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The Complete Guide: What is a .cda File? How to Play or Convert CDA Files?

Author by Vita

Updated on Jan 30, 2024

.cda files can usually be found in an audio CD folder on Windows. For the purpose of copying audio tracks from an audio CD, some people may just simply copy these CDA files but will be disappointed to find that the copied files don’t play. How to play a CDA file properly? When coming down to this question, you should first know what is a .cda file.

Part 1. What is a CDA File?

Different from the common audio formats like MP3, WAV, and FLAC, CDA doesn’t include real audio data. Instead, it is an indexing and shortcut file format that references to the related actual audio track. When one inserts an audio CD disc into a Windows computer, the Windows CD driver will automatically generate a list of 44-bytes CDA indexing information files to tell the computer when to play each audio track. By clicking these CDA shortcuts respectively, you can open associated tracks instantly.

Files with CDA extension

As a matter of fact that .cda files are representations of audio tracks, they can’t exist independently from the actual files to which they point. If you directly copy CDA files from an audio CD folder to your computer or other devices, the files will become invalid shortcuts and won’t play.

Part 2. How to Play .cda Files?

For playing CDA files successfully, please make sure there is an audio CD disc these CAD files can refer to on your computer. Double click on a CDA file, and usually, Windows Media Player will be launched to play the audio track. Alternatively, you can right click on a CDA file, head to Open with, and choose another .cda player to open it. VLC Media Player, iTunes, RealPlayer, and Winamp all can play CDA files.  

Part 3. How to Open CDA files by Conversion?

Oftentimes, people copy CDA files from a music CD with the aim of transferring the music to other devices for listening, sharing them with friends or for backup. Yet as we have mentioned just right, CDA files don’t contain audio data, the simple copy-and-paste action will not bring an expected result. Then, if you search for solutions on the Internet, you would find some instructions suggesting that you convert CDA to MP3 or WAV, which is actually the operation of ripping the CD and converting the music to MP3 or WAV. After all, it makes no sense to convert a separated CDA shortcut to an audio file. With this in mind, let’s learn how to rip CDs.

Step 1. Insert the CD disc into the built-in or external optical drive on your computer, then run Windows Media Player.

Step 2. Head to Library, under this tab, choose the CD drive letter from the left vertical menu bar.

Step 3. There will be a Ripping setting button at the top section of the window. Click it, then choose More Options.

Convert CDA audio file

Step 4. On the Options dialog, hit the Change button to choose a location for the exports, open the format drop-down list and choose the desired audio format. MP3, WAV, and WMA are supported. Based on your preference, there are more other options you can change. Then, click OK to save the settings.

Step 5. Tick the audio tracks you want to convert. Typically, it will select all tracks by default.

Step 6. Click the Rip CD button and convert the CD to WAV, MP3, or WMA.  

How to play CDA files on Windows 10 by ripping

In Summary

We compile this post with the aim to help you get better understanding of .cda files and easily make use of such files in daily life, such as playing, backup, sharing, etc. Hopefully, you would find something useful after going through it.

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