Nowadays, many users prefer storing their important files on USB flash drives, rather than on optical discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs), mostly due to the thumb drives' storage capacities, the possibility to easily rewrite them and, why not, their small size. However, you might need to use optical discs on your Mac from time to time and, having the possibility to do so may be very helpful (for example, if you want rip an audio CD that you bought or to watch a movie stored on a DVD or a Blu-Ray disc without having a dedicated player).
If you are a proud owner of MacBook Air (or other slim Macs like the newer versions of the iMac), you might have noticed the lack of an optical drive, which can, sometimes, prove to be a bit inconvenient, as you can't freely use your CDs, DVDs or Blu-Ray discs. So, a question that many Mac users ask themselves is if there is any chance of accessing the contents of their optical discs from a Mac without a built-in optical drive? If that is the case for you, then you might want to keep reading this guide, as I will show you some methods that may help you resolve the issue.
Use an external USB optical drive
One of the ways to work around the lack of an optical drive on your Mac is using an external USB device. As you might already know, these devices connect to your Mac via a USB port and their prices vary from around $25 to $79 for Apple's famous USB SuperDrive which is capable of both reading and writing CDs and DVDs (sadly, it doesn't support Blu-Ray). With this method, you no longer need to rely solely on iTunes or the App Store to gain access to music, movies and other media.
Also, if you plan to use a third-party external USB optical drive, you might want to make sure it is compatible with your system, because not all of them were designed to work with Mac computers.
Share an optical drive over a network
If you don't want to invest in an external optical disc drive and you have another Mac or Windows PC connected to your network, then you can use them to share their CD or DVD drives and access them from your system. You simply insert the disc into the remote computer and instantly access it from your Mac. There are two ways to enable the optical drive sharing feature, depending on what type of system you are using as the server.
1. The server is a Mac
If the computer you are using to share its optical drive is also a Mac, then you won't have to install any additional software, as Mac OS X comes with this feature. In order to enable it, all you have to do is access the "System Preferences" from the Apple menu, click on the "Sharing" icon and simply activate the "DVD and CD Sharing" option (if it is not visible, it means that the Mac doesn't have an optical drive).
2. The server is a Windows PC
If the computer you want to use in order to share its optical drive is a Windows PC, then you will have to download an application, called DVD or CD Sharing Update 1.0 for Windows which can be found on Apple's website. Once you have installed it, simply go to the "Control Panel" on your Windows PC, access the "Hardware and Sound" menu, click on "DVD or CD Sharing Options" and simply enable the feature.
Once you have enabled the sharing feature, you can easily access the shared optical drive by opening the "Finder" and clicking on the "Remote Disc" from the sidebar (make sure you have inserted the disc into the shared drive before accessing it).
These are the two main methods suitable for reading optical discs on a Mac that comes without an optical drive. There are other ways to gain access to the contents of your optical discs, such as creating a virtual image of your CD, DVD or Blu-Ray disc on another computer and mounting it using a virtual drive emulator (such as DAEMON Tools), but it is more complicated and time-consuming.
So, to sum it all up, if you want to be able to read, write and rip CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs on your Mac, use an external USB drive. If you just want to read the contents from your discs, simply find a computer with an optical drive and share it over the network.