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Mac Pro Optical Drive Boot Problem

Jonathan Greenberg
Jonathan Greenberg asked
I just bought a used dual 3GHz quad-core (8 cores total) Mac Pro (MacPro3,1, early 2008).

There are numerous problems with it, including that it comes with the dreaded Mac Pro RAID Card installed, which I've read often fails.  But the deal breaker is a problem I've discovered with the optical drive.  It's the PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-112D, aka Apple's superdrive.

With this drive, I'm having no problem reading from and writing to CDs and DVDs.  But I'm unable boot from a CD or DVD with a valid Macintosh operating system.  I've attempted to do so with Apple's stand-alone Leopard installation DVD and with DiskWarrior's latest version CD.  When attempting to boot from the DiskWarrior CD, the Mac thinks about it for a moment, backs out and then repeats the startup chime and starts up from my internal drive's system.  And attempting to boot from the Apple Leopard DVD doesn't get much further before causing a kernel panic.

I bought this on ebay.  I hate to have to return it and go through the whole process of finding another used Mac Pro, but I think I may now have to.  But if there's a simple solution to my problem that I haven't thought of, I'd like to know about it and give it a try.

It doesn't make sense to me that the optical drive can read and write but not boot, so my guess is that this indicates a deeper problem with the computer.

Any explanation for this behavior?  Any thoughts on a solution?  Thanks!
Watch Question

Typically, Macs won't boot from a system older than the system they shipped with. So for instance, if your Mac shipped with OS10.5.1 it might not boot from a 10.5.0 install CD.

Also, typically, they won't boot from a OEM DVD that shipped with a different model Mac.

The following from the DW site:  "Some newer iMacs with wireless keyboards have timing issues when starting up from any DVD. Instead of pressing the "C" key immediately upon start up, wait for the startup chime and then press the "Option" key. This will bring up the Startup Manager which will allow you to choose the DVD as a startup disk."


strung, thanks.

But I'm currently running the computer off of an internal drive with 10.5.8 with no problem.  The installer DVD is probably 10.5.1.  I don't think that should be the problem, do you?  If it boots without trouble from 10.5.8, do you think it should be having a problem with 10.5.1?
Yes, it could very well be a problem. Macs typically will not boot from systems even incrementally older than the one they shipped with.

Do you have a 10.6 retail install DVD, by any chance (a bargain at $29!)?

Try installing rEFIt - which is an alternate EFI boot - and see if this gives you greater control over the boot.

Also, see if there is a firmware update for that model - from the current OS.

Also, do you have an external CD drive you can try?


roylong, thanks for your posts.  And I don't have an external optical drive, but I think strung is right, so I think my issue is solved.

strung, I looked into minimum system requirements for Mac Pros, and I think you're on the money.  My model Mac Pro shipped with 10.5.1, but a firmware update makes it incompatible with anything under 10.5.2.  That would obviously explain its inability to boot from 10.5.1 or 10.4.9.

I'll head to the Apple store tomorrow to pick up the 10.6 retail install DVD.  If that boots, then I think I'm good to go, and I'll hang on to my new (used) Mac.

Thanks very much!