starting with the presumption that you are ripping to uncompressed wav files (with a smallish collection and cheap harddrive space compression is likely pointless)
600-ish CDs will fit with room to spare on a 500Gb drive, personally I'd buy TWO 500Gb drives and make incremental copies of all newer files to the second one as you proceed.
NOTE: Please remember that though the maximum capacity of a pressed CD is 700Mb/80min most are ~50min <450Mb
a GOOD modern optical drive and even a "last generation" computer like a mid-speed (2.4-2.8GHz) Pentium4 computer should be able to accurately rip a CD in 2-2.5minutes.
what also must be considered is "file management" (organizing them by Genre, Artist & Album) using simple "directory trees" won't take long, but for 600albums it's going to seem like it does...
You MUST plan to store your files in some sort of order or you will spend months sorting them out after your abrubt orgy of ripping.
BTW, I NUMBER a band's albums in order of original release that way on playback they tend to play in order.
Say for example I'm in the mood to listen to Rush I want "Power Windows", "Hold Your Fire", "Presto", "Roll The Bones" and finally "Counterparts" to play in that order without getitng into creating playlists... so I just tell my computer to play "Rush" and it works it's way through their albums in the chronological order.
(I can always select shuffle or select a specific album/song)
BTW, assuming a worst case of 3min per CD to actually copy the data off of them that's 20albums an hour, and thus 30some hours of labor. Theoretically you could do it in a single weekend.
(Friday night then all of saturday and sunday)
If you are sticking to WAV files...
If you are going to an mp3 based system you are looking
at a lot more time to be invested. due to the effort of compression.
FLAC/WMA-Losless/AAC-lossless were of value before the price of hard drive space fell, but with HDD volume selling at walmart for <$0.20/gb I see no need to debate in rude terms the intelligence of anyone bothering.... their failure to consider all the relevant facts is obvious to all but a true believer in lossless compression
I have managed to rip, compress to mp3 and tag 250-ish albums in three days, but it should be noted that on a given computer compressing takes about twice as long as ripping does.
I've found that if I NEED to compress audio files for portable use that any of the lossless compression codecs don't compress files by enought to matter.... not to mention the issues with playback of lossless audio codec files.
Personally I make all my personal use mp3 files from CDs as 320kBit/sec, this is not a quality based choice, but a choice
based available data storage, I don't need to compress
files smaller as doing so wouldn't gain me anything.
FLAC does save space, the problem however is that if you worked for the same ammount of time as the additional time the compression would take you I suspect you could easily come out ahead by spending those extra earnings on a larger HDD.
I will also comment that you shouldn't buy the HDD you need, get a bigger one.... then buy two identical HDDs... you'll want toback up those files.
While it's true that you'll have the original source CD's you aren't "backing up" the audio files as much as you are "backing up"
your time spent in extracting those files.
you can get through the job relatively painlessly by not treating it
as a job, but by doing an hours worth every night after work...
Mabey sitting at your computer feeding it a fresh disc every 2-ish min
while you watch TV or something...