Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
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 since Apple set the trend with its MacBook Air, the ultrabook genre has been gaining ground in the Windows scene.
But you don’t get a laptop as thin and light as the MacBook Air without making compromises. Instead of a regular hard drive disk, the MacBook Air has a (moderately more expensive) SSD drive, and the optical CD/DVD drive has been removed entirely.
Labeling the optical drive as redundant might be seen as a bold move from Apple. After all, CD’s and DVD’s has become the de-facto standard for software distribution, and although its importance is waning by the day, it’s still heavily used. Luckily, with Internet speeds and bandwidth ever increasing, and other portable media becoming more economical, it’s perfectly possible to live without a built-in optical drive these days.
1. Use An External Disc Drive
Perhaps the easiest solution would be to get an external optical drive, which you can plug into your computer’s USB port whenever you’re handed one of those archaic silver discs.
The Apple Store provides you with a shiny contraption that looks like it belongs next to your MacBook Air, but you can find much cheaper models on eBay, Amazon, or even your local hardware store that provide exactly the same functionality. Just search for ‘external DVD drive‘ or ‘USB DVD drive‘ to see your options.
2. Use a Virtual DVD Drive
If you only use optical media once in a blue moon, buying an external DVD drive might be overdoing it a bit. If you have more than one Mac lying around, and one of them still has an optical drive, you can use Apple’s very own DVD or CD sharing functionality, which lets you use another Mac’s optical drive over a local network.
To enable DVD or CD sharing, open the Sharing preferences pane in System Preferences using the optical drive-equipped Mac computer and tick off the checkbox next to ‘DVD or CD Sharing‘.
Making sure your two computers reside on the same local network, open the Finder application on your MacBook Air. In the left sidebar, under Devices, you’ll see an entry called Remote Disc which you can use to access the CD or DVD that’s inserted into the other computer’s drive.
Mind you, not all media will work this way. You won’t be able to play media or copy-protected discs, but you can use this option to copy (part of) a disc’s contents to a folder on your computer.
3. Download Media From The Internet
While this option doesn’t ensure compatiblity with older media, content producers are ever more using the Internet to distribute their content. You can download videos and music from Netflix or iTunes instead of buying that same content in a store. Likewise, you can use Steam, or the producer’s own services to download games to your computer.
Even if you’ve already bought software or games on physical media, the chances are you’ll be able to use the accompanying serial code to activate the products online, and download an installation file. In fact, a software trial downloaded from the website can often be registered and activated using your physically purchased serial code.
4. Make a Virtual Copy Of The Disc
If you often have the need for a certain CD or DVD, and you’re reluctant to make any financial promises, you can always make a virtual copy of the disc using a computer that’s equipped with an optical drive.
To do this on another Mac OS X computer, insert the CD or DVD and open the Disk Utility application from Applications -> Utilities. Select the optical media in the left hand sidebar and choose File -> New -> Disk Image From discname. From the Image Format dropdown menu select DVD/CD Master, select a location and press Save. Finally, copy the image file to your MacBook Air over the local network or using a portable drive, and double-click it to mount it on your computer.
Do you have a MacBook Air? What do you do to circumvent the need for an optical drive? Let us know in the comments section below the article!