The 10 Best External CD Drives

Updated March 26, 2018 by Ezra Glenn

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We spent 46 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Our devices seem to be getting smaller every year, and they come with fewer and fewer built-in accessories as a result. If you don't already need one of these external CD drives, you probably will soon. Not only are they capable of reading data from and burning it onto CDs, many come in handy for playing and writing to DVDs and Blu-ray discs as well. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best external cd drive on Amazon.

10. Pawtec Signature Aluminum

The Pawtec Signature Aluminum is USB 3.0 compatible, which greatly improves its writing efficiency. Not only does it write to optical disks at speeds of up to 24x, but its bright pearlescent orange finish will make it stand out on your desk.
  • setup and installation are very easy
  • included cables are a bit short
  • disc tray is not spring-loaded
Brand Pawtec
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Asus Lite

The Asus Lite boasts easy drag-and-drop functionality in three user-friendly steps for writing data to a variety of media types. Its diamond-patterned design is attractive and modern looking, but the included software isn't the best.
  • slim enough to travel with
  • available in black or white
  • requires the use of 2 usb ports
Brand Asus
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Samsung SE-218GP

From its sophisticated power-saving technology and buffering for error prevention during the writing process to its ability to connect to both tablets and televisions, the Samsung SE-218GP is one of the most versatile options currently on the market.
  • sleek brushed metal finish
  • included software is outdated
  • disk tray is a bit flimsy
Brand Samsung
Model SE-218GP/RSBN
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. VicTsing Portable

The multipurpose VicTsing Portable offers a very quiet operation and is capable of playing 3-D Blu-ray discs and writing to almost all types of media disks. Its USB 3.0 connection allows for lightning-fast data transfer speeds, and it has a lovely brushed finish.
  • skid-proof rubber pads on its base
  • onboard cord storage
  • some units aren't built to last
Brand VicTsing
Model VS1-PPC010BVT--VD
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

6. Dansrue Ultra-Slim

While it can't handle Blu-rays, the Dansrue Ultra-Slim is equipped for all other forms of optical disk-based media. It includes a USB 3.0 cable for fast transfer speeds and comes in a cool blue housing with rubber feet for stability.
  • compatible with linux computers
  • works with most burning software
  • requires secondary power support
Brand Dansrue
Model pending
Weight 15.5 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. Apple Superdrive

The elegant Apple Superdrive instantly plugs into your MacBook Air, Pro, or other device with a single hard-wired USB cable. Thanks to its compact size -- it is barely bigger than a jewel case -- it easily slips into most travel bags.
  • simple and unbranded design
  • includes a guide for use
  • data transfer speed is a bit slow
Brand Apple
Model MD564LL/A
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Dell DW316 Optical

Arriving pre-loaded with CyberLink software, the Dell DW316 Optical has been engineered as a reliable burning and playback solution without the need for additional, expensive software. Unfortunately, it can't exceed USB 2.0 speeds.
  • compatible with usb 3 ports
  • weighs just 200 grams
  • rather noisy when active
Brand Dell
Model 429-AAUX
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. VersionTech OD95

Specially designed for users who are always on the go, the VersionTech OD95 provides the ability to connect using a single USB port, which ensures low power consumption when traveling outside your home or office. Its sleek looks will complement those of any modern laptop.
  • pc and mac compatible
  • recording quality optimized for dvds
  • auto-buffers to prevent errors
Brand VersionTech
Model VersionTech 3.0 B01CSGA
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Pioneer Super Slim

Though it is expensive, for the ultimate in versatility, speed, and style, the Pioneer Super Slim is your answer. It has a sleek, professional-grade body that holds up to daily use and abuse, and comes with a vertical stand to keep it at the ready on your desk.
  • compatible with all usb standards
  • high quality magnesium construction
  • handles blu-ray discs with ease
Brand Pioneer
Model BDR-XU03
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. LG Electronics Ultra Slim

Available at an extremely affordable price, the LG Electronics Ultra Slim is an excellent choice for both listening to music and watching movies on the go. It's compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems, so no users should have connectivity issues.
  • available in four colors
  • less than 2 centimeters thick
  • write speeds of up to 24x
Brand LG
Model GP65NB60
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Why Are External CD Drives Necessary?

Modern technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years. Where CD-ROM drives used to come standard on new PCs, we are seeing less need for them over time. Most software downloads can be performed with a simple online purchase and click to download. Since so many of us are beginning to value portability and convenience over multiple features, CD drives are being left out to reduce bulk and make laptops even more portable. Streaming services have even made it unnecessary to use CDs and DVDs in all instances for entertainment, and cloud storage makes it easy to save and back up important files. Unfortunately, these efforts at added convenience pose inconveniences to many. Users are sometimes finding themselves needing to use a CD-ROM and having no way to do it.

That’s where external CD drives come in. They allow you to keep the convenience of your smaller, portable PCs while ensuring that you have access to all features, including CD-ROM capabilities. They are handy for watching rented movies when you are traveling out of town or retrieving old files that have not been otherwise backed up.

Most external CD drives connect via USB making them simple to install and use. Since CDs are not entirely obsolete, an external CD drive just makes sense. It is especially important for people who have music CDs they want to convert to MP3s. On the chance that CDs do one day become obsolete, all of your music, movies, and other important files will still be saved because you had the foresight to invest in an external CD drive.

Research Before You Buy

If you find yourself in need of an external CD drive, there are a few factors you will need to consider before making your final purchase. Don’t just go out and buy the first external CD drive you see in the store or click “Buy Now” on the top pick in the search results without first doing a little research. Not all external CD drives are created equal, especially if you will be using yours for work or gaming.

First, consider the size you need. If your goal is portability, then you will want a small, slim drive that draws power from your laptop. Keep in mind that this will drain your battery power more quickly and slow down your programs. If you go with a bigger external drive, it might require a power adapter, but it will run faster and work well for file transfers and gaming.

Second, consider the extra features your chosen external CD drive offers. Some will only play CDs while other play CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs. Still others will rip and burn CDs and DVDs. Consider the amount of RAM available and how much is necessary to perform your intended functions.

Third, consider your operating system. Most external CD drives are compatible with PCs, but not all of them are compatible with Apple Macintosh computers. If you are using a Mac, read the product description carefully to ensure that your chosen drive will work with your computer.

Finally, consider the transfer speeds. If your chosen drive uses minimal power but transfers and a low rate, it might not be best for gaming or frequent file transfers. In this case, you will want to look into getting a drive that uses a bit more power but will save you time in the long run. However, if all you need is to rip a CD now and then or watch the occasional DVD, then a basic drive is probably a good choice.

A Brief History of External CD Drives

James T. Russell, an American inventor, is the widely accepted inventor of the original compact disc prototype that recorded information digitally on optical transparent foil. The foil was back lit by a halogen lamp, and Russell filed for the patent in 1966. It was four years before his patent request was approved. Afterward in the 1980s, Phillips and Sony both obtained licenses to produce compact discs and drives.

Compact discs were officially released in 1982 and mostly used to play music because it was discovered that laser disc technology was excellent for storing and playing audio files. They were highly popular even though they were incredibly expensive. Because the design was uniform across all compact discs, any disc could be played on any player across all brands. This made them easy to produce and sell without causing the music industry to miss a beat.

When it was initially released, the CD was used only for storing and playing audio files. In 1988, Sony and Phillips introduced the CD-ROM and corresponding CD-ROM drive as an alternative way to store and view files on a computer.

The CD-ROM drive became standard on most computers sold to the general public by the early 1990s. The CD-ROM was capable of holding far more than the average floppy disc, and it became the popular choice for storing and accessing media files. CDs and CD-ROMs soon paved the way for DVD technology quickly making VHS tapes obsolete.

The rapid advancements in technology within the past twenty years of necessitated even more changes in digital storage meaning that the CD-ROM drive has taken a back seat in computer production. Because the drive is being left out of so many laptops in favor of a sleek, compact design, external CD drives have become a necessary commodity.

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Last updated on March 26, 2018 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.

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