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papa's picture
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Joined: 2014 May 2
Replacing Power Mac G4 Cube optical drive

(Following up on comments in thread http://macintoshgarden.org/forum/greetings-papa-and-deni )

I recently received a used Cube that works great except for the optical drive disk ejector, which can only pop disks out of the slot barely a few millimeters before sucking them back in again like new disks. I am assuming the problem is with the ejector, but due to the difficulty of changing disks I haven't done a lot of testing on the drive.

I am also assuming that the easiest way to fix the problem is to replace the optical drive with a new one, either physically switching the internal drive for a new one (following ifixit.com's procedures), or connecting an external drive via a USB port.

Some questions:

  1. Does the Cube, or Macs in general, require a special model of CD/DVD drive, or will just any generic internal or external drive work?
  2. Regarding internal versus external drives, it appears to me that with an internal drive you save a little money on the drive itself and desk space at the cost of the time and effort of opening the cube and doing the replacement work, whereas with an external drive you pay a little more and have to find a place to set the drive but is simple to connect. Any other issues I'm missing regarding the choice of internal versus external drive?
  3. I'm currently using one of the Cube's USB ports for the keyboard (shared via a KVM switch) and the other for the speakers. If I choose an external drive, I'll have to share one of the USB ports by sticking in a USB hub. Does it make any difference whether it's the keyboard or the speakers that connect via the hub shared with the optical drive?

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sfp1954's picture
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Joined: 2013 Dec 29

Face it - it's a bad design - cute - but bad.

A USB external drive would not be bootable for installing software so I would recommend an external firewire case with an IDE drive. In addition, I think that the USB ports are only USB 1.1, so you wouldn't be able to burn discs or watch a movie with a USB DVR (Two USB ports (12 Mbps each)). Not sure if it would even be fast enough for game play. Any Pioneer IDE DVR would be bootable or any original Apple 5.25 inch IDE optical drive. I have drives around but I'm not sure if I have any cases left. There used to be a lot on ebay but not so much anymore.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Beyond-Micro-External-Firewire-5-25-Drive-Enclos...
http://www.ebay.com/itm/TDK-DED-440-DVD-R-RW-CD-Re-Writable-Black-Extern...
http://www.ebay.com/itm/LaCie-Firewire-USB-DVD-recorder-reader-/25152404...

I have never had a problem replacing/upgrading the drive in the external Lacie or Yamaha cases. The only ones that gave me trouble were the QUE Drives. They never seemed to recognize anything but the original drive.

These are good. AC line in - no adapter needed.
I have had several at one time or another.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/LaCie-External-FireWire-CD-RW-Burner-Drive-Panas...

Other Atapi/IDE laptop drives can be used internally but they usually require a bracket kit of some sort as the internal drive is over-sized relative to the laptop drives that that followed it. I have a Cube CD drive that I forgot to ship with my 1.25GHz upgraded cube when I sold it a few months back. Not sure how it works though, I just bought it as a spare.

Here's the only company I know of that makes a complete replacement kit.
http://www.mcetech.com/cubedvdr8dl.html
They make two kits - depending on what you currently have installed.

papa's picture
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Joined: 2014 May 2

If decide to make an external drive with an Atapi/IDE CD-RW drive mounted in a case with a Firewire connector, is there a difference between cases for CD/DVD/optical drives and hard disk drives, or can you mount an optical drive in an HDD case or vice versa? (Searching an auction site gives a lot more hits for "hdd drive case firewire" than for "cd dvd drive case firewire" and was wondering if the cases might be the same.)

papa's picture
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Joined: 2014 May 2

I suppose having an opening for CDs/DVDs to pop in and out of is important. Maybe that answers my question. Wink

MikeTomTom's picture
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Joined: 2009 Dec 7

If you're looking for a firewire enclosure for an IDE CD/DVD drive, then you need to look for a 5.25" enclosure. Other criteria for you to look for, is they specify classic Mac OS 8 or 9 compatibility.

Not sugesting you buy either of these, only they are examples of the kind of enclosure you'll be looking for:
"5.25 IDE Disk Drive to Firewire"
"USB 2.0 & Firewire Combo External 5.25-inch IDE Enclosure"
The latter offers both USB 2 or Firewire connectivity (+ a much better description & price).

MikeTomTom's picture
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Joined: 2009 Dec 7

Here's a couple of PDF's you should have:

  • PowerMacG4Cube.pdf: Apple's "About the Power Mac G4 Cube" manual.
  • g4cube.pdf: Apple's Service manual for the Cube. This one is very helpful if you need to take your Cube apart and put it back together again.

I have an external USB drive, Pioneer mechanism. It gets its power from the USB port it plugs into (no power pack). It runs fine on an eMac (USB 1.1) and can burn media and play back movies OK on the 1.1 port too.

However it has issues;
* It does not work in Mac OS 9.2.2 (it shows up in the System profiler but Toast does not recognize this drive in OS 9, yet has no problem with it under OS X).
* It cannot run from a hub, it requires a direct connection to the PC (perhaps with a powered hub it would be OK).

Both of those issues would make using an external USB CD/DVD drive less desirable for you. I think that an external drive that can run from Firewire would be a better option. As would replacing the drive internally.

Also, about the external speakers; If these are the round speakers that shipped with the Cube then these cannot run from a hub. They also require a direct connection to the PC (or an Apple display with USB ports & attached to the Mac via an ADC cable).

Here's a review of several current external drives. The LaCie d2 DVD (#10 in review list) ticked all of the boxes for me (has firewire & runs on Mac) and price-wise seems the least expensive option.

Before you rush out and buy a replacement or external drive, consider disassembling & cleaning the existing internal drive, which you say is not ejecting disks properly. I have read that the rollers that eject media from this drive become dirty, requiring cleaning to get them to eject correctly again.

papa's picture
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Joined: 2014 May 2

Thanks to sfp and Mike for the advice. To summarize, it looks like my options are:

  1. Possibly fix the optical drive ejector by removing the drive and cleaning it.
  2. Replace the internal optical drive with:
    1. A generic IDE optical drive PLUS (probably) a bracket kit to make it fit the Cube's drive bay; OR
    2. A Cube drive replacement kit from MCE Tech.
  3. Add an external IDE optical drive with a firewire connector (avoiding using the Cube's USB ports due to problems with support for USB-attached optical drives and limitations on USB connectivity).

Being a cheapskate and reluctant to waste potentially useful hardware, choice 1. looks like the low cost/high potential reward gamble to take first. I'll let you know how it goes.

MikeTomTom's picture
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Good choice, going on purely by what I've read about this, is that the sticking ejector rollers fit into the drive only one way, so take a good look at how they're fitted when removing them.

Another option is to buy on ebay, a drive that's been pulled from an old Cube (or even a slot loading G3) or, purchase a working slot loading G3 iMac and scavenge its optical drive (folks just give these away for a few dollars).

papa's picture
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Progress Report

After delays for ordering a set of torx wrenches and a week-long business trip, I finally had a chance to pull the optical drive out of my Cube over the weekend.

At first I was encouraged because after getting the drive out of the frame then reattaching the ribbon cable and power (and a mouse so I could use the mouse click/power on trick) the drive seemed to eject disks without trouble.

I blew dust out of the drive and checked for obviously broken parts, which I didn't see.

However, when I put the Cube back together the drive showed no improvement from its old behavior. The drive accepts CDs normally, but when I try to eject a disk by any variety of methods I can hear the drive trying to eject the disk. The drive can push the edge of some disks out of the slot a few millimeters enough for me to grab and pull out manually. But for other disks the drive whines away for a few seconds trying to eject the disk and then gives up without the disk seeing the light of day.

With the few disks I have been willing to risk in the finicky drive, I have observed that the Cube can read music CDs with no problem, but is unable to read a CD-ROM full of JPEG files (I think created on a Windows machine) or a Myst for Macintosh CD-ROM. The Myst CD-ROM says it's for Mac OS 8. Is it normal for a Power Mac running OS 9 to be unable to read standard data CD-ROMs or CD-ROMs intended for older OS versions or 680x0 platforms? Or is this a sign that my optical drive has croaked even if I can get the ejector to work?

MikeTomTom's picture
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Joined: 2009 Dec 7

A pity that taking the Cube apart to clean the optical drive has not cured the problem.

Are the CD's that don't work, on CD+R/+RW media? I believe the Cube shipped with a DVD-ROM/CD-R/-RW drive, so "+" media may not work in it.

There is no other reason that I can think of as to why it cannot read certain CD/DVD media (unless, as you say, it has croaked). In which case (failing getting the ejector to work), it is time to consider your alternatives.

Thundersock's picture
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Joined: 2010 May 20

Skimmed the thread and wanted to offer some crazy/inexperienced ideas.

To fix not reading certain disks, reinstall Mac OS.
To fix disks not ejecting, consider rigging the Cube to hang upside down like a bat. (Passive cooling might not work then)

I have a cube that used to have problems ejecting disks, so I stopped using the disk drive, after a while it worked much better, and I use it sparingly. Not helpful either, I guess.