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Installing An Optical Drive Guide

What to Look For in a CD or DVD Drive and How to Install


Selecting Fast, Inexpensive Optical Drives

To the hi-tech newcomer, the term optical drive may not mean very much. Simply put, the optical drives read CDs and DVDs. Virtually every modern PC contains an optical drive, used as a secondary storage medium for computers. Information is stored on high-density disks in the form of tiny pits "read" by laser. The term refers to the general category of disk drives that read information optically, using a low-powered laser.

CD-ROM drives were the first optical units commonly found on PCs; they began as novelties for high-end users and grew in popularity as they dropped in price and increased in performance, until the point arrived where they were mandatory equipment on any new PC system.

Optical drives are storage devices and part of the storage subsystem. They usually interface either through the standard IDE/ATA controller ports on the motherboard, or a SCSI interface host adapter.

The optical drive in a system is an important factor in the PC's ability to install and run software, since most software is distributed on optical disks. In the case of writeable CD drives, they also are often the only real backup devices in the PC.

Related Components: Optical drives are most closely related to the sound card, to which they usually have a physical connection of some kind. Optical drives are also kin to the motherboard, since they usually send data to the system through the motherboard. When you purchase an optical drive you want to match the interface that has been chosen for the hard disk drive(s) in the system, usually IDE/ATA or SCSI.

Today we have not just CD-ROM drives but their younger and higher-capacity siblings, DVD drives. We also have writeable and rewriteable CD-ROM drives, called CD-R and CD-RW respectively. These expand the capabilities of optical drives by letting you actually write to CD-ROM media.

Adding a fast optical drive will increase your PC's flexibility and even if you're on a budget, drives that read and burn any format won't put you in the poorhouse. You can get it all done with only one drive. No worries whether your drive supports DVD+RW or DVD-RW - for less than 100 bucks you can get an 8X DVD combo drive that writes to all major formats of rewritable DVD.

The Need for Speed - How Much is Optimal?

Almost all DVD burners are relatively fast. Even second-tier performers can write an entire disk in less than 10 minutes. Plus, CD burning speeds are fast enough that the difference between 48x and 52x isn't much. In other words, if you are on a budget there is no reason to pay big bucks for a 12x or 16x DVD burner or insist on buying the fastest CD-RW drives you can find.

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