Tuesday, December 12

Diy Computer Part Ten: The Optical Drive

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It doesn’t look floppy

The day and age of the floppy is gone, and while it co-existed with the optical drive for quite some time, it is safe to say that in 2010, the replacement is now fairly complete. None of the major manufacturers include floppy drives in their systems, though some of the motherboard manufacturers are still including floppy controllers, though this is expected to disappear increasingly as we move forward.

Floppy drives are now an add-on accessory used only for backward compatibility in only the rarest cases. Most users building systems today will not need them – but will most likely want to include their replacement – the optical drive.

Oooh Shiny!

CD-ROM (Compact Disc) and DVD-ROM (Digital Video Disc) drives are both forms of Read Only Memory (ROM) drives that store large volumes of data on optical media using lasers. CD-ROM drives have given way to DVD-ROM drives, and now DVD-ROM drives have given way to a host of writable DVD drives. Blu-ray drives made some minor headway into the PC market, but to date are still rarely used except by those who intend to watch or create video content due to high prices.


There are many different kinds of writable DVD drives with all sorts of similar terms, such as DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, and DVD-RAM. Two higher capacity units were introduced in 2006 called HD DVD and BD (Blu-ray), but HD DVD was given up and Blu-ray became the standard.

All those definitions will mean little to the everyday user. Most drives today are very low priced and offer compatibility with all or most of these standards (except BD.) In 2010, much like their hard drive counterparts, these drives will connect via SATA (Serial ATA), but can still be found in PATA (Parallel ATA) flavors. Avoid PATA if you are able – SATA drives are as fast or faster than the PATA drives, with smaller, cheaper cables that are easier to connect.

How do I decide?

An optical drive will be a fairly simple choice for most users, selecting a drive with good ratings and features for the lowest prices. People who plan on doing HD video work or will need to backup or transport high volumes of data on discs might consider the options of BD drives, but until the prices of these units drop, it is unlikely that most users will want to pay for a BD drive just for the pleasure of watching a Blu-ray movie DVD.

Image via Wikipedia


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