So barely a few days after I bragged about the longevity of my Mac Pro, I started having issues with the optical drive in it.
Being unable to find a digital copy of True Lies anywhere (iTunes, Amazon, etc). I gave up and decided to rip my existing DVD copy with Handbrake.
The drive had been behaving strangely the past few times I remember using it, taking a long time to spin up a disk, making strange noises (even for a 5 year old DVD burner) and generally not performing very well even when it did work (it took over 15 minutes just to scan the titles of the True Lies DVD in Handbrake. Regardless, It finally read the disk, I was able to make my title selection, set my compression parameters, and start the process before I headed to bed for the night.
Checking on it the next morning, Handbrake reported the rip completed successfully but the file was only 900MB, much less than the anticipated 1.8GB. The other odd thing was the drive was gone. The DVD volume wasn’t showing on the Desktop, the disk no longer showed in Disk Utility, and checking System Profiler, the ATA bus was empty.
So I took it upon myself to order a BluRay drive (Why? Why not?) as a replacement.
Given that my Mac Pro is an Early-2008 model, it shipped with a PATA optical drive, rather than the newer SATA variety. But Apple was wise and awesome enough to future proof the thing by setting aside two SATA ports for optical drive use. They hide behind the front fan assembly, which has to be removed (two screws) and slid out of the machine in order to gain enough access. It helps to remove the first hard drive as well, which is a pretty obvious step when you see the tiny hole you need to squeeze the SATA cable through. Combined with a spare SATA cable and a Molex 4-Pin-To-SATA power adapter I had in my closet of tricks, I had everything I needed.
For anybody looking to do this, I make a solitary recommendation: buy a long SATA cable. 24” should suffice. All I had were 18” models that I ended up getting to work, but a 24” would have made the process much easier.
Once I had everything hooked up, the fan assembly replaced, and the hard drive reinstalled, the old girl booted without a hitch and the drive works great. I can now browse and read blu-rays, though movie playback remains a hitch. Using MakeMKV its possible to rip at least some disks to the drive to be re-encoded, but I haven’t played with the idea much yet. Most of my blu-rays I already have digital copies of because they came with them, so making MKVs or M4Vs is pretty redundant.
One advantage I am looking forward to is 25GB burnable disks. Here’s to archiving and off-site backup!