Installing a CD/DVD Drive

A step-by-step guide for installing a CD/DVD drive in a desktop computer

Tray of cd,dvd drive in laptop

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Although many desktop computers ship with a CD or DVD drive, that isn't always the case. You can install one as long as the computer has an open slot for an external drive. This guide instructs users on the proper method to install an ATA-based optical drive in a desktop computer using a Phillips screwdriver.

These instructions are valid for any form of an optical-based drive such as CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD-Rom, and DVD burners.

  1. First, make sure your PC is completely powered down. After the computer has safely shut down, turn the internal power off by slipping the switch on the back of the power supply and removing the AC power cord.

    Turn Off Power to the Computer
    Mark Kyrnin
  2. You must open the computer to install the CD or DVD drive. The method for opening the case varies depending upon your computer model. Most systems use a panel or door on the side of the computer, while older systems may require you to remove the entire cover. Remove and set aside any screws that fasten the cover or panel to the computer case and then remove the cover.

    Open up the Computer Case
    Mark Kyrnin
  3. Remove the drive slot cover. Most computer cases have several slots for external drives, but only a few are used. Any unused drive slot has a cover that prevents dust from entering the computer. To install the drive, you must remove the 5.25-inch drive slot cover from the case. You remove the cover by pushing tabs either on the inside or outside of the case. Sometimes a cover may be screwed into the case.

    Remove a Drive Slot Cover
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  4. Set the IDE drive mode. Most CD and DVD drives for desktop computer systems use the IDE interface, which allows for two devices on a single cable. Each device on the cable must be placed into the appropriate mode. One drive is listed as the master, and the other secondary drive is listed as a slave. This setting is usually handled by one or more jumpers on the back of the drive. Consult the documentation or diagrams on the drive for the location and settings.

    If the CD/DVD drive is going to be installed on an existing cable, the drive needs to be set into the Slave mode. If the drive is going to reside on its own IDE cable alone, the drive should be set to the Master mode.

    Set the Drive Mode with the Jumpers
    Mark Kyrnin
  5. Place the CD/DVD drive into the computer. The method for installing the drive varies depending on the case. The two most common methods for installing a drive is either through drive rails or directly into the drive cage.

    • Drive Rails: Position the drive rails on the side of the drive and fasten them with screws. Once the drive rails are placed on both sides of the drive, slide the drive and rails into the appropriate slot. Affix the drive rails so the drive is flush with the case when it's fully inserted.
    • Drive Cage: Slide the drive into the slot in the case so the drive bezel is flush with the computer case. When this is done, fasten the drive to the computer case by placing screws into the appropriate slots or holes.
    Slide and Screw in the Drive
    Mark Kyrnin
  6. Attach the internal audio cable. Many people use the CD/DVD drives inside their computers to listen to music CDs. For this to work, the audio signal from the CD needs to be routed from the drive to the computer audio solution. This is typically handled by a small two-wire cable with a standard connector. Plug this cable into the back of the CD/DVD drive, then plug the other end into either a PC audio card or motherboard depending upon the computer's audio setup. Lastly, plug the cable into the connector labeled as CD Audio.

    Attach the Internal Audio Cable
    Mark Kyrnin
  7. Attach the CD/DVD drive to the computer using an IDE cable. For most users, the drive resides as a secondary drive to the hard drive. If this is the case, locate the free connector on the IDE ribbon cable between the computer and the hard drive and plug it into the drive. If the drive is going to be on its own cable, plug the IDE cable into the motherboard and one of the other connectors of the cable into the CD/DVD drive.

    Plug the IDE Cable to the CD/DVD
    Mark Kyrnin
  8. Plug the drive into the power supply. Do this by locating one of the 4-pin Molex connectors from the power supply and inserting it into the power connector on the CD/DVD drive.

    Plug Power to the CD/DVD
    Mark Kyrnin
  9. Now that the drive is installed, you can close up the computer. Replace the panel or cover to the computer case. Fasten the cover or panel to the case using the screws that were set aside when the cover was removed.

    Fasten the Cover to the Case
    Mark Kyrnin
  10. Plug the AC cord back into the power supply and flip the switch to the On position.

    Plug the Power Back to the PC
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The computer system should automatically detect and begin using the new drive. Since CD and DVD drives are standardized, you shouldn't have to install any specific drivers. Consult the instruction manual that came with the drive for specific instructions for your operating system.