SuperDrive your Pismo Macintoys SuperDrive

SuperDrive your Pismo for less than EUR 100 (~$130)

How to upgrade the Pismo DVD-ROM drive with a Dual-Layer DVD-Burner which (as of Q1/2005) you can't even buy in a new PowerBook and improve DVD playback on the way.

The Apple, Pismo and SuperDrive names and trademarks belong to Apple Computer, Inc.

Disclaimer: This article describes what I did to my hardware. Whatever you may choose to do - you do it on your own risk. It is pretty easy to do but if you don't feel comfortable working with delicate components while keeping your family and stuff alive then you better look somewhere else (see below for that).

There are quite a few Pismo SuperDrive offerings on the net, some for mindboggling amounts of money. I didn't want to pay a premium so I looked at some of the readily available notebook DVD burners to find one that matches the pismos distinctive bezel.

Pismos have been equipped with different drives and different bezels. Mine was a LG DRN-8080 (start up SystemProfiler and look at the ATA tree).

This description applies only to Pismos equipped with the LG drive and its bezel, I can't offer any insight on how to do it for other drives.

I found that the Toshiba SD-R6472 SlimLine DVD-Writer matches the bezel on the LG drive pretty well - you can use the eject button on the bezel and the emergency eject stays accessible too. It has a decent feature set: 24xCD-R, 10xCD-RW, 8xDVD+-R, 4xDVD+-RW, 2,4xDL-DVD-R and is available for as low as EUR 95,- (~$122) bulk, but you will want to check for yourself:


All in all everything went smoothly but I had to fiddle with different methods to mount the bezel and ended up with a non-reversible modification.

Therefore mentioned here: There is this guy (german language) who offers to make a similar modification for EUR 170,- including a drive. Not too much if you want to avoid messing around with the bezel. He has an explanation on his site what kind of comfort you can expect depending on which original drive you have. I am not associated with this person in any way, I just happened to find his offer on ebay.

The procedure

(The pictures were taken when I was done, that's why they don't show as much detail as one would like to see, sorry)

I removed the old drive from the outer case by loosening six screws.
First, unscrew and remove the plastic bracket on top of the drive case, then remove the screws on the plastic side of the case and finally those on the metal side, then you can slide the drive out of the case.

When inserting the new drive I had to carefully push and twist the aluminum enclosure to make the screws fit in without tension.

At first I failed to check the exact fitting of the internal connector - which led to an unsuccessful test - make sure that you push the small circuit board in the back carefully against the drive:

Image: Internal drive connector

Afterwards everything went fine - the drive was recognized - although not as "Burning: Vendor Supported" - as usual with most 3rd party drives. I used a lovely tool called PatchBurn to fix that and made sure I could burn from iTunes, iPhoto and the Finder with the new drive.

View in SystemProfiler after using PatchBurn:

Image: Screenshot of System Profiler with new drive

I did not yet test iDVD - I have no need for it and I don't even know if it runs on a Pismo - tell me if you succeed with it.

Refitting the bezel

Unmounting the Pismo bezel from the LG drive is a bit difficult, you have to force the larger snap-in tongue into its hold - be careful, it's easy to break the plastic.

Image: snap-in holder to open first

Removing the original bezel from the Toshiba drive is self-explaining, just loosen one of the snaps and it comes off.

I like to see LEDs when they are around, so I drilled a hole into the Pismo bezel roughly at the place where the eject icon was and glued a small sheet of translucent plastic to the inside to brush up the look of the hole. I didn't aim too carefully - please do better and use a smaller drill bit.

Image: Closeup of badly drilled LED hole

The LG Pismo bezel has a small plastic part mounted from the inside that supplies the eject button and the emergency eject pin. It seemed like I would have had to extend the length of the pin to make it work reliably so I just cut it off (now I have to use something like a paperclip, a ballpen won't do it anymore) - you might opt to go for a more advanced solution. Cutting off this half of the plastic part forced me to glue the rest to the inside of the bezel - which makes assembly easier afterwards, so I recommend it in any case.

Image: Closeup of remounted bezel

I cut off the screwholders on the Pismo bezel as well as the smaller guide - there was no place on the Toshiba drive for them. To be able to position the bezel I had to cut off a small piece of the larger snap-in tongue to gain some more horizontal adjustment space. I used hot-melt adhesive to fixate the bezel at the snap-in tongue and the other side - I recommend applying the glue and then putting the drive into the bay and bringing the bezel in the right position by moving the drive in and out while the glue is still flexible. It took me a few attempts to get this right, you should make a few tests before applying the glue. Examine the distances around the moving parts (drive tray versus drive case and drive tray versus drive bay) closely to avoid putting glue in the wrong place. Make sure the drive can eject on its own spring force and that the bezel does not stand out from the case.

Burned from experience

I successfully burned CDs at 24x, CD-RWs at 4x, UltraSpeed CD-RW at 10x, DVD-R at 4x and DVD +RW and -RW at 4x. The drives makes some confusing noises because (I think) the optical sled is moving after accesses when you don't expect it but I got accustomed to that in a day.

When trying to use Fuji 8x DVD-R media the burning stopped at 25% at the first and at 75% at the second attempt with "incompatible media" messages. The media was pretty warm when I removed it from the drive. It may be a cooling issue but I have to try other 8x media first. There is also a firmware upgrade from TU50 to TU51 at the Toshiba site citing "better media support". I will call Toshiba about it. I have not yet tried double layer burning, I will update the page with my further findings.

Text & images copyright © 2005 Björn Kriews, all rights reserved.

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