The Apple SuperDrive lives on in external form, available to buy separately or as part of an upgrade when getting a new Mac.
Apple is moving away from the DVD and CD drive - and from phyiscal media generally - as it tries to shift users on to iCloud. But some people still want to be able to burn, and play, CDs and DVDs on their Mac. Well, provided you've got the right hardware, it's easy to burn DVDs, CDs and Blu-ray Discs on a Mac. Read our Apple SuperDrive review.
How to burn a CD/DVD on a Mac
You can burn CDs or data DVDs easily on a Mac, but very few current Macs actually have built-in optical drives. The format is on its way out, as digital downloads and cloud storage take off.
None of the current desktop Macs, in fact, have the built-in SuperDrive as standard. The most recent Mac Pro had a built-in SuperDrive - combined CD and DVD rewriter - so you’re ready to go if you have one. But that's no longer available as a new purchase. And the new Mac Pro, yet to ship, doesn’t have an optical drive. It does have lots of connectivity for external solutions, though.
The Macbook Air has never had an optical drive and neither do the Retina versions of the Macbook Pro. That just leaves the standard 13in and 15in MacBook Pros which, surprisingly, do have SuperDrives built in. Our guess? The next refresh of the MacBook Pro line will see those disappear.
Disk Utility is a toolkit for ripping and burning images from a variety of sources to CD or DVD.
There are external CD and DVD burners available, including Apple’s own external SuperDrive.
If you do have a SuperDrive installed - or an external SuperDrive - burning audio CDs is easy. You fire up iTunes, create a playlist and the option is there to write an audio CD.
If you insert a blank DVD or CD into a SuperDrive, OS X pops up an alert asking you what you want to do. You can add files and folders, give the disc a name and, finally, click the “Burn” button to write everything to disc.
You can also use Disk Utility to burn disk images to DVD or CD. Open Disk Utility, select the disk image and click “Burn” to write the image to a blank CD or DVD.
At the end of 2011 The UK Government made it legal for us to make copies for personal use of our media, but that didn't mean it was legal for people to break the DRM that makes it difficult to rip DVDs. According to the government report: "The supply and use of equipment to circumvent technological measures is therefore illegal in UK and European law in recognition of the damage it can cause."
How to burn (and play) a Blu-ray Disc on a Mac
A Blu-ray Disc has advantages over a standard DVD: the picture and audio quality are better, and if you haven't got a fast internet connection, buying a disc may be faster and easier than waiting to download a file that might top out at 8GB. An optical disc is also a good, physical backup for added peace of mind.
As with CD and DV drives, you need the right hardware to burn to Blu-ray formats, but Apple Macs don't come with Blu-ray drives. Instead, you'll need to buy an external model.
LG Electronics' BP40NS20
Pick your Blu-ray drive
You can buy an external, USB Blu-ray drive for less than £40, though you should look in the £60 to £70 range to find a good one. Many of these models are bus-powered, so you don’t need a power supply; just hook them up to a Mac that has powered USB ports. You won’t need any special drivers to mount Blu-ray discs, but without the right playback software, you can’t do much with them. (We'd point you to Aurora Software’s Blu-ray Player for Mac ($30 - £19.40 - for a one-year licence or $40 - £25.90 - for the lifetime version) and Macgo’s Mac Blu-ray Player ($40 [£25.90] for a lifetime licence).
A Blu-ray drive can also play DVDs and CDs, so if you’re looking for an external drive to connect to a Mac, it’s worth getting one that supports Blu-ray.
How to fix a faulty DVD drive on a MacBook
But what if your MacBook Pro (for instance) simply refuses to burn DVDs, CDs or Blu-ray Discs? You may need to fix a faulty optical disc drive.
Some Macworld readers have found that their MacBooks' internal drives struggle to read CDs, while still being able to read DVDs without a problem. In some cases this can be fixed by reinstalling the Mac OS or zapping the computer’s PRAM (start up the Mac and hold down Apple+Alt+P+R until you hear two startup tones, then let go of the keys and allow the Mac to start up normally).
However, a more likely cause of DVD/CD drive faults of all kinds is a dirty drive lens. Or, sadly, the drive may simply be broken. Optical drives are often the first element of a computer to go wrong. If the damage if irreparable - or if you simply fancy a new option - consider using the bay for an SSD instead.
How to clean up a dirty DVD drive lens
If your MacBook is still under warranty or you have AppleCare, put the issue in Apple’s hands. If the Mac is out of warranty, you can try fixing it a grimy lens yourself.
You can purchase special drive cleaning kits; some people have had success using a can of compressed air to blow dust off the lens. Others recommend wrapping a credit card in soft cloth, applying denatured alcohol, and swiping the cloth-covered card in and out of the drive slot. Still others recommend that you open the Mac, extract the drive, and clean the lens with a cotton bud and denatured alcohol.