How to Burn a CD or DVD on a Mac


If you have a Mac and need to transfer files between machines, take a temporary backup, or share files with others, burning a CD or DVD sometimes does the trick. . Fortunately, macOS makes it easy. Here’s how.

What you will need

If you don’t already have one, you’ll need a CD or DVD burner compatible with your Mac. A great choice for Macs is the Apple USB SuperDrive. Just plug it into a free USB-A port on your Mac and you’re good to go. If your Mac only has USB-C ports, you’ll also need an adapter such as Apple’s USB-C to USB Adapter. You will also need a blank CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R or DVD-RW.

Also keep in mind that CD-R and DVD-R discs are not a good choice for long-term backups because they can become unreadable in a few years to a few decades. (We actually recommend backing up any burned discs you have now before they go bad.)

Given this history, writeable optical discs should only be used as a temporary data storage solution. For more robust backups, consider buying a NAS, using an external hard drive with Time Machine, or using iCloud.

How to Burn a Disc on a Mac

When you’re ready to burn files from your Mac to a CD or DVD, first insert a blank disc into your CD or DVD burner. If the Finder is configured a certain way, the disc will appear on your Mac desktop as “Untitled CD” or “Untitled DVD.” And even if it’s not, you’ll see a shortcut to the “Untitled” disc in the sidebar of every Finder window.

Open the "untitled cd" or "untitled dvd" in the Finder.

To copy files or folders to disk, you have several options. You can open the blank disc as a Finder folder (by double-clicking its icon or clicking its sidebar shortcut) and drag items into the window or use Copy and Paste. Or you can drag files directly to the blank disc shortcut in the sidebar.

Drag your files to the "Untitled" drive in the Mac Finder sidebar.

Once you drag files to the blank disc, macOS keeps track of them in a special staging area before burning them permanently to disc. If you open the “Untitled” disc in the Finder, you will notice that the files have arrows on them because they are temporary shortcuts: they have not yet been burned to the CD.

At any time before finalizing the disc by burning, you can delete files from the disc by opening the “Untitled” disc in the Finder and dragging them to the trash can in the dock. It won’t affect your original files, only the temporary shortcuts.

Files that will be burned to disc will have shortcut arrows on them.

When you’re done moving files to the CD or DVD and you’re ready to burn them permanently to the disc, click the small burn icon next to the disc in the sidebar (looks like a symbol nuclear radiation.) Or you can open the “Untitled” disc in Finder and click the “Burn” button in the upper right corner of the window.

On a Mac, click the burn button in the sidebar or Finder window to burn the disc.

After clicking the “Burn” button (or icon), enter a name for the disc and click “Burn” again. You will see a progress bar which gives you an estimate of the progress of the burning process. When done, you’ll hear a chime (if your Mac speakers aren’t muted) and your new drive is ready. Pop it out and take it wherever you need to go.

When you insert it back into a Mac, you’ll see the disk in your sidebar (or on your desktop) and you can copy files from it as if it were a regular folder in the Finder. Happy burning!

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Jack L. Goldstein