Upgrading my Mac Pro’s Pioneer DVR-112D DVD burner the hard way
If there is one complain that i have on my recently purchased Mac Pro, it would be the Pioneer DVD burner. When it’s reading or burning DVD, it’s almost jet-engine loud. It’s a far cry from the whisper quiet dual quad-core Mac Pro. I read that it’s possible to quiet down the DVD burner a little by flashing another firmware on it. Also, by default, the DVD drive can only change its region code no more than 6 times. I want to free my DVD drive and be able to play DVDs from outside the US.
The best known site for hosting region-free DVD firmwares is The Dangerous Brothers. I managed to find a region-free firmware for the Pioneer DVR-112D. However, this firmware flasher only works in Windows. I have a VMware Fusion Windows XP virtual machine but it is a really bad idea to update the DVD firmware in a virtualized environment. I know it is possible to run Windows XP or Vista on Mac Pro using an Apple tool called Boot Camp. Installing Windows XP using Boot Camp requires a bootable installation CD with Windows XP SP2. Other than my work notebook, i have no other Windows machines at home, which explains why i did not have any installable Windows CD.
At the same time while i was figuring out how i could get my hands on a Windows XP CD, i also wanted to try out Boot Camp Assistant, a utility that is supposed to help install Windows XP or Vista on a Mac. I ran into a roadblock as soon as i click on the “Continue” button.
According to error message, Boot Camp cannot be used to partition an external disk drive. Thinking that the utility had somehow recognized my two external Firewire-attached disk drives, i ejected the drives and unplugged the firewire cable. Second attempt without any externally-attached disk drives, exactly the same result. A quick search on Apple’s Discussion forum revealed that Boot Camp Assistant does not work with any RAIDed disk drives. Specifically, it is not possible to install Windows XP on RAIDed disk drives. But i was not trying to install them onto my startup disks, which was built as a mirror set. I was trying to install on the third internal SATA disk drive. Boot Camp assistant picked up on the RAIDed startup disks and refused to budge.
In order to run Boot Camp Assistant, i would have to destroy the mirror set. It was not possible to destroy the mirror set using Disk Utility because it was my start-up disk. So i had to shutdown and boot my Mac Pro using the Leopard install disc. Booting into the Leopard install disc and running Disk Utility from the install disc allowed me to delete the mirror set. After booting up my Mac, i gave Boot Camp Assistant a trial run and this time round, i got past the bogus error message.
I waited several more days until finally acquiring an installation disc for Windows XP with SP2. I promptly proceeded to run Boot Camp Assistant and installed Windows XP on the third internal disk drive. One important note: during the XP installation, you must reformat the Boot Camp partition. As part of the installation process, Boot Camp Assistant created a FAT32 partition. However there is some problem with this FAT32 partition. If you proceed with the XP installation without reformatting the partition into NTFS, then you will see this error:
Press any key to restart
I attempted to use the version 1.15 of the region-free firmware flasher from TDB but running it gave me an “Unable to set kernal mode” error message immediately. Trying an older version (1.09) threw the same error as well.
After googling for a while, i found a tool called dvrflash, which happens to be from TDB as well. I also found another tool called MCSE (MediaCodeSpeedEdit) that allows you to add capabilities to official DVD firmwares, including the ability to patch official firmwares so that they are region-free. I also downloaded the latest Pioneer DVD-112D firmware from the official Pioneer website.
After patching the version 1.24 firmware so that it’s region-free, i tried to flash the firmware to the DVD burner using dvrflash:
# dvrflash -f d: A0813001.124
Description : PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-112D
Firmware Rev : BC14
Firmware Date : 07/09/27
Manufacturer : PIONEER
Drive is in normal mode.
Firmwares and Drive type mismatch
If you want to convert your drive, you need to supply both Kernel and General
I thought it may be the patched firmware that was causing dvrflash to fail. I tried the same command with the original firmware but it was the same disappointing result.
After doing a little more research on google, i found another dvrflash parameter that i could use. So i ran the following command:
# dvrflash -ff d: A0813001.124
dvrflash went a little further this time and it appeared that it was flashing the firmware until yet another error. At this point, it looked as though my DVD burner was in a half-baked state. The firmware revision was reported as 0000 instead of the expected 1.24. No matter what i did, i could not eject the DVD tray from Windows (Mac Pro’s DVD drive does not have any physical eject button). Running dvrflash with the -ff option put the DVD drive in kernel mode. Panic stricken, i booted back into Leopard, hoping that a reboot would fix it. Nope.
I can’t remember why but i booted back into Windows. Next, i decided to give the TDB firmware flasher another shot. Amazingly, the firmware was flashed to my DVD burner and at the same time, putting my DVD drive back in normal mode. Running dvrflash without any parameter indicated that the DVD burner had indeed been flashed to firmware revision 1.15. On the heel of this success, i decided to try my luck on upgrading to the patched version 1.24 firmware from Pioneer using dvrflash. It worked!
DVR-112D info in System Profiler before:
DVR-112D in in System Profiler after being updated to 1.24:
Running DVRFlash shows that the Pioneer DVR-112D is now region free:
Device : A:
Vendor : PIONEER
Model : DVD-RW DVR-112D
Revision : 1.24
Status : RPC-1 (region free)
Now that i got my DVD burner’s firmware updated, i wanted to recreate the mirror set for my start-up disk. Unfortunately, recreating the mirror set means erasing the data on the disks to be configured in the set. I had to clone my start-up disk to another partition on the third internal hard disk using Carbon Copy Cloner. Cloning about 100 GB of data took almost an hour. At the completion of cloning, i set cloned partition as my start-up disk and rebooted my Mac Pro. After recreating the mirror set with a pair of disk drives, i cloned my start-up disk, which is now on the third disk drive, back to the mirror set. That took yet another hour. When that finally completed, i configured the mirror set as my start-up disk and rebooted one more time.
All these activities took place over the course of several days and a marathon 5-hour session that involved installing Windows XP and flashing the firmware.
The morning after updating the firmware, i saw this on hardmac.com:
After a long period of silence, the software DVDflash has just released an update. The version 2.5 will allow the flashing under OSX of the following engravers:
God damn it! I could have flashed the firmware in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard without going through all the hell of installing Windows XP!!!