/ Technology

Would you buy a PC without a DVD drive? I would

Apple Mac mini

Earlier this week, Apple announced an update to its ultra-small desktop computer, the Mac mini. It was a fairly minor refresh except for one thing – Apple has removed the DVD drive.

Change is hard to grasp. One moment everything seems just as it ever was. A moment later you’ve had the proverbial rug pulled from under you. That’s not how it happens, of course; change rarely happens overnight. But, more often than not, we don’t notice it happening until an event draws our attention to it.

Apple’s decision to remove the DVD drive from its Mac mini was such a moment, albeit an indicator rather than ‘The Event’.

We’ve reviewed many laptops that haven’t featured DVD drives before, but that’s typically born of necessity – a desire for slimness and portability. Desktops, however, are rarely compromised like this – and the Mac mini (small as it is) previously had one.

Apple’s decision wasn’t a necessity, it was a conscious choice. And while the Mac mini probably isn’t for me, I’m certain I wouldn’t miss the disc spinner if I had one.

Apple’s going digital

That it’s Apple making this choice is no surprise. Of all the computer manufacturers out there it has the most to gain from the death of DVD. Its latest Mac OS is being sold exclusively via its online App Store, and iTunes is a major hub for purchasing and downloading music and films.

If you buy into the Apple ecosystem, not having a DVD drive is no great impediment. It’s no accident Apple hasn’t, and certainly never will, support the Blu-ray HD disc format.

Apple has offered up some alternatives. You can purchase an external DVD drive, or even ‘share’ the optical drive of another Mac or PC with the Mac mini if the occasion arises. But both solutions seem apologetic, especially as the ‘official’ external drive costs an optimistic £66.

In fairness to Apple, a Mac mini with the external drive still works out cheaper than last year’s version, but you’ll still need to add a keyboard and mouse to the price.

How often do you use DVD?

Most of us own films on DVD – me more than most. But I’ve got a TV and a DVD player to watch films on. My laptop has a DVD drive, but I’ve only used it twice in two years. Once to install some software (software I could have downloaded if I wanted) and a second time when someone gave me some images on disk.

It would have been inconvenient on both occasions had I not had a DVD drive, but an alternative wouldn’t have been hard to come by.

I’m probably an extreme example, but Apple’s move is a stark reminder that physical media – particularly DVDs – are in the twilight of their lives. It could be a long, glorious (defiant, even) twilight, but don’t be surprised when DVDs disappear from our high-streets to convalesce in car boot sales.

Would you buy a PC without a DVD drive?

No (74%, 489 Votes)

Yes (23%, 150 Votes)

I don't give a monkey's (4%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 664

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Phil says:
22 July 2011

I regularly watch DVDs on my MacBook so a loptop without a DVD would be pretty useless.

BooDeLaHoo says:
22 July 2011

Personally, I haven’t touched a DVD in about six months, but with a PS3 hooked up to a big telly, there’s no reason to be watching films on a small computer screen.

Tom says:
22 July 2011

I use my imac daily and I’ve not used it’s DVD for over 6 months and even then it was only to play call of duty 4. If you still use DVD/disks don’t buy the new mac mini, it’s sime as that. Mac have realised it’s soon to be redundant and got rid of it.


I burn large files to disc, and this would make it tricky.


We are in the 21st century. DVDs, CDs and conventional hard drives will soon be consigned to the history books, to join gramophone records and wax cylinders. Blu-Ray discs are like high density floppy discs – a way of prolonging the life of outdated technology. Using DVDs on laptop computers takes a lot of battery power, which is another reason to get rid of them.

Good for Apple. I remember all the criticism they received for producing an iMac without a floppy disk drive. Anyone want to buy an external floppy disk drive, only slightly used?

An external DVD player could be a useful accessory to have until the transition is complete, but let’s move on.

Jon Bradbury says:
22 July 2011

I’ve said over on Twitter, look back in 5-10 years this will probably be seen as the ‘floppy disc’ moment as the iMac is for dumping that back in ’98. Software, DVDs, music etc is all moving to downloads & USB, between Mac Store, iTunes & Love Film the optical drive is being rendered obsolete. Don’t even need to burn CDs for the car, even thats covered by an 8GB USB stick full of tunes inside the glovebox…

I do mac support for a charity 9-5, and nearly all of the machines beyond the first few days when I set them up, never ever use the optical drive. There’s 1-2 that use them once a month, 2 maybe twice a year. I use the drive a bit more frequently, but I’m a heavier user compared to most in the office.

We’re not left in the cold however, Apple supply a USB DVD writer for £60 and if you find that a bit minty, others (Freecom for eg) do an external bus powered DVD writer for about £30. How long before it gets languished to the bottom of the draw along with my Teac USB floppy drive (how many times did I use that, errr about 3x).


We’re certainly seeing a shift from the physical format to the downloaded version, but it won’t end there. I feel that over time we’ll recognise that we’re no longer buying music or video, but buying access to music and video. What I mean is that we won’t even need to download it locally to our phones or home computers, instead we’ll have access to the content through a number of devices – including our cars.

Ishmeal Hosein says:
23 July 2011

I would never buy a PC without a DVD drive. What if you need to reinstall the OS or add another on? what if you need a boot-up disc? What if you want to create a DVD for a friend or family member who doesn’t really know how to work a computer? What if you want to play a DVD that doesn’t come with a digital copy? What about the digital copy of movies that are on DVD’s?