How To Survive Without A DVD Drive In Your Laptop

How To Survive Without A DVD Drive In Your Laptop

A lot of laptops come without DVD drives these days, including super-thin ultrabooks and Apple’s new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. If you’re worried about getting by, don’t: with these tips, you’ll never even realise it’s gone.

Ultra-thin laptops are great. They’re light, portable, and can handle almost any modern task you throw at them. They don’t come with DVD drives inside, but the fact of the matter is that most of us rarely use disc drives these days, since online stores like iTunes provide us with much of our media. That said, there are still a few situations in which they can come in handy — such as when you’re ripping one of your own CDs, or when you want to watch a movie on your laptop. Here are the best ways to do those things without an internal disc drive.

Step One: Buy An External DVD Drive


OK, this may seem a little obvious, but the first thing you’ll need is an external DVD drive. Even if you have a Mac, don’t waste your money on Apple’s $90 model — you can get one for a lot less at retailers like JB Hi-Fi. Just plug it into your USB drive, pop in whatever CD or DVD you need, and you’re good to go. You can rip CDs to iTunes, play DVDs in your favourite DVD player, and even boot from the drive if you need to run Linux or reinstall Windows.

Step Two: Learn How To Rip DVDs To Your Computer


Everyone I know that’s nervous about getting an ultrabook or MacBook Air is worried about one thing: watching movies while on-the-go, since no one wants to lug around an external drive with them. Luckily, you have a much better option: ripping those DVDs to your hard drive as movie files. It’s very easy to do, and when you’re done, you’ll be able to watch your movies on a plane, in a coffee shop, or wherever you go. Not only will you be able to buy that ultra-thin laptop (which is easier to travel with), but watching a movie file will save your laptop’s battery too.

You have a few options when it comes to ripping DVDs. We recommend the Handbrake method, which works on both Windows and Mac. It takes a bit of initial setup and a longer time to rip, but you’ll be able to play the movies on anything, even your smartphone or tablet, and they won’t take up a lot of space. Alternatively, you can use a program called MakeMKV, which is much faster and easier to use, but the files will take up much more space, and you’ll need a program like VLC to play them. If you have the space to spare though, MakeMKV is a fantastic, easy option.

Step Three (Optional): Invest In A Flash Drive


Lastly, if you don’t already have one, you may want to get yourself a flash drive. It’s the perfect way to share media with your friends, store one or two of those movies you just ripped for the plane ride, or even boot into Linux, if you ever need to. If you find you’re burning CDs often, a flash drive will likely do a much better job of storing that data for you, so it’s worth spending a couple of bucks on one.

It may take some getting used to at first, but you might be surprised at how easy it is to survive without a DVD drive in your computer — plus, you’ll then be able to enjoy all the other benefits of a light, ultra-thin laptop. Got any other tips for living without a disc drive? Share them with us in the comments.


  • You can also “burn” an ISO to a USB flash drive and boot from it, which is extremely handy.. because who buys blank DVD media anymore? Especially if you don’t have a drive built-in.

    • I’ve used a optical drive in my computer about 5 times MAX in my life, mostly for transferring drivers, and playing a region locked DVD. I got a 256GB Crucial M4, and chucked it in my Lenovo Y570 and replaced the ODD with a 750GB HDD and migreated the Users directory. On top of that I’ve got spare MicroSD cards (all labeled and bootable) with various operating systems ready to boot such as Ubuntu 12.04, Win7 x64/64, Win8 x64 as well as drivers for a couple of machines.

      • I’m pretty sure he is “show-off trolling”, I have a Dell 2711 that does 2560×1440 admittedly it doesn’t do the full resolution for rectum display, but websites don’t look that bad.

  • I bought a new laptop a few months back, and swapped the HDD with an SSD, and put the HDD into the drive bay. Bought an external rubberised case, and a SataUSB cable, so if I REALLY need an Optical drive I can just plug the old one back in.. Brilliant.

    Alternatively, I share the Optical drive on another computer and access it that way, or as the article mentions, mostly use ISO’s & External HDDs.

  • OSX Lion also comes with a remote wireless disc type feature, so you can use the disc drive of any computer on the wifi network. Works really well, even with Windows PCs

  • I’ve not had an optical drive on the last three notebooks I’ve owned and it’s never ever once been an issue. People THINK they need/must-have a CD/DVD drive… but really 95% of people dont need one 95% of the time.

    Much better IMO to enjoy the reduced size and weight of a smaller thinner device you carry and use over 2-3 years.. the 95%.. than burden yourself with a feature that might get used a couple times (5%) in the life of the computer. And even then can easily be worked-around with a number of simple, cheap, available options such as USB, or $50 external drive.

  • Or if you have a desktop or other laptop with a cd drive, you can share it over the network and access it from the cd-less notebook. Works quite well.

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