Use an external MacBook Air Superdrive on a MacBook Pro?
The DVD drive on my MacBook Pro has died and I don't want to spend almost $200 for a replacement. My sister had a MacBook Air and while she sold it, she still has the external Superdrive that looks like a USB-based CDROM / DVDROM drive. It worked just fine with her Air, but when I plug it into my MacBook Pro, it's dead. Is there a way to use it, or is the drive really dead?
This is an interesting situation because you're right to be suspicious of how the Apple external USB Superdrive is completely dead when plugged into your MacBook Pro. Turns out that it should work just fine with any Mac system, but that there's a little switch in the operating system itself that only lets the drive work on the MacBook Air and -- as it turns out -- certain models of the Mac Mini. For everything else it just acts as if it's not plugged in or that the USB plug itself is damaged and non-functional. But it just ain't so...
Fixing it turns out to be easy, but it involves a bit of a hack to the Mac OS X operating system itself, and while I've tested it out on Lion, I haven't tried it on Leopard, Snow Leopard or OS X Mountain Lion. You're on your own if you get this to work with one of those (but I imagine it'll work just fine: if you do test it with good results perhaps you can post a comment letting us know?)
You'll need your system administrator password and some level of comfort working on the command line in Terminal.app (which can be found in Applications -> Utilities).
First off, here's a pic of the MacBook Air Superdrive, so we can be sure we're on the same page before we start:
It's a nice, sleek external drive and last I checked, you can pick one up on eBay for about $50 on eBay.
To get it to work, launch Terminal.app, which will pop up a window where you type in commands rather than click and drag. In fact, forget about your mouse and buttons: it's a keyboard only world we're heading into now.
The first command you'll want to type -- and on the command line it's critical that you type slowly, carefully and accurately. Nothing happens until you hit Return, so take your time to double-check you've entered things correctly first. If it's wrong, use Delete to back up and fix things -- is:
When I type that, here's what I see:
Lots of cryptic things that are very important for the system to boot up and work properly, so it's not without some tiny trepidation that I recommend you tweak this file. Do it wrong and, well, you could be up a creek without the proverbial paddle. So be careful, okay?
What you need to add is the information I've highlighted above. Before you enable the external Superdrive, the line highlighted will simply look like:
What we are going to add is the 'mbasd=1' which most people believe stands for "macbook air superdrive' (mba sd).
To do so, open up the file in question with either the text-based "vi" editor or the somewhat easier to use "pico" editor. If you don't know how to use either, it might be smart to have someone else help you with this step quite honestly, because if you mess up this file, it's not going to be pretty to fix things.
The trick here is that you need to edit the file as administrator so that you'll have permission to write the modified file to the disk. To do that, use "sudo":
As you can see, it prompts me for the administrator password and if I don't type that in correctly, it won't let me edit the file.
Once you have it open for editing, very carefully add the mbasd=1 between the <string> and </string> pairs, then write the file back and quit the editor.
Check the file contents using "cat" as shown above to ensure that it's exactly as shown and that you haven't transposed characters, misspelled anything, messed up any of the other lines in the file etc.
All looks good? Great. Restart your MacBook or MacBook Pro. Once it's booted up and is running again, plug in the MacBook Air Superdrive and try reading a DVD or CDROM. It works. Magic. Neat, eh?
Hat tip to the Swiss site hardturm.ch for the tutorial on how to get the Superdrive to work on a MacBook. It helped.
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