Optical Drive

In the real world, "optical" refers to vision, or the ability to see. In the computer world, however, "optical" refers to lasers, which can "see" and read data on optical discs. These discs include CDs and DVDs, which are made up of millions of small bumps and dips. Optical drives have lasers that read these bumps and dips as ones and zeros, which the computer can understand.

Some common types of optical drives include CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, and Blu-ray drives. CD and DVD writers, such as CD-R and DVD-R drives use a laser to both read and write data on the discs. The laser used for writing the data is much more powerful than the laser that reads the data, as it "burns" the bumps and dips into the disc. While optical drives can spin discs at very high speeds, they are still significantly slower than hard drives, which store data magnetically. However, because optical media is inexpensive and removable, it is the most common format used for distributing computer software.

Updated 2006

Definitions by TechTerms.com

The definition of Optical Drive on this page is an original TechTerms.com definition. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, you can use the green citation links above.

The goal of TechTerms.com is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about the Optical Drive definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Want to learn more tech terms? Subscribe to the daily or weekly newsletter and get featured terms and quizzes delivered to your inbox.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.