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Apple to Investigate SuperDrive Issues

Last week I wrote an article summarizing a lengthy thread on the Apple user forums concerning faulty SuperDrives (see "Exploring Widespread SuperDrive Problems", 2009-09-14). The drives in question all share the symptom of an inability to read or write to discs, though, as I wrote, "the systems affected, discs affected, and timing of the symptom's arrival differ among users."

The slew of symptoms, suggested causes, and solutions that are reported in the forums make it difficult to draw any firm conclusion regarding these issues, save for the fact that what seems to be an unusually high number of SuperDrives are indeed failing. Even comments on both my original article and this article point toward there being some sort of deeper problem at play.

Here at TidBITS, we cover issues such as this in part because we hope that by drawing greater attention to them, we can accelerate their diagnosis and resolution. As Apple pays little, if any, official attention to their own discussion forums, the more people can talk about some problem - both via word of mouth and in the media - the less the company can ignore it. That's especially important with slippery issues such as this, since only Apple is capable of accurately determining what is going on.

In this case, it appears that Apple may finally be acknowledging that there is a widespread problem. A TidBITS reader, who has asked to remain anonymous, was told by an Apple Developer Relations representative that the company will be looking into the issue. Our reader writes, "I provided Developer Relations with a link to the article on your site and to the Apple tech support forums and the woman who called me promised to investigate."

In previous tech support phone exchanges, the same reader had been told that Apple employees are directed to treat every SuperDrive failure as an isolated incident, and were not allowed to consider press reports or user discussion forums when attempting to determine whether a problem was widespread.

Despite this, it seems odd that the widespread nature of the SuperDrive problems wouldn't have become obvious before this if Apple is indeed checking repair logs for commonalities. Perhaps in this case, reportage had a trickle-down effect.

While the support rep's assurance that an investigation would be conducted is far from an official announcement, it is a step in the right direction. We hope Apple will continue down the path towards doing the right thing for Mac users suffering from flaky SuperDrives.


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Comments about Apple to Investigate SuperDrive Issues
(Comments are closed.)

JRobert  2009-09-24 17:04
Given the weak, at best, assurance by a CSR, your title seems rather overblown. "We'll look into it" is right up there with "the check is in the mail", and "we'll get back to you on that": CSR noise to get you off the phone and keep you from wrecking their minutes/incident score.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2009-09-27 10:47
I've tweaked the title to make it more representative of the comment from the Apple source.
Everybody I know is buying external drives. My internal SD quit as soon as the warranty was up. Everybody knows it is a MatsuSHITa drive.
Martin Kalman  2009-09-24 21:56
My Superdrive problem is odd indeed. My Superdrive will read and burn every compatible media format except for one exception. It will not recognize blank CD's; which means that I cannot burn CD's, although I can do everything else.

I have tried all the suggested solutions to no avail.
I hope Apple sees fit to investigate this problem.
I have a 2005 17" Powerbook running 10..4.11 and fitted with a UJ-845-C (AppleMac Panasonic Superdrive) manufactured Indonesia May2005.
It has had only infrequent use over its life (PB bought in australia in late july 2005)
The SuperDrive has always had problems reading DVD's but only recently faulted on burning function.
It has been used for less than 20 burns of CD and DVD media and had limited use for read.
The read/mount problems present as either spitting disks straight out or retaining them requiring extensive eject and restart/eject attempts.
Earlier versions of Toast would often assist to eject a disc when other prompts failed. Later Toast v.11 not so.
A few months back It ceased to play CD/DVD's.
Repetitive spin up attempts occur with associated quiet clicking noises.
It is difficult to eject discs and multiple keystoke attempts and restarts are required to release disc.
It has been problematic since new.
This PB has had many other problems requiring extensive repair.
I have a similar problem.

20" iMac4,1/ Intel Core Duo / 2 GHz

PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-K05 / Revision: Q523

Occasionally it dissapears a DVD; but the more common symptom (ie almost always) is that it eats blank CDs.

Digging them out physically is the only solution I have found reliable.
I just inherited an 2008 IMac 24'' which hardly has been used. It is over one year old (so out of warranty). Two weeks ago I put a DVD into the superdrive and the drive disappeared from my Mac. I tried all the tricks I found online (holding mouse down, sdrutil eject etc). No luck so far. I hope they will repair this for free at soem point.
Similar aggravating problem with my 2007 aluminum 24" iMac... commercial DVDs would not eject or disappear from the desktop (restart with mouse button down wouldn't help), along with various tips on using command-line calls. Only after several attempts (sometimes over an hour duration), pushing the keyboard eject button would work successfully... and the relief would be visible from the cool sweat of my brow.

Only to repeat the process again, but with a different DVD (e.g. Disney movie for the kids).

From listening to the drive (spin, vibration, clicking), it seems that there is an attempt to eject the drive, but the disk is still spinning and so the drive won't eject the disk. At one time, I thought I had figured it out by waiting for the driving to pause (some sort of time-out after multiple eject attempts), then quickly pressing the eject key... but I wasn't able to succeed consistently.

Wild guess... OS makes eject request to device, but device firmware can't/won't fulfill...?
I took my brand-new 17" MBP out of the box last week, and shortly after starting it up, inserted a factory-fresh MS Office for Mac 2008 installer CD in the drive. The drive spun a bit, made some unusual noises, and then ejected the CD. Next, I inserted the Leopard Installer CD that came with the MBP. Same thing happened. Damn machine won't even read its own disks!

Oddly, it would read the Snow Leopard upgrade disk, so I was able to update to 10.6.

I took the machine into the local Apple Store. The resident Genius claimed to have never heard about problems with SuperDrives. I cited the recent TidBITS article as well as various postings on the Apple forums. He dismissed all those reports, saying something to the effect of 'you can't believe what you read on the internet'.

Fortunately, I was able to reproduce the problem, and got the Genius to agree to replace the SD. Perhaps the new one will be able to read my distro disks, though perhaps it will crap out on blank CDs, or DVDs...
My Superdrive would only read DVD's. It would not read or install CD's of any kind.... blank, music, program. First time I went to the Apple Store, they replaced the Superdrive. They tested it before I left with ONLY a DVD, not with a CD. Foolish me, I thought they fixed the problem.
Second time I brought it to the Genius Bar, they said it needed a new Superdrive again BUT they also said it also needed a "Cable, Optical Data, Flexible item # 922-8462" with a Level 2 Repair needed.
That did the trick and works perfect now. This is a late 2008 iMac 24"; model iMac8,1; 2.8 ghz; 1.07bus; 2 GB memory.

Hope this helps!!
mark dyball  2009-09-29 00:18
My Superdrive MATSHITADVD-R UJ-825 (in original 20" 1.8GHz ImacG5) will read and play dvd's and cd's which are produced professionally but won't write dvd's or cd's and can't mount dvd's or cd's which have been produced from other friends computers. It has been doing this for about 2 years now.
Nils Vest  2009-09-29 04:51
My MacBook Pro 15" - bought a year and half ago - really has been what we in Denmark call "A Monday Product":
First the keyboard could not type some certain letters, so it was replaced by the Apple certified repair shop (I had to pay 120 Euros to have it replaced immediately and not having to wait several weeks before having it returned). - Second: A little more than a year after the purchase the motherboard totally collapsed. It was replaced for free by the repair shop due to a special two-year warranty on this very item but again I had to pay another 120 Euros to have the exchange delivered without delay. - Now third: The SuperDrive (MATSHITADVD-R UJ-857E) gave problems as described by many others shortly after I bought the PowerBook Pro. I have other computers in a network so I can always make a work around. But it is annoying that I cannot rely on my laptop drive when away from home.
Too bad, Apple. Admit it!
I use a Mac Pro G5 2 x 2.66 GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon with 5GB of DDR2 FB-DIMM and the issue with my SuperDrive is odd too. It's all over the place - very intermittent. Sometimes it will work to read/burn, sometimes not. Then it's next to impossible to get the disk out of it. I contacted Apple with the issue when it began happening (a few months after the warranty expired), as our IT guy didn't have the foresight to get the Apple Care Warranty (ughhh)... Apple Canada's response was to send it in for repair for a cost, which my company didn't go for. I'm stuck with a G5 with a spotty drive.
Davi P.  2009-09-29 14:26
Your title "Apple to Investigate SuperDrive Issues" suggests to me more than just a customer support person saying they'll look into it. It suggests some official announcement. I do appreciate your attempts to get some action on this. I'm sure Apple is aware of the problems and is managing the situation as they think best.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2009-09-30 10:00
The fact that (a) Apple bothered to contact a customer at all and (b) the contact came from Developer Relations gives me some hope that there's actual movement there.
Charles Engel  2009-09-29 15:41
Problem not only on Mac Super Drives.
My Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-107D purchased from OWC burns and play CDs. Burns Dvds but ejects them. Plays commercial
CDS and DVDs. I've had this drive for about 4 years and burned over seventy discs using Toast. The DVD problem started last month.
I'm using a G4 Quicksilver running 10.4.11.
Bob Russell  2009-10-01 22:00
My Sony Superdrive in my 2007 MacPro stopped burning DVD-DL disks. Apple replaced the drive and immediately the new drive would not eject disk or open door to accept a disk after going to sleep. Only cure: Restart. Repeatedly verified. Super drive would not open drive door. Restart. Open Superdrive. Make machine sleep. Wake it. Superdrive wont open. Restart to open door.
adam west  2009-10-02 04:08
I have a spanking new MAc Pro with two Superdrives - both flaky as hell - to the point of being useless (and very expensive) slots.
Bob Russell  2009-10-02 13:10
I cured my Superdrive problem by re-installing it. the data plug in use was designed for the second drive bay. Switched to other plub and sleep problem went away like magic.
Kevan R. Craft  2009-10-10 09:05
I have a MacBook Pro 15 Inch, 2.5 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 3GB RAM running Mac OS X 10.5.8 and experienced the same problem with my Matshita DVD-R UJ-867 drive after downloading an Apple Security Update.

I tried everything from spraying air into the drive, a DVD Lense Cleaner Disc, Power resets and even banging the case. I've even flashed the DVD Drive but still couldn't get the MacBook Pro to read either CD or DVD media blank or recorded or commecial discs.

Finally, before I jumped to buy a new drive I decided to buy a set of Torx screwdrivers containing a T-6 Torx driver so I could disassemble my MacBook Pro and remove the Matshita DVD-R UJ-867 drive.

I eventually removed the drive and removed the screws opening the actual drive to reveal the DVD-R drive contents inside. Once open I sprayed the optical lense with a can of compressed air and cleaned any dust on the lense and the rest of the inside of the drive. After that I replaced the DVD-R cover and replaced the screws. I then replaced the DVD-R drive back into the MacBook Pro and screwed it all back together.

Once I'd put it all back together I then powered the MacBook Pro up, booted the machine and inserted a music CD THE BEST OF BILL WITHERS and low and behold the CD disc mounted.

So stripping the DVD-R drive and spraying compressed air directly onto the optical lense removed the problem of not being able to load either CD or DVD discs. Now I can read any disc possible and the fix has returned the Matshita DVD-R UJ-867 drive so it now reads both CD and DVD discs as before..

The process is a fiddly but worth the effort. It is my guess that 99 per cent of Superdrive problems experienced by Apple MacBook Pro users using this hardware cleaning method will return their Superdrives to working state so they should be able to read and mount both CD and DVD media..

Job is a good one..



P.S. post this on any and all MacBook Pro forums and blogs as possible so other MacBook Pro owners can use the fix to repair their DVD-R Superdrive problem not being able to read and mount CD and DVD media.. Do what I did above and you'll get your drive back without having to buy a new drive.. If your MacBook Pro is under warranty with Applecare then go to Apple. If the warranty has expired use my fix to repair your Superdrive - it works..