What is an Optical Drive?
An optical drive is a generic term used for DVD, CD & Blu-Ray drives. There are other drives available for legacy standards such as HD-DVD and karaoke disks although it is not recommended to invest in these standards unless you already have a large collection of media.
Thankfully optical drives are one of the easier purchases you can make for your PC. There are only two standards for connecting an internal drive and only three major formats available today making it easy to get the drive you want.
What types of disk are there?
There are three major formats of disk available:
- CD-ROM: An older standard that is used primarily for Audio and smaller data transfers. Has a capacity of up to 700MB
- DVD-ROM: The main standard used by PCs today. With a capacity of between 4.7GB and 8.5GB it offers enough storage for the vast majority or games and applications. Dual-layer (8.5GB) DVD is the standard used by the movie industry.
- Blu-Ray: Represents a new generation of optical media with capacities of up to 128GB per disk and the potential for capacities to be increased even further in the future. Its main uses are for storing high-definition video, PlayStation 3 games and for archiving large amounts of data.
What types of drive are available?
For reading optical media there are only three types of drive available. CD-ROM, DVD-ROM and Blu-Ray drives. There are various combo drives available, for example most DVD-ROM drives will also read CD-ROM.
What is special about Re-Writer optical drives?
Each of the major standards of optical drive also has a writable version available. The drives that allow re-writer functions are usually more expensive than their reader counterparts. It is recommended that you look at a DVD-RW drive as a minimum for a modern multi-purpose machine.
What should I look for in an optical drive?
When looking at a description of an optical drive you need to know what you are looking at so you can make an informed buying decision. You need to consider the speed of the drive for reading and writing the media you will be using (higher is better) and also the price of the drive.