Thanks to DVD-burning optical drives and Apple’s iDVD, today’s Macs can put everything from your best friend’s wedding to large corporate training videos on DVD. iDVD’s strongest point is that it simplifies the rather complicated process of DVD authoring, and it’s surprisingly powerful. The biggest complaint about the application, however, is that it doesn’t work with external FireWire DVD-RW drives. This seems to leave only a few options for Mac users who don’t have built-in SuperDrives—purchasing Apple’s $499 DVD Studio Pro, buying a FireWire burner that comes with its own DVD-authoring software (such as those from Formac and LaCie), or buying a new Mac.
Fortunately, there is another option. Apple says you need a Mac with a SuperDrive to run iDVD, but what iDVD really requires is a DVD burner on an internal ATA bus. Install a DVD-RW drive in an older Power Mac G4, and iDVD will find what it’s looking for. You can pick up a 4x Pioneer DVD burner (the DVR-A05, the same model Apple uses) for less than $250 online, so now’s a great time to turn your first-generation G4 into a DVD-burning computer.
Step 1: Cut through the Static
Before adding components to or removing them from your Mac, you need to discharge static electricity that may have built up. To do so, shut down your Mac—but don’t unplug it yet. Leaving the Mac plugged into a grounded outlet ensures that any static you discharge has somewhere safe to go. Now touch some metal on the computer (the access covers for PCI slots are good, or open the case and touch the optical-drive-bay chassis). Unplug your Mac. Try to avoid carpeted surfaces while you work on your Mac’s guts, or buy a grounding strap, for $5 to $10, from an electronics store.
Step 2: Dive In
To remove the drive bezel from your Mac, open the access door and find the two tabs at the front of the computer, next to the optical-drive enclosure (A). Press them both in and push out toward the front of the case until one side of the front bezel pops out. Grab the bezel from the front, and pull it completely off.
Step 3: Remove Screws
Locate the two screws directly underneath your current optical drive (B). Remove them with your #2 Phillips screwdriver and set them in a safe place.
Step 4: Unplug It All
Unplug the ATA ribbon (C) and power connectors (D) from your optical drive (E). If you have a Zip drive, remove its cables as well. You may need pliers to help you pull them out. Be sure not to pull the ribbons or wires themselves, and be gentle with the pliers. You may find it easier to get your fingers in there if you slide the drive housing forward a bit.
Step 5: Out with the Old, In with the New
Remove the drive housing by sliding it all the way out through the front of the Mac. Turn the housing over and locate the four screws that attach the optical drive to the housing (F). Remove the screws, pull out the old optical drive, and then slide the new drive (G) in. When the housing’s holes and the drive’s holes line up, the drive is in the proper place. Now securely replace the four screws.
Step 6: Attach the Connectors
Slide the drive housing about halfway through the front of your G4, making sure the ribbon underneath stays flat (H). Reach into your Mac and attach the power and ATA connectors to the back of your new drive (and to the Zip drive, if you have one). Once those are secure, slide the drive all the way in.
Step 7: Finish Up
Lastly, replace the two front screws you removed earlier, and then snap the front bezel back into place. Install iDVD on your G4. If you don’t already have it, you’ll need to get Apple’s $49 iLife suite, which contains iDVD 3—the only iLife app you can’t download. Your Mac is now ready to use iDVD, as well as burn and play DVDs.
Now that you’ve got a shiny new SuperDrive in your G4, you can benefit from these media-burning tips.
> To get the fastest possible burning from your drive, use media with the same rating as your drive. Some 2x DVD media burn at 1x on a 4x burner; likewise, some 4x media burn at 1x on a 2x burner.
> To make the discs you burn compatible with as many drives as possible, burn media at 1x.
> Older DVD drives are more finicky than recent models. If you don’t know the age of the DVD player you’re targeting, use Apple or other name-brand media, which are more likely to be recognized and played.
> Before you buy a 50-pack spindle of unknown media, buy and burn a few sample discs to make sure the quality is good.
> Read media packaging closely—one symbol can make all the difference. For example, DVD-R drives don’t burn to DVD+R media.
> Mac OS X doesn’t support DVD-RW. If you want to create DVD-RWs in OS X, you’ll need an application such as Roxio’s Toast or Charismac’s Discribe.