Optical drives are the drives that can read and write CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs. They’ve become rare in modern computers, disappearing from laptops first to allow the machines to become slimmer. With the advent of streaming services and fast internet connections, many desktop PC manufacturers also began to omit them. Despite this, optical drives are still regularly needed, and you should consider adding one to your computer.
An optical disc drive, or ODD, is any drive that uses a laser light to read or write data to optical discs, such as DVDs. They’re often referred to by the type of disc they can read. Most are backwards compatible, so CD drives can’t play a DVD, but a DVD drive will be able to play or record CDs. Some optical drives only read the data, but most are able to read and write on the discs.
Despite video streaming services, optical drives can still be very useful in the home and workplace. If you have important information, such as family photos, stored on a CD or DVD, you want to be able to show them to your grandchildren in the future. CDs and DVDs also remain a great way to archive information, and video files store easily on DVDs. If you own a lot of movies and music on optical discs, you may want to back them up on your computer or to hard drives. If you’re building your own computer, you may need an optical drive to install software and drivers to your PC.
The first decision to make about an optical drive is what you want to be able to read and write to. DVD burners are very popular because they can read and write to both DVDs and CDs. Single layer DVDs can store 4.7GB of data, allowing you to easily backup a lot of information.
The third option is a Blu-ray drive. These are less affordable than the other options but can generally read Blu-ray discs and read and write DVDs. They’re a great option for people who want to watch HD movies on their computer. Blu-ray burners are more expensive, but the discs can store a lot of information, making them attractive to people who need to store a lot of data, such as people who shoot a lot of home video.
You’ll also need to decide between an internal or external drive. This may depend on whether your computer has space for an internal drive; laptop users can only choose the external option. There is very little difference between internal and external drive specifications. In the past, internal drives have been the only option for high-speed data transfer, but advancements in USB technology mean there’s no longer a big difference in speed.
If you’re planning to store or archive information, make sure you buy the right blank discs. The discs should be compatible with your drive, and you'll need to choose between recordable or rewritable discs, denoted by R or RW. Recordable discs can only be recorded on once, which is perfect for information that isn’t going to change or files you want to keep or archive. Rewritable discs can be written to multiple times, so they’re more like a flash drive. They’re good for keeping a daily backup of important files.
If you want to keep information safe for the future, you may wish to consider M Discs. You need to buy an M Disc ready drive to be able to write to them, but once you’ve written to them, these archive-quality discs reportedly last for 1,000 years.