The best Macs today don't have disc drives, which means you'll need an external drive if you want to listen to a CD or watch a DVD. An external disc drive connects through USB and works just like a portable hard drive. If you opt for a CD-RW or DVD-RW drive, you can also write data on CDs and DVDs.
So if you're looking to watch a movie, put photos on a disc, or listen to your favorite CD, an external disc drive is a necessity. The good news is that most disc drives are relatively inexpensive, and we’ve found the best drives available so you can find which one works best for you, depending on your needs and budget.
Best for slimness
This super slim drive has both USB and USB-C cables, so you don't need a dongle to use it with old and new MacBooks alike. It also has impressive read and write speeds, which means if you have a lot of burning to do, it won't take forever. If you're going to be using your new optical disc drive regularly, this is the best option for you.
Best slot loader
No adapter needed
I have this model of CD/DVD drive for my Mac for multiple reasons. For one, it's practically the same as Apple's SuperDrive in every way, and it's also got a USB-C cable so I can connect it to my MacBook Pro without needing any additional adapters. Finally, it also comes with a USB-A adapter, so I can connect it to any standard USB port.
Best first party
Apple's branded playable/burnable CD/DVD drive is the perfect complement to your iMac or MacBook Pro unless you have a late 2016 or newer MacBook Pro. If you do, you'll need the USB-C to USB adapter. It's not much larger than the size of a CD case, so it fits snug in your computer bag without taking up a lot of room.
USB-C and USB 3.0
This slim and compact disc drive has no eject button, but you can tuck it away in your backpack easily. Preprogrammed for both Mac and Windows, you shouldn't need to do any formatting to get it to work. Plus, this drive has both USB 3.0 and USB-C cables.
Best for budget
LG makes a CD/DVD drive that is lightweight, fast, and doesn't cost much. It's made of a hard shell plastic material, so it will not feel as sturdy as Apple's SuperDrive or Confoly's USB-C drive. However, in exchange, you get something that's about as light as a CD in its case.
Also worth considering
Weighing just 12 ounces, this CD/DVD burner is compact, lightweight, and USB-powered. It's a solid choice if you need to back up sensitive data, as well as music and video libraries because it comes with a range of software included to get you up-and-running quickly and easily.
Which is the best disc drive for Mac?
In our guide above, we've selected the ASUS ZenDrive U9M as our favorite pick since its read and write speeds are impressive, and you don't need a dongle to use it with your newer Mac — like the M2 Mac Mini.
If you're working with a small budget, take a look at the LG Electronics 8X USB 2.0 Super Multi Ultra Slim Portable. It's lightweight, fast, and doesn't cost too much, making it a perfect compliment to an already expensive 16-inch M2 MacBook Pro
Why do you need a CD/DVD drive for Mac?
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It may seem like the time of the disc drive is behind us, but they're actually still really useful to have around. It's worth having a CD drive for the times that you do need one, which can happen surprisingly often.
You might want to digitize your DVD or music collection, for example. Or watch a movie that you own on DVD and don't want to buy on streaming again. With an external drive, you can do this on your Mac without having to jump through hoops.
One of the biggest reasons is legacy data recovery. Maybe you've got years of files that you need to view and access on CDs and DVDs. An external disc drive will let you do that without a drive in your machine itself.
And, with CDs becoming increasingly popular again, just like the revival of the vinyl record in previous years, you could even get a new hobby out of your disc drive purchase.
How do you find the right CD/DVD drive for your Mac?
There are many different CD/DVD drives on the market, so how do you find the right one for your Mac?
- Connectivity — You'll need to check how your drive connects to your Mac first and foremost to be sure that it works with your devices. For example, many Macbooks only have a USB-C port. So you'll need to be sure the disk drive you're buying works with USB-C.
- Compatibility — Most DVD drives work with Windows and Mac, but do check the specs before you buy to make sure the drive doesn't favor one or the other or need additional software to work.
- Speed — The speed tells you how fast the drive will read and write data. This goes from 1 x (slow) to 24 x (fast).
- Budget — You tend to get what you pay for with technology. But if you're looking for a simple disc drive for watching discs occasionally, you could get a cheaper drive than someone who wants to transfer thousands of CDs to their laptop and needs fast speeds to do so.
- Design — If you like your products to all look the same, you'll want to find a disc drive with a similar finish to you Mac. It's also worth considering when and where you'll be using your disc drive. If you need to carry it to an office, you'll want a slim and compact design that can slip into a laptop case.
Adding a CD and DVD drive to your desk is one of many ways to upgrade your Mac experience. If you're looking to make your Mac even better, we have loads of different buying guides on iMore.
These include our pick of the best USB-C portable power chargers for MacBook and MacBook Pro, the best external hard drives for Mac, and the best 4K monitors for Mac.
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John-Anthony Disotto is the How To Editor of iMore, ensuring you can get the most from your Apple products and helping fix things when your technology isn’t behaving itself.
Living in Scotland, where he worked for Apple as a technician focused on iOS and iPhone repairs at the Genius Bar, John-Anthony has used the Apple ecosystem for over a decade and prides himself in his ability to complete his Apple Watch activity rings.
John-Anthony has previously worked in editorial for collectable TCG websites and graduated from The University of Strathclyde where he won the Scottish Student Journalism Award for Website of the Year as Editor-in-Chief of his university paper. He is also an avid film geek, having previously written film reviews and received the Edinburgh International Film Festival Student Critics award in 2019.
John-Anthony also loves to tinker with other non-Apple technology and enjoys playing around with game emulation and Linux on his Steam Deck.
In his spare time, John-Anthony can be found watching any sport under the sun from football to darts, taking the term “Lego house” far too literally as he runs out of space to display any more plastic bricks, or chilling on the couch with his French Bulldog, Kermit.