The removal of DVD and CD drives from the Mac range has been
so ruthless that one would have thought the optical storage format was dead. True, the likes of
Amazon Prime Video are now a massively popular way of consuming films and TV shows – but when (frequently) those services haven’t got the movie you want, or if you just don’t want to pay a monthly subscription, your old trusty DVD movie library comes into its own.
In this article we show how to play a DVD on a Mac. We start by covering the straightforward scenario: when you’ve got an older Mac that has an integrated optical drive. Then we move on to selecting, buying and connecting an external DVD drive, and finally look at how to run the DVD on a separate Mac and access it using the Remote Disc feature.
For related tasks, read our tutorials showing
how to rip a DVD to a Mac and
how to burn DVDs on a Mac.
Play a DVD through your Mac’s optical drive
Playing a DVD on a Mac that has an integrated optical drive couldn’t be easier. Insert the DVD into the SuperDrive; the DVD Player app should open automatically, and start running the disc.
(DVD player has become more difficult to find in macOS Mojave, incidentally. If it doesn’t start playing automatically, open Spotlight by clicking the magnifying glass icon in the top right, or hitting Cmd + Space. Then start typing DVD Player and you’ll see it at the top of the search results.)
Like all DVDs it should open at the Menu, and you can then click Play to start the movie. You can use the mouse to click on menu options.
When the movie plays the onscreen controls quickly vanish, but if you nudge the mouse they’ll appear again. At the bottom of the display are shuttle controls, which you can use to play/stop the movie, skip chapters, control volume and so on.
Connect an external DVD drive
Sadly the above technique won’t be available – at least in this straightforward form – for anyone who bought their Mac in the past few years. Recent Macs have no physical drive for you to play CDs or DVDs.
But there’s another simple solution: buy and connect an external optical drive, and play the DVD through that.
If you want to stick with the official Apple kit, the company sells a
USB SuperDrive for £79/$79. This connects happily to any USB-equipped Mac or MacBook… but again, check your machine’s ports carefully, because that’s USB-A, and many recent MacBooks only have USB-C. (Apple sells a
USB to USB-C adapter for £19/$19.)
Once connected it acts just like an internal SuperDrive: insert a DVD and it plays as normal. Like other SuperDrives you can also use it to play CD audio and record both CDs and DVDs.
As ever, bear in mind that Apple’s offering is a good one that will work well with your other Apple kit, but it’s not the cheapest. The
LG GP57EW40 Portable is an appealing choice at £34.25, but our roundup of the
best DVD and Blu-ray players for Mac suggests other alternatives to consider.
Use another Mac and Remote Disc
Another feature you might be able to use is Remote Disc. This allows you to insert a DVD into a drive on one Mac, and watch it over a network using another. To turn on Remote Disc, follow these steps:
- Open System Preferences on the computer with the DVD drive, and click on Sharing.
- Tick DVD or CD Sharing. Note that this option only appears if you’ve got an optical drive – on other Macs the first option will be Screen Sharing.
You’ll now be able to insert the DVD into this drive, and use it on another computer. Note that this doesn’t work for audio CDs or copy-protected DVDs (which is most commercial DVDs). For these you need to still use a directly connected SuperDrive.