Most laptop computers these days come with built-in CD-ROM or DVD drives. However, if you use an older computer model, you will either have to upgrade to get the DVD drive, or get a USB or external DVD drive.
Upgrading has its pros and cons over getting an external drive. First, an external DVD drive is usually slightly more expensive than a built-in device. Then, if you use the DVD drive frequently, you will have to hold the external one connected all the time, which will use one extra USB port and also take space on your desk.
However, there are lots of reasons why an external drive would be recommended. You can connect it to more than one computer. If you own several machines, like a laptop and more desktops, you don’t have to purchase a DVD drive for each of them: only one will do. Then, mounting an internal drive in your old laptop will render it useless once you decide to stop using it or buy a better one.
Also, some people only want an upgraded DVD drive, and are fine with the rest of their computer system; a USB external drive is a much cheaper alternative than replacing an entire computer.
Similar to buying a USB external CD-ROM drive, when planning to buy an external DVD drive, make sure that your computer has high speed, USB 2.0 ports. Otherwise, it will take you several hours to burn or read a DVD. Don’t worry if your laptop only has USB 1.1 ports, as they can usually be upgraded at a really cheap rate, if the computer’s motherboard allows it. It could work with a simple chip replacement or a BIOS upgrade. Make sure you ask your favorite computer repair shop if they can fix it before dropping the alternative altogether.
If you plan to use an external USB DVD-RW drive under Microsoft’s Windows operating system, make sure you get a CD/DVD writing software included in the pack. Windows XP and its successors comes with burning features, but they are kind of rudimentary and don’t provide the same nice user experience more advanced, specialized software packages do.
Nero Software Suite is one of the most popular and easy to use CD / DVD burning programs. Also, you most external DVD drives won’t need additional software to be installed, if used on Windows XP and higher. For any other operating systems, you should look up drivers on the hardware manufacturer’s sites, or ask in specialized forums and discussion boards if standard drivers will work. Otherwise, you might find the $200 gadget you have just bought will not work on your laptop running FreeBSD.
To the furthest extent possible, try to buy an external DVD drive that doesn’t need AC power and can function only with the USB connection, as you will want to use it together with your laptop in places where there is no power source (such as parks or restaurants).
Even though most retailers only sell these models, always look that your external DVD drive that can write Dual Layer DVDs. The difference in price is insignificant (shouldn’t be more than $20), and, with this technology, you can burn up to 8.5 gigabytes, as opposed to 4.5.