You might want to get up to speed with Blu-ray first and read a little introduction about what Blu-ray disks are and where the standard comes from.
Add a Blu-ray burner to your Mac Pro
Adding a Blu-ray burner to your Mac Pro can be done cheap, fast and easy. I don’t understand why people make such a big deal out of this or why Apple doesn’t sell them.
Update: It’s hard to find info about what models are supported. So far, I have received mails from people claiming successfully building the BH10LS30 in Mac Pro models from 1.1 (week 32, 2006) to the Mac Pro 2010 models. So I think it’s safe to say Blu-ray works with all Mac Pro models, at least in this time-line.
The Mac Pro so far works with ‘any compatible model’ but that is the problem: Several blu-ray burner models don’t work with OS X. For example, the LG WH10LS30 is not fully compatible with all Mac Pro models (it works with the Mac Pro 5.1 mid 2010 model though). I used an LG BH10LS30, but Amazon no longer sells them. This how-to should work with just about any compatible model aftermarket internal drive, but I would Google the exact type before you order it.
List of compatible Blu-ray burners
- WH16NS40 (128 GB max., quad-layer).
Some drives are compatible with Millenniata’s M-DISC’s, that claims that their discs last longer, though require a more powerful laser because of the material they use. However, according to the French National Laboratory of Metrology and Testing, M-DISC’s showed similar deterioration in quality as other (inorganic) DVD disks in their test.
Put the internal Blu-ray burner in the Mac Pro
Here’s how it’s done:
- First you need a drive. Just make sure you order one that works with your machine. This can be a problem, because for example even the national LG support desk had no information at all in their system about how compatible their drives are with Macs and OS X. (Seriously… don’t they want to sell drives?! Mac Pro users want Blu-ray burners! That’s why I wrote this article.) Please mail me if you know about other drives that are compatible (or incompatible!).
- Take off the plastic front bezel of the drive, before trying to fit it in your Mac, else the tray won’t fit through the opening of the case of the Mac Pro. I’m not sure every drive model out there has a bezel that you need to take off, but so far every drive I’ve seen did.
- Shut down your Mac Pro, disconnect it, take of the side panel and ground yourself to the metal body (hard to miss anyway). There is a second, empty drive bay in every Mac Pro you can easily fasten a second, standard size disk drive in, like a Blu-ray disk burner. There is a black, 4-pins connector ‘hidden’ in the back that you can use for power.
- Take of the aluminium, magnetically fixed ‘hood’ next to the plastic fan holder case. Because the magnets are fixed to the alumium with thin, double sided tape that isn’t very resistend to warmth, chances are one or two have come lose. Just press them back in their original place. (You can remove the glue with some gasoline and glue them back again if you want to really fix this, but observe the original positions.)
- Then take out the screw on the bottom of the fan holder and be carefull not to drop it in the innerds of the Mac Pro. Take out the fan holder, it will slide out without resistance (in contrary to the older G5 models). If not, you forgot the screw 😉 Also, apparently there are also Mac Pro models that have two screws, so it it’s still stuck, go hunt for the second one.
- Lead the SATA cable from the top thourgh the gap on the opposing side / bottom of the top compartment down to the motherboard and plug it in one of the two connectors.
- Several people write about how hard it is to connect the SATA cable to the Mac Pro and they often talk about 90 degrees bended SATA connectors and all kinds of other, less efficient ways to connect the drive. Because LG Netherlands said it would come without a SATA cable, I had already ordered a SATA cable elsewhere with a 90 degree bent connector specially for it, but the had send me a shorter version and it turned out to be to short (only by a centimeter or two..). However, it came with a plain SATA cable and it fits fine. I ‘pre-bended’ the cable somewhat, just at the end, before connecting it, because I didn’t want to put any force on the motherboard.
- Put in your new Blu-ray burner. There are some cool, more solid shaped screws in the side of the empty tray of the Mac Pro, I used them instead of the more common looking screws that came with the blu-ray burner. Connect it to the sata cable and 4-pins power connector.
- Put everything back together and reconnect your Mac Pro.
My experiences with the LG BH10LS30 / Mac Pro 2008 combo
It came with a Blu-ray disk recordable— a “BD-R” — of 25 GB and I used Toast Titanium to burn a 23.5 GB backup in.. well I didn’t time it, but it was about 8 minutes, without verifying. Much faster than I had expected. (I took that photo with my iPhone instead of screendumping it, that’s why it’s kind of blurry).
Tips and Tricks
Use the keyboard combination alt+[eject-key] to open and close the second optical drive tray of you Mac Pro. (You need to hold down the eject-key for a moment to make it work.)
DiskCatalogMaker is a practical application to keep track of your files with on all those backup disks. It comes as a free bonus with Toast Titanium, although it’s not a product of Roxio.
I know making small DVD backups are often the cheapest, but for about € 130 or ± $ 165 € 100 or ± $ 134, it’s worth it to add the option for making 25 GB and even 50 GB data backup disks. This is so much faster than burning a handfull of DVDs. Also, it’s the perfect way to backup movies without filling up your hard drive. Plus, it’s a nice solution if you want to watch a HD movie on your widescreen TV, specially if it’s not near your Mac.
Until now, OS X 10.6.4 doesn’t support playing Blu-ray video disk though. This seems to be a political or financial issue at Apple, more than a technical obstacle. Expect this to be solved in the future. Just don’t hold your breath.
The BH10LS30 supports LightScribe. This is a technique which lets you burn text and images on your disk instead of labelling it. It’s very appealing, but although you can buy both LightScribe CDs and DVDs, there are no BDs yet that you can LightScribe. (If you find them, please comment or mail me).
Footnotes and comments
- It’s still for sale, but looking at their product line, it seems like the LG BH10LS30 will be discontinued in 2011.
- The blu-ray burner LG WH10LS30 is compatible with the Mac Pro 5.1 (mid 2010). Let us know if you know
- The LG GGW-H20L for example, has a IDE connector instead of a SATA connector and J. Owens mailed me that he had trouble getting it to work via the IDE/SATA-interface that came with it. Finally he put it in an external casing:‘Under Snow Leopard, I upgraded to version Toast Pro 10.0.8 and the system works reasonably well with the eSata connection, even though Toast still reports an “unknown bus”.’
- Ben McPeek writes he had to remove a second screw from the fan assembly before he could remove it. It was at the bottom, behind the aluminium hood. He bought the burner for about $95 (september 2010). Eventually he mounted it in a USB 2 external box (from OWC) that cost about $30. ‘Much better than lacie that runs around $400+‘.
- Peter Haenen writes from Thailand, that the LG BH10LS30 works with the MacPro 2010 he just bought. As you can see, the inside differs again with with just about every incarnation of the Mac Pro:
If you have any additions or corrections to this how-to, please comment or let me know, so I can adjust it accordingly. Especially information about what model of Mac Pro is compatible with what drive is useful information to others.