Last week I wrote an article summarizing a lengthy thread on the Apple user forums concerning faulty SuperDrives (see, 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.