How can I use my PC's DVD drive from my netbook?
May 20, 2009 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Does software exist which will allow me to use my PC's DVD drive as an external USB drive for my netbook?

I'm going a bit crazy trying to get OS X onto my netbook via a USB flash memory stick and have decided to try it with a DVD drive instead. I don't particularly want to fork out $50 or more for an external USB DVD drive that I'll probably only ever use for this purpose, and I've got two drives on my PC already.

Is there any Windows XP or Linux software that will allow me to plug the netbook into the PC (via a hub) and have the PC's drives run under the control of the netbook as though they were external DVD drives? I recall seeing "USB host" options in the Linux kernel setup, so I'm fairly sure this is possible to do in Linux, but I've been googling around for how to do it and haven't come up with anything.

As another wrinkle, I'll need the netbook to boot from the DVD drive, so it will need to be pretty "real" USB hosting, on a level that the netbook BIOS can grok.
posted by whir to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have no idea how to do this via software, but $13 at Newegg will get you a USB to SATA/IDE Adapter that will be much less frustrating (unless your desktop has a knuckle-slashing case).
posted by djb at 12:52 PM on May 20, 2009

USB Host in linux is a red herring, unrelated to what you are looking to do.

I'll second the recommendation from djb, with the caveat that even though such an adapter may work once an operating system is installed, it may not allow you to boot from the connected drive. That capability would need to be built into the BIOS. Some have it, some don't.
posted by odinsdream at 12:57 PM on May 20, 2009

Nope. Like djb said, get a USB enclosure/adapter.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:01 PM on May 20, 2009

Part of your problem here is that as you say, you're installing a whole new OS. Any existing driver (if there was such a thing) would run inside of a host OS, which is obviously not running when you're trying to install a new OS. So, no. This will have to be a hardware solution. What I'd do is buy a cheapo drive enclosure for a hard drive that has the type of interface one of your ROM drives in your PC has, pop the drive out of the PC and hook it into the drive enclosure's interface. Note you'll have to have the drive enclosure "disassembled" for this to work. Once finished, unhook the ROM drive, and put a hard drive into that enclosure and you have some bonus space to use with the netbook.
posted by barc0001 at 4:23 PM on May 20, 2009

Well, I guess I'm resigned to a hardware solution, but I'm still surprised that no software options exist for this - it seems like if the necessary USB protocol can be embedded in the firmware of an external USB enclosure, it could surely be emulated in a hackable OS such as Linux. (It also seems like this would be a handy bit of software for USB manufacturers to use for testing.)

Thanks for the ideas, though - particularly I'd never heard about the USB / IDE adapter djb linked, and in a way I'm glad to see that nobody else knows of an obviously applicable software package that I just missed somehow.
posted by whir at 12:23 AM on May 21, 2009

Even if it were possible, you'd still be in the same boat as the hardware converter. The BIOS of your system will need to be able to boot off the USB-connected optical media.
posted by odinsdream at 10:32 AM on May 21, 2009

Well, for what it's worth, my BIOS is capable of booting from a USB CD drive (or thumb drive, external hard disk, etc). I just don't get why the device on the other end of the cable needs to be the firmware of a CD drive, rather than a fully-functional PC pretending to be a CD drive.
posted by whir at 2:02 PM on May 21, 2009

Well, aside from the host-client protocol, you've got the power issue to deal with. USB is a powered bus, and power is from host to client. If you hooked it up the opposite way you'd run into voltage problems. Even if you solved the software side, which non-trivial.
posted by odinsdream at 8:18 AM on May 22, 2009

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