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Blu-ray and Macs? With OWC, Yes!

While fairly common on many Windows boxes, Mac OS X does not support playback of Blu-ray movies on your Mac, and it’s not likely to do so any time soon. That means that if you’ve added a Mac mini to your home-theater system, want to watch HD movies on the road, or even if you just don’t have a lot of space for a TV and a computer, you’ve got to copy and convert the data from the discs in order to play them back and that’s impossible without a drive capable of reading Blu-ray discs.

Unfortunately, this Mac/Blu-ray gap also goes the other way too; the HD home movies that you’ve edited together in iMovie, Final Cut, or even Adobe Premiere are all HD, but how are you going to get them to your (or perhaps your mother in law’s) television to take advantage of the larger screen and/or the better sound quality? Sure, iDVD will get them to a disc playable anywhere, but you’ll lose that wonderful HD quality. For widest HD support, you need to be able to burn a Blu-ray movie to disc.

In both these scenarios, the lack of a Blu-ray drive is the main problem. Though you can’t play the movies themselves back, OS X will mount Blu-ray discs on the desktop; you can rip them using a program such as Handbrake. On the other side of the coin, programs like Roxio Toast Titanium can burn Blu-ray discs that will play in any home Blu-ray player. You just need a drive that can read and burn Blu-ray discs.

While it doesn’t appear that Apple is going to be including Blu-ray on its computers any time in the near future, OWC is coming to the rescue with a wide array of solutions for you. Internal Kit options for Mac Pro (and PCs) now start from under $100 with Blu-ray Read/Write speeds of up to 12X and DVD-RW DL/CDRW capabilities. If you need an external solution, we’ve got several available from under $200. If don’t need to burn Blu-ray media, but would like to be able to read Blu-ray discs, there are options from under $80 that not only allow the reading of Blu-ray, but also provide DVDRW/CDRW Read/Write capability as well.

Let’s Get High-Definition!

Combining Roxio Toast Pro Titanium with a Blu-ray burner from OWC makes it the perfect combination for burning your HD videos for playback on your home Blu-ray player. Like we alluded to above, HD video cameras are widely available, and even iMovie is capable of handling HD video. It somehow seems kind of silly to have to edit all that HD footage together and scale it down to DVD if you want to watch it on your television.

So the question is: if the OWC Mercury Pro supports Blu-ray media and Toast 10 Titanium Pro allows you to author Blu-ray video discs, what’s stopping you from taking your HD movies and putting them on Blu-ray for highest-quality playback? Instructions, of course!

Fortunately, OWC has you covered there, too. We’ve put together a nice walkthrough of how to create a basic Blu-ray video that will play on your home Blu-ray player.

The reverse is also possible: converting Blu-ray movies to play on your computer. This is a great way to bring your HD movies with you while you’re on the go, convert them for use on your favorite iDevice or play them back on an HTPC hooked up to your home theater. All you need to do is put the Blu-ray movie in your new Blu-ray drive and use Handbrake or MakeMKV to convert. We have a cheat sheet for converting movies and using them with the OWC Media Center Solution, but those same files will also work elsewhere. Just be sure to only copy movies that you own the disc for; don’t open yourself up to prosecution for copyright infringement!

It’s not just about the movies.

While converting and creating HD movies can be a lot of fun, a Blu-ray drive can also be useful for storage. With discs available in capacities up to 50GB, Blu-ray offers a lot of storage in a small space. This makes it a great way to ship large sets of files cross-country without the bulk and electrostatic sensitivity of a hard drive. It also works well for those who back up files to optical media; higher-capacities mean more files per disc which leads to less disc swapping if you ever need to restore, and as Apple moves toward having all its software available only via download, it also offers a nice way to back up these programs, saving you bandwidth down the line.

Although Apple has yet to officially support Blu-ray on Mac OS X, we at OWC have been providing solutions for over five years now. It just goes to show you – just because it’s not built-in, it doesn’t mean you can’t.

OWC Chris S.
the authorOWC Chris S.
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  • I have just successfully burned my first blu-ray DATA dvd using toast 11. I am not needing anything to do with watching blu-ray movies on my mac. My goal is to backup large files and photo files. Obviously mac can’t see the disc in finder the remote burner. Is there software that will read the data DVD and allow me to pull files off the DVD as Finder would if it could see it?

    • Hello Marc,

      In order to see blu-ray DVD’s with information on them, you will need to have a blu-ray reader and writer.

      At this time, OWC does not offer any software to pull files off the disc.

      If you have any further questions, please contact our Technical Support Team!

  • Almost 2 years after the previous post I’ll share my experience over the past year with a BluRay external drive and OS 10.8 (Mountain Lion). The drive was manufactured by a famous Taiwan company and was designed for desktop computer installation. I purchased a Firewire 800 enclosure from OWC, installed the drive and to my amazement it was recognized by the OS. No looking for drivers.

    My primary use of this device is for long term (hopefully) archival storage of HD video from DirecTV programming and over-the-air television.

    I do not use it to duplicate BluRay movies but I can use the larger data capacity of BluRay disks (25GB single sided) to place about 9 hours of 1080p or 1080i movies per disk using mp4 or mkv files.

    This is done in the Finder by creating a Burn Folder then dragging the files over to it and burning the disk. The movies can be viewed with many applications including my personal favorite, VLC, or on one of the BluRay players hooked up to HD TVs.

    Remarkably, my cheap BluRay players that I have around the house, Sony, LG, & Samsung, all recognize the disks as data disks and will play the movies quite well. Something to be said for all of these appliances having Linux hearts. I have an early adapter Pioneer Elite BluRay that insists on the BluRay format for its disks but you can fool it quite easily by putting the expected directory structure in the Burn Folder. I found it to be not worth the bother and stick to the easier way. I’ve got Toast and the HD extensions but my workflow is simple enough this way.

    I’ve also started to back up critical data for off-site storage using BluRays.

    Bottom line, can’t live without it now and might get the $97 portable OWC sells now as it and a few disks are a lot lighter to take on a trip than an external hard drive.

  • Recently bought the LG 14X Internal Blu-ray/DVD/CD Writer for my 7 year old Mac Pro. It plays Blurays beautifully via my Bluray Player app. It burns Blurays like a pro via my Toast Titanium app. I’m just wondering if it’s possible to install another Internal Bluray Writter to replace the other DVD/CD Superdrive. To be able to copy from disk to disk. Do I need to purchase addition wiring or can I adapt the current wiring to any drive. Any input is greatly appreciated… Thanks

    • The 2006-2008 Mac Pros (model ID MacPro1,1 – MacPro3,1) have 2 unused SATA ports on the motherboard you can use for adding either SSDs/HDDs or optical drives into the MacPro’s 2 optical drive bays.

      You should still have 1 open SATA port on the motherboard so you may certainly replace your original DVD/CD drive with another Bluray drive. You will need to get a SATA data cable and 4 pin molex power to 9 pin SATA power adapter cable to accomplish this install.

      We make this very easy by bundling these cables with certain drives. When browsing our internal BluRay selection look for the Mac Pro icon in the thumbnail, the title will also include “Internal Kit for Mac Pro.”

      For MacPro 2009 (model ID MacPro4,1) or newer models will already have the SATA cabling installed in the optical drive bays, so you only need to purchase the optical drive.

  • FCPX 10.0.5 & OSX 10.7.4 on a Mac Pro 1,1 with an upgraded Radeon HD 5770 video card:
    Is there a Blu-ray burner (inboard our outboard) that can burn my FCPX video, directly (without Toast)?
    I’m okay with an outboard one because I’ve got a MacBook Pro 5,1 2.53 with the same software and maybe I could switch the burner between the two computers, hopefully.

  • Hey OWC guys,

    I bought a Pioneer Blu-Ray burner from you and installed it into my mac pro (12-core, OSX 10.6.8), but I can’t get my mac to communicate with it! Most of the time it doesn’t recognize that it’s there, however every once in a while it will pop up under my drives, even give me the option to open it,but the device will not respond to any command.
    please help.
    are there any drivers out there that I can download?
    will upgrading to lion help?


    • Under 10.6.8 that drive should be recognized without any sort of driver. I’m guessing you added it as a second drive, in the lower bay.

      Does the original drive in the top bay work? If so, try swapping the drives, putting the original drive in the lower bay and moving the Pioneer to the top bay. In all likeliness, the problem will still exist. The question is where. If the problem follows the drive, then its likely there’s something wrong with the individual unit. If the problem stays in the bay, then there’s likely something wrong with the bay itself.

      For further troubleshooting and/or return information, you’ll want to contact our Tech Support – 1-800-275-4576

  • I just picked up on of these. Ne warned that the latest LG Blu-ray drives included with these don’t work with Handbrake or MakeMKV due to a new bus encrytion “feature”.

    Also, I was hoping to be able to boot my Mac from these but that doesn’t seem to work either. Has anyone else got this to work?

  • So lets see if I understand this correctly – There is no software at all that will play a blu-ray movie on a Mac computer even with an external blu-ray drive because the Mac OS is preventing it from happening ? I’d have expected that the software could just write whatever it wants to the screen. I had thought that lack of blu-ray support in Mac OS simply meant that Mac OS had no built-in utilities to handle blu-ray; not that it prevented dedicated software from doing so.

    • At this time, no, there is not a reliable way to directly play back Blu-ray movies on your Mac. Apple has explicitly said not to expect it from them any time soon (the now-famous “bag of hurt” comment). They have not prevented playback, they’re just not supporting anything.

      Unfortunately, there are still no Blu-ray movie players for OS X. Supposedly VLC Media Player has rudimentary support (playback only, no menus), but it apparently only works with unencrypted Blu-ray Discs with “some” success playing encrypted ones. The encryption on most commercial Blu-ray movies prevents playback, and that’s where things get hung up.

      At this point ripping the movie to your hard drive using Handbrake or MakeMKV is still your best bet. Somehow, ripping the movies that way gets around that limitation.

  • Nice headline. I’ve got to admit, it drew me in.

    Of course, its only a bunch of stuff we’ve had for years… but hey, it made me look!

  • OWC Media Center?? I didn’t even know you guys offered that. I’m intrigued. I gotta admit, I’m interested in getting one now. We’ve been talking about trying our own attempt at a Media Center for a couple years now. But I’d rather just leave it in your hands, then enjoy the results. As for the rest of the article, I gotta say, it’s good to know there are some work arounds to watch BRs on Macs, but I wish it would just be offered like normal. Oh well. Still love my Macs.

  • What software would I need to just burn Blu-ray discs as data discs?

    • There have been reports of people being able to burn Blu-ray data discs in the Finder, but I can’t personally recommend it as each time I’ve tried it, there were problems. Best to go with a commercial product such as DragonBurn or Toast. Between the two, I’d go with Toast for its overall versatility.

  • “but how are you going to get them to your (or perhaps your mother in law’s) television to take advantage of the larger screen and/or the better sound quality?”

    You really assume that there are that many people with HD TVs and bluray players? Let alone the in-laws? :-)

    “While converting and creating HD movies can be a lot of fun, a Blu-ray drive can also be useful for storage. With discs available in capacities up to 50GB, Blu-ray offers a lot of storage in a small space.”

    An even better solution is to use all those 80GB/120GB/160GB drives pulled out of laptops and Mac mini’s in OWC Express enclosures. (They pile up when swapping with $49 500GB specials.)

    They mail easily and cheaply. :-)

    Especially for mailing off site backups to store with your friends.

    • HDTVs have a huge penetration rate. Blu-ray is stuck around 30-35% but once Star Wars comes out on BD this Fall, you’ll have more people picking BD players up.

      No assumptions made…. just options.

  • Final Cut Pro X also has the capability to Burn Blu-ray discs… snazzy menus and all… so there’s another use for a Blu-ray writer. Film makers unite!

    • That’s kind of odd. Apple’s own application is capable of making blu-ray media. But once you make this media, the OS can’t play it!?!?!?!?

      Sounds a bit stubborn to me and I’m not even in that industry. It seems they obviously know Blu-ray is a must for film editing and such and therefore allow blu-ray content to be the end result of a Final Cut X project. The fact that w/out third party’s you cannot play the media nor burn it via Apple’s own optical drive is just weird! Sounds like there only willing to go so far so as to make sure Final Cut Pro X is not heavily hit w/ lack of blu-ray…so they put it in but they’re not willing to let you play it….!!!????

      The last two things (this and the Sata 3G and 6G chaos on MBP’s and iMacs) that have been issues w/ Apple are very, very weird and hard to figure out why they’d do something like that….the latter being much more perplexing.

      OWC ROCKS!!!!

      O-Dub Scott

  • this article is a little misleading. You cannot use Handbrake to rip Blu Rays if they are copyright protected which means if you want to backup the Blu rays that you own you can’t use handbrake. The only thing you can really use is Beta software called MakeMKV. I’ve tried 4 Blu rays and only 2 of them have ripped successfully. Then in handbrake it took 13 hours to convert one file and that’s with a maxed out mbpro.

  • Think there will be a bluray burner that can replace the dvd burner on a MacBook Pro?

    • I’ve seeen slot-loading BD drives for various Windows laptops, but there are two things that must be addressed. First is thickness; the optical drive in the Unibody MacBook Pros are is 9.5mm, but the only slot-loading BD drives I’ve seen lately are 12.5mm.

      The other thing to look out for are the mounting holes. It’s been a while since I looked at it closely, but I vaguely recall that Apple uses an unusual mounting hole placement on the front edge of the drives. If this is the case, then what Grant mentioned is quite true – there wouldn’t be a lot of motivation for BD drive manufacturers to re-tool just to fit in Macs.

      That said, the last I heard, we are still looking. If we fond one, you can be sure we’ll do our best to make them available. Keep an eye on the blog – we’ll probably announce it here first. :-)

      • The link you posted turns out to be BD-ROM, not a writer…you had my hopes up with a $100 cheaper drive. The cheapest bluray burner I can find here is $189.99, but it’s the big and bulky one. I’m happy with the one I got from Digistor and even comes with Toast 10!