- First of all have the music in the appropriate format, which is mp3. If you have the music on a cd for instance, you'll first have to rip the tracks and convert them to mp3 files. There's a free cd-ripper called AudioGrabber that does that, and is one of the best out there (considering the price).
- Second of all is the mp3 software that you need in order to sync your mp3 player with your music selection on the PC. For this purpose I've considered these free mp3 synchronization programs: iTunes (with iTunes Sync and/or BadApple plugins installed), MediaMonkey, musikCube and Yahoo! Music Jukebox
Once these programs are installed and your mp3 player recognized, you can transfer music to it.
- iTunes is one of the most used mp3 programs out there, but that's because its relation with iPod. However, if you don't have a iPod you cannot use iTunes to synchronize your playlist...at least not without any additional software. This is where iTunes Sync comes handy, as it tweaks iTunes to recognize any other mp3 player that shows up as a drive letter in Windows. So, first you need to download iTunes and install it on your computer. After that you have to download and install Microsoft .NET Framework, as it's required by iTunes Sync. Last thing to do is install iTunes Sync and follow the tutorial shown on Binary Fortress Software to sync your music.
iTunes (default install, recognizes only iPods) iTunes Sync (plugin, tweaks iTunes to recognize any mp3 player)
- Still iTunes, but now a different plugin called BadApple. BadApple is a free plug-in for iTunes which allows you to sync your music library to any MP3 player (not just an iPod). After downloading and installing the software, you will have a "Sync to MP3 player" link you can click on from within iTunes. This will sync all tracks to a MP3 player. What's better over iTunes Sync is the fact that it doesn't require the .NET Framework. However, it seems that it doesn't work in recent versions of iTunes, and the dowload link points to a 404 page. After iTunes is installed, download and install BadApple using this link (click on the Zum Download button). Once BadApple is installed if you're lucky you'll have a way to select an mp3 player to sync to.
BadApple (plugin, tweaks iTunes to recognize any mp3 player)
- MediaMonkey. Has a funny name but it works well, has a zillion of features and is one of my favourite. There's a free version that does it work well and can be downloaded here. The paid version ($20) attracts mainly because of this feature: "Auto-conversion allows you to automatically synchronize tracks no matter what format they're in, converting tracks on-the-fly to a format that is supported by your iPod or other portable device, while retaining all metadata." But, as I mentioned the AudioGrabber program earlier, you can do the conversion before the synchronization and save this way $20.
It can synchronize with iPods, phones (with mp3 support) and other mp3 players.
MediaMonkey's synchronization settings window
- musikCube does it too. Once you plug in an portable audio device it will appear under the Playlists section, and you'll be able to synchronize all music in the playlist with your mp3 player. Simple, structured more or less like iTunes, and free.
musikCube - once an mp3 device is added will be recognized automatically
- Yahoo! Music Jukebox (formerly MusicMatch) can synchronize too with your mp3 player. The only thing is that I had problem with it after installing, as I was receiving a blue screen of death. However, might have been a one-in-a-million error so it might work perfect on other systems. Just like the MediaMonkey, there's a free version and a paid version (Musi Jukebox Plus, $20). The free version does more than you need so no need to pay for the "Plus" one. You can get the free version here. Of course they're using this free version to promote their music subscription plan (like Apple does). You can do the synchronization with your player using the Playlists section.
MusicMatch main window
- Almost forgot about Windows Media Player 11. Looks well, works well, but it's Microsoft's :). Anyway, to download it you'll need to pass the Windows Genuine Advantage verification, so if you're ready here you can download it. However, first check to see if it isn't already installed on your computer, as it comes bundled with the operating system. Once opened you can use the Sync button to synchronize your playlist with the mp3 player.
Windows Media Player 11 main window
So, plenty of free mp3 softwares for you to choose from. Note that these programs do much more than synchronizing music, but this is a plus.