How to fix common CD/DVD drive issues on a MacBook

September 22, 2008

Have you ever gotten your favorite CD or DVD stuck in the disk drive in your Mac? Had a CD or DVD inserted improperly, only to make the sounds of a dying yak and get jammed up? Had difficulty having iTunes read your disc? Chances are the answer to these and many other common questions is a resounding yes.

There are several quick fixes you can do to try and get yourself out of your own mess without having to drag your Mac to the nearest Genius Bar or, worse, send it in for help. The most well known and most common of these is the “paper clip trick”. This is exactly what it sounds like.

You take a common large paper clip and unbend it. Keep it as straight as you can by straightening as many of the bends in it as possible. Leave yourself a little bit of bend in the back to grip. Stick the business end of the paper clip into the side of the CD tray and try to trigger the mechanism that ejects the disk. DO NOT wiggle the paper clip around! Keep it straight! Otherwise you may damage the drive or the disk and still end up at the Genius Bar.

The credit card trick work a bit better with the optical drives on the MacBooks. This requires sliding a credit card under the CD and giving it a push up to make it pop off the spindle. This could also damage the disk (or the drive) if you aren’t careful. It works similar to jimmying a door open with a credit card when you leave your keys behind and have to get back in your house.

You can also try to reboot the laptop and send a hard eject to the drive. You do this by holding down the trackpad while you hold down the power button. The track pad causes a hard eject to occur if done in tandem with a reboot. This is about as reliable as the paper clip and credit card methods, but at least it won’t damage the disk or the drive. If you are a Terminal junkie you can type DRUTIL eject instead of holding down the track pad during a reboot.

Oddly enough, the MacBook line is affected by the simplest of all evils: gravity. If your laptop isn’t level when you are putting your drive in use your CD or DVD could become stuck. The same thing goes for cleanliness – dirty disks are also more likely to get stuck than clean ones. If all else fails, try gently flipping the MacBook over then trying to eject the disk from a position where the keyboard is facing down. Sometimes just easing the pressure helps pop it off the spindle.

This post was inspired by an afternoon of trying all of the repairs above to avoid a trip to the Genius Bar yesterday. The credit card trick ended up working for me, but I’d be interested to hear your tips on tricks that have worked for you when you are faced with a jammed disk.

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