samsung-usb-dvdrwBy definition, netbooks are small, light and ultraportable. But it’s hard to pack everything that you’d expect from a full sized laptop into a compact case. And one of the first things to go is usually the optical disc drive.

If all you plan to do with your netbook is surf the web, check your email, and maybe enjoy some downloaded music and movies, you might not even notice the missing disc drive. But if you want to install retail software like Microsoft Office or try out different operating systems on your netbook, life is a whole lot simpler with a DVD drive.

So with netbooks selling like hotcakes, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that some companies that make USB optical disc drives are seeing a bump in sales. The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung’s monthly external disc drive sales have tripled since October. But the article goes on to suggest that the trend is just a tiny upward blip in a declining market. As netbooks creep up in size, we may start to see more models like the Asus Eee PC 1004DN that include optical disc drives. But more importantly, there are a few forces that are likely contributing to the decline in external disc drives (and optical storage media in general). First, flash storage media is getting cheaper and cheaper. And second, there’s been a move away from desktop applications toward web apps that don’t require installation. Third, many of the apps that you do still need to install on your desktop to run are available for download, which means no installation CD is needed.

Do you have an external optical disc drive for your netbook? How often do you use it?

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18 replies on “Are netbooks leading to a surge in optical disc drive sales?”

  1. It would depend on the operating system running on each computer, but in the simplest scenario, each computer would be logged onto the network through your wireless router. If your desktop is using Windows XP, you would go into “my computer”, right click on your DVD/CD-ROM drive, and look for an option or check-box that will enable “sharing”. Enable this. Reboot your desktop computer. Now start your netbook. Hopefully you will be able to see the DVD/CD-ROM drive under “Network Places” or “Network Neighborhood” or “Network” (depend on which version of Windows you are running). These would be found under “My Computer” or “Computer”.

    I hope that is a helpful start. Honestly, someone would need to be there in person to help you do this if the basic directions don’t work. There are a lot of variables involved in networking

  2. Although having an external optical drive isn’t really necessary, I found a slot-loading blue-ray disc/DVD writer combo drive for very cheap. It’s made by opti-arc? Not sure if that’s the actual name… it’s the JV brand between Sony and Nec or someone else…

    Basically I use it to install OSes on my netbook (too lazy to empty a flash drive every time, and properly setup the CD image on it every time), plus I use it sometimes to watch DVDs on my Popcorn hour… I think it justifies the purchase.

  3. I just bought a slimline DVD/CD drive for my Dell Mini 9. I don’t need an external drive very often, but I’ve run into the occassional need away from home, so the network share option is not viable and the full size external DVD drive I currently have is too cumbersome to carry with me everywhere I go. The slimline drive is small enough that it doesn’t impact the weight of the carry case I use for transporting the Mini 9.

  4. I bought an LG slim DVD burner and don’t regret it. It’s super small and light and has been very reliable. Best of all, I can connect it to my MSI Wind with a single USB cable for data and power. That impressed me the most. They included an external power adapter in case your laptop or netbook’s USB ports are unable provide enough power but I have never had to use it with my MSI Wind. It also makes Linux and Windows 7 installs super easy.

  5. Raffael I think the reason no one has put a slot loading optical drive behind the screen is that the keyboard part of the netbook is so light, it would get tipped over.. the original msi wind has a bit of that problem and it doesn’t even have an optical drive in the lid

    1. A design with a thin battery at the front of the computer, moving the centre of gravity forward would fix that .

  6. Linux OS can be installed on a netbook using either a USB flash memory stick or a SD or SDHC flash disk. For some distributions, you need to use the Unetbootin program, but for other the install software can be transferred to the flash disk using the dd command.

    Once you have the OS installed, additional Linux software can be downloaded and installed from online repositories using the package manager.

    There is no need at all to purchase an extra external optical drive to get full use out of a netbook.

  7. Optical what?

    Oh… those things used for backups?

    Nope, I haven’t seen a use for an optical drive on my netbook yet… I copy everything I need to backup over the network on my tower and back it up from there.

    1. How 20th Century – – Backup your files? Who does that?

      With the price and capacity of disk drives these days, just
      toss the full one on the shelf when it fills up. 😉

  8. I put together a USB DVD drive from a standard IDE DVD internal drive and a IDE to USB interface liberated from a hard drive enclosure. I’ve used it with my netbook and my Shuttle desktop which lacks an optical drive. While it isn’t pretty, it is used only rarely and it works perfectly. I’ve never felt the need to have an optical drive on the road.

  9. My comment is about netbook design. Given space constraints I am surprised no one has incorporated a slot loading dvd drive into the lid/screen assembly??? In fact is this an area for design development given how crowded it is is under the keyboard??? With clever design there should be ample room for a thin SSD or other components. Or am I being too lateral in my thoughts?

  10. I purchased an external DVD drive after purchasing my Mini9. I use it on a regular basis, and even use it with my other computers since it is speedy and reliable.

  11. I am a hardware buyer and I have absolutely seen a rocket increase external drive sales and a serious lag in the availability of those drives from the manufacturer. The last two drives I’ve ordered for the store have been backordered from manufacturing for more than a month.

  12. Nope. I was able to share the optical drive on my desktop computer, which allowed me to install the few programs that required CD-ROMs. I haven’t used the networked optical drive since that first week of netbook ownership – back in 2008.

    1. Dear Writer, I read your comments with interest. I just bought a netbook and I’d like to install some software using the optical drive on my desktop computer. Can you share with me the steps required to do that? I have a wireless router as well. Any help you could give me would be appreciated.
      Meri Reinhold
      [email protected]

      1. It would depend on the operating system running on each computer, but in the simplest scenario, each computer would be logged onto the network through your wireless router. If your desktop is using Windows XP, you would go into “my computer”, right click on your DVD/CD-ROM drive, and look for an option or check-box that will enable “sharing”. Enable this. Reboot your desktop computer. Now start your netbook. Hopefully you will be able to see the DVD/CD-ROM drive under “Network Places” or “Network Neighborhood” or “Network” (depend on which version of Windows you are running). These would be found under “My Computer” or “Computer”.

        I hope that is a helpful start. Honestly, someone would need to be there in person to help you do this if the basic directions don’t work. There are a lot of variables involved in networking

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