata?

August 18, 2008 12:22 PM

this is my problem.
i downloaded all my music from a file i had to a cd.
then i deleted the file.
now i want to put that cd back on my computer.
how do i do that?

January 10, 2010 10:29 AM

I have Vista on my pc and want to copy all my music to one cd as a back up for when I install windows7. How do I go about doing this ? Can I compress my music so it fits on one cd and if so how ???

May 15, 2010 12:48 PM

How do I get the album cover art copied and on the folder on my back-up hard drive? I copied "My Music" folder to a separate hard drive for backup but none of the album covers are there, so I hesitate to throw out my less used music to make room on my computer because I may never get back the complete music folder. I packed up all my original cds when I moved so I use the version on my computer to play now. Help? I also use version 10 with Windows XP.

June 15, 2010 4:58 AM

Lindsay you should use a software that will give you the opportunity to save the backup online on their servers , a software like that is , and you don't have to worry because the software is free and as a free member you also get 3gb of free storage on their servers

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