My laptop Toshiba P100 DVD writer appears to have failed again so I'm looking for another one. I'm also thinking back to the time I replaced my failed DVD writer. I'm wondering what differences there are in the physical form factor of laptop DVD burners these days or indeed the last five or ten years?

I see all kinds of external enclosures for a $7 or $8 on ebay. "Fit All 50-pin Laptop Drive ( CD-rom, CD-rW, cD Combo, DVD-Rom, DVD RW +/- )" It would appear that they are pretty much all identical. Or am I mistaken? Are these IDE?

If they aren't identical what are the key things to watch out for?

Thanks, Tony

  • For what it's worth internal dvd burners on laptops will fail alot. They make alot of heat in an already small casing. external dvd burners give better milage in my experience. – Sirex Nov 2 '10 at 9:19
  • They're not all identical, in my experience, but usually the changes are small. I'd personally go for a slimline external USB / Firewire burner. – user3463 Nov 2 '10 at 15:17
  • Yes, I do indeed have an external DVD burner which I use 97% of the tiem but it's acting up right now too. And there are times when I'd just like to watch a movie on the laptop. – Tony Toews Nov 2 '10 at 19:33

Laptop optical drives come in two thicknesses - 12.5mm and 9.5mm. There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason as to which thickness a given laptop uses - I've worked on a 2008 Macbook that used the thicker one, while huge and heavy Thinkpads from 2006 use the thinner one. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a standard name to distinguish the two, you just need to always check what thickness you need and then be careful to order only from merchants that specify they are selling that thickness.

So buying a replacement laptop drive, you need to know four things: drive type (DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, etc), PATA or SATA, slot load or tray load, and 9mm or 12 mm thickness.


Turns out they are very standard although it appears there are IDE and SATA versions as you might expect. Indeed I just replaced a laptop form factor CD drive in a Dell PowerEdge 2600 server with a laptop form factor DVD drive.

Obviously you'll need to do your own research but if the photos look the same they likely are.

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