External CD/DVD Drives

There – it’s all in the title

Let me explain

A few times recently, I have had computer support clients asking for my advice when upgrading to a new laptop (as they do) and expressing concern that most modern laptops don’t have a CD/DVD drive. So, they ask, should they avoid such machines?

“No”, is my answer, unless BOTH of the following situations apply to you:

  • You still regularly use a CD/DVD drive (and the operative word here is “regularly”)
  • You carry your laptop around with you on a fairly regular basis

“But what about my music? What about that game that’s on CD that my darling little grandchild plays when s/he comes to see me?”

CD/DVD drive - from Amazon
CD/DVD drive – available from Amazon at £12.99 plus delivery
“No problem” (as everyone says, inappropriately and ad nauseam, these days). You can buy an external CD/DVD drive – and very cheaply, too. And that’s why I say that it’s all in the title. The fact is that external CD/DVD drives manage to keep a very low profile. They’re rarely advertised and if you didn’t know they exist then it probably wouldn’t occur to you to wonder if they do – even if you could do with one!

The fact is that we are using CDs and DVDs far less often than we used to. Most software and most music is now downloaded from the internet rather than supplied on physical media. Also, we don’t use CDs and DVDs for backups very often nowadays. Therefore, it makes sense for laptop manufacturers to save both space and money by not including them.

If you do use a CD/DVD drive regularly and you do need it on the move, then I can tell you from my own experience that it’s a little less convenient, and a little heavier, dragging around separate computer and CD/DVD drive than having an internal drive. However, the trend towards less and less use of them is likely to continue, so the balance is likely to go more and more towards laptops without integral drives.

CD/DVD drive - Apple
CD/DVD SuperDrive from Apple – £65
External CD/DVD drives are cheap. At this point, I was going to suggest budgeting about £30 but then I did a bit of research and found a CD/DVD drive on Amazon for just £12.99 (plus delivery). OK, it’s no style icon, but that hardly matters. You will see from the illustration above that it comes with a CD with “Driver” written on it. If, like me, you are a bit of a smarty-pants, then you might wonder how you get to load up the drivers to make the drive work if you need to have the drivers installed before the drive will work. Hmm, I can’t think of a smart response to that. The truth is, though, that I have never needed drivers to make an external CD/DVD drive work. Just plug ’em in and off they go.

You will notice that there are two cables with this model. One is the data cable and the other is a separate power cable (they both connect to the laptop via USB ports). It needs the second (power) cable as the device needs more power than can be delivered through the same cable that handles the data. Clearly, if you have a laptop that only has one USB port then this solution won’t work for you. Instead, look for a drive that manages (somehow) with just one cable. Using up two valuable USB ports isn’t usually a problem as the drive is not usually being used for more than a single operation. It can then be disconnected.

CD/DVD drive - Samsung
Samsung CD/DVD drive – available from PC World at £22.99
I notice that this particular drive claims compatibility only with Windows machines and not with Macs. My bet is that it would work on a Mac as well, but if you don’t want to take the risk (and if you are inured to the pain of paying Apple prices), then you might feel more comfortable paying £65 for the official Apple USB SuperDrive.

If you’d like something a little more elegant than the one from Amazon, then you might like this CD/DVD drive by Samsung from PC World at £22.99. This one does say that it’s both PC and Mac compatible.

So, there you have it. Now that you know that external CD/DVD drives exist, you can go ahead and buy your new slim, lightweight, notepad with confidence.