Want to burn a CD, DVD or Blu-ray Disc? Wondering how to achieve this when your Mac hasn’t got an optical drive, because you don’t know how to use the drive it has got, or because the drive isn’t working?
We’ve got the answers in our complete disc-burning masterclass for the Mac, which covers both internal and external disc drives. For related advice, see Should I buy a SuperDrive?
Why don’t Macs comes with optical drives any more?
Apple has been moving away from the DVD and CD drive – and from physical media generally – for some years now, as it follows the trend toward digital downloads and tries to shift users on to iCloud. (Removing the drive also enables it o make MacBooks slimmer and lighter.) This strategy has proved annoying for those people who still want to be able to burn, and play, CDs and DVDs on their Mac.
The last Apple Mac to ship with an optical CD or DVD drive was a 13in MacBook Pro, originally released in June 2012, but on sale until October 2016, when Apple discontinued that model. Since that date Apple has not sold any Macs with optical drives.
This means that burning an optical disc with a Mac requires either older hardware, or an external drive. (Apple still sells the SuperDrive, its own external DVD/CD drive that you can plug into a Mac’s USB port.)
How to burn a CD/DVD on a Mac
Assuming you’re equipped with a suitable internal or external burner, it’s easy to burn a CD or DVD.
Insert a blank DVD or CD into your SuperDrive or non-Apple drive, and macOS will ask 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.
The above discs are designed to be read by another Mac (or PC). If you want to burn an audio CD to be played by a hi-fi, you should use iTunes instead.
Open iTunes and create a playlist of the songs you want to be on your audio CD. Now click the icon at the top right of the playlist – the circle containing three dots. From the ensuing dropdown, select Burn Playlist to Disc.
Movie (video) DVDs
Similarly, if you want to burn a DVD that can be played by a commercial DVD player, you’ll need to use a different piece of software. iDVD used to be the main option for Mac owners, and it’s still a possibility if you’ve got a sufficiently old copy of iLife (iLife 11 and earlier include it). But it has since been discontinued.
Read How to burn movies to disc in an iDVD-less world for more advice.
How to burn Blu-ray discs 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 very large file. An optical disc is also a good, physical backup for added peace of mind.
As with CD and DVD drives, you need the right hardware to burn to Blu-ray formats, and Macs don’t come with Blu-ray drives. Instead, you’ll need to buy an external model: we round up the best candidates in the next section section.
You can buy an external, USB Blu-ray drive for less than £40/$50, although we’d recommend looking to spend at least slightly more than that 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. Note that a Blu-ray drive can also play DVDs and CDs.
Roxio’s Toast Burn (£19.99/$19.99) is a good option for burning Blu-rays.
Alternatively, like CDs and DVDs, you can burn Blu-rays using Disk Utility or by simply inserting the blank disc and letting Finder do the work.
Best external disc burners for Mac
For a deep dive into the world of external burners, you should read our guide to the best DVD & Blu-ray drives for Mac. But we can summarise the key findings here.
If you just need DVD/CD, the cheapest option we’d recommend is the Patuoxun USB 3.0 DVD Burner Drive (£20.99 on Amazon UK). The LG GP57EW40 DVD drive, on the other hand, is a shade more expensive (£23.99 on Amazon UK and $44.80 on Amazon US) but adds a Silent Play feature and comes from a better-known brand.
On the Blu-ray front, our budget pick would be the Topelek External BluRay Drive (£83.99 on Amazon UK), while the Pioneer BDR-XD05 (£94.10 on Amazon UK and $97.95 on Amazon US) adds a range of interesting features.
How to fix a faulty DVD drive
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 macOS or zapping the computer’s PRAM (start up the Mac and hold down Cmd + 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 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.
Is it legal to burn a DVD or Blu-ray?
It’s straightforward to burn your own copies of digital files and media, but is it legal?
At the end of 2011 it became legal in the UK 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.”