Accessing the Contents of a CD or DVD from Another Mac

Today's post is another response to a reader request... "I have several Macs at home. Only one of them (an older iMac) has a DVD drive. Can I use that to somehow transfer files to my other Macs?"

The short answer is absolutely! There are actually two ways to do this... the easy way, and the hard way. The hard way involves copying the contents of the disc to the computer with the DVD drive then manually moving those files across the network to the computer without the DVD drive. That can be tedious and time-consuming. The easy way is by using a sharing option built-right into Mac OS X that's design just for scenarios like this.... it's called "DVD or CD Sharing".

The concept is really simple... you have one computer with a DVD drive. In order to allow that drive to share the contents of that DVD drive with other Macs, we configure the Mac to share that as a resource to other Macs on the network. When that happens, other Macs will begin to see that as a shared device (using Apple's auto-discovery protocol called "Bonjour"). Here's how we set this up.

First, we need to share the drive on the Mac with the DVD drive. To do this, we'll need to go to System Preferences, then click on the "Sharing" button. In the list on the left, you will see an option to enable "DVD or CD Sharing".

We check the box, and that drive is now accessible from other Macs on the network. At the same time, you will also see an option to ask before allowing others to use the optical drive. This is a security feature. You can either leave that disabled, or enable that. It's totally up to you.

To access the CD or DVD from another Mac, all we need to do is open Finder on the remote Mac, then select the "Remote Disc" entry under the "Devices" section. This will give you a list of all Macs on the network that are sharing their optical drive. Simply select the one you want to connect to. From this point forward, we have access to the disc as if it were connected directly to our Mac.

There are a few caveats (or limitations) to using "DVD or CD Sharing". For example, there are some disc types that aren't supported using this sharing method. They are:

  • Audio CDs (you can't plan an audio CD from another computer)
  • DVDs (you can't play movies from another computer)

In addition to those limitations, you also won't be able to burn a CD or DVD to a remote optical drive.

So what can you use this feature for? Browsing files stored on a CD or DVD from another Mac as well as installing software from CD or DVD from another Mac.

Posted on February 24, 2014 and filed under How To, Mac.