New DVD drive in G4 (MDD): It’s a snap

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 10th, 2004 • 3:45 am

One of the good things about my G4 (MDD) is that it has two drive bays for optical drives. It came with a Pioneer DVR-104A SuperDrive built-in, but the other drive bay was empty.

The other day, I saw the pretty amazing deals at Other World Computing and decided to purchase a new internal Pioneer DVR-107D. Not that my existing SuperDrive was defective. But I wanted the additional flexibility provided by a second drive, with a faster write speed (up to 8x), as well as the option to have the built-in ability to read Region 2 DVDs from Europe. (I am aware of the warranty-voiding firmware hacks that let you reset your Region counter and choose a new region again, but I tried the one for the DVR-104 and it didn’t work at all.)

So I ordered this bundle, which included the PVR-107, Dantz Retrospect Express, 5 DVD-Rs with jewel cases, and 10 CD-Rs with jewel cases, all for $115.99. Other World Computing’s shipping rates to Canada are pretty atrocious (close to $40US!), but even with that added cost it was still worth it.

I got the package within a few days. The box was a bit smashed in, but the whole thing was well packed inside with lots of bubble paper and didn’t suffer any damage.

What I found really wonderful was how easy the installation was. OWC provided all the links to the required information, including a note regarding the need to remove the front bit on the tray of the DVD drive so that the G4’s mirrored door doesn’t stick out when the tray is in, and a link to Apple’s own instructions for customer-installable parts for this machine.

Apple’s own instructions were very clear, and the whole process was rather painless. Just one screw to loosen and another one to remove, and then the whole optical drive double bay slides right out of the G4. Once again, the bay itself had four extra screws on it, which I was able to use for the new drive. There’s nothing worse than dismantling your whole machine only to realize that you need additional screws and that you don’t have any in stock. Nice touch.

The only thing that I had to pay attention to was the jumper settings on the drives. The DVR-104 was obviously on Cable Select, whereas the new DVR-107 was on Master, so I changed the DVR-107 to Cable Select.

After putting the G4 back together and restarting it, software configuration was even easier. To put it shortly, nothing needs to be done. If you launch System Profiler, the DVR-107 is listed as another “Apple Supported” SuperDrive.

I pressed the Eject key on my keyboard and experienced a slight jolt of panic when I realized that this opened the tray of… the DVR-104 SuperDrive, of course. But then I thought: I am sure Apple thought of that, and instinctively tried option-Eject instead. Sure enough, the tray of the DVR-107 opened.

Later on, I saw that Apple had even added, without prompting, a new menu extra on the right-hand side of the menu bar which was obviously an Eject menu:

Eject menu extra

Excellent! Not only did my G4 (MDD) running Mac OS X 10.3 support this platform-neutral DVR-107 out of the box without any configuring, but on top of it Mac OS X even automatically customized my environment to take the presence of the second drive into account!

The last bit of testing was to insert a Region 2 DVD in the DVR-107 and see what would happen.

As expected, I got the dialog box asking me if I wanted to change the region setting for the SuperDrive (DVR-107) and warning me that I could only do that up to 5 times. I changed it to Region 2 — et voilà. DVD Player started playing my Region 2 PAL DVD without any problems.

What more could you ask for? A few years ago, a DVD recorder was still a luxury available to the happy few owners of a top-of-the-line G4. How far we’ve gone in the space of a few years! For little over $100US and a tiny bit of elbow grease, I now have a second SuperDrive in my G4, which is completely compatible with iTunes, Toast, iDVD, etc. And I no longer have to worry about region-specific DVDs (although the whole region thing remains a royal pain in the neck, especially since it has absolutely no purpose for French or British expatriates in North America — it’s not like there’ll ever be a huge market for movie imports in the US! — and it has been an utter failure when it comes to its original purpose, i.e. to prevent early imports of US films in Europe). Yet another thing to make you angry about the entertainment industry conglomerates!

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