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Apple's external Superdrive can work on older model Macs!

 
For those of you who may have purchased Apple's spiffy $79 external CD/DVD burner (or Superdrive as they call it), it may not have worked when you plugged it into your older Mac. A lot of times a person's built-in optical drive fails, and they see the new external at the Apple Store. They naturally grab one assuming it'll work because they'll be using it with a Mac. Hopefully there's a "Genius" selling it to them who's going to ask which Mac they plan on using it with. I'd think probably not. It turns out it's only the fairly newer Macs that support it.

When you plug it in, your older Mac might very well inform you that "This Apple External CD/DVD drive is not compatible with this Mac. Please go to Apple Support to read more." What they show you is a compatibility matrix that seems to makes no sense. I haven't compared every spec of every Mac they list, but 2009 seems to be the general cutoff.
 
Perhaps Apple requires USB 3, and the not-so-old models only have USB 2, but my response to that would be "so what?" You're burning an optical disc, the slowest consumer media still standing. USB 2, as relatively slow as it is nowadays, is plenty fast enough to burn a disc. So, what to do?

This is OSX, and so this is UNIX. There is a single terminal command to make one change in your NVRAM settings that removes the restriction. This is much more preferable than doing things like modifying kernel extensions with text editors, which can be dangerous and is not for the average user.
 
As always, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a full backup before performing any modifications to the System. It's technically a hack, but a harmless one. Still...
 
*****PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK*****
 
Now that we have that out of the way, here's how. It really does takes a matter of seconds:
 
Open the app called Terminal (located in /Applications/Utilities), and type the following exactly as shown:

sudo nvram boot-args="mbasd=1"

Press Return, enter your Admin password, and press Return again (you cannot perform this command without being an Admin and knowing your password). If it returns to a blank prompt, you did it.
 
Restart your Mac, and voilĂ ! Now, in case your internal burner dies, instead of a costly replacement, you too can grab an Apple external CD/DVD burner for just $79 without worrying if it'll work on your particular Mac.
 
Please keep in mind this is for OS X, and will definitely not work on the much older Macs that run the Classic MacOS. I am not sure how many previous versions of OSX for which this command will function, so your mileage may vary, but I have personally verified it works perfectly under Mavericks (10.9.3) on a Mid/Late 2007 15" Macbook Pro, and others have verified it on various other models. It would be interesting to see which is the oldest model Mac it can work on. Perhaps even a G4 tower running 10.4 Tiger could do it. It's worth investigating.
 
Finally, remember that if you ever reinstall a fresh OS X on that Mac, you may have to reapply the terminal command. You may even have to reapply it if the NVRAM gets reset. For more in-depth info on what NVRAM and PRAM are, check out: <http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1379?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US>;.
 
Happy Mac'ing!
 
 
Paul K.
The Mac Doc

Comments

Hi Paul -
Ive tried entering in the mbasd=1 in Terminal between the string entries, and I've tried typing in the one liner that you provided.  Neither work.  I'm running Mac OS X on a 2009 Mac Book Pro.  When I connect the SuperDrive and try to load a CD, it just doesn't accept it.  The drive makes no noise, and won't pull a disc no matter what.  It does show as being loaded into the USB port when I go into System Profiler, though.  Really fed up.  Any advice?  Could the drive be defective?
Hi there, H,
 
When you connect the drive the Mac doesn't complain that it's incompatible? If you don't see that error, then you probably did the command correctly.
 
If the drive simply doesn't work, and it sounds to me like it's dead, then I'd make sure the USB port works. If it won't accept a disc then it's not even getting power, and I doubt the Mac even sees it. You can always verify that in Apple Menu/About This Mac/More Info... then click the Storage tab. You should see your hard drive and any disc drive below that.
 
Try another USB port and if the Mac still doesn't see it, it may be defective. Good luck!
 
Paul
 
P.S.
 
Just to be clear, to enable that drive with OS X on your Macbook you need to enter the following Terminal command as a single line:
 
sudo nvram boot-args="mbasd=1"
 
Don't type it - copy the entire command above and paste it into Terminal, then press Return. You'll be asked to enter your Admin password, and then you must restart your Macbook.
The drive is recognized in the Apple Menu.  I can see it there, but it still wouldn't accept a CD.  So, I held down the option key when I rebooted to go to the startup screen.  When I did that, the drive pulled the CD I had sitting in halfway fully in.  No matter, when the computer comes up in normal mode, it still doesn't seem to know there's a CD in there.  And now I can't even eject the CD.
 
i did try the sudo line again (copy/paste) and got a blank prompt after putting my password in.  that seemed to work.  Totally stymied.  No one else on these blogs seems to be having a problem with this process!
Tried restarting while holding while holding option again.  Hit eject, and the CD ejected from the external SuperDrive.  So, it appears to know that it's there.  just won't accept a CD into it when computer is in normal mode.
And now it accepts a CD when in normal mode (Cnut only will eject it in startup).  The Cad does not show inFinder or iTunes, though...
Hi Paul,
 
I want to thank you for this! I recently bought an Apple external Superdrive for my aging iMac7,1, whose internal drive is slowly losing its will to recognize disks. I was pleased with the design of the drive itself, puzzled by the oddly shortened and permanently attached USB cord, and dismayed to find out that the new drive was incompatible with my computer.
 
I followed your instructions and the drive works perfectly. I had been preparing to try somethings a bit scarier - editing a kext - and I'm very happy to have found a less invasive method. Thanks again!
 
Best,
 
Rick Strong
Hi Rick,
 
Great news! I'm glad it worked for you. Yes, you are quite correct, modifying kernel extensions (.kext) is not for the inexperienced. Now you can enjoy that iMac much longer!
I'm not exactly sure what you mean, Em. As I mentioned, you may have to run the terminal command again after reinstalling OS X, but that should not be an issue. Install OS X, run all your software updates and try the drive. If it's not recognized, apply the terminal command and restart, and the drive should be recognized. Once applied, restarting the Mac will not affect anything.
Oh, silly me, NOW I understand your question! :)
 
NO, if the drive does not work natively with your Mac, you cannot boot it from that disk drive.
Wow, amazing... this worked!!! I have spent hours online determined to find a fix for this and here it is :-)  I have a Macbook Pro (2009) running OS X Yosemite. I was not able to play a DVD on the internal superdrive so plugged in an Apple USB Superdrive which initially received the message that it wasn't supported. I did as you suggest and I can now play the DVD. I'm sooooooo happy, thank you!!!
Well, I'll be damned. It worked! On my MacbookPro (2009). I guess I sound a lot like Leyza from Topsham, ME, except that I'm running El Capitan. You saved my life!
This is brilliant. It actually worked. Thanks so much.
I was loathed to buy a separate drive for my old macbook 17" when it's drive died and now I don't have to. My superdrive now works with it. 
Working on a 2010 MacBook w/ non-functional optical drive, tried this in terminal, came back with this error: "nvram: Error setting variable - 'boot-args': (iokit/common) general error"
 
Not sure what I'm doing wrong, but followed the steps above as suggested. Any help would be much appreciated! Thank you.
@Jai, I was getting that same error. I found that starting with macOS Sierra you have to boot into recovery mode to run any nvram commands. I booted into recovery mode, and ran the command without the sudo at the beginning and it now recognizes my external SuperDrive on my mid-2012 MacBook Pro 13"
@Jordan, I am running MacOS Sierra, I have a late 2011 MacBook Pro 13, and it worked for me also, doing it the way that you stated. Thanks a lot.

$50p/h

Paul K.

The Mac Doc - Apple Macintosh Tutor for all ages

50+ hours
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