An external CD DVD drive or external DVD burner is an option for burning CDs or DVDs when no internal CD burner or internal DVD burner exists in the computer.
For many years, when purchasing a new computer, it almost always came with an internal CD DVD burner drive. These drives not only burn or record CDs and DVDs, but can also read these formats. Nowadays, as the popularity of optical media declines, internal drives can be included with laptop or desktop computers, but usually only as an option.
Older computers on the other hand are a different story. Many of these older computers are likely to have an optical drive but this drive is only for reading CDs and DVDs. You cannot use the drive to burn or record optical media. If your computer is very old, then the optical drive, if it even exists at all, will only be able to read CDs and not DVDs.
An external DVD burner or external CD DVD drive is an option for those who do not have the capability to burn/record CDs and DVDs. These external burners are very useful because they are portable. They can be used in conjunction with more than one computer because they are not slaved internally to only one computer. However, the computer requires the need of certain specifications to accommodate the external burner. The operating system must be able to run the burner software. Also, the computer must have a USB or Firewire port.
Pictured below is a USB external optical drive from Pioneer. This drive is a Blu-ray drive that can read Blu-ray discs and read/record the various CD and DVD formats including read-only, recordable, and erasable. Shown attached to the drive is the USB cabling used to connect the external CD DVD drive to the computer.
Note that new computers will not have a problem with any external DVD burner or external CD DVD drive sold nowadays. However, older computers are not likely to have the required connections or operating system to properly run the external burner drives. This is something to be aware of when purchasing an external burner drive.
There are a variety of different brands of DVD or CD external burners such as Plextor, HP, Samsung, Lite-on, LG, Iomega, and LaCie. External drives are generally more expensive than internal drives and may not burn all the CD and DVD formats available. Please look at the burner specifications carefully such as which formats are useable with the external drive, maximum burn speed rating, type of connection required, warranty information, reviews on the brand interested in, and which burning software comes with the external drive.
External CD and DVD burners are useful for those who do not have the burning capability on their computer and want to store their digital files on CDs and DVDs.