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Burned CD not working in car CD player

Keith asks:

How come when I burn music from the internet onto a CD, sometimes the CD won't play in my car's CD player? Am I doing something wrong? Others I know have had this same problem.

This is always a frustrating problem. A CD that's burned on one machine will play fine in another, and won't play in a third. Why won't the burned CD play?

Assuming you've done the basic troubleshooting like making sure your CD player's laser hardware is clean, cleaning your CD, verifying it's scratch-free, et cetera, there can be several reasons for this problem:

  • You forgot to select an "Audio" CD type when burning, and instead chose to burn a "Data" CD. Data-formatted CDs can not be read in a standard CD player.
  • You burned to a CD-RW format CD. Most CD players will not read a CD-RW format. Use a CD-R format instead.
  • Your player may not like the CD format. What size CD-R are you using? If you're using a 700MB capacity CD, try burning to a 650MB CD. Some players don't play well when given a disk capacity they're not expecting. Also try lowering the recording speed. Some car CD players will be fine with a CD burned using a 2x speed, but won't like using the same media recorded at 8x.
  • You have an older-generation CD player (more likely) or CD burner (less likely). Older hardware doesn't always talk with newer hardware. If you have, for example, an older CD player in your car, it gets confused by the language contained on the young whippersnapper CD. Think of it as an "electronic generation gap". The solution in this case, sadly, is to get a replacement for your car's player.