Given its limited space, many people have been asking me about using an external DVD drive for Chromebook. Can you use an external drive for Chromebook? Do external drives let you play CDs and DVDs?
It’s fun and convenient to have so many features to add to your laptop. However, before you buy a Chromebook DVD drive, make sure you know what you can and can’t do with one.
Note: This article is about Chromebook optical drives, which play CDs and DVDs. If you want to know about external hard drives for file storage, check out this article I already wrote on the topic.
Optical Drives for the Chromebook
If you’re wondering whether you can use an external drive CD/DVD with Chromebook, the short answer is yes, you can. But before you get too excited, know that there are some limitations to what an external drive can do. Let’s start with the things you can do with a Chromebook optical drive.
What you can do with a Chromebook DVD drive
Chromebooks can read these disk types:
- Blu-ray RW
Chrome OS can read files from any of these disks if they are written in data or media format.
You can copy files off optical media to your drive as long as they are actual media files, not CD music or DVD videos. You can also play media files directly from a disk.
What doesn’t work in Chrome OS
There are serious limitations to what an external DVD drive for Chromebook can do, since the system was created to function primarily online.
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Unfortunately, there is no way to write files to an optical disk for Chromebook. USB devices, including external DVD drives, function as read-only. You can read the information on a disk as long as it’s in an accepted format, but you cannot write information to it.
Play CDs and DVDs
You can’t play music CDs or DVD videos with a Chromebook DVD drive.
Chrome OS does not support optical disks to let you play music or movies. The primary reason for this is that Chrome OS doesn’t come with codecs. Codecs are necessary to compress and decompress large files like DVD videos. If you want to play DVDs on your Chromebook, you’ll need to install Linux.
Chromebooks are all about staying simple and keeping storage in the Cloud. Chrome OS downloads all of its programs from the internet. They don’t have the capacity to run additional programs from an external drive. You can’t run any Windows programs on Chrome OS either.
Rip Music or Movies
Chrome OS doesn’t include any ripping software. There are several DVD ripping tools for Windows Mac OS X and Linux, but none that function with Chrome OS.
If you want to rip music CDs or DVD movies, you have to use another machine that has Windows, Mac OSX or Linux. You can then transfer those media files to your Chromebook.
How to Read CD/DVD Media in Chrome OS
To read CD or DVD media, plug in the external optical drive to your Chromebook via USB. Insert a disk that has regular computer files. Then, access the files in the same way you would access your local files by clicking Launcher > Files.
If you’d prefer to watch a tutorial, here’s an easy, clear guide on reading files using a Chromebook DVD drive:
How to Play Music and Movies on Chrome OS
Even though you can’t play content directly from CDs or DVDs, there is a way to play music and movies on your Chromebook.
Google has confirmed that you can play music files, like mp3s, and converted video files, like mp4s. So to watch movies, you first need to convert your files into a supported type. You can find a full list of supported file types and codecs in this guide.
Once you have the right files, you can use VLC by VideoLAN, a free media player that lets you play media files on Chrome OS.
Take a look at this video for a full walk-through on using VLC to play a DVD:
In summary, a Chromebook optical drive:
- Can read disks, but with only accepted file types
- Can play music from accepted file types, like mp3
- Can play movies from accepted file types, like mp4
- Cannot burn files to a CD or DVD
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Are you still looking for an external DVD drive for Chromebook/Chrome OS? Shopping for an optical drive is an easy task, so it won’t take long.
All you need to worry about is making sure the external drive connects with USB. Other than that, make sure the drive you choose is meant for PC and not just Macs. Shop around for a high-quality CD/DVD drive and give it a try.