Mac OS X: The Remote Disc Feature

I love my MacBook Air, and I’m sure you lucky folks who have one of the new Retina-display MacBook Pros love your machines, too. But if you don’t want to pony up $80 for one of Apple’s SuperDrives, the occasional need to install software from discs can be a pain in the nether regions. Luckily, if you have another relatively new Mac (running 10.4.11 or later) that does have a CD/DVD drive, you can co-opt its drive for your own machine using the Remote Disc feature. And it’s very simple to do! 

First, go to the machine that has a CD/DVD drive and open up System Preferences > Sharing. Turn on DVD or CD Sharing, and if you’re the paranoid type, toggle on the “Ask me before allowing others to use my DVD drive” checkbox. 

From then on, whatever disc is in that drive will be accessible on your network from any Remote Disc–compatible machines (which are models that didn’t ship with a drive themselves). 

To install software from that remote disc, go to the driveless Mac, open a Finder window, and find the Devices section in the sidebar. You’ll see Remote Disc there, and clicking that will bring up the list of Macs on your network that are capable of serving up disc goodness.

(If you don’t see Remote Disc listed, make sure that “CD, DVDs, and iPods” is turned on in Finder > Preferences > Sidebar.)

Then just double-click the name of the computer in question, and ask for permission to use the drive if you need to.

If you must ask for permission, your Mac will get a “waiting” dialog box, and the other machine will send its user a request. 

Once permission is granted, you can treat the remote disc just like it’s connected directly to your machine. Install software from it! Go nuts and install more software! Fervently wish you could import audio CDs from it! (Really, you can’t. One of the not-so-fun caveats here is that Apple won’t let you import CDs or movies using Remote Disc.)

For more information, including detailed system requirements and how to share a drive from (gasp!) a PC, check out Apple’s support article on the topic.