/ 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

Loading ... Loading ...
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?

Mikhail says:
28 July 2011

Have you heard about external USB DVD-ROMs £20-30 and USB memory cards?



I’ve heard of them but it seems that Apple haven’t heard about USB3, eSATA or SATA 6000.

What is the point of having a neat, compact PC if you have to hang devices off them before they are useful.


Probably! I’m not quite ready to do without it yet, mostly because Itunes only sells 256k downloads, when they do Apple Losssless or AIFF It will be OK. One of the big problems with all the “cloud” type technology is that it is dependant on decent broadband speeds, nuff said! One other thing with the Mac Mini or indeed any other new Mac is that Lion no longer supports Rosetta, the program by which programs written for PowerPC Macs would run on the Intel based machines, I still have some legacy software that I use that does the job but is not worth paying for the latest software.

Jonas W says:
25 July 2011

@peter t: Excuse me, I’m no hifi buff, but if you want the quality from lossless audio, why does the computer on your desk have anything to do with it? Shouldn’t you play your music on a high-end stereo? In my experience, the electronics in standard internal soundcards and cd-drives is worse for music than any compression method. I mean, just because you believe you can hear the difference, it doesn’t mean it’s actually better. You’re still missing out by not using proper equipment.
Just a thought. Your situation may be more nuanced than I propose here.


Jonas W:
The success of the Walkman demonstrated that most people are more interested in convenience than sound quality. The MP3 player is another example.

I think the same applies here. Compression and the quality of sound cards both affect sound quality and it is not easy to appreciate the relative importance.

Megapixels sell camera phones but what matters is the size/quality of the lens and keeping it clean.


Your absolutely right, that’s what I do. If the CD disappears and we are left only with download, which I guess is what Apple is pushing for, it will need to be available in uncompressed format otherwise that seems like a big step backwards. As others have noted, this is all very well if you have high speed broadband, which most of us don’t. That becomes even more critical for video feeds, my broadband is not even fast enough for BT Vision despite living on the outskirts of a medium sized town.

One other observation about Apple in general, I’ve used Macs since 1984 when they were dismissed as a niche market, too expensive and a closed system to outsiders. The advantage they had was everything fitted seamlessly together, not so true now. The other thing is they were seen for a long time as the antithesis of the Microsoft approach, but as success has grown they are now accused of the very thing that MS used to do ie dictating to users what and how things work. Is that just a function of the size of an organisation?

Mark says:
24 July 2011

I can see why they’re doing it, as DVD drives, like mechanical drives, are things soon to be consigned to the past. However, if I were to use this thing as a HTPC, that would mean ripping all my DVD and media on to another machine and then transferring it across. Not ideal. Similarly, I still buy productivity software and games on DVDs (better to have a hard backup), and the prices are more competitive than what digital-only stores offer.

Yes, this is forward-thinking technologically, but Apple are of course doing this to reinforce their position as the purveyor of digital goods on their ecosystem. Knowing Apple (and monopolies in general), that will result in two things: one, higher prices; and two, restrictions on what platform you view content (i.e., theirs only).

And the future isn’t here yet. Many people in this country are still on 2 meg connections, myself included, which means streaming or downloading HD content is difficult or impossible. Others are on broadband packages which put a heavy restriction on bandwidth consumption. For us, portable storage, whether that’s Blu-ray or DVD, is cheaper, dependable and the only real possibility.

To Ben Stevens: I’m curious. Why do you think Apple will never put a Blu-ray player in their machines? Not even the iMac?


It was me who said that, in fact.

I said so because if Apple was going to support it, it would have done so by now. Given adding Blu-ray would be competing with its own streaming services, it seems even more unlikely now than ever.


I’ve had a good think about this. When we first talked about this Andy, my first thought was ‘no way’ – I need that disc drive. But I can’t actually remember the last time I used the disc drive in either my computer or laptop. My laptop didn’t even come with a disc copy of Windows 7.

I think I’ve tried to play a DVD on it, but it wasn’t a great experience – like BooDeLaHoo, I’ll leave that task to my PS3.

Still, I’m not sure if I could entirely let go…


As I have over 1000 DVDs that I watch on my computer – and adding more each week – there is no way I would buy a Mac anyway. Years ago in the days of DOS I decided the Apple Mac was not the system for me. I haven’t changed my mind


Until broadband speeds and networks are reliable enough, until my PC or MAC can fix itself without a utilities CD/DVD, then no, I cannot go without it.

If you have any pretences of maintaining computers/hardware, you simply cannot go without an external drive. The thing with Apple is that you can’t administer it yourself, you cannot program it yourself, it is all out of the box.

As a result of this, my cynical hat says that when you have a problem with your MAC, you will never be qualified to sort it out, you will have to send it off to an expensive sub-contractor, ensuring another revenue stream for Apple. But I guess this is kind of already in place

Am I the only one to see this? (apart from Ishmeal)


Hi Dean, No this utterly closed system issue has occurred to me too. I started to get miffed when Apple stopped the Macbook able to have its battery swapped out. You would be obliged to take it to a service centre if something went pear-shaped with the battery of a newer Macbook.


Woops, I mean of an older Macbook 🙂

Usul says:
26 July 2011

Device Void Destroy


I’m a photographer. I don’t hold any brief for the quality and staying power of CD/DVD’s. Storing photos on CD’s turned out to be a complete disaster for me as only 1 in 3 CDs is still readable and I have lost many, many photos. Fortunately in some cases I am a ‘belt-and-braces’ freak and have back-ups all over the place. DVDs have, so far, turned out to be a little more reliable. As a result I have stayed far away from BlueRay. All I need is another unreliable format…
Having said all that I now store my photos on various hard-drives, internal and external. My complete collection of 1000s of photofiles now resides in 2/3 different places.
BUT – last week I replaced the hard drive in my laptop, had to transfer/back-up/reinstall, etc. Without the DVD drive I am not quite sure what I would have done.
Flash drives have replaced many of the functions of the DVD. It is definitely on the way out – but not yet… I still have a floppy drive in each new PC desktop. I use this at least once or twice a year…. It took me ages to move all my floppies to CD’s. Recently I found a photograph that I thought lost for ever on an old floppy. Belt and braces…..


I certainly wouldn’t buy a DVD-less laptop, no. And why don’t Apple support Blu-Ray? Not even for playback, let alone as a feature of a so-called “Super Drive”?

I am further somewhat irritated by the fact that I am obliged to download the Lion OS update, even though we have to pay for bandwidth and get atrocious internet speeds (not Apple’s fault, admittedly) – the other day I experienced the blazing speeds of 0.78 Mb/s download and 0.12 Mb/s upload which is typical for our street. Apple must think we all live in a major urban conurbation (I live in Wiltshire by the way, so not exactly the moon.)


Stuff Apple, they have become good innovators but their Macs are very overpriced. I am sure most Mac magazines still come with DVD so there’s little point in buying them now. I can buy an internal DVDRW for my PC for about £15 and need it to burn DVDs of photoshows and video for weddings as well as school plays which parents buy from the school. This Mac is overpriced and there’s the usual style over substance issue. Minimalist? Yes but entirely practical? No, unless your an Apple devotee.


The Mac mini isn’t disappointing because it lacks a DVD drive.

It doesn’t have any USB3 or eSATA ports. It doesn’t support SATA3 and you can’t plug in a high capacity HDD. It is bl**dy expensive.

Six compelling reasons not to touch this with a barge pole. It’s well out-of-date before it hit the shelves.

Lynne Morgan says:
26 July 2011

WIthout a CD/DVD drive how would I continue moving my music collection (on CD) onto my computer so that I can load it onto my iPhone?

Kev says:
26 July 2011

I’m happy without a DVD drive. It’s simply an indication of Apple leading the way. I remember the outcry when they omitted a floppy disk drive from the iMac some years ago and that is not missed nowadays – they’re just ahead of the times. Similarly now with Operating Systems and Software being downloaded over the internet and films available on-line like Apple I see the death of the DVD as imminent……


Dell have been selling Laptops without any optical drive for the last 6 + years; they expect you to use a docking station or external CD/DVD Drive – indeed in 2004 they actually made their own dula USB plug, the lower half was normal and the upper half was a power plug that fitted into a side USB socket on the X300

This ain’t new chaps !!!

Sam says:
29 July 2011

For a Christmas present my mum bought me a Dell Inspiron Mini 10, and it doesn’t have a disk drive so I got by using software like Daemon Tools which lets you create a virtual disk drive for ISO files and what-not, and downloaded my own movies. I think for a netbook, no disk drive is acceptable, but for a PC, you expect an Optical drive

Glyn Scantlebury says:
29 July 2011

I would buy a pc without a DVD becuase I find them so difficult to use when storing data. A memory card is so much easier, quicker and smaller.

Ted Lynch says:
29 July 2011

Will I agree that DVDs are on their way out but I think Apple are perhaps a mac mini refresh cycle too early in dropping the DVD drive. I regularly take photos for other people and they often want the RAW images which from a 16MP DSLR makes for some chunky files when you are talking about a 10s or 100s of images. Burning a DVD has to date been my medium of choice for this as not everyone, consumer or business, is happy tying up their broadband to do the transfer and decent quality 4GB USB sticks are not quite cheap enough to buy 50 at a time just in case yet.

When you start to talk about sharing digital video taken by a DV or DSLR then I would have thought putting a DVD/Blu-Ray record capable drive in would have made more sense and also allowed people to use the Mac Mini as the centre of their entertainment setup if the included optical outputs as well. Maybe a new high-end Mac Mini / BluRay / Apple TV combo is called for?

Roger K says:
30 July 2011

I bought a netbook PC without a DVD drive a couple of years back. I did not buy an external DVD drive at the time, but waited until I needed one. I think that was about 6 months later and a USB one cost about £20 or so. Last year I bought a new laptop as my main computer, and picked one with no DVD, so it is a bit smaller and lighter for travel. Of course I can use it with the external DVD drive. In the last 6 months I have used the DVD external drive once or perhaps once; the rest of the time it lives in a drawer. Most new software is downloaded. I backup to hard disks and/or online. I use memory sticks to transfer data, etc. and mine (several of 8GB) have more capacity than DVDs. I watch films via the TV with attached hifi – better picture and sound than a computer.
I can’t remember when I last wrote a DVD or CD on the computer, perhaps 2 years or more. I have lots of RW DVDs, now unused. I can’t even remember if my external DVD unit is read-only or RW.

I am still gradually copying my music CDs to computer using an old laptop (with built-in DVD) which is now part of my hifi stack, and it copies via wireless to a network hard drive which the other computers can read.

So a Mac mini with no DVD… no problem, at least not for that reason.

I still record DVDs on a recorder attached to the TV.


Although I agree with your conclusions about the need for any optical drive in a Netbook or ultra-portable Laptop, here we are looking at a compact Apple DESKTOP which has totally different needs.

On the face of it, it is a neat and tidy solution for a desktop. But if you have to start hanging devices off it to make it useful, the whole compact concept goes down the drain.

I don’t see it as any use without at least an external Hard disk drive connected and Apple don’t seem to have heard of USB3 or eSATA. For that sort of money, I’d expect something up to date that fulfils its function well. This does not.

robb192002 says:
31 July 2011

Yes. In fact Im sorely tempted to buy a particular product for a child, because it lacks a DVD drive. I am tired of expensive scratched game discs. I would be quite happy to reinstall O/S using a USB memory stick, or external drive.

Clive Jenkins says:
19 August 2011

I have used the DVD drive to install software which can not be downloaded from a site. I also subscribe to a computer magazine which has a free disc, this often has useful software.

Twice I could not play a dvd but when tried in the computer no problem at all!

I would not purchase a computer without a DVD drive.

Peter S says:
28 August 2011

Given a choice I would not buy a desk-top computer that didn’t incorporate a DVD drive – unless DVD drives that connect via a USB port were readily available.

Richard Stokes says:
22 December 2011

My Mac mini was purchase two years ago. Attractive to me was their big screen and wireless mouse and keyboard very particularly the concept of the setup being a compact computer c*m home entertainment system. I am also a photographer and as well as using DSLR I also use SLR (film). I have many images on CD (courtesy of Boots). A new computer with no DVD CD player would make life difficult getting film to my Iphoto. I would reluctantly have to use my cranky old Microft lap upload to Flickr or somewhere and then try and get my images back. What a performance. You can find me on Flickr (images of Lima – Miraflores).

Oh guess what my Mac Mini has now decided it won’t read any DVDS CDs or even it’s own installation disc – am I going to have to creep reluctantly back to Microsoft? Or shall I brave Linux, my friend who works for Google says go for Linux.


Your optical drive might just need to be cleaned and it is worth discussing this with an Apple dealer if you live near one. I know people who have had various repairs done free by Apple dealers, and not just where there is a known problem. You could try mentioning the Sale of Goods Act since a computer should last more than two years.

A replacement drive is likely to be expensive, so you could consider an external drive, even though it may be as big as your Mac Mini.

If you buy a PC you will find that Windows now has a lot of the features of OSX.


I’ve banged on about this before, but I slightly resent being expected to use my network for everything Apple related. We get a rubbish DSL connection of less than 2.5Mb/sec, so as well as paying lots for downloads, they can take forever to complete.

I would consider upgrading to Apple Lion OS, but as its a) a huge download only and b) it apparently turns your desktop computer into an Ipad, I am going to stick with Snow Leopard. But that’s all a different story…

I know that fast networks are the future, but they have yet to make an appearance in rural Wiltshire!


There does seem to be an assumption that everyone has fast, cheap broadband. It’s not just Apple. In terms of speed you are luckier than many living in rural areas, baward.

OSX 10.7 (Lion) provides additional features, but if you don’t use them you will not see much difference between this and the previous operating system. Have a look at online discussion and I think you will find how to get round the large download problem.

Ian Guiver says:
29 April 2012

I like to own hard copies of books and music so I still buy music on CD and transfer to iTunes. For that I need a disc player. The whole point of the mini is that it is a neat little desktop solution. With the necessity to buy an external drive that USP is out of the window. I also use my current machine to play DVDs because my Mini is linked to a wall-mounted Sony TV that doubles as my computer screen and provides an extra TV room for the family. So again, with the Mini I will have to buy a another piece of kit and the point is not the cost – it is having more ‘stuff’ that I don’t want to look at. So from me, it is a big thumbs down.

HappyPig0 says:
10 January 2013

I don’t need t pay for a DVD for every pc I own so whilst this is a late posting…. I think it’s better to exclude them, less weight, less cost and just plug an external drive in as and when needed…. which is pretty rare now for me!