Why you might still want an optical drive

Toshiba Satellite P50t

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Don Semler asked “Why are so many new laptops being offered without optical drives?”

Optical drives, that can read and write CDs, DVDs, and sometimes Blu-ray discs, have been an important part of the PC universe for a long time. But there’s less and less need for them. I haven’t received software on discs in years—and in my job, I have to look a lot of software. I download it all from the Internet. Most users download and stream music and movies these days rather than buy them on a shiny five-inch disc.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

PC manufacturers have good reasons not to include the drives. Unlike CPUs and SSDs, optical drives can’t shrink much. They therefore add bulk to laptops, and nobody wants a bulky laptop.

But in my opinion, they shouldn’t disappear entirely. We need ways to access older media. And because they’re read-only, CDs and DVDs just might prove in the long run to be an excellent archival format—if you use the right discs. But that will only be the case if drives remain available.

Optical drives have other advantages. Some programs, such as VeraCrypt, still require them for emergency boot tools. I still occasionally get music on CDs—as gifts or when I buy them directly from the artist at a concert. And when I do get an audio CD, the first thing I want to do with it is rip it to MP3s.

But what if you want a small, light laptop and an optical drive? Make the drive detachable. You can buy an external optical drive for less than $40, and use it only when you’re at home. That’s what I do.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon