Power Mac G5 SuperDrive Fix

By: David Donaldson - Revised: 2007-12-09 richard


Many of our Power Mac Dual 2 GHz G5's have had problems reading all types of CD's. This page describes a few possible solutions to the issue. The fix we've had the most luck with is updating the SuperDrive's firmware.

Why Update the Firmware?

The problem we were having with our SuperDrives is that they would only sporadically read all types of CDs (burned, audio, data, etc.). It was frequently the case that the optical drive would do nothing after a disc was inserted, causing the disc not to mount.

After trying a few things, I came across some information regarding SuperDrive firmware. Apparently Apple does not update the drive firmware very often, whereas Pioneer (the manufacturer of our problematic SuperDrives) does, so the version of the SuperDrive firmware depends on when the G5 was purchased. In our case, it was not the most recent version that Pioneer had produced, and Pioneer's firmware update was a Windows application. The only solution available on Apple's site was a SuperDrive firmware update that would not run on our computers. However, I did find a third-party program that has the ability to flash Pioneer SuperDrives. The purpose for the program (called DVRFlashX) is to allow users to flash their SuperDrives using a "hacked" firmware image that will allow them to play foreign-standard DVDs. But, lucky for us, the creator has also included the most recent versions of the official firmware for various types of SuperDrives.

Firmware Update

The SuperDrive firmware flash utility DVRFlashX can be downloaded from lasvegas.rpc1.org, or use the link below to download the updater for Pioneer DVR-106 SuperDrives. There are several downloads available for different drive types; we have Pioneer DVR-106D drives, so that's the installer I've had experience with.

Steps for installing:
  1. Make sure the optical drive in the problematic PowerMac G5 is a Pioneer that matches your drive type. The firmware update could potentially damage the drive if it is not the correct one. Look in System Profiler -> Hardware -> Disc Burning to find out.
  2. Download the appropriate firmware updater from lasvegas.rpc1.org (in my case it is DVRFlashX_Apple_106.zip).
  3. Launch the program, and authenticate as admin when prompted.
  4. IMPORTANT: Next is a screen asking you to choose a firmware package. The default package is a third-party firmware version meant to remove region checking on the drive. Do not use this one. Instead, select the official Apple OEM Version (in my case it was A612).
  5. IMPORTANT: After you select the firmware version you are asked whether or not you'd like to flash the kernel. The DVR-106D installer said that it was not required with the drive type, so I did not flash the kernel. If you decide you need to, you do so at your own risk.
  6. The next screen tells you that you're about to upgrade from your old version to your new version. Click continue.
  7. Do not shut down the machine while the SuperDrive firmware is being flashed.
  8. Finally, look at the report to verify that the firmware version is now the correct version and restart the computer.
  9. Once the computer has restarted, test with a few CD's to ensure that the firmware update fixed the issue. I have found that older CD's cause the most problems and are therefore good to use for testing. If the drive is still having problems reading CD's, following the steps below to clean the drive may help.

DVRFLashX for Pioneer DVR-106 – ZIP-File, 2.3 MB

Screenshots of DVRFlashX



Cleaning SuperDrives

Even if the firmware update appears to have fixed the SuperDrive's problems, cleaning it is still a good idea.

Steps for cleaning:
  1. Eject the tray and use a can of compressed air to spray into the drive until no dust is blown out. Also, wipe off the tray to remove any dust.
  2. Use a CD-ROM lens cleaning kit (search www.amazon.com for "rca laser lens cleaner") to clean the drive. I've found that the wet cleaning kit offers better results.
  3. To use the wet cleaning kit, log into the computer, add a drop of the solution to the white brush, and skip through track 3 (you don't need to play the entire track). It is a similar procedure for the dry cleaning kit; just follow the audio instructions.
  4. If the cleaning disc won't mount, try restarting the computer and using the compressed air again. If you're still having problems, it is likely that the SuperDrive needs to be replaced.