Darren writes: I just bought a new iMac and I decided to test out my new computer’s performance by encoding a DVD with Handbrake. Imagine my disappointment when I saw that my new iMac is significantly slower at ripping and encoding a DVD than my 2008 MacBook Pro!
After testing various scenarios, I found that encoding a file from the iMac’s hard drive is much faster. Do I have a bad DVD drive? What can I do?
The problem you’re facing is likely caused by a DVD firmware “feature” called Riplock. Officially intended to reduce the transfer speed of a DVD video disc for the purpose of reducing noise and extending the life of the drive, the feature has the (perhaps intended) side-effect of drastically reducing the rip speed of a DVD video disc for the purpose of re-encoding it into a digital file.
Most new DVD drives, including those incorporated into Apple computers, include the Riplock feature. However, there is a way to remove it by flashing your DVD drive’s firmware with modified firmware designed to remove Riplock. Unfortunately, modified firmware is not available for all DVD drives so you’ll have to check your drive to see if you qualify.
First, use System Profiler (“System Information” in Lion) to determine the exact make and model of your DVD drive. To do this, hold down the Option key and click the Apple Menu in your menu bar. Select “System Profiler” or “System Information” if you have Lion.
Use OS X’s System Profiler/Information to Determine the Make and Model of Your Mac’s DVD Drive.
Next, from the list on the left, choose “Disc Burning” to view your Mac’s optical drive configuration. In the example shown, the Mac has the Optiarc DVD RW AD-5690H DVD drive.
Now head over to The Firmware Page, which lists available modded firmware for a multitude of drives. Searching through their forums leads us to Liggy’s and Dee’s Modified Firmware page, where we find updated firmware for our drive.
Using the binflash utility found under “Links,” you can manipulate your drive’s firmware and update to the modified version you just downloaded. The process shown in the screenshots below will be slightly different depending on your specific DVD drive.
Step 1: Use the “-scan” option at the command line both to confirm the drive Model as well as get the Device ID. You’ll need this Device ID for the remaining steps. The command is:
In this case, the Device ID shows up as “A:”. Note that we’re using the command “necflash” but you may wind up using something called “binflash” — they’re essentially the same, just different depending on the build and the name of the binary. If you downloaded something called “binflash” just substitute that for “necflash” in all the examples.
Step 2: Save a copy of your drive’s exising firmware by “dumping” it to your hard drive. For this example, the command is
./necflash -dump OrigFirmware.bin A:
That will save it in the current directory as “OrigFirmware.bin” just in case you need that to roll things back to their original state.
Step 3: Now you’re ready to flash the firwmare you downloaded onto your drive (note: you may need something like Stuffit Expander to extract the individual firmware files from a downloaded archive). For this example, we’ve chosen the “_fast” version of the firmware because our download instructions indicated that was the one to use to remove Riplock. That command is:
./necflash -flash 4ah5_fast.bin A:
This tells the necflash utility to flash the device called, “A:” with the 4ah5_fast.bin firmware file.
And that does it! For many users who have compatible DVD drives, this will successfully remove Riplock from your drive and drastically increase the speed of DVD video rips (we saw an increase from about 85 fps to 135 fps). However, it will also increase the noise level of the drive and may decrease the drive’s life so use these instructions at your own risk.
If you are unfortunate enough to have a drive with firmware that has not yet been updated, continue to check The Firmware Page and other resources periodically as new drives are frequently added.