how to force your macbook to eject a disc

so i recently ran into what appears to be a fairly well-known issue with macbook/macbook pro – sometimes a disc will get stuck in the drive and won’t want to eject.  note that i’m not talking about the case where you try to eject the disk (by whatever method) and get no sounds; that’s a different matter.  i’m talking about the case where you try to eject the disc and the drive sounds like it’s trying to eject it but ends up re-mounting it instead.

since apple, in what (imo) is an unconscionable design decision, chose not to include a force-eject hole (i.e. a hole that you can stick a paper clip into to manually eject the disc), various creative methods of getting the disc out have popped up.  some of these risk damaging the disc, and i can’t recommend them.  however, i’ve discovered (? at least i never saw it in my search for a solution) a method that won’t damage the disc which i’ll cover here.  afterwards, if you’re interested, i’ll provide my engineering opinion on *why* this issue occurs, and what apple could have done differently to prevent it (besides the obvious inclusion of a force-eject hole).

review

let’s start off with a review of some of the standard methods of trying to coax the disc out, in case you’ve landed on this post as your first attempt at a solution.

the basic:

  • eject button on the keyboard
  • eject button on a Finder window
  • dragging the desktop disc icon to the trash

the more complex:

  • hold down the mouse button while booting
  • hold down option while booting; when the boot-select screen comes up, use the eject button on the keyboard

you can also try tilting the laptop to get a ‘gravity assist’.

my method

i didn’t have any luck with any of the above, but here’s what worked for me.  as this requires the use of both hands, i recommend using the keyboard eject key to initiate it since that gives you a couple of seconds to get your thumbs in place.

holding open the macbook slot with thumbso here’s what you do (quickly) after pressing the eject key:  place your index fingers on the keyboard deck just above the far edges of the slot and the tips of both of your thumbs in the drive slot about a third of the way in.  then apply upwards pressure with your thumbs to force the slot to be a little taller.  (only one hand shown here because i needed the other for the camera, but you should use both hands.)

you need to watch carefully, because as soon as the edge of the disc becomes visible, you need to quickly remove your thumbs.  if you don’t, the disc will probably bounce off your thumbs and go back in and remount again.  it took me 3-4 tries to get it right, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time.  if you do it right, the disc will be ejected and you can remove it normally and be on your way.

engineering analysis

macbook slot closeupif you look very carefully at the picture of the slot here, you can see that the top of the frame sags just a tiny bit in the center.

this is the root of the problem – if the disc is just a fraction of a mm thicker than normal, the top of the edge of the disk can get caught on the sagging frame, causing it to bounce back into the drive and be remounted.  by using your thumbs to force the slot to its full, proper height (or more), there is no interference and the disc can properly eject (as long as you get your thumbs out of the way quickly enough so that the disc doesn’t just bounce off of *them*).

from an engineering standpoint, it should be clear that

  1. a 5.25″ section of plastic is long enough to be subject to sag, particularly as it ages, and therefore should be given some additional reinforcement to counteract that tendency
  2. there are known tolerances on the thickness of a cd/dvd, and the height of the slot should be based on the maximum thickness plus a safety margin to account for the possibility of sag or compression
  3. anything mechanical is subject to failure, and if a manual method of ejecting a disc can be included, it should

if apple’s engineers had included even one of these suggestions, much less all three, i don’t think that getting a disc stuck in the drive of a macbook/macbook pro would even exist as an issue…

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3 comments

  1. dapug

    Tip: use a coin or back of a key, insert slightly, twist to force pressure to open the gap wider as tzych pointed out, and remove as soon as you see the DVD try to pop out.

    Stupid Apple. Seriously, no excuse. I do not subscribe to the fallacy that they have superior engineering. Apple products truly are riddled with issues.

    Thank you for this article. It saved me from throwing the mac across the room. 🙂

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