Optical Drive

Written by Gretchen Sant (Lamaoxd)


The optical drive is the reader and writer for external disks in a computer. Sometimes known as the ODD, disc drive, CD drive, DVD drive, or BD drive, this receiver is being rotated out of today's computer production.



The WORM optical drive was born in the 1980's, replacing the magnetic disk drive as the information storage and reading component in the evolving computer. In 1985, one of the first WORM drives was introduced by Information Storage inc. Rather than the previously used mechanical writing and reading heads, this WORM drive utilized laser beam optics to write and read information.

Until 1987, WORM drives were the most widespread and commonly used optical drives, with the laser form commonly available. Sony Corporation, along with other companies, introduced a newly developed erasable optical disk drive. This innovation became the default for personal computers. Optical drives have cons. They are more expensive per bit, slower to operate, and can only be written once, unlike an HDD.


Recent Developments:

Optical disk drives today write and retrieve data from external disks such as CDs, DVDs, and Blue-Ray discs. These discs are much more capable of storing information than the commonly used floppy disks from the past. Some can be rewritten while others can only be burned once.

LG, Memorex, and NEC are some of the most popular optical drive developers on today's computer production scene. The majority of computers that still posses optical drives use ODDs from one of these three main companies.


Since optical drives use invisible laser beams to read and write information, it is highly dangerous to disassemble one while it is powered on. Generated by the optical pickup unit, these lasers can be blinding. There are three connectors on an optical drive, one for data exchange, one with power from the power supply, and one connecting the audio output to the motherboard.

CDs and other optical media are burned using lasers to create microscopic pits and lands. Lands are reflective surfaces and when the lasers hit them, the light bounces up and is registered as a one. Pits disperse the light and there is no reflection, registering as a zero. To burn a fresh disc, lasers are turned on to make pits and off to create lands. This is why CSs and DVDs have a mirror-like surface.

Once a seemingly essential component to a computer, optical drives are becoming more scarce. Applications like Steam are allowing games to be readily available to download without the need for a disk. Spotify, Netflix and Apple Music are rapidly eliminating DVDs and CDs, while iTunes and Google Play create the ability to download video content from the web.



Sources and references:

"Thakur, Dinesh. “Pits and Lands.” What Are Pits and Lands in CD's."

"WORM optical drives." World of Invention, Gale, 2006. Science in Context. Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.

Fisher, Tim. “What is an Optical Drive and Do You Need One in Your Computer?” Lifewire,

Torres, Gabriel. “Gabriel Torres.” Hardware Secrets, 12 June 2015,