How To Get An External DVD Drive To Work With a Mac Laptop

How To Use A Superdrive on a Mac Laptop With An Internal DVD Drive

Apple Superdrive on Macbook Pro

If you’ve ever tried to plug in an Apple Superdrive (external DVD drive) into a Macbook Pro or other Mac laptop with an internal DVD drive, you may have struggled to get the laptop to recognise the external drive and therefore be able to use it at all.

This week I had to get around this exact scenario, as it appears the internal drive is failing on my 17″ Macbook Pro (sigh), but the solution is actually very simple. I’ve not tested this on OS X Yosemite, but I know it works on Mountain Lion and it should work on Mavericks and in most other OS X versions I believe. External DVD drive functional happiness is all thanks to this blog for the fix.

If you follow these steps you’re obviously doing this all at your own risk.

How To Make a Mac Laptop Recognise an External DVD Drive

How to make a superdrive work with macbook pro

Step 1. Navigate to this file (click image for larger view) and back it up by making a copy of it to your Desktop in case anything goes wrong. The file path is:

Mac HD/Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.Boot.plist

You can get to the hidden Library folder by holding down ALT when clicking on the ‘Go’ menu in a Finder window.

Step 2. Open the file with Text Edit or any other text editor. I use Text Wrangler which is both excellent and free. On line 8, or between the <string></string> type in ‘mbasd=1’ so it looks like this…

<string>mbasd=1</string>

Save the file.

Step 3. Restart and plug in your Superdrive and you should be good to go.

What is the file we just edited? Thanks to the Luz from the blog you can once again be illuminated…

Apparently, Apple engineers had the need to test the Superdrive with non-MacBook Air computers themselves, so the driver already has an option built-in to work on officially unsupported machines! All you need to do is enable that option, as follows:

The driver recognizes a boot parameter named “mbasd” (Mac Book Air Super Drive), which sets a flag in the driver which both overrides the check for the MBA and also tweaks something related to USB power management (the Superdrive probably needs more power than regular USB allows).

UPDATE 2017

If you’re running Mac OS X El Capitan (10.11) or later you’ll need to check out this updated post from Luz, on how to successfully tackle the same issue.

It’s a little more complicated than the steps outlined above, so if you’ve only got one internet enabled device you might want to print out/copy down the instructions before you get started!

In fact Luz provides two options, one it seems is more reliable than the other. Jump through to the post to read the full answer, but here is the ‘quick fix’ that might work for you.

There is also a simpler method which consists of just typing in a terminal:

sudo nvram boot-args=”mbasd=1?

While it seems to work fine in many cases, some users ended up with their Mac not booting any more afterwards.

Maybe it was due to other important settings already present in boot-args, so if you want to give it a try, it might be a good idea to do a check first, see last post on this page

14 Comments

  • I want to use an external DVD drive set to region 2 DVD’s and keep the internal (functioning)
    DVD drive set to region 1 on my older Yosemite MacBook Pro. Is that possible?
    Should I purchase a Superdrive or buy something non-Mac such as LG Electronics 8X USB 2.0 Super Multi Ultra Slim Portable DVD+/-RW External Drive with M-DISC Support. Local Apple Store
    told me the Superdrive would not function in setting of functioning Internal DVD drive.
    I do not want to disable my internal DVD drive. Just want to watch my British comedy DVD’s
    on my lap top and iMac. Thank you.

    • Hi Isabeau

      The region encoding is set at a firmware level on the physical dvd device. But I’m not sure if there is also an Operating System level check within Mac OSX.

      This link seems to suggest is should work, and even a way to work around it with VLC before you buy a second DVD drive.

      https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2311565

      • I will try VLC, thanks so much.
        If I used an adapter to connect a USB2 DVD driver to my firewire port, might that provide
        a work around? The link suggests using a “Firewire Enclosure” with “any optical drive.”
        Would it have to be a firewire enclosure, could I simply buy an adapter?

        • The point of using the FireWire enclosure is to connect it to a FireWire port for a faster connection. But USB 2 is slower than FireWire so doing what you suggest wouldn’t help. USB 2 will be fine for watching DVDs though

    • Maybe try copying the file to your desktop, editing that version and copying it back into the correct folder.
      It might be that your permission settings won’t allow you to edit the file in it’s native folder?

  • I have an external Superdrive (DVD/CD combo) but after making the coding change suggested above, the thing still won’t mount. It’s USB powered only. (I also had to copy the com.apple.Boot.plist file to the desktop in order to alter, then added it back, overwriting the former file.)

    Any other thoughts or suggestions?

  • I’m running a MacBook Pro mid 2012 with OS X El Capitan – my internal disk drive has failed for the 3rd time so I purchased a Apple Superdrive. When I go into Preferences I can’r see SystemConfiguration. Help appreciated.

  • I can confirm that it works with the nvram command.
    However, some Macs have have other boot-args set already, which would get overwritten this way. So, it’s better to first check if there are other args set, using “nvram boot-args” – if that shows an error, then there are no args set, and one can simply proceed. Otherwise, one should append the shown args to the “sudo nvram boot-args=”=mbasd=1;theOtherArgsGoHere”, I think.

    Also, the last char for that “sudo …” command should be a double quote char, not a “?”.

    And in my case, this also led to the Mac losing its boot disk setting, so it would boot into the Recovery system. From there, I could eject the DVD from the external drive (which was my problem, it being stuck in there), and then reboot the Mac after setting it “Startup Disk” back to the internal disk.

  • Uh, correction on my last comment: If there are already boot-args fixed, append the old ones with a space, not with a “;”. And the last comment pointed out in the article above explains that as well, as I realize now.

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