A few days ago my wife’s MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2010) suddenly couldn’t read CDs or DVDs. Inserting a disc results in the drive spinning up and down a few times and then ejecting the disc after a moment. We quickly realized this was the first time she had tried to use a disc since I upgraded her computer to Lion.

So far, I haven’t been able to fix the problem. I’ve tried several different suggestions, but I haven’t hit on the correct one. My assumption is that one of two problems have occurred: (1) The Snow Leopard to Lion upgrade resulted in a software problem that affects the Superdrive or (2) it’s purely a coincidence and the Superdrive has simply suffered from a hardware failure.

In the worst case, the MacBook Pro is still well within the AppleCare warranty period so we can have it repaired, if necessary. I’ll try some additional tips as I come across them before we resort to sending it off or visiting an Apple Store.

This doesn’t seem to be an uncommon problem. Quick searches turn up numerous complains from individuals using different configurations who upgraded from Snow Leopard to Lion and ran into the same problem. I’m including a few related links. If I find a solution that fixes our problem I’ll add an update to this post.

Updated 11/11/2011: The fact that this problem just started after upgrading to Lion may be a coincidence. I went through some additional diagnostics this evening. The one step I did that has convinced me that this probably is a hardware failure was an attempt to boot from a CD. My assumption is that if the drive issues were caused by a software problem then it wouldn’t appear before booting into Lion.

While it’s true that my wife hadn’t tried to use the drive since we upgraded to Lion, that doesn’t exclude the possibility that the hardware failed sometime before or after the upgrade. In addition, I have noticed signs indicating that the body area where the drive is located isn’t well reinforced. On more than one occasion, and with other models with similar body designs, that when one holds the laptop in a way that puts pressure in that area that it seems to transfer into the drive itself. In my opinion it’s very possible that the drive can be damaged if one has a disc in the drive while putting any kind of pressure on that area of the frame.

It looks like we’ll need to take the MacBook Pro to an Apple Store for repair.

Updated 11/12/2011: The nearest Apple Store is a long drive from our house so we opted to call Apple support and mail the system back for repair. The initial call was painless. It didn’t take much to convince the Apple tech to enter a ticket to have the drive fixed. I updated him on what I’ve done and when I mentioned it wouldn’t boot from a CD he agreed that the drive was most likely bad. It was a good experience overall. I didn’t have to go through the troubleshooting steps again – the tech accepted my conclusions without forcing me to follow a script.

Updated 12/12/2011: The weekend after my wife submitted the support ticket she received the box to ship the laptop on Tuesday. Her laptop was repaired and back in her hands by the Thursday of the same week.

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Apple, OS X
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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Not sure this is a hardware related issue – my external superdrive on Mac Mini 2011 did the same thing: it just did so during a CD rip session from one CD to the other. I replaced it with a Samsung external drive – that brand new device copied about 5 CD’s and showed the same behaviour as my (presumably broken) superdrive. Now that is smelly, Apple.

    Reply
    • In our case I think it was a hardware problem, though I can’t rule out a bad firmware update or perhaps a compatibility problem with the software in the recovery partition. After doing a lot of research while troubleshooting the problem it is apparent that for many it is indeed a software problem. Some of the tips that I tried, though they didn’t work for us, did work for many others.

      Personally, I suspect it’s a design flaw caused by the lack of proper structural support in the casing around the Superdrive. It was obvious that holding the laptop on that side can result in squeezing the drive, which can be very noticeable when there’s a disc spinning. This occurred just when holding the laptop naturally – it wasn’t a deliberate attempt to cause the problem. I’ve noticed the same problem with my newer 2011 MacBook Pro.

      Reply

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