Installing a CD/DVD Drive

A Step-by-Step Guide for Installing a CD/DVD Drive in a Desktop Computer

Although many desktop computers ship with a CD or DVD drive, that isn't always the case. However, 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. The instructions are valid for any form of optical-based drive such as CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD-Rom, and DVD burners. This step-by-step instruction guide details the individual steps, which are accompanied by photos. The only tool you need is a Phillips screwdriver.

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Power Down the Computer

Turn Off Power to the Computer
Turn Off Power to the Computer. ©Mark Kyrnin

The first thing to do when you plan to work on a computer system is to make sure there is no power. Shut down the computer if it is running. 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.

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Open the Computer

Open up the Computer Case
Open up the Computer Case. ©Mark Kyrnin

You must open the computer to install the CD or DVD drive. The method for opening the case will vary 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.

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Remove the Drive Slot Cover

Remove a Drive Slot Cover
Remove a Drive Slot Cover. ©Mark Kyrnin

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.

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Set the IDE Drive Mode

Set the Drive Mode with the Jumpers
Set the Drive Mode with the Jumpers. ©Mark Kyrnin

Most CD and DVD drives for desktop computer systems use the IDE interface. This interface can have two devices on a single cable. Each device on the cable must be placed into the appropriate mode for the cable. 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 for the drive.

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.

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Place the CD/DVD Drive into the Case

Slide and Screw in the Drive
Slide and Screw in the Drive. ©Mark Kyrnin

Place the CD/DVD drive into the computer. The method for installing the drive will vary 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 have been placed on both sides of the drive, slide the drive and rails into the appropriate slot in the case. Affix the drive rails so that the drive is flush with the case when it is fully inserted.

Drive Cage: Slide the drive into the slot in the case so that 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.

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Attach the Internal Audio Cable

Attach the Internal Audio Cable
Attach the Internal Audio Cable. ©Mark Kyrnin

Many people use the CD/DVD drives inside their computers to listen to audio 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. Plug the other end of the cable into either a PC audio card or motherboard depending upon the computer audio setup. Plug the cable into the connector labeled as CD Audio.

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Attach the Drive Cable to the CD/DVD

Plug the IDE Cable to the CD/DVD
Plug the IDE Cable to the CD/DVD. ©Mark Kyrnin

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.

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Plug the Power to the CD/DVD

Plug Power to the CD/DVD
Plug Power to the CD/DVD. ©Mark Kyrnin

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.

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Close the Computer Case

Fasten the Cover to the Case
Fasten the Cover to the Case. ©Mark Kyrnin

The drive is installed, so 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.

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Power Up the Computer

Plug the Power Back to the PC
Plug the Power Back to the PC. ©Mark Kyrnin

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

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.