I recently wrapped up a gig involving a client with several Macs in their household. They wanted me to upgrade everybody to OS X 10.4 aka Tiger, and had purchased the handy “Family-Pack,” which Apple allows to be installed on up to five Macs. One of the Macs, an older 1GHz iMac G4 17″ Flat Panel, only had 256mb, so I picked up a 512mb PC2100 memory module to give it some new pep.
I first tackled the iMac. I opened up the bottom cover to expose the memory expansion slot and dropped in the new RAM. I sealed it back up and proceeded with the Tiger upgrade. That took about an hour in total, including installing the latest Apple software updates to bring it up to 10.4.3. I also installed the Mighty Mouse software, which required the new OS to run.
Next up was an eMac that was used by another one of the youngsters in the house. This was not quite a year old (running OS X 10.3.9) and already had 512mb, so I figured it would be a breeze to upgrade to Tiger. But then I hit a major roadblock… the Tiger OS DVD kept failing to be recognized by the eMac’s SuperDrive. I popped the DVD in, I could hear it trying to read the disc, and after about 30 seconds, the Mac would just give up and spit it back out without so much as an error message. I knew it was a SuperDrive equipped Mac but ran the System Profile tool just to be 100% sure (not to mention the fact that the model number bar code on the inside of the SuperDrive’s outer fascia displayed the little code for SuperDrive). OK, so maybe there’s something hinky with the drive. I tried out a couple data CDs, which were recognized immediately. I didn’t have any other data DVDs handy, so I tried out a DVD movie, which was also recognized. The drive seemed to work perfectly, except for the fact it wouldn’t read the Tiger Upgrade DVD.
I made sure the surface of the DVD didn’t have any scratches or dirt on it (it didn’t), and then tried it again in the iMac I had just upgraded (it had a CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo Drive). The disc was recognized immediately. Weird, n’est pas? The disc was fine, and the SuperDrive was seemingly fine. The only recourse I could think off was having Apple send this customer the OS X Tiger upgrade on CD media (which they make available for folks with older non DVD capable Macs).
But before I threw in the towel, I gave Apple Tech support a call. I’m willing to admit when I’ve hit a dead end. After about 30 minutes of the most horrid hold music ever (with some bizarre changes in volume levels) I got through to a live support agent. I gave them the serial number and, as I expected, he balked at first to offer me support. This eMac was still under the original one year hardware warranty, but the original 90 day phone support window had long since expired, and it wasn’t under an AppleCare agreement.
I explained that I felt that this was an exceptional situation because we (e.g. my customer) had just spent 200 clams on the Tiger upgrade kit, and the disc wasn’t being recognized by the SuperDrive in the eMac. The agent saw the logic in that, and hit whatever magic key in his console to proceed with the call. We did the usual back and forth bit for another few minutes, and then he said he needed to put me on hold for a brief period to fully research the issue. Naturally, I’d tried to research it first myself, but had a hard time even defining the problem to search accurately on the Apple support discussion areas as well as Google.
A few more minutes of horrid hold music, and he was back on the line. I could tell by the tone of his voice he’d found a likely solution. The SuperDrive, he informed me, needed a firmware upgrade. He gave me the URL for the web download, and I punched it into Safari, downloading it in mere moments. I ran the firmware updater, rebooted the eMac, and abracadabra, the Tiger DVD was recognized. I can’t say for sure how long it would have taken me to find the solution on my own. I’m sure I would have found it eventually, as I’m a pretty resourceful guy, but kudos to Apple support for helping me out.
The eMac is now humming along with OS X 10.4.3. There would have been a third Mac to upgrade, the husband’s iBook, but he was out of town with it. I told my customer that the upgrade process is not terribly complicated, so they are going to try it on their own when he returns with his iBook. So all’s well that ends well.
[tags]os x,tiger,apple,macintosh,superdrive,computer repair[/tags]