What Characteristics Do DVD and CD Drives Share?


A CD and a DVD disc might look similar, but because a DVD holds more data on it, there are physical differences between the two disc formats. So It would be logical to assume that there are also differences between the CD and DVD drives that are used with these discs. But in point of fact, there are actually a number of characteristics that DVD and CD drives both share as optical drives.


  • Both a CD drive and a DVD drive can read the data off of a commercially manufactured CD disc. But the first-generation DVD drives could not read the data off of a CD-R (read) or CD-RW (read/write) disc that had been created by a user on a computer. This is no longer an issue with any of the DVD drives available for purchase today, however, regardless of whether they are being used in a computer or a stand-alone DVD player.


  • Both CD drives and DVD drives have a laser assembly that shines a laser beam onto the surface of the disc. This reads the data that has been stored on the disc. The DVD drive's laser does have a smaller wavelength because it must focus on the smaller pits of the DVD.


  • Both CD and DVD drives employ a drive mechanism that spins the disc and which varies its speed depending upon whether it is reading data off of a disc or writing data to the disc.

Stereo Audio Output

  • Both stand-alone CD players and stand-alone DVD drives have similar analogue audio outputs that are used to output stereo sound. These use two RCA plugs and are attached to the female ports which are typically found on the back of the stand-alone player.


  • Both DVD and CD discs store their data in the same way--in patterns of pitted and unpitted areas. Because the pitted areas of a DVD are smaller and more closely packed, this enables the DVD to store more data on it than can be found on a CD.


  • Both CDs and DVD drives have an optical lens that can accumulate dust and debris on it over time. This can foul up the reading of the laser. However, providing that the CD and DVD and the environment that the player is in is kept relatively clean, this rarely becomes an issue. Should you wish though, the lens can be cleaned using a special disc and liquid which is available for purchase.

Fun Fact

  • Both CD and DVD drives initially were very expensive--regardless of whether they were purchased as a stand-alone model or being used with a computer. Each type of drive went through this period of high cost, followed by major price reductions over time. Today, the cost of a CD or DVD stand-alone player, or a CD or DVD computer drive, is within the means of the average consumer.

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