Though CDs and DVDs are still among the most commonly used media types, more and more computer manufacturers are choosing to leave optical drives out of their new models. If you still use these media types, or even newer optical media types such as Blu-ray discs or M-Discs, you may find yourself in the position of needing to buy a separate optical drive, and there are several things to consider.
Internal vs. External
Optical drives can either be internal or external, and it’s an important choice when deciding which optical drive to buy. Internal drives are actually placed inside your computer, connected viaan IDE or SATA port. Internal drives are usually more affordable and have higher read/write speeds. However, installation can be difficult and for some laptops, impossible, given the ultra-slim profile of some newer models.
External drives, on the other hand, exist outside of your computer and connect to your computer via a USB or FireWire port. They can either pull power from your computer itself or from a separate power outlet. Typically, they are more compact, more portable, and can fit easily into a laptop bag. However, due to external connectivity, they may have slightly lower read/write speeds compared to internal drives.
Another important factor in deciding which drive to buy is the format you want to workin. Today most drives work with multiple formats, but it is still important to make sure the drive you’re buying is compatible with the media types you want to use. Some common formats most drives now support areDVD+R, DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, CD-R, CD-RW, and DVD-ROM. Some less common formats include DVD-RAM, DVD+R/DVD-R Dual Layer and miniDVD. If you’d like to work with Blu-ray discs, make sure you get a drive that is Blu-ray compatible.Generally, if you’re unsure what media type you’ll be working with, choosing a drive that works with multiple media types may be your best option.
With the prevalence of drives, finding one that is compatible with your operating system is less of a challenge than it has been. However, it is still important to make sure they are compatible, both with the hardware and software. If you choose to get an external drive, it will connect to your computer one of two ways: a USB port or FireWire port. While most computers will have at least one USB port, some newer models do not come with a FireWire port. You’ll also want to make sure you have enough USB ports to support your drive. Software-wise, some drives come with additional software, such as writing software; make sure it is compatible with your operating system as well.
Tray vs. Slot Loading
How a drive actually loads the disc may be another factor to consider. Typically there are two different loading styles: tray and slot. Tray loading is your typical DVD player style; you push a button, the tray ejects, you place the disc into the tray, and the tray goes back in. Drives with tray loading have the advantage of accommodating irregular sized discs (such as mini DVD), and feature a manual eject button, in case the disc fails. Slot loading is the newer style of disc loading; there is a slot on the drive in which you insert the disc without a tray – similar to your car CD player. Slot loading drives have fewer moving parts, and allow for a slim drive form factor, however, they may not recognize irregular shaped discs, so formats like miniDVD may not be supported.
M DISC Compatibility
Unlike traditional optical discs, which use dyes that break down over time, data stored on an M DISC is engraved on a patented inorganic write layer – it will not fade or deteriorate. This unique engraving process renders these archival grade discs practically impervious to environmental exposure, including light, temperature and humidity. ISO/IEC 16963 longevity tests have proven the durability of M DISC technology, and it withstood rigorous testing by the US Department of Defense. Based on this testing, M DISC media has a projected lifetime of several hundred years. Designed for widely distributed large data such as scientific images and video, Verbatim M DISC media has storage capacities up to 100GB. M DISC BD-R media is compatible with the latest Blu-ray hardware from leading manufacturers– no special drives required for recording or playback. However, if you want to use M DISC DVD for archiving, you need to select a drive that is M DISC compatible.