If you’ve lived in or around the Chrome OS ecosystem for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with the small handful of pitfalls that come along with our otherwise-awesome operating system. One of the most common complaints from users comes in the form of connecting a Chromebook to a printer. While work has come a long way for printing on Chrome OS, not so long ago it was an utter nightmare that was best avoided by keeping a PC handy.
Another user pain, albeit less widespread, is the lack of ability to use external optical drives on Chrome devices. Thankfully, the open-source nature of Chrome OS does lend a few options if you’re willing to look for them. I personally found an external DVD drive made for a Mac that just happens to work perfectly with my Chromebox. Not only that, it costs less than $30.
Now, there are some caveats here. First, Chrome OS does not officially support playing media from an external optical drive such as this. You will need a third-party application and that’s where VLC comes in to play. Chances are, you’ve heard of or even used the VLC Player at some point. The open-source software is available for PC, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. Oh, and they also have a Chrome App which is what we’ll be using today.
The DVD player I’m using will run you around $28 on Amazon and is also a CD/DVD burner. Before you ask, no it’s still not possible to burn DVDs with your Chromebook. I’ve tried multiple methods including the Linux route and, unfortunately, Chrome OS sees the drive like any other mounted device, so when you insert a blank disc, it sees nothing.
Also, when you pop in your DVD and launch the VLC player, you won’t be greeted by the typical title menu you’re familiar with on your home player. Instead, you will see a file picker just like the files app. From there, you will pick the “video” folder and select the video or chapter you want. It’s hacky, I know, but it does work and is a cheap option to get access to DVD media on your Chromebook.
As I mentioned in the title, individual mileage may vary as “plug and play” devices are hit-or-miss with Chrome OS. While the drive I used works well, others may not be recognized by your Chromebook, so purchase at your own risk. Thankfully, Amazon has a fairly lax return policy.
I found a couple of other options that might work and have a feature or two that I wish my drive had. The only way to eject the DVD on my drive is to actually eject it like you would a flash drive. Not a big deal but a manual eject button would be nice. Another one I found actually has an added USB-C output that, if it works, would be handy for newer devices lacking USB-A. You can find both of those models at the links below.
Given the low cost, I’m hoping to start testing a few of these and will compile a list of those that I find work with Chrome OS. If you have an external drive that works on your Chromebook, drop the model below so we can add it to the list.
Shout out to Jack D. Taylor for inspiring this article by asking the question, “can I do this?”