Optical Drives, who still uses them?

Okay so it holds more than a floppy disk but unless you burn music or DVD movies, who really uses optical storage these days? I used to archive files from my PC to DVD-R media. I went to recover a file recently and the disk wasn’t readable in any of the 3 drives. Others in the batch were but not the one I wanted – isn’t that usually the way?

So I’m drafting a specification for a new rig and it got me thinking, do I need an optical drive? Sure, installation can be a bitch if you don’t have one and the software is on a DVD/CD but how often would I actually use it? I couldn’t be bothered keeping a log so I just took the side off my case and pulled the power connector off it and wrote the date on a sticky note and left the note inside my PC top of the drive. Time passed – well 3 months and 11 days to be exact until I bought Battlefield 3 which had an initial installation from DVD so I plugged it back in.

Why didn’t I miss my optical drive?

  1. I buy most of my games from Steam and the ones that I don’t, install once and activate. Clearly, I didn’t buy retail titles much in 2011.
  2. I have a home server for backups and downloads, it has data stored on redundant drives via scheduled jobs as I’m too tight to buy a proper RAID controller.
  3. All my music goes on my iPod, iPad, iPhone. I don’t listen to CDs since we have iPod docks.
  4. Kaspersky was purchased online and was a digital download so that leaves the O/S and MS OFFICE as my weak links.
  5. I made a USB key installation for Windows 7 to see if it would work ages ago and it’s faster than a DVD. I have my MS Office installation files on the same drive for easy install.
  6. Have you ever tried to back up your Steam library to DVD? Even worse, ever tried to restore it from a stack of DVDs? – No thanks, hard drive backups all the way.
  7. So, after some thought and observation, it’s clear that using optical media is basically a rarity in my universe.

Some would say that for $35, it’s worth it for the convenience. True, the above being said, I wouldn’t be without an optical drive but do I need to stick one in my rig? They come in black or black these days and look out of place in a white case like the Fractal Define White. In the end, I purchased a USB optical drive for $40 so I can use it with my new rig and any other computers I build. The limited SATA ports in my server mean that I can use all of them for hard drives without losing one to a seldom used DVD drive.

I will concede that the optical drive isn’t dead, nor is it even on the endangered species list until motherboards come with USB Keys full of those necessary drivers. But on the question of is it worthy of a 5.25 inch bay in my gaming rig or a precious SATA port in my home server? – the answer is hell no. Sure USB optical drives are slower than a dedicated SATA optical drive but for the handful of times I use it per year, access speed isn’t going to kill me.

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