The dawning of dual-layer

Those who spend their time worrying about such things may have been taken aback when opening System Profiler and discovering that their Power Mac G5 held a Pioneer DVR-117D (the model number for the Mac’s SuperDrive). This aback taking would have been due to the fact that Pioneer has never made a model 117D media drive. Rather, this is a model number concocted by Apple that’s applied to Pioneer’s DVR-108.

Although the DVR-117D and Pioneer DVR-108 are mechanically identical, their capabilities differ. The DVR-108 is capable of burning dual-layer DVDs. For reasons best known to Apple, this capability is turned off in the firmware Apple applies to the 117D.

As the owner of one of these Power Macs I determined that I wanted all that its media drive could provide. With that in mind, I set out to update the drive’s firmware so that it would support dual-layer burning.

The first step I take when attempting such a hardware hack is to scour Accelerate Your Mac. It didn’t let me down. There I found Jon Austin’s complete Guide to Flashing G5 OEM DVR-117 to DVR-108 Firmware. After downloading the utilities necessary to perform the job and following the clear instructions I successfully turned my SuperDrive into a super-duper DVR-108. Under Tiger the drive works with every application I’ve tried—iTunes, iDVD, iPhoto, and Toast. The drive is a little noisier as it now spins faster.

Under Mac OS X 10.3.9, System Profiler reports that the drive does not support burning. This can be fixed with the application of Christian Moeller’s PatchBurn, a donation-ware utility that allows most Pioneer “SuperDrives” to work in Mac OS X 10.2 or greater.

Before you dash off and perform this operation I have to issue the usual warning:

Firmware is forever! (Or, at least, until a new firmware update comes along.) If, while the drive’s firmware is being flashed, something goes wrong—the power goes out, for example—the drive could be rendered completely unusable. You’re risking your drive by doing this so unless you really, really need to update your drive, feel free to leave it alone.

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