Ejecting a (Really) Stuck DVD from a Mac

There is a standard set of procedures to eject a DVD. But what about one that just doesn't want to come out of a Mac? When all else fails, here's a trick that might work for you.

There are several, nominal ways to eject a DVD from a Mac:

  • Right click the DVD icon (if it appears) and select Eject
  • Select the DVD icon and press CMD-E
  • Hold the eject button on the keyboard down for two seconds. (or OPT+Eject for the second optical drive)
  • Hold the left mouse button down while rebooting

Yesterday, while burning a DVD+R DL (dual layer) DVD on my Mac Pro, the burn failed. No icon appeared on the desktop and there was nothing I could do to eject the disc, including holding the (left) mouse button down during a reboot.

After some sleuthing, I found this article that described the same problem. The author went to even more extremes. He held down CMD+OPT+P+R at boot. He held down the "D" and the "C" keys while rebooting. Nothing worked. Blood pressure rose.

Finally, he tried inserting a slim piece of cardboard on the top side of the DVD slot during reboot and also held down the track pad button. (See the photo in the link.) Apparently, the disruption of the disc rotation was just enough to cause the system to spit out the DVD.

I didn't have a piece of cardboard like that, so I tried using one of my business cards. I had to jiggle the card a little at the top of the slot (there's just enough room) and move it around until I felt it drag on the disc during boot. Held the mouse button down as well, and sure enough the drive spit the DVD out. Later, I tried burning again, and there was no apparent damage; burns were successful.

Biz card in DVD slot

I had to push the the card in further than shown here

The referenced article above dealt with a MacBook Pro. In my case, I wondered about the Mac Pro, so I opened up the Mac and slid the optical drive bay out. On the front of the drive in my machine there is a black eject button. The problem is, I doubt it would do anything with the Mac Pro powered down. Also, I noticed -- with a flashlight -- that when the drive bay is reinserted, the eject button is well masked behind several layers of metal, and I wasn't able to fish around to push it with the Mac powered up. Others may know the secret hole number and length of paper clip. I haven't found it.

Apple doesn't recommend removing the side panel when the Mac Pro is powered up. The loss of directed airflow could overheat internal components. So messing around with the optical drive bay with the Mac powered up isn't advised. Unless I figure out the magic hole and have the right instrument to poke in there, I'll be using the business card approach if this, heaven forbid, happens again.

Who would have guessed?