No DVD Drive on Your Tablet or Notebook? Use an Old Laptop Drive Instead!
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One of the drawbacks of running a Windows 8 tablet as my main computer How This Freelance Writer Maximises Productivity With Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 How This Freelance Writer Maximises Productivity With Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 My personal desktop setup has changed considerably in the past few months since purchasing the Acer Iconia W7 series tablet, which I use as my primary PC. Gone is the tower of my old self... Read More is the lack of an optical drive. While Mac OS X users have seen Apple explicitly remove the DVD drives from the MacBook Air Why Your MacBook Air Has No Optical Drive & 4 Reasons Why This Isn't a Problem Why Your MacBook Air Has No Optical Drive & 4 Reasons Why This Isn't a Problem The MacBook Air is one of the thinnest and lightest computers available today; thin as your finger, and so light every computer after will feel like you're hauling a sack of potatoes. In fact, ever... Read More over the past couple of years, there has been little from Microsoft indicating that this was going to be likely. Only those of us with an eye for a trend, knowledge of Microsoft’s habit of borrowing ideas from Apple and recognition of the general move towards digital distribution might have seen this coming.

More and more Windows computers are shipping without optical drives, and this is a phenomenon that exists beyond the tablet PC. The lack of a DVD drive might prevent you from installing your favourite apps or checking archive discs – even ripping your old CDs and DVDs.

Fortunately, there are workarounds. Recently, we showed you how to share an optical drive across your home network How To Share A Windows CD Or DVD Drive On Your Network How To Share A Windows CD Or DVD Drive On Your Network "How do you share a CD or DVD drive across a network?" This was the question that dropped into my head recently as it became apparent that I would need to access data on some... Read More . We also mentioned within that article that it is relatively simple to convert a laptop DVD drive into an external optical drive by way of an alternative.

Let’s see just how simple…

What You Will Need

There are two main components for converting your removable laptop DVD drive into an external drive. The first, naturally, is the drive; this is the compact “slimline” form factor that has more recently been incorporated into some of the desktop computers that still ship with optical drives.

Along with this, you will need a external enclosure or housing kit, a relatively cheap device that will house your DVD drive and provide the necessary adaptor and power supply. You should be able to find something suitable on eBay or Amazon (such as this generic caddy).

The housing pictured below is for an IDE/PATA optical drive, and will of course be useless for a device with a SATA connector. Make sure you buy the correct housing with compatible connectors before you re-purpose your slimline drive in this way!


To make the conversion, you will also need a suitable screwdriver. You can check exactly which size you need when you receive the housing kit.

Note that although this guide is only for removable drives, some fixed DVD drives might also be compatible. Of course you will only know this from stripping down your laptop – something that you shouldn’t do unless your computer has broken beyond repair.

Removing the DVD Drive From Your Laptop

Perhaps the easiest step, removal of your DVD drive is usually made possible thanks to a thumb-sized eject lever to the right or left of the DVD tray. Pushing this in enables you to remove the drive (which will be connected to the motherboard on the USB bus, although not with a USB connector) and remove it from the laptop.


There are other methods of removing your slimline optical drive. For instance, as pictured above, there is often a locking screw that needs to be removed before the drive can be ejected. Other ejection options might involve several locking screws. Removal of such devices might require a pulling or levering the drive out. There might also be a catch, similar to the one often used to remove a laptop battery, that unlocks the optical drive for removal. For the best preparation, find the technical guide for your laptop to confirm the correct procedure.

Why do laptop manufacturers enable the removal of DVD drives? It’s mainly so that you can easily add upgrades; for instance, you might want to add a slimline Blu-ray drive to your laptop, or perhaps use the bay to add a larger hard disk drive.

Again, as mentioned previously, this guide is focused on explicitly removable optical drives – those with a lock and/or catch as described. Removal of a suitable optical device from within a sealed laptop (one with no facility to eject the device) will depend on the computer and the manufacturer’s specification.

Preparing the Enclosure

As you unpack the disc drive enclosure, you should notice that it comes in three parts. First is the main housing, into which the optical drive will be slipped. There should also be a new draw cover for your slimline drive, and four small screws.


Finally, you should see a long thin piece of circuit board, onto which the connectors will be mounted. One side of this will have a plug suitable for connecting to the slimline drive; flipping it over you will see two USB connectors. The kit should also ship with two USB cables (one data, one power), both of which will be required.

You should start by detaching the draw cover from your optical drive; this can be done by removing the screws found on the underside of the ejected disc drawer. You’ll also need to detach the eject mechanism from the side of the drive. When these have been removed, attach the new drive cover – this will be narrower and designed to work with the housing.


Once this is done, plug the connector strip into the back of your optical drive.

Fitting the DVD Into the Caddy

That’s the hard part out of the way! All you should need to do now is place the optical drive into the lower half of your caddy/housing, keeping an eye on the support pins, then drop the top half into place, snapping it closed as you go. When this is done, fix it together using the screws provided.


There are a couple of ways in which you might go wrong here. First, you could slip up by over-tightening the screws, as mentioned above. They need to be firmly tightened, but keep an eye on the case for any signs of distortion or crystallisation of the plastic, and slacken the screws if you see this.

You should also repeatedly test the eject button on your optical drive as you adjust the screws, in order to ensure that it doesn’t catch the housing as you insert and remove discs.

If everything is attached and opening and closing smoothly, you can get ready to test your new low-cost external optical drive!

Connecting the Drive to Your Computer

Now you’re done fitting the housing together, it’s time to connect your external DVD drive to your computer.


These devices typically ship with two USB cables, although only one is for data; the second is a power lead. If you can find a suitable adaptor that won’t burn your DVD drive out then by all means use this, but the USB power cable is a reasonable alternative. It does mean, of course, that you will need two spare USB ports on your computer or hub.

Once connected, the drive should appear under My Computer, along with all other storage devices. Remember that it is being detected as a USB device, so if it isn’t listed, try restarting your computer.

Conclusion: An External DVD Drive for Pennies!

It’s always good to be able to retrieve something of use from old hardware, whether it be a stick of memory, an old keyboard or even a storage device. While it is easy enough to fix your slimline optical drive into one of these housings, it’s perhaps a shame that they’re not already designed for easy connection to a desktop computer (or even a different laptop) without the plastic case being fitted.


Ultimate, however, this is one of the best cannibalisation projects for owners of old laptops, so when you’re looking online for a new external optical drive, just think about the one sitting in your old notebook, and use it!

Have you already connected your laptop DVD drive to your PC? Perhaps you’ve discarded all of your optical drives and discs already (after all, there are several alternatives Saying Goodbye: 5 Alternatives To The Optical Disc Saying Goodbye: 5 Alternatives To The Optical Disc With computers growing smaller and lifestyles going mobile, less devices offer sufficient space for internal optical drives. Presently, the market is kept afloat by Blu-ray consumer home video sales, but in terms of data storage,... Read More and creating ISO files is much easier now No DVD Drive? No Problem! Create And Mount ISO Files For Free With These Tools No DVD Drive? No Problem! Create And Mount ISO Files For Free With These Tools My computer doesn’t have any optical drives anymore. That means CD drives, DVD drives, Floppy drives--they’ve all been cut out and done away with forever. If a particular piece of peripheral gear doesn’t have a... Read More )? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Jeff
    July 12, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I know this article is almost 5 years old at this point, but unless you happen to have a spare SATA laptop drive kicking around, it's always been cheaper and more convenient, and more reliable to buy a USB powered external drive.

    I've bought a few of these enclosures before, and the quality of them is pretty questionable at best with some of them just flat out refusing to work.

  2. dj
    August 19, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Horrid article

    • Christian Cawley
      August 30, 2016 at 3:50 pm


      Great comment!

  3. cgftrhyjsdff
    November 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    is there a way to make this for a tablet

    • Christian Cawley
      February 24, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      For Android, it should work with an OTG cable, and suitable software

      • la crepe
        August 29, 2016 at 6:12 am

        its works with otg

  4. Indronil
    August 29, 2013 at 8:20 am

    almost forgot that i had one dvd drive..

  5. Red
    August 28, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    I get tired of hearing "no one uses CD’s anymore" A few of us still use them! Why buy a new external drive when you can recycle an older one.

    • TheRCT
      August 29, 2013 at 2:53 am

      I agree with you, i also am one of those who still use CD's, and DVD's, mainly for Linux distros and so on, but they still are very useful.

    • Jeremy G
      August 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Some of us even still use cassettes and vinyl.

      CD's, DVD's, USB's and Cloud - each are worthwhile backup methods, perhaps underground sowed.

  6. jasray
    August 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Come on . . . Newegg offers great deals on Asus and Samsung external drives for pennies and free shipping. Nice looking warranties and aesthetic structures. Some folks may like the landfill look--who knows?

    • Money Man
      February 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      The enclosure cost more than an external DVD drive!

  7. Jonu
    August 28, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    No one uses CD's anymore. You can just rip your favorite CD to a USB stick. Microsoft Surface comes with USB 3.0 ports, and many other Windows 8 tablets.

    • Thought4Food
      December 23, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      And how would you rip your favourite CD without a CD Reader?