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MacBook Air SuperDrive for all

So like me, you have a MacBook Air SuperDrive… It’s affordable, it’s functional, it’s sexy. If only it was usable with other Macs and PCs!

Well rejoice :) I have successfully hacked my MBA SuperDrive to work with other Macs and PCs. All you need is a $9 part (shipping extra) and a bit of soldering and you too can do this mod.

First, take a look at pictures of this mod and a video where I connect my hacked SuperDrive to my Mac mini and my HP Mini-Note running Windows XP.

Now here’s a bit of background. The MBA SuperDrive is designed to work only with the Apple MacBook Air. How is that possible?

Some people have speculated that perhaps the MBA SuperDrive draws more than 500 mA and that the MacBook Air provides more than 500 mA via its USB port. This is not the problem. My attempt at connecting the SuperDrive to several PCs and Macs while injecting additional current using a special cable was unsuccessful…

What about drivers? I (and others) have scoured the MacBook Air system folder for additional and modified .kext files (kernel extensions) by comparing them with the ones available on other Macs – nothing.

Other people have suggested that perhaps the optical drive within the MBA SuperDrive uses special firmware. This is not the problem either. After taking apart the SuperDrive and mounting the optical drive directly into a PCs removable bay, it was recognized just fine.

This leaves the IDE to USB bridge. It’s a small circuit board that allows an IDE device like the optical drive within the MBA SuperDrive to work as a USB device. It uses firmware too – and Apple appears to have designed custom firmware for it!

There appears to be some sort of handshake happening between the MacBook Air and the IDE to USB bridge within the MBA SuperDrive. I looked into re-flashing the controller (which is a standard part) with generic firmware, but after several hours I was getting nowhere.

The alternative was of course to replace the IDE to USB bridge with another one, which is exactly what I ended up doing. The trick was to find a small enough circuit board. I was about to give up on this mod when I stumbled upon the aforementioned $9 part on a series of tubes.

The part is small enough to fit within the MBA SuperDrive, but requires removal of the daughter-board (containing a power connector, a USB connector, and several capacitors), as well as the non-ideal relocation of the 12 MHz crystal.

And the rest is history – you can figure it out from the pictures :)

295 thoughts on “MacBook Air SuperDrive for all Leave a comment

  1. Has any functionality been lost?

    Is there something special about the IDE/USB bridge that comes with the drive?

    I find the fact that they would purposely cripple a device like this a little… “offensive” I think is the word I’m looking for…

  2. I have always been told that I am to keep the crystal as close as possible to the IC so that the wires don’t start acting like an antenna. Have you noticed any problems with moving it? Would it be possible to replace the crystal with a different smaller one instead so that it does fit?

  3. I’ve read that the MBA Superdrive only works when connected directly to the MBA (i.e. it won’t work with a USB hub). Does your mod solve this problem too? Can you use your modded MBA Superdrive on a USB Hub connected to your MBA?

  4. Nice Work tnkgrl!

    I was thinking around a hack for the MBA SD myself, as I wanted to attempt to hook it up to an ATV to play DVDs (weird project, but it was a random thought of “what if?”)

    I guess now I have to go out a buy an ATV, MBA SD, and the $9 part and take a crack at it.

  5. It had already been reported that the MBA superdrive did a custom handshake with the parent device to see if the parent device was a MBA, i.e. that it would supply sufficient current. Just running it off a 2-usb-port cable would not reliably supply sufficient current, because a to-spec USB host will not supply full current to a device unless it negotiates it first, and I don’t believe it would be possible for a device to do this over a 2 -> 1 cable, as I presume such cables merely leave one pair of signal connectors NC. It would probably have been possible if the device had two USB B connectors and you used two cables (or one custom cable that was the equivalent), but connecting two USB connectors to the host is ugly, and not something I think Apple would ever have gone for.

    To be honest, I’m surprised they didn’t go for firewire for this, but I guess the size restrictions of the MBA made that a no-go.

  6. You could forgo the use of the “can” SMD crystal for a rectangle ceramic that would fit in the allotted space on that pc board. If you wanted to. Of course that adds $0.75 + shipping from Mouser. If my estimation from seeing the pictures is correct. The upside being no wires, or finding a place to stick it.

    As for making the device proprietary. They probably don’t want to get into the business of making a peripheral drive. And are probably only making so many. So by doing this they limit the likelihood of everybody buying one. Because it supposed to be an accessory for the MBA. Not for every Harry Hardluck, and Sally Sobstory who wants an external drive.

  7. @Andy, no, it’s not a current issue… I though so too at first, and perhaps the MBA SuperDrive draws more than 500 mA, but ultimately, it’s an IDE to USB bridge issue as described in my post!

  8. Anyone doing this for a fee, yet? Has anyone hacked the Macbook Air so you can use any outside drive?

  9. @Bert JW Regeer, my EE background also tells me it’s not a good idea to move a crystal away from its board… But sometimes you have to bend the rules! It’s called hacking for a reason.:) What’s important is that it works and it’s a nice mod, right?

  10. @Timmy O, that’s the whole point of this mod… No loss of functionality! Of course you can still boot with the SuperDrive, and you can still burn media :)

  11. @Alex, great idea about using an SMD crystal! It crossed my mind, but I wanted this mod to get published without picking up additional parts… It’s something to look into for sure. Thanks for your feedback :)

  12. What just occured to me though is that it would be nice if one could stack that witht he AppleTV and play DVD’s thru that interface.

  13. Actually it does still take over 500mAh to function. the spec of the Optiarc drives are 800mAh for read up to 1A or greater for other activities. USB spec is 500mA however it can be stretched. This will not work on all USB ports as some are very strict to this standard.

  14. Can you confirm that this drive actually burns dvd’s or cd’s with the single USB connection? This pretty much leverages the whole hack if I can’t burn.

  15. @Ryan, I made this mod late (early?) into the night and I’m working today, so I have yet to try burning DVDs. I expect results to vary case-by-case since different USB ports provide different amounts of current… I expect the MacBook Air to continue to work fine – I plan to try different USB ports and let you know! Keep an eye on this post for updates.

  16. @Josh Schnell: I’d certainly raise my voice in that case, and point out just how horrible and misleading their advice was. I personally think it’s everyone’s duty to point out just how horrible GeekSquad is, at every possible opportunity.

    Back on subject: This would certainly be a “sexier” approach for an external SuperDrive, but does anyone know how the specs compare to other versions which are available? Are any other external DVD-R drives – hopefully bus-powered (e.g. Plextor) – compatible with the Mac?

  17. Awesome. As a old school mac-head (System 7 till 10.4.11… 15+ years) I am very disappointed in Apple for purposefully locking the drive like this. That being said, this is an incredible (And very damn logical) hack.

    Another thing you can do is, if you have the Dev Tools installed, use the USB Prober application to see what is actually going on (Compare it on the MBA and on another mac [Or a PC with a usb analyzer running]).

    Also, as a second hardware mod, it looks like there is just enough room above that one spot of the drive to fit a super slim usb hub.

  18. So wait, wait, -you have to solder the power wire AND the ground wire onto the same connection? (as apparently indicated by the Flickr album)
    I plan on doing this mod (I already have the replacement IDE USB board), and I just want to make sure about all of this before I start.

  19. @David, hmmm… There are a total of 5 wires and 4 solder points. Both black wires are ground (and are connected together), the red wire is +5V, the green and white wires are the USB data pair – pretty standard stuff! I used a multimeter to figure out which solder points on the replacement IDE to USB bridge match up with the MBA SuperDrive cable – if you can’t figure this out I suggest you don’t try it.

  20. @tnkgrl
    oh ok, thanks! i just wasn’t sure what that 5th cable was;(I havnt done a lot of modding) but now that i know what all the wires are, i think this will end up being pretty simple. :)

  21. What a fine hack. Thank you for sharing what you discovered.

    I wonder if iTunes can use this drive to rip lossless, error-corrected CDs? Only official Apple drives have supported that in the past as far as I’ve been able to determine…

  22. @royewest this is an Apple shipped/supported drive, so ripping lossless with error correction should work fine – just look at my screenshots on Flickr.

  23. Love the hack. And it seems to be working fine (so far, just tested it once).

    But wouldn’t it be easier to hack a driver to do the custom handshake ?

  24. Can you use it to write a disc? If I’m correct, your clip just proves that it can mount a CD.
    As I see from many optical drives specs. They will use more current when writing.

  25. Apple is probably breaking even or taking a loss on the drives alone but that is offset by the margins of the MacBook Air which is why they don’t want to get into the business of selling the drive without the guarantee of somebody purchasing an Air.

  26. Sad that they don’t market this mainstream. I had a MacBook combo model and looked forward to buying this item until I found out it worked on Airs only. Another example of Apple’s short-sighted paranoia that keeps them from seeing a bigger picture. With Apple finally driving Safari and iTunes to Windows, you’d think they could see the potential in mass-marketing the Air Superdrive.

  27. @handsomesimtty why didn’t you just get a MacBook with the SuperDrive? you could just have it upgraded. Or upgrade it yourself.

    And perhaps it’s not short sighted, they probably do know the “potential” in “mass-marketing” the drive. Which is probably why they aren’t doing it. Not to mention what is the real plus to making heaps of junk hardware. They make their offering simple, and easy to choose from. Adding an external drive that can be used on anything would complicate their offerings. Not to mention the support you have to add, to manage end user problems with this new hardware. A new item is a huge investment, on their part as well. They probably would rather be helping people manage their computers, and phones, than an accessory. an be used on anything would complicate their offerings. Not to mention the support you have to add, to manage end user problems with this new hardware. A new item is a huge investment, on their part as well. They probably would rather be helping people manage and use their primary devices, than an accessory. This also removes the question from the consumers mind, as to weather they need one, because only one device can use it, which helps eliminate confusion (for those who read before they buy). Not to mention Apple really kind of got out of making accessories, and peripherals that they didn’t need to make back in the 90’s. Now they just make the parts that have to do with the computing it self, the display, keyboard, mouse, and computer. And now the iPhone and iPod, which really aren’t accessories to the computer, but primary devices, like the computer.

    Not to mention their aim here, for those who can see the real market trend here. Is there is no future in making a drive that uses yesterdays media, in a world that is increasingly moving away from the use of physical portable media to store things i.e. CDs and DVDs. The idea here, especially with the MBA is that we are moving away from physical media, and into an age where everything is available digital, over a network, and the need for a portable means of copying, or selling that information by physical media is over. By-by CDs by-by DVDs. So why invest so heavily in a secondary (accessory) device that has little to do with the direction the market is going?

    It’s just good business sense.

    Meanwhile they made it so that the few who want to try, can tinker with it, and not need to be a programmer. Which is fun for us.

    Sorry for the long post tnkgrl, but people keep saying the same thing about Apple not making it for all machines.

  28. @anti, the problem with hacking a custom driver is that you would have to do it for multiple OS’s… I wanted a solution that would just work, no matter the computer or the OS!

  29. tnkgrl… was mentioned by someone that a rectangular ceramic might fit to help out the rather inferior placement of the SMD crystal. Is it possible you could measure the slot for it and give us all a clue about which one to buy from Mouser? What’s the freq for those who haven’t ripped their drives apart yet? Is it stamped on top as it usually is?

    Way to go girl!

  30. I have tried DVD burning and can’t seem to get it to work through iDVD. I know the list of iDVD compatible 3rd party drives is pretty short.

    David M.

  31. Hi tnkgrl – great hack. I have a slightly unrelated question that you might be able to help with, since you’ve had the superdrive apart. Is the drive inside the kind that is usable as a replacement inside a macbook pro? I have a dying superdrive and need a new one, this would be a cheap way to go about it. The model number is UJ-857-C I believe? I’d be really grateful if you can figure this out!


  32. Hi tnkgrl, great mod (finally!), have you had a chance to confirm that you are able to burn DVD-Rs? I would also like to know if it will work with DVD-DL if anyone actually burns DVD-DL yet.

  33. I can confirm that this mod doesn’t work with DVD burning from iDVD or Toast, not movies or data. As soon as a fix is worked out I’ll be much more excited.

    David M.

  34. great hack! Do you think there is any reasonable chance that someone could write something to simplify this to a software mod by re-flashing the firmware as you mentioned, or even debugging the usb and creating a new driver for the device?

    I’d be willing to throw a few bucks toward whoever could do it.

  35. I have a question about the CY7C68016A you said that was on Apple’s original circuit board. From the datasheet it seems that it is only an USB controller for devices, there should be another chip that handles the ATAPI (interface for optical drives) to USB conversion.

    Can you provide clearer shots of the chips on the original circuit board? Are there any other chips from Cypress on the circuit board? According to some forums in China (I’m a Chinese), many users of external USB optical drives made with Cypress’ CY7C68300B controller is able to download an EEPROM programming tool from Cypress and update its EEPROM to boost performace from 7MB/s to 22MB/s. If Apple’s original circuit board uses the same CY7C68300B controller, maybe we can use the tool to replace the MacBookAir-only EEPROM with a free-for-all EEPROM.

    Forum thread from (in Simplified Chinese, from China)

    CY4615B Design Kit from Cypress (which includes an EEPROM programming tool)

  36. @Jason, the CY7C68016A is the only IC o the board, along with an 8-pin 4128BWP (I2C EEPROM). There’s also a 3.3V regulator, a solid-state switch, a 24 MHz crystal, and a whole bunch of passive components. That’s it :)

    If you look at the pictures on my Flickr account and click on “All Sizes” for each picture, you have access to the full 5 megapixel originals.

  37. @Craig, the optical drive inside the MBA SuperDrive is a 12.7 mm drive – it will work in the iBook G4, PowerBook G4, 17″ MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMac G5, Intel iMac.

    It will not work in the MacBook and 15″ MacBook Pro – both require 8.5 mm drives.

  38. @David Story, sorry I don’t really want to take apart my MBA SuperDrive right now… From what I remember, there’s definitely enough space for a standard (5x3x1 mm) SMD crystal!

  39. Hello all, and a big thank you to tnkgirl for finding this out. My ‘Slim Line CD to USB Adapter’ has arrived as well as my Superdrive today. Later this evening I will get everything working and report in on DVD burning, because I will want to test this out ASAP. Luckily, I don’t burn *too* many DVDs, I’m just hoping it will play/rip DVDs. Not to hijack the blog, but I’ll keep everyone posted later this evening.

  40. DVD playing/writting/ripping yet anyone. I couldn’t get my mod to even recognize a DVD movie or a blank DVD.


  41. @David RPM, I finally managed to do more testing… I can read/write CDs and reading DVDs works fine, but writing DVDs is hit and miss :/

    It’s not the because of lack of current or the hardware changes I made to the replacement IDE to USB bridge (another identical virgin bridge is behaving the same when powered from an external supply). It’s because of the crappy Genesys Logic GL811E controller used on this bridge.

    Bummer. I’m looking into another solution – expect an update as soon as I can find another bridge that’s small enough :)

  42. Why dont you make a video that shows how to do it and post it on youtube with the video that shows how it works?

  43. Two nights ago I finished this modification to the MBA Superdrive. Reading and burning both CDs and DVDs was a success. I burned both types of media in iTunes, and burned data onto the DVD using OSX 10.5.4 Leopard and lastly, burned a full-length feature film using VisualHub.

    All of the testing above was on my 2.0 Core Duo (black) Macbook with 2GB of RAM.

    My only complaint is that when I connected the drive to my girlfriend’s iBook G4, the unit would accept a CD or DVD, but seemingly didn’t have enough power to spin the media up in order to read it. Probably a lower power USB bus.

  44. Is it possible that OS 10.5 has some advantage over my 10.4 as far as DVD burning with the modded MBA drive?? I noticed that Chris X is using 10.5.

    David M.

  45. Just did it. Acutally, I listed it on ebay for 2. 100% tested, it will work on any type of PCs. check it out if you interesting

    Description (revised) Seller assumes all responsibility for listing this item.

    Apple MacBook Air SuperDrive Works on any PC/MAC

    The sleek, compact SuperDrive for Any Mac or PC.

    Now you can use USB Hub with this SuperDrive* on MacBook Air. It will work with a USB Hub,

    you can use other USB devices at the same time and have some spare USB ports.

    You will need a powered USB Hub to use it with any Mac other than MacBook Air.

    So far I have tested it with MacBook and Mac Mini, both needed a Powered USB Hub to work.

    You can connect it directly to PC, most likely it will work without connecting through a Powered

    USB Hub. Tested and worked(only needed 1 USB connection) on Thinkpad T42, Asus Eee PC,

    AMD and Intel Desktop PCs. If an external USB 2.5 inch HDD works on your PC, it should work.

  46. @ David RPM: Maybe you can upgrade to 10.5 also and test if dvd burning with idvd and toast then really works or not? You would help me alot because i would definitely buy a MBA-superdrive if so!!

  47. I do this mod. Drive read CD and some DVD, but not write any CD and DVD. I plane buy external USB hub with additional power supply.

    I’ve tested 2 USB A -> 1 USB A – is not work. I don’t now why? The drive simply don’t respond. Any ideas?

  48. Tnkgrl, is there any update on a possible replacement for the Genesys Logic GL811E controller used on the bridge that would eliminate some of the problems of not being able to burn DVD’s?

    and thanks for your awesome work!

  49. @deek, yes you can install the optical drive from the MBA SuperDrive in any iBook G4, PowerBook G4 aluminum, Mac mini, iMac G5/Intel, and 17″ MacBook Pro… It’s too thick fro the MacBook and the 15″ MacBook Pro!

  50. @Mco, no luck yet. You can’t just replace the controller chip, you have to replace the entire bridge. So far I’ve been unable to find a bridge that uses another controller chip and that fits in the small MBA SuperDrive enclisure:/

  51. I made this mod today. Read CD/DVD works fine but the drive won’t recognize a blank DVD or DVD-DL (both I tried are +R). The drive shows up as a OPTIARC DVD RW AD-5630A and states it can write -R, +R and DL. When I put in a blank DVD or DVD-DL it starts spinning and then slows down before making a burp noise.

    Anyone else seeing this issue??? Totally pissed off because I need to burn some disks before I do a reformat and I can’t reformat without a DL burner!!

  52. Now I’m really pissed! The blank media that won’t work in OS X works fine in Windows. WTF Apple! I inserted a blank CD and get the same issue with blank DVDs.

  53. Any update on this guys??? Also, has anyone tried replacing the drive in a Macbook Pro with the drive inside the Macbook Air Superdrive enclosure? This sounds like an easy hack which leads me to believe it won’t fit/work correctly.

  54. Instead of moving the crystal, why not just move the location of the hole for the usb cable? I know it will leave a hole exposed, but wouldn’t that solve any problems in moving the crystal away from the board?

  55. Recently found your blog/videos/etc when I was looking up info about the Acer Aspire One. First off, great work with that netbook. I’ll be getting the XP version w/ 120gb and the bluetooth will work great for tethering.

    As for this mod and all the mods you do, where can someone get that tape you use? and the wire? I have purchased some wire from ratshack but its huge in comparison to your wire. I’m sure that stuff can be had, I just dont know the size of your stuff. Also, are there any other soldering tips you want to bestoy upon the less skilled? Like type of solder, etc. I was going to build a headphone amp at one point and it called for liquid flux, but again, ratshack didnt have it. I’ve not search online for it though.

  56. I am getting an error after the mod that says:
    “a USB device has malfunctioned or Exceeded the power limits of it’s hub port you should disconnect”

  57. I fixed it, My ground wiers wer’nt solderd good. Burns DvD’s, and CD’s. Thank you for the mod, youre the best.

  58. This is a great resource…. I took the mod a step further and have done it without the need to move the clock chip. You can see for yourself at

    I’ve also verified that there are some issues with the GL811 chipset just as tnkgrl has stated. So this is pretty much a mod for PC users. I still need to test it out on my mac running XP. I’m guessing it will work fine. I’ve tested it on a PC with the following systems… XP, Vista, Linux. Everything from burning to ripping to playing works great. On the mac side, mounting is 100%. Burning is hit and miss on both CD and DVD media. I can only get it to burn in Disk Utility. Dual Layer DVD burning as been a bust over the 20 tests I’ve tried. There is no functionality within the iLife apps such as iMovie and iDVD. Also, DVD Player does not recognize the drive as a valid DVD drive so no movie watching : (

    That said, it’s a great mod for PC users and as soon as there is a better chipset in the PWB form factor that is needed, I’ll be on it!!!

  59. Hey GREAT NEWS! I just finished the hack to the MacBook Air Superdrive about 14 minutes ago. It works perfectly, No loss of functionality, and its really easy to do. The pics that Tnkgrl provided is all that is needed. I bought a 5 dollar solder iron from Wal-Mart, and some rosin core solder, some cheap wire and electrical tape totaling about $15. It was my first time soldering, and I did it perfectly, and it works on Leopard, Vista, and Linux Ubuntu & Yellow Dog. Its really quiet and it works with Toast Titanium 9, and all my other burning and converting software.

    Thanks Tnkgrl for the hack… You’re the shit! lol

  60. Honestly bigbadmac… on my end, everything is working so far, even in DvdPlayer. I tested it on that program first. I need to burn a DL dvd soon, will do it in Toast, and will post results shortly after.

  61. I tried, but it can’t only burn CD and can not even read DVD. At first I was suspect the SuperDrive on MacBook Air is DVDRW Dual Layer like found on most today’s mac, but it turn out to be DVDRW only (made by Sony NEC Optiarc *new optical alliance?).

    What’s wrong? Not enough power to power up the drive? Or is it the converter? I found it on local shop and it should be no different between the CDROM converter or DVDROM converter rite?

    Any suggestions is highly appreciated.

    Adinoto at

  62. DrakeShin Says:
    September 22, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Honestly bigbadmac… on my end, everything is working so far, even in DvdPlayer. I tested it on that program first. I need to burn a DL dvd soon, will do it in Toast, and will post results shortly after.

    => DrakeShin, too bad the SuperDrive for MacBook Air is not a Dual Layer :( …

  63. Kudos to tnkgrl.

    Why are most Apple people so afraid of doing things like this? (I am an Apple user by the way…not an anti-Apple PC person) Apple’s “save the consumer from thyself” really gets ingrained in most of their customers minds.

  64. Thanks for your job !

    I have a question, can a software or firmware repair this problem without needing a special part ?

    It should be the case.. Please geeks try to sold it out !

  65. Hello can anybody pleasy tell me why after this mod xp doesnt “see” the device?
    Which driver i must use so win xp can regognise this drive?

  66. FYI for those attempting this mod and aren’t big modders (by the way thanks again tnkgrl esp for the high res pics, really helped when I was troubleshooting what turned out be a dodge USB cable (I bought a superdrive off ebay with damaged USB cable)).

    1. credit card bit – the drive I received was far too tight to wedge even a credit card in (even with it sanded down to get a good edge on it!). Try a swiss army knife blade and inserted at the relevant ‘latch points’ as depicted in the exposed drive pics by tnkgrl.

    2. Couldn’t find that PCB bridge in the UK anywhere, and shipping from the US site wasn’t cost effective. Alternative/work around is to order an external CD drive enclosure off ebay with the same bridge (£9.50 incl shipping!)

    Oh and gus, I hate to say this, but XP should just recognise it out of the box I think (I’ve tried it on XP SP3), and if it doesn’t I’d probably have said are you sure it mod’ed it correctly? It’s just that when I had my dodge USB cable and trying to troubleshoot it, I noticed XP would start the recognition process but not properly let it come up properly, which was due to dodge cabling.

    Thanks again tnkgrl!

  67. Hello, just one idia. Can’t order the parts in Russia. Posebly I can conect SuperDrive too IDE on my PC. How a can made this?

  68. Would anyone be willing to perform this mod for me? I’m happy to pay someone. I have the superdrive and the usb/ide bridge that tnkgrl recommended — i’m just too chicken to get into the soldering and all that. if anyone is willing to do it i will send the superdrive and usb/ide bridge and a prepaid return shpping label and whatever reasonable fee would make it worthwhile for someone to do it. you can contact me at chrisa5 at my address. thanks!!!!

  69. Pingback: whitehead's me2DAY
  70. Superb tnkgrl! Any luck with a new Adapter slim ide to usb yet?

    plz keep the threat updated, im really looking forward to solving that problem

  71. So I did this hack a while back and the drive would not recognize any recordable media, CD or DVD. I was playing around just now and decided to plug the drive into a USB hub to use in Parallels; I had previously only plugged the unit directly into my Macbook Pro. When I plugged the drive into the USB hub it worked! I’m burning a DL DVD right now to see if it works, appears to be. Disk has burned so far and the session is closing now. For those of you having problems it might be worth your time to try and drive with a USB hub.

  72. Such a nice piece of work. I looked at this drive when I had the opportunity to get one cheap and never figured out the issue. You are Uber-geek Certified TnkGrl. Very nice work indeed. 8-D

  73. I was using this with my eee 1000h, and burning DVDs would complete succesfully however when I verified the disc, I’d get all sorts of errors. I finally figured out the drive wasn’t getting enough power. I was already using that dual USB cable tnkgrl posted a link to, but even with that it wasn’t getting enough power. To get it to work I created one of those VGA to USB power cables that was posted on Engadget recently. Now it works great.

    • Hey
      Just wondering how you wired that adapter. Are you just adding in the black and red cables from the extra usb port (vga adapter thing) in parallel to the ports on the circuit board?

  74. Just did it and im so exciting! not just cuz it works but I didnt mess anything up. this was a great find Tnkgrl and dummy proof pictures. THANKS!!!!!

  75. Hello,
    thanks for this perfect help, it was verry easy to fix it. Your pictures helps more than many words.

  76. Hey, thanks for the post on this hack! I tried it and everything works just awesome. I even hacked my AppleTV with NitoTV and got it to play DVDs with the Air SuperDrive! Thanks so much!

  77. @Ma Bell
    Have you tested the code given in the wired article, or are you just saying that “Anonymous Hacker” has tested it and shown it working?

    If you personally got it working, do you have any tips to help an average person getting it to work? Some of the info was left out initially.

  78. Couple of points.
    The blog software has stripped all the includes – work out what you need.
    Also should make a small change which will speed the program up
    IO_hdr.dxfer_direction = SG_DXFER_TO_DEV;
    A. Random Hacker.

  79. Can this part be sourced from any other product? I live in New Zealand, and its going to be a bit of a challenge to try and find this part to do the switch over.

  80. “Can this part be sourced from any other product? I live in New Zealand, and its going to be a bit of a challenge to try and find this part to do the switch over.”

    Don’t why they wouldn’t ship to NZ

  81. Hi, thank you so much for the guides and flickr photos. I’m very new at modifying parts. How do you extend the 12mhz crystal part? What kind of wire do you use?

  82. I did the mod WITHOUT moving the crystal. Instead I removed the RIGHT HALF of the internal soft plastic which keeps the cable in.

    (The white plastic retainer has two “wings” that stick out right and left, and I removed the right “wing.” Keep in mind that it’s the right-hand-side when the BACK of the open upside-down unit is facing you, i.e., the cable exits the upside down unit in your direction.)

    Then I very carefully routed the cable wires around (actually above) the crystal. I used a piece of insulating plastic (duct-tape or electrical tape will work fine) to keep the cable from touching the crystal, but I’m just very careful.

    It reassembled just fine. The cable is unaffected otherwise (i.e., isn’t loose). Success!

  83. One more [tiny] tip… I used small fingernail scissors to gently cut away the soft internal plastic I mentioned.

  84. No need for hardware hacks like this any more – just use the latest Boot Camp drivers. The MBA superdrive works just fine on my Win XP PC using those drivers… Probably on any PC!?

  85. I used A Random Hacker’s code posted on and it WORKS! I figured out the missing includes and modified the code to take the device name as a command-line parameter. It couldn’t be simpler:

    – Copy the code below and paste it into a file “mba_powerup.c”. When I did this, the “s and x’s were pasted as funny web versions of those characters. You may need to convert them back to standard ascii character.
    – Build the code using the command line noted in the comments.
    – Run the code using the command line noted in the comments.
    – Copy mba_powerup to /usr/bin and/or add to your favorite startup script

    * A Random Hacker – MacBook Air SuperDrive enabler
    * No guarantee
    * The MBA SuperDrive needs 1100mA supply from the host USB Port
    * No promises if you ignore this.
    * This is a first attempt – I don’t think the enabler packet is optimal
    * It could probably be improved – but hey I just wanted to prove a point.
    * BTW – the firmware on the ATA->USB bridge board can be rewritten
    * You would then be able to have this fix applied permanently.
    * Hint – vend_ax , also Cy4611B is useful here ( processCBW )
    * This code is for Linux – I’m sure the same could be performed under windows
    * gcc -o mba_powerup mba_powerup.c
    void mba_powerup (const char *device)
    int fd;
    sg_io_hdr_t IO_hdr;
    // The magic incantation
    unsigned char magic[] = {0xea,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x01};
    unsigned char sbuf[32];
    unsigned char dxfp[32];

    fd = open(device, O_RDWR|O_NONBLOCK);
    if (fd < 0) {
    fprintf(stderr, “Error opening device \”%s\”.\n”, device);
    else {
    memset(&IO_hdr, 0, sizeof(sg_io_hdr_t));
    IO_hdr.interface_id = ‘S’;
    IO_hdr.cmd_len = sizeof(magic);
    IO_hdr.mx_sb_len = sizeof(sbuf);
    IO_hdr.dxfer_direction = SG_DXFER_TO_DEV;
    IO_hdr.dxfer_len = sizeof(dxfp);
    IO_hdr.dxferp = dxfp;
    IO_hdr.cmdp = magic;
    IO_hdr.sbp = sbuf;
    IO_hdr.timeout = 1000;
    if ( ioctl(fd, SG_IO, &IO_hdr)< 0) {
    fprintf(stderr, “Error powering MBA SuperDrive.\n”);

    // Usage: “mba_powerup /dev/dvd” (obviously change this to the appropriate device for your system)
    int main(int argc,char **argv)
    return 0;

  86. Well, the includes were munged by the blog software. Here’s another attempt using a different syntax.

    #include “fcntl.h”
    #include “sys/ioctl.h”
    #include “scsi/sg.h”
    #include “stdio.h”
    #include “string.h”

  87. One last comment. You will need to plug the drive directly into a USB port or powered hub so it has enough current to power-up. On my first attempt the drive was plugged into an unpowered USB hub and it ignored the power-up command.

    • @will not sure if you’re watching follow ups, but in case you are, you wouldn’t know how far device level programming differs from linux to os x? This would be to make the drive work on a (powered) usb hub, while on os x. I feel fairly confident attempting this, I have compiled lots of linux software on os x before, but apart form grub2 nothing so low to the metal. so if you know anything plz reply.

      • @flo I just copied the code from “A Random Hacker” and made a few mods. I don’t know the differences between OS X and linux device level stuff. I did try building the code in OS X recently. There is no sg.h file in the OS X headers, so I copied the file from my linux box. After that I was able to build the code and run it. But I couldn’t find the device file for the superdrive in the /dev directory. In linux, it shows up as /dev/dvd. But in OS X no device shows up in the /dev directory when I plug in the superdrive. Any thoughts?

    • hey, replying to this comment because it seems to the latest I can’t reply.
      About the osx/linux device level stuff:
      Yes, I know there is no scsi/sg.h in os x, but I kind of thought that just copying sg.h won’t work. I found an article about writing a scsi-passthrough usb driver for osx, which might give some valuable information, I looked at it, but think I’m not qualified enough port the code.
      I would like the drive to run on a (powered) hub and in System Profiler when I attach the drive, it even shows up among the USB device and lists that enough power is available. (500 mA) However it doesn’t spin up or respond to eject request, so I’m confident the power up command is exactly what it wants.
      It doesn’t show up in /dev when on the hub, but when connected directly it shows up as /dev/disk1 and /dev/rdisk1 (every disk has an r* version, maybe it’s for raw access or something, I’m not sure)
      As I understand it no full driver would be necessary obviously, but one just has to extract the right commands to send the “magic” bits. However, so far I wasn’t successful matching up os x docs with linux code. Let me know if this helps or if you made any progress … cheers.

  88. I followed the guides…the mod went well and when i inserted a dvd, it sucked in and make spinning sound! But…my laptop (mbP)doesnt respond to it. Now i cant get the dvd out, nor read the dvd :( Anyone had this problem b4? Thanks guys.

  89. Thanks for the info and pics!!

    i have just hacked myself up a drive and it works very well!!

    I managed to find some of the same adaptor boards on ebay here in the uk!

    many thanks, looks very nice attached to my MBP, altho caused come confusion in the glasgow apple store!!!

  90. so…is there somthing new i have the macbook air superdrive and i don’t know what to do if to buy the 9$ part or to wait for somthing better but i have now not working superdrive that i can only look at
    i am from israel and i will have to pay for this part 39$ i don’t care i got my superdrive for free
    buy i don’t realy understand how to do it…i see the photos but i realy hope someone can upload something to youtube

  91. This hack works fine on a dell mini 9, I was able to install 10.5.6 on it a couple of weeks ago. It reads DVDs just fine, but I have not been able to get it to burn a dual layer DVD after 5 tries. I might try re-soldering, but I’m not optimistic. I get the dreaded 0×80020022 error :( Apparently very hit or miss. Maybe I will also try putting the crystal back on the board. Will post with results- halfway there!

  92. Hey, great post. I got one going using this. It’s nice ripping CDs to iTunes at 20x speed! Can’t get DVDs to play though, I get the “A valid DVD drive could not be found [-70012]” error, but I think it’s a Snow Leopard issue with external DVD drives.

    To those having problems getting disks stuck in it–I’m using this with a Fall 2007 Santa Rosa Macbook, I find that it can’t quite spin up a disk if another device is plugged into the second USB port. It makes noise, but the disk doesn’t mount. It works fine though, if it is the only thing plugged in.

  93. Hi,

    just FYI, the new Mac Mini Server is compatible with the MBA’s external superdrive. Wondering what they changed, just added compatibility in the SW of the bridge, or a brand new SW (maybe HW also) which is not tied to MBA nor Mini?

    • Indeed, bought the Mini Server and the Superdrive and it works perfectly using Snow Leopard Server 10.6.2. But, after compiling mba_powerup on my old MacBookPro (also with 10.6.2), I cannot get the Superdrive to work: the drive doesn’t show up in the /dev/ folder and in the console there only appears the nice “The Macbook air superdrive is not supported on this mac” message.

      So indeed, OR there’s a new .kext that allows the Mac Mini Server to use the MBA SuperDrive and it would be fun to know how to go pass that.

      • Update: in fact, it seems that the com_apple_driver_AppleUSBODD is responsible for allowing the MBA Superdrive to work or not. I did a ioreg before and after connecting the Superdrive on my Mac Mini Server as well as on my MBP.

        See the differences for yourselves on my site (

        I’m not a programmer so I would’t know what to do next…

      • i finally recieved the part Hong Kong post yesterday. i looks to be the exact same as the part you have shown above.

        i will have to purchase the macbook airdrive again, but am leaving to go on a vacation for a couple of weeks, so it may be a while.

        i would suggest spending the $4 for the part. it is only $4! lol

        and it took 3 weeks to get it, so be patient. :/

    • @roberts,

      I recently bought a macbook air superdrive from ebay.
      But the $9 part is no longer available on the website.
      can you please confirm that part you are referring works as well?


  94. @ tnkgrl

    I placed an order for the SMD Crystal from The Estimated ship date is 04/05/2010.

    Can you recommend any other place from where I can get it sooner?


      • I am a bit confused where someone asked in the comments about which crystal to use….

        Looking by the pictures, it seems all you need to buy is the new board. it already has the crystal soldered onto it. tnkgrl has removed the crystal from the new board (i am guessing because the new board doesn’t fit in the case with the crystal attached) and re-attached it to the new board with some solder leads. Wrap it all up in kapton tape and you are done.

        I am not sure why someone asked for an SMC crystal …

  95. Hey
    So, I ordered a drive real cheap, and put in the same chipset that tnkgrl did. I also followed one of the guys instructions that allows you to avoid moving the crystal. You just have to cut away at the rubber plug on cord on the inside of the drive, as long as you don’t swing the drive by the cord like a lasso, it should be fine.
    So, OSX recognizes the drive and read perfectly. I ran into issues when trying to burn. Tried it on friends computer etc, nothing worked. Then, when booted up in windows on my same old macbook, it burnt perfectly. We’re talking burning dual layer OSX discs perfectly. Even toast in osx would not burn…
    So then, I followed some instructions on how to burn in osx with an unsupported drive, all within terminal. Here’s the link:
    One note, he says to install growisofs, which is wrong, you need dvdrw-tools… so when he says to type growisofs, just type dvdrw-tools, and it should work. Note that you need XCode from the snow leopard or leopard dvd for macports to run…
    after following that, voila, the superdrive would burn in osx in terminal. So then I re-installed toast, and it works great! Fully supported in toast, it’s awesome.
    Let me know if you need any advice, I’d be glad to help. This took a bit to figure out, and I had a bunch of help from a friend, so hopefully it’s useful info! Also, it might just have been a very simple issue of setting osx to ignore any new discs being inserted… that might have caused the problem with toast, so there is a small chance that all the terminal action wasn’t needed :)
    Let me know if you have any luck with this!

  96. Hi, thanks for posting this, I think this will solve part of my problem which is using the MacBook Air SuperDrive on my MacBook Pro. The next question I have is related to viewing Dvd movies from different regions. My Mac is a US mac and I can view DVDs from the us. If I purchase the MacBook Air SuperDrive in Europe will I be able to view DVDs from european countries or does the mac detect the different region anyway?
    Thank you for any help you may provide and Merry Christmas! – Marco

  97. Hello all, I’ve implemented A Random Hacker’s basic idea on Windows, using a modified version of sdparm. Hope you guys find this useful, download it here: Comments, criticism welcome. There is a bug or two (including one bad one) so keep an eye out for version 0.2 when I get a chance.

  98. I realized after reading that, that it sounds worse than it is: the bug is that if you unplug the drive 9 times without rebooting it vanishes until you reboot. It doesn’t blow up your drive or murder kittens or anything. Still a nasty bug though.

  99. interesting enough i just hooked a MBA superdrive fresh new out of box to my fresh new out of box mac mini inserted a blank dvd and works fine
    wonder if that info helps

  100. i havent read all the priors, but i wonder if you realize with a little squeezing (nothing major, i promise) you can fit the ide-usb bridge in without removing the crystal at all.. cut away the plastic padding around the sides of the cable inlet and you can get everything situated without putting too much stress on anything delicate. ive used your guide a few times now, i appreciate your writing it.

  101. tnkgrl, thank you very very much for the hard hack.
    Adam, thank you very very much for the soft hack.

    As soon as I get a MacBook Air SuperDrive I will first try the soft hack and posibly later the hard.

    I will tell.

  102. Adam, great job, your soft hack works great.

    I can use de SuperDrive, I can read and write CDs and DVDs without problems. All is OK.

    Now I must wait till the parts arrive to my home to start the hard hack so I could use the drive without mounting it with your soft.

    Thats all, thanks again for your little (but usefull) program.

    Best regards.

  103. Hi all just thought i’d enlighten you all that i’ve got it running without the hardware modification. I have made a modded driver using the bootcamp software. runs perfect and burns like a dream. If i can find somewhere to upload it or anyone would like it message me at nathancalow @ live . co . uk. Hope this helps you guys. P.S. love the tutorial but i just can’t be bothered to get the soldering iron out again.

  104. Hello. Is there a soft hack to make the superdrive work on mac with snow leopard? let me know!!thank you..

  105. Well, used the soft hack,works ok with xp+sp3,installed in paralles desktop… burned a cd with max 24x, cd not readable, did burn the same stuff again, this time with 16x, works fine..

    also installed windows 7 ultimate, does not recognize the drive,so the soft hack working for xp is not working for windows 7.

    anyone knows a hack for windows 7, so the superdrive would be detected?

    thank you…

  106. Thanks tnkgrl,

    Great flickr photos, did the mod moved the power cable a bit instead of the crystal. So far is recognised and plays DVD’s on my Asus eeepc 900 XP.32GB 2GB ram.
    Brilliant work, thanks again.

  107. i was trying to make macbook air superdrive on my macbook pro on mac os but it didn’t work

    and by luck when i switch to my bootcamp windows xp
    i found that macbook-air-superdrive working normal

    i think guys this mean that the problem not hardware

    you can try it your self
    i hope that was helpful for anyone

    have a good day

  108. Damn. I just bought the part before I read that people are having trouble with making it work with a MacBook. They already shipped it too :\

  109. I bought the new USB bridge and I’m ready to perform the hack…However.

    My reason for doing this is so I can attach the superdrive and an external harddisk together through a hub.

    Does anyone know if the drive works just as before on a MacBook Air on a hub after the mod? i.e. all cd/dvd reads and DVD writables are the same.

  110. Hello..

    for all those who are using Windows Os..there is another way to make your airbook superdrive working without the hardware hack. There is a software hack that makes the drive working on windows. I am using it on my macbook and it works fine in both windows xp and windows 7.

    But i am asking if there is a software hack to make the drive work on mac Osx.

    Thank you…

    • Yes, we know. This has been discussed at length here before. The idea of my mod is that it’s plug-and-play and that there’s no need to install any software for the SuperDrive to work on any platform that supports USB mass storage.

  111. I install Vista on MacBook AIR using SuperDrive after instalation was completed CD icon was missing from MyComputer . I think that problem is in Plug And Play functions in Leopard and Vista . SuperDrive has same behaivor in Vista on both MacBook Air and brand name PC. What is the solution for it ?

  112. hey, just after a little bit more help, ive done the hack and put it all together, my imac can see the drive. But ive been putting blank dvds and dvds with movies on and it just seems to spit them back out, what do you need to do next?

    • scratch that, playing dvds its ok with, but i seem to get issues with trying to burn a dvd (error code 0x80020022), i tried using disco to burn as well but that didnt seem to work.

  113. Be sure to use the 2009 version of this drive. The 2010 version (new version) now has an integrated controller that can’t be removed as shown above. The newer drive packing box is larger and is now labeled with the 2010 date. Good luck. Rich

  114. Hello, I am ordering the part for your mod, but I was wondering if this mod would work for the belkin mac mini hub as well. I bought it not knowing that it wouldn’t work for my imac. Thanks, John

  115. Has anyone yet tried to hard-hack the 2010-model?

    I got a 2010’MacBookAir-SuperDrive, opened it and cannot give it back (little scratch at the case. :-/)

    I now ordered a slimline-drive (LG GSA for MBP A1226) and I’m going to put the adapter+LG GSA into the MBA-SD-case.. I hope, there’ll soon be a firmware-hack for cracking the damn limitation. Why do I all the time think, that i theft the drive, even if paying for it?!

    Have you thought about another drive: Sony Optiarc BC-5640H (Blu-Ray combo, slot-in, SATA150) with external slimline-USB-to-SATA-adapter?

    • Sebastian, have you had any success with converting your MBA USB drive into a blu-ray drive? I have an Asus USB Blu-ray drive that requires two USB connections to power it and would like to be able to merge both types of drives together to use the blu-ray functionality plus the single-cable MBA drive… Any suggestions?

  116. I am new at this so maybe this is a pointless question. Since a firewire port can supply so much more power than a USB 2.0 why not use an ATAPI to Firewire 800 bridge board?

      • I understand that the MBA doesn’t have a Firewire port but many of the people interested in this mod, including me, don’t own or plan to own a MBA. I guess my question should have been that is it possible to solve the power issue when burning by using a firewire bridge board when running on a standard MBP? Thanks in advance.

    • For other Macs, that’s a good point! The trick is to find a FW to ATAPI board small enough to fit inside the SuperDrive enclosure – it’s tight in there…

      • Definitely an issue. I am so far having no luck find such a board. I would love to get ahold of one though. I hate having additional power cords for my peripherals when I have two perfectly good FW ports not being used.

  117. I was going to do this mod, but i had the hardest time trying to open the drive. I booted into Windows 7 (with not hard mods, no soft mods) the drive was recognized and it even reads discs perfectly. I haven’t tried burning yet. Seems like it works on Windows 7 but not on OSX. Also, right when i plugged it into my bootcamp side it started downloading drivers for it.

  118. Hi just stumbled across this after a lil google search.

    Is this part available in the UK anywhere? Can’t find anything on the bay, or google shopping. What should I be searching for? USB-PCB-E1 seems specific to web store centrix.

    By the way this drive works flawlessly in Win 7 using the newest boot camp drivers. I need it to work in OS X 10.6.7 Snow Leopard, which is what I have.


  119. I think it would be best to update the hack, newer drives have a new design and this hack will no longer work :( I wasn’t aware until i dissasembled, I had the replacement all soldered and ready too…

  120. The latest Air SuperDrive model is different, no PCB adapter inside. The cable is soldered directly to the drive model GX30N, a custom model made by HL for Apple with integrated controller.

  121. Hello Tankgirl: Got a problem: I just bought one of these superdrives, and mine must be a newer model or something, but after opening it, there’s no circuit board internally at the rear of the drive – the USB cable goes straight into the back of the drive itself. I can send you a photo if you give me an email address to send it to. Drive is also not an Optarc – it is an HL Data Storage GX40N.

    Also, for those looking at the software patching – they only work on Macs which support UHCI (and obviously not on Windows) – mine doesn’t, so those don’t work either.

  122. I’m glad that most companies keep their optical drives open to most ecosystems and operating systems. I’m thinking about getting an external bluray drive for my macbook air.

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