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

What You’ll Need

If you don’t have one already, you’ll need a CD or DVD burner drive that works with your Mac. A great choice for Macs is the Apple USB SuperDrive. Just plug it in to a spare USB-A port on your Mac, and you’re ready 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’ll also need a blank CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, or DVD-RW disc.

Apple USB SuperDrive

A great CD and DVD burner for Macs.

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 within a few years to a few decades. (We actually recommend backing up any burned discs you have now before they become faulty.)

Considering this history, burnable 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 onto a CD or DVD, first insert a blank disc into your CD or DVD burner drive. If Finder is configured a certain way, the disc will appear on your Mac desktop as an “Untitled CD” or “Untitled DVD.” And even if 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 Finder.

To copy files or folders to the disc, 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 onto the blank disc shortcut in the sidebar.

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

Once you drag files onto the blank disc, macOS keeps track of them in a special staging area before you permanently burn them to the disc. If you open the “Untitled” disc in Finder, you’ll notice that the files have arrows on them because they are temporary shortcuts—they have not actually been written to the CD yet.

At any time before you finalize the disc by burning, you can remove files from the disc by opening the “Untitled” disc in Finder and dragging them to the Trash in the dock. This will not affect your original files, only the temporary shortcuts.

The 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 permanently burn them to the disc, click the small burn icon beside the disc in the sidebar (which looks like a nuclear radiation symbol.) Or you can open the “Untitled” disc in Finder and click the “Burn” button in the upper-right corner of the window.

After clicking the “Burn” button (or icon), type in a name for the disc and click “Burn” again. You’ll see a progress bar that gives you an estimate of how much of the burn process is complete. When it’s done, you’ll hear a chime (if your Mac’s speakers aren’t silenced), and your new disc is ready. Eject it and take it wherever you need to go.

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

RELATED: 5 Ways to Eject a Disk on a Mac

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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