Skip to main content

Send us a Topic or Tip

Have a suggestion for the blog? Perhaps a topic you'd like us to write about? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Fancy yourself a writer and have a tech tip, handy computer trick, or "how to" to share? Let us know what you'd like to contribute!

Thanks for reaching out!

Some optical drives are having slight Snow troubles.

avalancheSince Snow Leopard’s release a couple of weeks ago, there have been several reports of various optical drives being unable to read the installation DVD. There have also been reports of these same drives being unable to read other DVDs, as well.

What the heck is going on here?

There have been reports of some “bad” copies of the Snow Leopard installer disc, which would explain some of the instances. A trip to your local Genius Bar or a call to Apple customer service can usually resolve that issue.

There are, however, a number of instances that were not resolved simply by using a different disc. In these cases, the optical drive stopped being able to read DVDs at all. In a large amount of the cases shown on the Apple Support discussion boards, it seems that many of these computers were infrequently used, so it is quite likely these were cases where the optical drive was bad or on the verge of failing, but infrequent use made diagnosis difficult. Interestingly, almost all of the drives having these problems were the stock drives that came with the computer.

So what can we do?

Usually, if your drive stops reading media, that’s a good clue that the drive needs to be replaced. If your Mac is still under AppleCare, then you should be covered. However, for those past the warranty and don’t have AppleCare, you’ve still got options.

  1. Set up another Mac (running OS X 10.5 or later) to share its optical drive with the afflicted computer. While designed for the MacBook Air, this should work with any Mac. Though it is probably the least expensive method (as song as you have a second Mac) it is also frightfully slow, as it has to transfer all the data across your network.
  2. Replace the optical drive with a new one. If you had AppleCare, the main resolution would be to replace the drive itself. So, why not do it yourself? Other than the SATA slot-loading drives found in the latest models (which would still be under warranty, anyway), OWC has replacement internal optical drives for a wide array of Macs. The drives aren’t the only thing, though. We also have instructional videos that walk you through the process of replacing the optical drive for many Mac models.
  3. Use an external optical drive. This is a fairly good option for slot-loading machines – especially iMacs and Mac minis – since you can get optical drives with faster speeds and features that may not be available on a slot-loading drive, such as Blu-ray disc burning (sorry, still no BD movie playback, yet) and and Lightscribe labeling. OWC has a number of external optical drives available, all of which are bootable and will work with your Mac.

Don’t let a failing optical drive stop you from enjoying the benefits that upgrading to Snow Leopard provides. With our wide array of optical drive solutions and technical information, OWC can help get you on your way with a minimum of effort.

M. Chris Stevens
the authorOWC Chris S.
Be Sociable, Share This Post!

Leave a Reply


  • I have an OWC Mercury enclosure that needs the Prolific updater, but you link does not work. Could you send a new link to me?
    Andy Anderson

    • Hi Andy…will check into that situation for you. Just wanted to reply quickly and also note that I took your personal email address out of your posting so as to protect your privacy! ;-)

    • Andy,

      There has been a brief hiccup with the server, which they are working on. We are working on resolving the issue, so keep trying. If you need any further help with the updater or have any other questions, our Tech Support staff is ready to help at 1-800-275-4576, or, if it’s more convenient, you can reach them via our 24/7 Live Chat.

  • When I saw Larry’s link to this posting, I anticipated that it addressed a problem being experienced by some external optical burner users since they installed Snow Leopard upgrades.

    Apparently some folks, including me, have found that external DVD recorders connected by Firewire are no longer burning discs properly. Various users have suggested that this is related to certain Firewire-to-drive interface chipsets, while others have identified certain OS X files that were changed by 10.6. A workaround in some (but apparently not all) cases is to use USB 2 as the computer to enclosure connection — not a viable long-term solution, in my opinion. USB works for me with some pairings of drives and enclosures, but not others.

    Drive mechanism failure is always a possibility (some might say a probability — hard disk drives seem incredibly robust in comparison to optical disc drives) and application compatibility is uncertain following an OS change. Some individuals may not suspect that the Firewire interface might be at fault.

    I hope OWC has some insight into this.

    • I checked with our Technical Support Supervisor today on this issue. It seems to be focused on the FireWire chipset used. We can’t speak for other companies, but all our current line of burners- which are based off an Oxford chipset – are compatible with 10.6.

      In late 2007-early 2008, some of our enclosures used a Prolific chipset, which some people have reported as having issues. Prolific has provided a firmware update, which is available here.

      Unfortunately, the updater can only be run under Windows, but once it has run, it should perform normally under 10.6.

      **Addendum, 10/13/09**

      There was a potential solution posted in MacOSXHints today, that may also help. It involves mucking about in your System folder, but it may help if you are having problems with a non-OWC branded optical drive.