MacBook DVD drive fix guide

Macbook DVD drive fix

The optical drive in my MacBook Pro has been malfunctioning for a very long time. Starting with errors when burning dvd’s, then failing to burn cd’s and eventually failing to do quite anything but spit out discs after I insert them. When I wanted to install Windows 7 as dual-boot option, I found that it was highly inconvenient to lack a working optical drive. I’d have to get a disk image from the dvd, restore it to a partition on my mac, try to boot from there, only to find out that that won’t work for reasons with bootsectors and other stuff.

No, I just needed a working optical drive. My first attempt was to place a regular dvd drive in my macbook, with the keyboard open as long as I needed the drive. Far from ideal, and wouldn’t work because of a driver issue later in the installation. Quite a funny sight though.Macbook optical drive fix - normal drive in macbook

 

As a last resort, I decided to open up my original optical drive, to see if I could fix it. To get the drive out is already excellently documented at iFixit.com, so I’m not gonna re-do that work. I’ll show you how to open up your optical drive, and fix it.

Step one: Brackets

First, check my disclaimer. Then, continue. :-) There are several brackets attached to the drive, and they are in the way. There are three of them. Basically just unscrew them and put them aside. Keep the screws somewhere safe, they’re very easy to loose. Here is a picture of two brackets. I failed to picture the third, but it’s located on the right side, under the “overhang”.Macbook optical drive brackets

 

Step two: The screws

Unscrew the four screws on the top of the drive. Note that you can see three, and the fourth is hidden under a sticker.Macbook Optical drive top view

Step three: The lid

To open it up, slide it backwards, then lift the lid off.Optical drive slide open lid

Step four: The lens

When open, look for the lens.Dust on the lens

Click the image to enlarge… The lens is covered in dust. At least, my lens was covered in dust, and that can’t be good for reading or writing performance. So, take a Q-tip, or even better, a cloth-free cloth, and carefully wipe it clean. Is say carefully because the lens is suspended in very fragile, thin wires of springsteel. You don’t want to bend or break those. Here’s a pic of my lens before, and after cleaning.Cleaned the dust off the lens

That was it! Close it, put it back in your macbook, and test it! For me the test was quite simple. If it was able to read the Windows DVD, fine with me. I didn’t test it’s burning capacities.

If it works, re-screw the brackets and close your macbook using the iFixit guide, and enjoy your working drive! If it doesn’t work, maybe it wasn’t the dust, or maybe there’s still some on the lens.

The reason there’s dust on the lens, is because compared to regular drives, a slot-loading optical drive is relatively “open”. So it is very vulnerable to flying particles. As soon as there is any airflow in the drive(by using it, or by the fans in your laptop, whatsoever) there’ll be dust landing in the drive and on the lens. After a while this becomes to much for the laser to see through, and it starts malfunctioning, the most precise operations first.

Hope this works for you!

Happy hacking!

Jurriaan de Vos

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