How to Access Optical Drives on Other PCs on Your Mac

The biggest drawback of the otherwise great Mac Mini (and indeed some other Apple Macs, especially the laptops) is they come with no optical drive. This is not usually a problem, as most things install quickly over the Internet. But what if you sometimes need an optical drive? What if you want to turn your DVD collection into MP4 files on a hard drive instead of discs on a shelf or you need to rip your music CDs into iTunes?

You could just buy an external optical drive, but if you already have a desktop or laptop PC (or access to a friend’s), you can just share the drive on the PC over the network and leech files from it. This saves you money, and to be honest, it’s fun to do. Obviously there are limitations to this approach, but for emergencies, it’s good to know.

Why a PC? Well, statistically it’s more likely in an emergency that you’ll be able to find a friend who has a Windows PC than one who has a Mac. And also a person with a Mac might not have an optical drive either, so you’d be back to square one.

In this article we cover sharing and connecting to another computer’s optical drive to copy files to the Mac Mini. Do note that this applies to all other Macs as well.

If the target computer is on the network, in order to access the drive, you first have to make sure that sharing is enabled for that drive.

On the PC, open Windows Explorer. Find the optical drive and right-click on it. Choose “Share with -> Advanced Sharing” from the drop-down menu.


Or click Properties, then the Sharing Tab, and click the Advanced Sharing button under your DVD/CD drive.


Tick the checkbox marked “Share This Folder” and give it a name so you can identify it on the network. Click Add and name it.


Now this drive is being shared on the network.


Click okay, and the PC part of it is done.

Once the drive is shared on the PC, you are ready to go back to the Mac and load the optical drive in the Finder.

In Finder, choose the menu item “Go -> Connect to Server.”


Click Browse and you will see a list of shared folders on your network.


Locate the name of your shared folder, the DVD drive on the PC, and double-click it. You will then be presented with a window, and at the top of it it gives you the option to “Connect As.”


Click the button and type in the user name and password from the target PC.


Once that is done, you will see the DVD drive on the target PC.


Once you’re in, there are a variety of things you can do:

  • You can copy files by dragging them from the PC directory to the Mac file system, either into a folder or onto the desktop.
  • You can use open-source DVD ripping software like Handbrake to burn movies as MP4s onto your Mac. Load your DVD in the PC drive, and go to it on the Mac.


While you could point Handbrake at the drive directly and rip it from there, the connection can be slow, especially if both the PC and the Mac are using WiFi for network connectivity.

For speed, the best option is to copy the “VIDEO_TS” folder from the PC DVD over to a directory on the Mac and then operate Handbrake on the files locally on the Mac. Sometimes the copy protection won’t let you do that, but it’s worth a try.

Installing from the DVD probably won’t work. The PC can’t read data DVDs meant for a Mac; it can’t mount the file system. The same goes for dual system DVDs which are partitioned for both Mac and PC; you can see the DVD with the Mac over the network, but you will only see the PC partition. So, in real terms, it’s mostly not possible to install anything.

That said, if you need to get software from a PC data DVD to load into Wine or other PC software emulation on the Mac, then that would work.

So there you have it, borrowing a DVD drive from a PC to copy things to your “optically-challenged” Mac.

If you enjoyed this article or have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: By Takeshi Kuboki from Amagasaki, Japan (DSC_1694.JPG)

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