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Use the MacBook Air SuperDrive with (almost) any Mac

The Apple MacBook Air SuperDrive is only officially supported on the MacBook Air or Mac Mini, but what if you have another Mac that you want to use it with? Turns out you can make it work by editing one text file and then rebooting your Mac.

The MacBook Pro shown above is mine. The story behind that damage is fairly long and emotionally painful, involving airline travel, delays, and an unexpected layover in Vegas. The only good part of the story is that the SuperDrive did not work before it happened. When I purchased my MacBook Air, I bought the SuperDrive because there are still times when I need it. I knew that it was restricted to the MacBook Air (later expanded to the Mac Mini), and I assumed that there was a good reason. Maybe the USB port on the Air and Mac Mini sent more power than other USB ports. Maybe there was some other reason.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I learned about Lukas Zeller and his instructions on How to make the MacBook Air SuperDrive work with any Mac.

When I first read them, this involved getting editing a binary with a hex editor. Now, I'm a nerd, but I'm not a über-nerd. I'm also really extremely very much opposed to hacking system binaries, kexts, etc. because it could cause all sorts of problems and whenever there is a new version of Mac OS X, your change is either going to get blown away or may cause problems or it may work. That is only a one-in-three chance of success. Those aren't very good odds. So I didn't do it.

Then Lukas also found an easier way which only requires editing one line in one text file.

The file is /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.Boot.plist

You need to add/edit two lines: the first is Kernel Flags and the second is mbasd=1.

Here's how it looks for me:

You can view mine at Github or view the raw plist.

I couldn't believe that it could be that easy, but I edited that file, hooked up my "MacBook Air SuperDrive" to my MacBook Pro, rebooted, and voilà! It worked. I did the same thing with my Black MacBook, and it worked perfectly too.

(For those who like specifics, my MacBook Pro is a MacBookPro2,2 running Mac OS X 10.6.8 (10K549), and the MacBook is a MacBook4,1 running Mac OS X 10.7.3 (11D50).)

Now it's possible that there is some good reason that Apple has restricted the use of the Apple MacBook Air SuperDrive to just the MacBook Air and the Mac Mini. It's also possible that they're worried that people might be confused if they have more than one SuperDrive connected to their computers. Or it's possible that it works just fine and Apple will eventually lift the restriction once the SuperDrive is removed from the rest of the MacBook line.

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