Build Your Own PC / Computer

Installing CD/DVD/Blu-ray optical drives

CD, DVD and Blu-ray drives (disc readers and disc readers/writers) are called optical drives because they use laser technology (lasers use beams of light). First came CD drives, followed by DVD drives, followed by Blu-ray drives, which is the latest optical-drive standard. It won the high-definition (HD) war with Toshiba’s HD DVD standard, which has ceased to exist. Blu-ray is developed by Sony.

Like hard disk drives, optical drives use the old IDE PATA or the new SATA interface (current on all new desktop and laptop computers) to connect to a desktop or laptop PC’s motherboard. Blu-ray drives use only the SATA interface. I will only be describing the installation of SATA drives because IDE PATA have not shipped on new computers for many years. If you want to find out how to install an IDE hard drive or optical CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive there are many websites that provide text descriptions or videos, such as YouTube.

As with a hard drive, a power cable from the power supply unit with the appropriate connector (a standard four-pin power connector for an IDE drive and an SATA connector for an SATA drive) has to be attached to the drive’s power socket.

If the power supply only supplies standard Molex power cables, a cheap SATA adapter cable can be bought to convert it into an SATA power cable that connects the power supply to SATA hard-disk, SSD and optical CD/DVD/Blu-ray drives.

An SATA CD/DVD drive is connected to an SATA connector on the PC’s motherboard.

If you need to know where to connect an IDE or SATA CD/DVD drive, consult the motherboard’s user manual. If you don’t have a copy of the manual, identify the make/model of the motherboard with a utility such as the free CPU-Z and conduct a web search for its manufacturer’s site and once there search for the model involved. You should be able to download a user manual for it in the PDF format, which requires a reader, such as the free Foxit Reader.

A SATA CD/DVD or Blu-ray drive has to be placed in a 5.25-inch bay in the front of the case so that its face shows through one of the outlets that are the same size as the drive. In a new PC case, you will probably have to remove a removable metal cover that is punched out and can’t put back, and a plastic cover in the front of the case that can be replaced if the drive is removed. With some cases both of these covers can be replaced.

In order to provide sound, CD/DVD and Blu-ray drives are connected to the a PC’s sound card or motherboard with an integrated sound chip by a special single-wire connector. If the sound card is built into the motherboard, this connector will be connected to the motherboard as illustrated in its user manual. If you don’t have a user manual for the motherboard in your computer you should be able to download a copy from its manufacturer’s site, which you can locate by entering the manufacturer’s name in a search engine.

Note that if you install or replace a CD/DVD/Blu-ray writer in a desktop PC, make sure your new one is very solidly mounted. That is, don’t use just two screws, use as many as you reasonably can on both sides of the drive, and even get some tiny lock washers at a hardware store and use them to make the drive less prone to vibrations. Vibrations have a significant negative effect on a CD/DVD burner compared to the effect they have on most other PC devices. The levels of vibrations that a hard drive will ignore will eventually cause your CD/DVD/Blu-ray burner’s lens to go off axis. And since CD/DVD/Blu-ray burners are more expensive to repair than replace you will probably have to replace your burner before its time if you ignore this aspect of the installation.

My installation descriptions should be sufficient for most PC-builders, but if you need to see an illustrated guide on installing CD/DVD/Blu-ray drives, visit:

How To Install An SATA CD, DVD or Blu-ray ROM Drive –

A CD-R/RW (CD is old technology) or DVD-R/RW writer (DVD and Blu-ray is current technology) is preferable to a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM read-only drive, because you can use  writers to play ordinary CDs (audio and data and you can also use them to record (‘burn’) CD-R/DVD-R or CD-RW/DVD-RW discs. For instance, CD-R and DV-R/DVD+R disks are very cheap these days, especially when bought in bulk. You could use them to make regular back-up copies of your whole system or data files so that they can easily be restored in the event of a wipe out. Note that using an external hard disk drive (large-capacity (1TB+) drives are relatively cheap) and online storage are the best ways of storing backups and system images.

Currently, CD-RW discs can be rewritten approximately a 1,000 times. A DVD+RW or a DVD-RW disc is very similar to a CD-RW disc with regard to the number of times that it can be rewritten. However, as with CD-RW discs, in practice the number of times will probably be much higher and vary between the brand-name makes of disc. Blu-ray rewritable discs (Blu-ray Disc Rewritable discs) are designated by BD-RE (not BD-RW in the way that CD-RW and DVD-RW/DVD+RW are used for the CD/DVD rewritable standards). The BD-RE specifications require that the discs, at minimum, should be rewritable at least 1,000 times. However, different materials, designs, and fabrications may allow a greater number of rewrites. Some, but not all of the BD-RE disc manufacturers, specify that their discs are capable of 10,000 or more rewrites.

BD-R (write-once) and BD-RE (multiple write) discs can store a huge 25GB of data on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc, but they are much more expensive than the equivalent recordable CD/DVD discs. Visit amazon.com or amazon.co.uk to find out what the latest prices are.

Installing CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive device drivers and disc-burning software

Windows XP/Vista/7/8.1/10 will probably install the device drivers itself for a CD/DVD/Blu-ray burner/drive, but if it hasn’t got the drivers, it will ask you to supply them from a disc or from a download in a folder. If Windows installs the drivers itself, you should visit the drive manufacturer’s website for the latest drivers, because those in the Windows driver library will probably be old drivers. You might also be able to find an update for the drive’s firmware. Just make sure that the firmware update is for the exact make/model of drive, because you can render a drive unusable by installing the wrong firmware.

Use a suitable search term in a web search to find more information on optical-drive firmware. For a dvd drive, you could try: dvd drive firmware.

New PCs and boxed CD/DVD/Blu-ray writers purchased from a retail store usually come with the disc-burning software required to use them, or you can download free alternatives from the web by using the search term disc burning software followed by the version of Windows being used. Windows XP does not provide DVD-burning or DVD-playing software and does not support Blu-ray in any way, but Windows Vista and Windows 7 can burn to and play DVD discs, but cannot currently burn to or play Blu-ray discs.

Burning a CD or DVD in Windows Media Player [Applies to Windows 8.1] –

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/windows-8/burn-cd-or-dvd-media-player

Click the following link to visit the appropriate page on the  CD/DVD/Blu-ray Drives section of this site for detailed information on these optical drives.

Each website that provides information on how to build a desktop PC has its own method of treating the subject and none of them provides all of the available information on it, so it is worthwhile finding out what is available on several of them before you build your first PC. You can find others by using a web-search query for build your own pc.

Next page: Installing video/graphics and sound cards

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