Installing a CD/DVD Drive

A step-by-step guide for installing an optical drive in a desktop computer

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 shows you how to install a CD drive.

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

Tray of a CD/DVD drive in laptop
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How to Install a CD/DVD Drive in a PC

Here's the proper method to install an ATA-based optical drive in a desktop computer using a Phillips screwdriver.

  1. Power down the PC completely. After the computer has safely shut down, turn off the internal power by flipping the switch on the back of the power supply and removing the AC power cord.

  2. Open the computer to install the CD or DVD drive. The method for opening the case varies depending upon your computer model. Most use a panel or door on the side of the computer. Older computers 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.

  3. Remove the drive slot cover. Most computer cases have several slots for external drives but only use a few. Any unused drive slot has a cover that prevents dust from entering the computer. Remove the 5.25-inch drive slot cover by pushing tabs either on the inside or outside of the case. Sometimes a cover might be screwed into the case.

  4. Set the IDE drive mode. Most CD and DVD drives for desktop computers use the IDE interface, which allows for two devices on a single cable. Place each device on the cable into the appropriate mode. One drive is the primary, and the other drive is the secondary. One or more jumpers on the back of the drive usually handle this setting. Consult the documentation or diagrams on the drive for the location and settings.

    If you plan to install the CD/DVD drive on an existing cable, set the drive to the Secondary mode. If the drive will reside on an IDE cable alone, set it to the Primary mode.

  5. Place the CD/DVD drive into the computer. The method for installing the drive varies depending on the case. The two common methods for installing a drive are either through drive rails or directly into the drive cage.

    • Drive Rails: Position the drive rails on the side of the drive and fasten the rails with screws. Once you place the drive rails 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 you fully insert it.
    • Drive Cage: Slide the drive into the slot in the case, so the drive bezel is flush with the computer case. Fasten the drive to the computer case by placing screws into the appropriate slots or holes.
  6. Attach the internal audio cable. To use CD/DVD drives to listen to music, the audio signal from the CD drive must route to the computer audio solution. Typically, a small two-wire cable with a standard connector handles this. 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.

  7. Attach the CD/DVD drive to the computer using an IDE cable. Usually, the drive resides secondary to the hard drive. If so, locate the free connector on the IDE ribbon cable between the computer and the hard drive, then plug it into the drive. If the drive will be on its own cable, connect the IDE cable to the motherboard and one of the other connectors of the cable into the CD/DVD drive.

  8. Plug the drive into the power supply. Locate one of the 4-pin Molex connectors from the power supply and insert it into the power connector on the CD/DVD drive.

  9. After you install the drive, close the computer. Replace the panel or cover to the computer case. Fasten the cover or panel to the case using the screws you set aside when you removed the cover.

  10. Plug the AC cord into the power supply and flip the switch to the On position.

  11. The computer system should automatically detect and use 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 instructions for your particular operating system.