If your Mac’s CD/DVD drive is dead, you might not have to get a replacement or external drive. All you need is another Mac or Windows PC on your local network so you can remotely access its drive from your Mac.
As one of the few components of a computer that still physically spins (along with the hard drive), optical drives are prone to breakdowns and occasionally stop working. A Mac’s SuperDrive is expensive to replace, though, and you may not use an external drive often enough to make it worth the money. This puts you in a tough spot when you need to access files or software on a disc.
When the MacBook Air was first introduced in 2008 without a CD/DVD drive, Apple included software that could remotely access another computer’s disc drive instead. As long as it is on the same local network (wired or wireless), any Windows PC or Mac could serve as a host device. Even though this remote disc sharing feature isn’t configured to work out of the box on other Macs, it is hidden and can be unlocked on any Mac running 10.5 and above with the following steps.
Preparing your drive-less Mac
First, your Mac with the dead SuperDrive needs to be configured for remote disc sharing. It’s a fairly simple process. Just open Terminal (Applications > Utilities) and run the following command on one line:
defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser EnableODiskBrowsing -bool true
Press Enter and then do the same for this command:
defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser ODSSupported -bool true
Now that both lines have been executed in Terminal, restart your Mac. We can now move on to the other computer on the network with a functioning disc drive.
Preparing the host device
If the computer you’re going to use as a disc drive host is a Mac, it couldn’t be easier to set up. Go into System Preferences, click the Sharing tab, and check the box next to “DVD or CD Sharing”. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to enable the “Ask me before allowing others to use my DVD drive” setting. Insert a CD or DVD to share.
If you’re sharing the optical drive of a Windows PC (XP SP2 or above), you must download and install a small file from Apple’s website. Once installed, this program adds a “DVD or CD Sharing Options” section to the Control Panel where remote disc sharing can be enabled. Insert a CD or DVD to share.
Accessing the shared disc drive
Back to the Mac with the faulty SuperDrive, open Finder and notice how “Remote Disc” is now listed under Devices in the sidebar. Click here and your shared host device will appear. You will have to click the “Ask to use…” button in the upper-right corner of the window if that option was enabled during setup. Otherwise, the CD or DVD and its content should be mounted in Finder just like it was in your Mac’s own optical drive. You can’t watch movies this way, but you can install software, view and copy files, etc.