One of the things that’s set netbooks apart from fuller featured computers from day one is that most netbooks don’t have optical disc drives. They take up a lot of space, cost money, and add more breakable moving parts. With more and more software available in downloadable form and the preponderance of cheap USB flash drives and SD cards for transferring data, the only time I need to plug an external disc drive into my netbooks is when I want to try installing an operating system that can’t be booted from a flash drive.

But if you have a slow internet connection, a large collection of applications on CDs or DVDs, or want to be able to watch DVD or Blu-Ray videos, a disc drive can come in handy. Still, we’re starting to see companies putting out laptops that are too large and expensive to be considered netbooks without optical disc drives. Laptop Magazine recently reviewed the $649 Dell Studio 14z, a 14 inch laptop without a built-in disc drive. And the reviewer didn’t miss it at all.

What do you think? Are disc drives something that some computers can do without? Or is it time for optical disc drives to go the way of the floppy?

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33 replies on “Do optical disc drives matter anymore?”

  1. I still need one also. There is also one issue with steaming HD movies and that is you need fast fast ,fast like Comcast at least 110 mbps or you run into bottle necking and the movie keeps stopping because of slow speed.Most people when they Buy lets say Comcast or others, they get the slower speed with the package for Internet. And they don’t tell you that .You have to do your homework and ask them. Another thing is people are collectors and like to collect movies ,DVD or blu-ray. I can’t image someone saying ”Hey Bill ,you want to see my flash drive collection??” I’m sure as always companies don’t care and we will see steaming take over and Clouds take over ,but if they don’t offer high speeds at fair prices, they will shoot themselves in the foot. So company’s beware do whats right or blu-ray at least will be around longer then you think and you will lose in the end. I still know people who use dial up because in there area, there is no high speed internet.Remember Sony thought with Blu-ray it would be the death of DVD, didn’t happen…did it!!

  2. do better optical drives make games better for pc. i don’t know if it is necessary to have a good one.

  3. I still need one, but I don’t necessarily need one built into my laptop. I have an external DVD-RW drive, and it serves me quite well.

  4. I think it’s fine for ultra portables to loose them. We are used to sacrificing things for portability, and let’s face it. Optical drives aren’t exactly small. I personally don’t use them at all anymore, but that doesn’t mean ALL systems should get rid of them. Once Blu-ray is dead and gone in favor of downloadable media or flash based distribution methods, then yes. Kill it.

  5. I’d say yes. I prefer to buy CDs, rather than downloading music, so I need an optical drive to rip the MP3s. That said, I like the fact that netbooks don’t have optical drives; I need an optical drive so rarely that I’d just as soon avoid the weight and bulk.

  6. Not about me ready or most ready….

    I just bought a Creative Zen 4GB MP3 player. It came with an installation CD, but as near as I can tell you CAN’T get all that software from the site itself. So basically if I wanted the PC dashboard items for the MP3 player I’d have to find a USB style CD-ROM to attach.

    That is the issue. It not me not being ready, or most things being ready its these idiot companies like Creative who are half in/half out that screw things up. So I think that is the true problem, we have holdouts and unprepared companies that mostly rely on pressed CDs to distribute the firmware, software, and other things to their customers.

    1. I think Computer companies have jumped the gun and will find that to be so. Gamers still need DVD and Blu-ray drives for there games. Another point is we buy the game , we own it!! With a Cloud or steaming,if your computer crashes ,you may lose the movies or games and have to buy them again. That already happens with I tunes. Don’t think it won’t happen with clouds, it will because its another way to make ”Money”!!!

  7. With flash drives and sd cards getting bigger (in memory size, not physical size), one would not need an optical disk/drive. With flash drives coming in different sizes and shapes, flash drives are more fun to carry, are easier to carry and have less chance of breaking

    In one country (China I think it was), Disney is releasing movies on SD cards. If one can put a whole movie on a SD Card, why not software or music or whatever would normally fit onto an optical disc?

  8. As long as Netflix has stuff on DVD and not streaming, I’ll need a DVD drive on the HTPC. Otherwise, my optical drive is a waste of space- its WAY easier/faster to use a USB drive. I sometimes need to burn a disc to share stuff with people, but most folks I know have their own USB drive I can just stick in my PC to give them stuff.

    1. Netflix streams almost every film available. no need for any optical media or drives anymore. Everything is going to be available via a Internet connection. Once there is Fiber from the curb to the homes it is game over for all optical media to include Bluray, DVD, CD etc.

      1. But Netflix keeps changing there movies and the ones you saw before are no longer there.
        Hulu does the same thing and there is no way they can store ”every movie” ever made.
        OK and at what price will fiber be, Comcast already is 100 or more for high speed internet.

  9. The problem happens when you try to install an OS or a game. There are workarounds for everything, but it’s just plain easier to do with a CD/DVD disk. Running some games requires the CD be present, but again, there are workarounds for some games.

    Plain and simple, CD/DVD just makes life easier.

      1. Not if if your speed is to slow…nope no way. Downloading i find is a pain and some software companies want you to use a special installer for there download…sucks.
        I deal mostly with music sample libraries Strings brass etc. I can get the discs or download. So what happens if the download ,down the road get corrupt and I software is now gone ,not made anymore, i’m screwed if i don’t have the discs…see what I mean??

        1. You make it sound like physical media doesn’t go corrupt, it does. Especially when it’s constantly spinning in your drive just to run a program (insert disk 1 to play).
          They go old if your collection gets direct sun. Temp variations, you name it. It’ll all affect the life span on your physical media. On the flip side, you can always keep a dedicated storage drive that acts the same as your physical media disks. Also, if that ever did get corrupted, you would be able to download the content again from your account as it would be registered as bought.
          I avoid companies that require their own installer (cough origin cough) so I do hear you on that, but bloat ware is also available on the disk format of the games, as is proven with my physical copy of spore that requires you to install origin in the process, so that point is moot as well. Downloading or hard copy, you’re getting origin.
          As far as speeds go, LOL. No one runs a 56k modem anymore, so that’s just an dated point. It would make more sense to say that your download caps make it harder to fit in large downloads. That I could understand. But your point shows me that you’re just a really stubborn person who hasn’t explored other options because you like things a certain way.
          That’s fine on it’s own, but your points are bogus and show a lack on understanding to how the current technology works.
          So, my original point stands.

  10. This same question exists years back when ultraportable laptops (i.e. Toshiba Portege and Thinkpad X-series) first came out. Many people griped about the absence of an internal CD/DVD drive. The truth is that the CD/DVD is an accessory that is used about 10% (or less) of the time, yet it takes up valuable space and adds unnecessary weight. Ask any road warrior, she/he will vote against carrying deadweight. This argument distills down to the point that home-based netbook users should be just fine to invest (one-time) into a USB CD/DVD drive for that less than 10% time they actually need this accessory.

  11. They come in handy for playing movies without waiting to transcode them – like right before a plane trip.

    But you also need hardware that will boot from a USB drive to reinstall an OS from a USB drive – if optical drives go away. I haven’t had to do that with newer hardware, so I’m not sure how widespread that kind of support is.

    1. I don’t think its that widespread yet. This the mEDIA doing what they do best , get into your head.
      Yes they are doing there job, but there is always an motive behind them.

  12. The irony is that my netbook (sans drive) needs CDs more than more powerful computers… why? For old games of course!

    Even if they started releasing all new software as downloads… many of your old favs (that your netbook IS powerful enough to play) will still be stuck on that CD…

      1. Yes, I actually use Alcohol 120% on my netbook but I still needed the CD Drive to make the virtual disks… 😉

  13. It depends. The optical drive has been unnecessary for Linux users for years, but as long as Windows users are tied down to buying software in brick and mortar stores, they are going to need an optical drive. However, if Microsoft ever implements software repositories (or app stores, whatever you want to call them), then the optical drive is probably dead. Considering that most music and video content is available legally for download these days (amazon) I don’t see why we couldn’t do away with optical drives entirely.

    1. Funny you should mention that, since the software repository idea (and the whole way that app installation is handled) in Linux is one of my biggest gripes about it. It seems communistic. “Comrade, the Politburo has provided everything you need in the Officially Approved Central Repository. Ergo, if something is not there, you don’t need it.”

      Yes, I could imagine Microsoft adopting something like that. It would fit right into their user-control strategy.

      1. Nobody is forcing you to use the repositories, you can still install anything you want without using them. However, by using them, you are installing software that has been vetted by your distribution. Additionally, software updates are pushed out by your distro, so you always know your software is up to date. When you install software piecemeal ( windows or linux ) who knows where the software came from or how updates are handled?

        Finally, software repositories help reinforce the divide between “safe software” and “unsafe software”. You often see people who would never drive to the slums to buy stolen goods, downloading spyware-ridden software from wildly untrustworthy websites, simply because they don’t know any better.

        Anyway, this is all off topic. The topic was “are optical drives dead?” I still rip the occasional dvd on my external drive, but that’s about it. Once some form of wireless internet becomes universal, I will be happy to use Hulu or Netflix for my movies, and will no longer need my optical drive.

      2. @ Zuma: The FUCK? Care to expand on that? Which distro? Are you new to planet Earth?

      3. Matthew S covered this pretty well, but I would add the proviso that you can change or add repositories if you feel like you need to. Some third parties allow you to install their software by adding their repository to your configuration, which allows you to get updates automatically.

        Then again, if you want complete control, there’s always Linux From Scratch and the make command. 🙂

    2. Because people internet speed is the key without high speed, forget Amazon or others.
      Are you willing too give up your right to own your movie or game. Because with steaming or a cloud, you don’t really ever own it. Once your hard drive crashes you will need to buy all those movies and games again. And for some reason you can’t afford your internet anymore, what are you going to do??

  14. Given how cheap and convenient ultra-portable external optical drives are right now, I don’t see the absence of a DVD drive as a big issue for netbooks. I leave the house without my external drive most of the time, and haven’t missed it once ! (the same could not be said of my external hard drive…)

  15. I agree… I don’t think we are there yet. I am happy to have my 3 netbooks without an optical drive, but I have a portable one for installations. Maybe the final straw will be if and when software vendors and content owners ship their software on flash or usb keys instead of optical media.

  16. Floppies didn’t begin disappearing (beginning with the iMac, as I recall) until CD-ROM had just about completely replaced floppies for commercial software distribution. Clearly we haven’t gotten that far yet in making CD/DVD drives obsolete.

    After I got my first iMac, I contemplated buying an external floppy drive for it, but then I never bothered and never missed it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable today if I didn’t have a USB CD/DVD drive handy for use with my Mini-9 and MacBook Air.

    So. . . Maybe we’re going that direction. But I don’t think we’re there yet.

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