One of the downsides of using a Windows 8 tablet as your primary computer. — No optical drive. While Mac OS X users have seen Apple explicitly remove DVD drives from MacBook Air, There has been little indication from Microsoft over the last couple of years that this would be likely. Only those of us who follow the trend, know Microsoft’s habit of borrowing ideas from Apple and recognizing the general movement towards digital distribution, could see this.

More and more Windows computers are shipped without optical drives, and this phenomenon exists outside of the Tablet PC. Not having a DVD drive can prevent you from installing your favorite applications or checking archived discs — even copying your old CDs and DVDs.

Fortunately, there are workarounds. We recently showed you how to use an optical drive on a home network. . We have also mentioned in this article that it is relatively easy to convert a laptop DVD drive to an external optical drive as an alternative.

Let’s see how easy it is…

What will you need

There are two main components to converting your removable laptop DVD drive into an external drive. The first, of course, is the drive; this is a compact «thin» form factor that has recently been included in some desktops that still ship with optical drives.

Along with that, you’ll need an external enclosure or enclosure kit, a relatively cheap device that will house your DVD drive and provide the necessary adapter and power supply. You should be able to find something suitable on eBay or Amazon (like this generic caddy).

The case pictured below is for an IDE/PATA optical drive and will of course be useless for a device with a SATA connector. Make sure you buy the right case with compatible connectors before rearranging your slim drive this way!


You will also need a suitable screwdriver for the conversion. You can know exactly what size you need when you receive the placement kit.

Please note that while this guide is only for removable drives, some fixed DVD drives may also be compatible. Of course, you’ll only find out about this after you take your laptop apart — which you shouldn’t do unless your computer is broken beyond repair.

Removing the DVD drive from your laptop

Perhaps the easiest step, removing your DVD drive is usually made possible by a thumb eject lever to the right or left of the DVD tray. By clicking on this, you will be able to remove the drive (which will be connected to the motherboard on the USB bus, but not through the USB connector) and remove it from the laptop.


There are other ways to remove your compact optical drive. For example, as shown above, there is often a locking screw that must be removed before the drive can be removed. Other extraction options may include multiple set screws. Removal of such devices may require pulling or disconnecting the drive. There may also be a latch, similar to the one often used to remove a laptop battery, which unlocks the optical drive for removal. For the best preparation, find the technical manual for your laptop to confirm the correct procedure.

Why do laptop manufacturers allow ejection of DVD discs? This is basically so that you can easily add updates; for example, you may want to add a compact Blu-ray drive to your laptop or use the bay to add a larger hard drive.

Again, as mentioned earlier, this guide focuses on lockable and/or lockable removable optical drives as described. Removing a suitable optical device from a sealed laptop (which does not have a device ejector) will depend on the computer and manufacturer’s specifications.

Application preparation

When unpacking the drive case, you should notice that it consists of three parts. The first is the main body where the optical drive will be inserted. There should also be a new hood cover and four small screws.


Finally, you should see a long, thin piece of PCB where the connectors will be placed. One side of this will have a connector suitable for plugging into a CD; turning it over reveals two USB connectors. The kit should also come with two USB cables (one for data, one for power), both of which are required.

You must start by removing the cover from your optical drive; this can be done by unscrewing the screws on the underside of the disc tray. You also need to disconnect the drive side extraction mechanism. When they are removed, install the new drive cover — it will be narrower and designed to work with the case.


Once this is done, insert the interposer into the back of the optical drive.

Installing DVD in Caddy

This is the hardest part of the journey! All you need to do now is place the optical drive in the bottom half of the case/chassis, making sure you keep an eye on the support pins, then lower the top half into place, snapping it in place as you go. When it’s done, secure it together with the supplied screws.

I-vn-dvd-from-laptop included

There are several ways you can go wrong here. First, you can slip by overtightening the screws as above. They should be securely tightened, but keep an eye on the case for any signs of distortion or plastic crystallization, and loosen the screws if you see this.

You should also check the eject button on the optical drive repeatedly when adjusting the screws to make sure it doesn’t click when inserting and ejecting discs.

If everything is connected and smoothly opens and closes, you can be ready to test your new inexpensive external optical drive!

Connecting the drive to your computer

Now that you’ve finished assembling the case, it’s time to connect your external DVD drive to your computer.


These devices usually come with two USB cables, although only one is for data transfer; the second is the power wire. If you can find a suitable adapter that won’t burn your DVD drive, then by all means use it, but a USB power cable is a reasonable alternative. This of course means that you will need two spare USB ports on your computer or hub.

Once connected, the drive should appear in My Computer along with all other storage devices. Remember that it is detected as a USB device, so if it is not listed, try restarting your computer.

Conclusion: an external DVD drive for a penny!

It’s always good to be able to retrieve something useful from old hardware, whether it’s a memory card, an old keyboard, or even a storage device. While it’s easy enough to mount your slim optical drive in one of these cases, it’s perhaps a pity that it’s not yet designed to simply plug into a desktop computer (or even another laptop) without the plastic case installed.


Ultimate, however, is one of the best cannibalization projects for older laptop owners, so when you’re looking online for a new external optical drive, just think about what’s in your old laptop and use it!

Have you connected your laptop’s DVD drive to your computer yet? Perhaps you’ve already given up on all your optical drives and discs (after all, there are several alternatives, and creating ISO files is much easier now)? Let us know about it in the comments.

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