The MacBook Air and the new Mac mini come without an optical drive. In the future, more Mac models will most likely also come without one. But getting along without CD/DVD drive is easy if you use USB flash drives, external hard drives, online music and video services and ways of streaming video to your TV. You can also get an external drive or share a drive on another Mac.



Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today’s episode, let’s look at surviving without a DVD drive. So some of the new Macs, Macbook Airs and the Mac Minis come without an optical drive so you have no way of using DVD’s or CD’s with those Macs and probably there’s more to come. More laptops probably won’t have these optical drives and in the future who knows, we could be seeing an entire Mac line that doesn’t have optical drives. So, what do you do if you don’t have one? So one of your first concerns maybe how do you get software? Well originally of course software came on physical media; floppy discs, then CD’s, then DVD’s. But now most software is downloaded and the Mac App Store makes that very easy. Third party software was always pretty easy to download from the internet. It’s been that way for more than a decade. But, even the big box software, stuff from Adobe and Microsoft can now be downloaded from their websites rather than purchasing physical media. So, there’s really nothing that you can’t get by downloading over the internet. You don’t need to have an optical drive to get software anymore. Your next concern may be media, getting music and video into your Mac. Now we’ve had lots of years, about a decade where we could basically rip our CD’s into MP3′s and put them on our Macs. So, for the most part this isn’t a problem anymore and all new music is of course available online. So purchasing online using either ITunes or using a service where you could subscribe to it like say Spotify, seems to now be the way that music is going. So you don’t really need a physical media for music anymore either. Video’s kinda the same way. A lot of video can now be done online. Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime allow you to watch stuff online and you don’t have to have the DVD. In ITunes you can rent and purchase videos as well. Now how about archiving and storing data and transferring data from different computers not on the same network? Well the best way to do that now is for small amounts of data with USB flash drives. Now even a cheap, small USB flash drive could hold a lot more than a DVD can and it’s much quicker to write to and read to and can be reused. DVD’s usually can’t unless you have a DVD rewritable and it’s much easier to use a USB flash drive for that. For larger things like say archiving lots of files say you want to archive your old videos or old photos, things like that, you can do that on an external drive. External drives are very cheap to get now too. For a hundred bucks you can get about a terabyte which is way more than it can hold with a box full of CD’s or DVD’s, so getting an external drive to archive things to might be a good idea. An optical media wasn’t really good for this anyway. After about ten years optical media starts to degrade. I’ve got a bunch of old CD’s, ten years old and now can’t be read by anything. You can actually see the cracks in the media. One thing DVD’s were used for is to be able to show video to people that are not sitting around your computer. You would burn a bunch of video to a DVD and then sit comfortably in your living room and watch it through your DVD player on the television. Well this could be done now in a variety of different ways. A cheap way for instance is to get a $99 Apple TV, hook that up to your television and then you can stream video from your Macs right to the TV. You can do it in high definition. Something DVD’s couldn’t do before. You can also share things online so you can send things to services like YouTube. You could even make thing private on YouTube so only your friends and family can see your vacation videos. Now if you still need to use your optical drive for something there are two things you should know about. The first is that you can share an optical drive on another computer in your network. So, say you keep around an old IMac or Mac Mini that’s got a DVD drive in it. You can actually access the DVD on another Mac, say a MacBook Air on that same network. See episode 591 to see how that’s done. And of course you always have the option to purchase an external optical drive. Apple’s got one for about 100 bucks. There are even some cheaper third party ones. They just plug in via USB and you’ve got all the functionality there. This is actually a really cool thing because then you could still say rip music and movies onto your MacBook Air but then when you travel you’re not taking the weight of an optical drive that you’re not going to use with you and carrying it around everywhere. So whether you like it or not I’m certain that we’re heading to a future that doesn’t include optical drives in our computers. So it’s important to get to know how to get along without them. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.


16 Responses to “MacMost Now 685: Surviving Without a DVD Drive”

  1. Daniel Hana says:

    What if you need to run a recovery on the hard drive?
    Thanks
    Danny

    • What do you mean? What has that to do with operating without a DVD drive?

      • Oh, you mean if you need to recover because the drive crashed. That ship has already sailed. Lion doesn’t come on a DVD. It puts a recovery partition on your drive, and a Lion internet recovery in the firmware on your Mac. You can always recover from either of those.

  2. Aaron says:

    You raised a good point about file storage. At what point, how many years should we back up the back up. If we put things on an external hard drive, how long will that last? What’s the best way to back up are precious photos’s?

    • I’ve heard that hard drives last longer than optical. Better if you use them every once in a while, I’ve hear too (as opposed to letting it sit in a closet for years without ever spinning up).
      For digital it is always best to re-backup things. So if you are thinking long term it is best to copy the data to a new drive every few years. That hasn’t been an issue yet since drives keep getting bigger. I don’t have my drives from 10 years ago because those are tiny compared to today’s drives. I keep rolling them into larger ones.
      And in the future, it may all be online where things are redundant.

  3. hirandy says:

    Hard drives have an 100% failure rate over time as well as polyester base tape. I have CD’s purchased in the early 1980′s that still play just fine. I have printed photographs that are 80 years old that look ok, and 80 year old phonograph records that still play. Backing up to the cloud is only as good as the corporation running it, remember polaroid? Print all cherished photographs to good stock, back up all photo’s to DVD as well hard drives and you won’t be sorry 30 years from now.

    • There’s a big difference between purchased (manufactured) CDs and CDs you burned yourself. I’m not talking about manufactured music CDs here — I mean CDs you burn — if you had a box of those from the early 90s (when writable CDs first appeared) I’m sure many of them would be unreadable by now. Archiving your photos to DVDs and expecting those DVDs to all be readable 30 years from now is a plan I would strongly advise you against. And good luck finding a computer with a DVD drive 30 years from now to read it. It would be like finding a computer take with a 5.25-inch floppy drive.

  4. richard perrier says:

    still trying to solve this problem. MacMini to Monitor or TV using HDMI to HDMI cable for streaming. with apple wireless keyboard 6/8ft away how can i use F11 and F12 keys to adjust volume.
    i now have to get up and adjust volume manually from either TV or monitor controls.
    richard

    • Your TV’s remote control. Your keyboard controls your Mac, but it doesn’t control your TV. That’s not how HDMI works. It sends the audio, but it is up to the TV to control the volume.

  5. richard says:

    tks for explanation Gary. so, same thing applies for my 27″ Asus display connected to my MacMini with HDMI cable ( no remote for monitor) correct?
    would that be same if monitor was thunderbolt apple 27″ monitor?

    • Does the Asus display have speakers? If so, then it may or may not support the volume signals sent over HDMI. A TV wouldn’t, but I’m not sure about a monitor.
      An Apple display hooked up via Thunderbolt/Mini DisplayPort is a completely different story. That would definitely work with volume controls (and much much more) — totally different as it is not being converted to HDMI. Heck, you get ethernet, USB, video camera input, etc.

  6. richard says:

    Gary, my Asus VE278Q display has speakers but does not support volume signals send over HDMI because pressing F11/F12 i get faded window (volume max out and cross bar inside circle) non functional. perhaps you know any adjustment in monitor menu (no support from Asus they blame MacMini) + volume adjustments is under and not quick/easy to use manually.

    HDMI connection is simple and works beautifully so, prefer to stay as is and can’t spend 1000$ on apple display.

    richard

    • No suggestions. HDMI is not meant to be used for computer displays, just for TV. Doesn’t that monitor have another type of input? I’m sure it does — probably DVI. Use that port instead.

  7. ayush says:

    Gary, I have my FIFA 12 Game CD. And since I have bought the new iMac which doesn’t have an optical disc drive. So, how do I play the game?

    • I give two suggestions in the video: use the virtual drive with another Mac, or get an external drive. Or, see if that game has a downloadable version.

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