Workarounds for the MacBook Air's Lack of Optical Drive - dummies

Workarounds for the MacBook Air’s Lack of Optical Drive

By Mark L. Chambers

Can a laptop survive in the jungle that is Real Life without a DVD drive? The terse answer is no. Ripping an audio CD or burning an iDVD slideshow disc without an optical drive is like finding a cheap tank of gas: impossible. And the wonders of digital media are a big part of the iWorld. So what was Apple thinking?

First, a bit of explanation. Today’s DVD drives are thin, but not Air thin. In order to create the stunning Air design with truly revolutionary dimensions, Apple’s engineers had to leave out the drive. However, if you own a MacBook Air, you have two choices when it comes to reading the contents of a CD or DVD: Go external, or learn to share.

Use an external USB with your MacBook Air

Some people have no problem at all toting around an external USB DVD burner with a MacBook Air. Heck, half the time, you don’t rip tracks from an audio CD or install software every day.

The folks at Cupertino want you to download your music and movies from the iTunes Store (and your applications from the App Store), so if you follow the Apple Path, you still don’t need an optical drive!

A USB SuperDrive from Apple costs a mere $100, and it can read and write DVDs as well as the built-in SuperDrive you’ll find in the MacBook and MacBook Pro.

You can also use any third-party USB DVD drive that’s compatible with Apple’s laptops and Mac OS X Lion (they’re easy to find on any online store that sells Mac external hardware).

Share a CD or DVD drive for your MacBook Air

The other option for installing software or reading a DVD on the MacBook Air is Lion’s built-in CD/DVD Sharing feature. Sharing is an option if you have a wired or wireless network with at least one of the following:

  • A Macintosh running Mac OS X Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard or Lion

  • A PC running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7: This requires you to install a Windows application supplied by Apple with your MacBook Air.

You can only read, not write, from a shared optical drive. You can’t write data to the remote drive, even if that drive is a DVD recorder. (If you’re a big fan of iDVD or burning your own audio CDs, this is a no-brainer. . . Time to invest in an external USB optical drive.)

To enable sharing, open System Preferences on the Macintosh with the optical drive, click the Sharing icon and then select the DVD or CD Sharing check box. Note that you can set whether the Mac will request your permission when another computer attempts to share the drive.

On a PC, display Control Panel, click the DVD or CD Sharing icon and then select the Enable DVD or CD Sharing check box. Again, you can specify that permission is required, in case security is a concern.

After you set up the shared drive, just load the disc and select the Remote Disc item in any Finder Sidebar. (Remote Disc appears under the Devices heading in the Sidebar.) Now you can access the drive as if it were directly connected to your MacBook Air. Ah, technology!