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Ask Max: Mac mini Optical Drive Problems

Asked on 02/05/2014:

I put a National Geographic data disc in my G4 Apple Mac mini which I have been doing for years (to create maps for work) and on this occasion it made a really horrible noise (a high speed spinning noise). After a while it stopped and then I powered off. I tried to reboot a couple of time to no avail -- I surmised because my disc was still inside.

I searched the web on how to eject and found "hold F2 and the reboot." It worked and disc ejected. Now the Mac mini is running really slowly to the point that every command literally takes hours to respond. For example, the clock and desktop looks ok, but if I try to open a folder or document the wheel spins.


This has all the hallmarks of a failing optical drive or severely corrupted drive. If you have the correct system DVD set you can re-initialize the drive, reinstall, and see if that restores the functionality. I suspect, however, that the drive may require replacement -- it's not uncommon over the life of a machine, to require this. Drives are fairly inexpensive, and labor is usually thirty to forty-five minutes, plus system installation.

If you'd like to try something first, however, get a can of compressed air at your local office store, like OfficeMax, Stapes, or Office Depot. Spray out the optical drive using the included tube taped to the side. Once that's done, reset the PRAM and SMC. Directions on how to do that can be found in our PowerMax article: Two Great Go-To Fixes for a Temperamental Mac.

Those things are worth a shot if you'd like to make a last-ditch effort, but I suspect the drive will need to be replaced.

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