We've been asked on a few occasions now - I need to install [insert program name] on to my netbook, I can't download the drivers/software, and my lovely new netbook doesn't have a CD-ROM optical drive.
If only there was a way to remotely access a CD drive from another computer wirelessly, in a similar way to how Apple's Macbook Air's "Remote Disc" works.
There are a couple of ways, explained below, which assume that your netbook runs Windows XP and you have another PC also running windows. (If anyone knows the way to do this via linux, please email us).
There are three basic solutions for installing software on a netbook without an optical drive:
1. Share the Disc Over a Network
Required: A network, and a PC with an optical drive
This solution essentially shares the optical drive in one PC over a network to your Netbook. For most this is the easiest method because most users these days have a network readily available, and assuming thereâ€™s a network thereâ€™s likely a PC with an optical drive connected to it.
First you need to load the CD/DVD into the optical drive in the PC. Now go to My Computer and right click on the drive with the loaded media, click properties, navigate to the Sharing tab (note if you havenâ€™t done this before it may give you a warning that you shouldnâ€™t do this unless you know what youâ€™re doing, click the message to continue). Check the Share this folder on the network box, give it a name of your choice and hit OK.
From this point forward any computer on your network will be able to access the shared drive. If this is a problem be sure to follow the steps above and uncheck Share this folder on the network, to take it off.
Now, make sure your Netbook is connected to the network (this works wirelessly or through ethernet wired connection). Access My Network Places, and click Add A Network Place, use the wizard to add the optical drive you selected to share.
Now that it is shared you should be able to access it from My Network Places at any time (when your Netbook is connected to the network), and it should automatically refresh if you switch the CD, if it doesnâ€™t do a right-click, and hit refresh and the files should update. If you are trying to install software and are used to auto-run, double click the Setup.exe file or similar to begin installation.
2. Use an External Optical Drive (can be a bootable disc)
Required: External optical drive
External optical drives are the easiest way to use CD/DVD media and install software to your Netbook. It is however the most expensive option. External CD/DVD readers can be bought online for less than Â£50 now days (eg Freecom available at Dabs.com for Â£31)
External drives are very simple; just plug it into an available USB port. Your Netbook will automatically detect the drive and simply add it to My Computer just like a built in drive. Some drives will even run power through the USB, while this makes them more mobile it eats up your Netbook's battery faster, if that is a problem other external drives do require a power outlet for use but should not drain your battery.
3. Create an Image (not bootable)
Required: Image making software (like Alcohol 120% or VirtualDrive), image emulation software (Alcohol 120% includes one, Dameon Tools is another, or Power Iso), access to a computer with an optical drive, and a method to transfer a large file from that computer to your Tablet PC.
You will need to use your particular software User-Guide for most of this process. What you do essentially is use software to create an exact copy of the CD in the form of a file (normally a .iso) that has to be read by an optical drive emulator which then can access the CD as if it were being read by a real optical drive. The biggest disadvantage to this method is that CDs can run around 700mbs, DVDs around 4gbsâ€¦ transferring files of that size, even over fast networks, can be tedious. A benefit however is you can carry important CDs (as files) with you as you go, so for example if you need to install Microsoft Word content to use some feature while your in a meeting, you can do so without having the physical CD with youâ€¦ This however of course requires heavy disk space since the CD file tends to be around 700mbs.
> Note: The legality around creating CD images is grey. You should be fine as long as you only make (and do not share with anyone) images for CDs you physically own, and only install it on the number of machines that matches the number of licenses you own (most software you purchase includes one license). Itâ€™s simple, if your honest and fair you should be fine under the law, if your notâ€¦ then user beware.
We hope that helps.
Thanks to Tablet PC Talk for their original guide.