By Nancy C. Muir

In the recent past, most computers came with an optical drive where you could insert a DVD and play a movie or music. If you buy a software program, it may come on a DVD, so you can use a built-in or external drive to install it.

Today, many new computers and laptops don’t include an optical drive for reading DVDs, partially because you can so easily stream video from an online source without ever handling a DVD. Most computers today do have USB ports. USB ports accommodate a USB stick, which is a small plastic coated gadget that can hold a lot of data.

If you want to play the latest optical discs, get a computer with a Blu-ray player. Blu-ray is a great medium for storing and playing back feature-length movies because it can store 50GB or more, about ten times as much as the average DVD.

Recent computers come without DVD capabilities because you can download and install software or play videos and music from the cloud (that is, via the Internet), so it’s possible to get along just fine without the capability to play DVDs. However, some software products still only come on a disc. You can connect an external optical drive to a USB port to load the software on your computer.