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11/6/2001 Tuesday's News: Story DetailReturn to News Page

Pioneer DVD-R SuperDrive Firmware Updates
that will Flash OEM Apple Drives:

Posted: 11/6/2001
(Updated 1/2/2002 for 1.68 Firmware Update info/files)
(Updated 11/8/2001 for Performance Comparison Tests/v1.22 to 1.49 fixes)
(Updated 12/12/2001 for a reader's performance tests w/1.55 vs 1.22 firmware)
(Updated 3/15/2002 for note/link to region-free 1.68 firmware update)
(Updated 6/24/2002 for notes on 1.80 firmware update)

DISCLAIMER: This info, files, etc. are provided as-is and without any warranty. If something goes wrong during a firmware update your drive could be rendered useless. Any updates are done at your own risk and voids the Apple warranty.

1.80 Firmware Update for DVR-A03/103 Drives: (from the 6/24/2002 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page and drive database report)

"Here's a message I caught on a DVD list that I read...
-------------
As I posted earlier my A03 drive suddenly shifted to 1x burn on a new box of Apple DVD-R media.

Turns out Apple did change something: examining the top and bottom edge of the jewel case, the old case had a uniform vertical-lines texture, and the new case is smooth with the DVD logo embossed in two places. Apparently they are using a new disc stamper too, which my A03 firmware didn't recognize as valid for 2x burn speeds.
Anyway, the happy ending is that I still had older firmware. I downloaded the latest DVR-A03 firmware v.1.80 from
http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/Pioneer/CDA/ServiceAndSupport/
SelfHelpForIndDet/1,1457,2344,00.html

and now the drive is burning at 2x on the new Apple discs. -------------
-ed "

The Pioneer page lists only PC flashers so I a PC is used to update the firmware. In the past, the retail drive flashers would not work with the OEM drives shipped in Macs. Here's a report from the 6/25/2002 news page that notes the 1.80 firmware update flashed his OEM firmware signiture.

" Hi Mike,
After reading your comments on my drive database post, yes you are correct in saying I flashed the drive using a PC. The 166Mhz pentium dinosaur recognised the drive on startup. Running the .exe file from Pioneer, it creates a boot floppy with the firmware (much like a windows emergency boot floppy). After rebooting, the flasher pretty much ran by itself only stopping to confirm if I wanted to proceed with the flash. Once completed, a reboot is all that was needed. I didn't actually remove the drive from my quicksilver, just ran the IDE cable over to my G4.

In summary, yes the firmware installed flawlessly in my OEM drive however the drive is now recognised as a DVR-103 (see screenshot).
Keep up the great work.
Regards,
Paul Apostolou Sydney - Australia "

(Update - another reader later wrote the 1.80 flasher refused to update his OEM Superdrive) I wrote Paul that all Superdrives I've seen (even OEM Apple ones) are reported as "103" drives by Apple System Profiler (even the DVR-A04 is reported as a 104, as are all retail drives I've seen, even though they are referred to as "A" model.)


Region-Free Superdrive (DVR-103/DVR-A03) 1.68 Firmware: (from the 3/15/2002 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page)
I've not tried this personally but forum posts and the update to the news item below both link to a 1.68 firmware update for the Pioneer Superdrive DVR-103/DVR-A03 model (not the new DVR-104 model that ships in new G4s and iMac G4s) that is reported to be region free. As with any firmware update - apply at your own risk as if something goes wrong the drive will be rendered unusable. (Also note the past tip from 1.6x Superdrive owners in OS X - setting the Energy Saver to never sleep drives.)


(See below for info on v1.68 firmware updates but note the download links don't work for now, due to the bandwidth allowances being exceeded I think. Original article covered 1.55 firmware version.)
In the past here I've lamented the lack of Apple firmware updates for OEM Pioneer Superdrives, which shipped with firmware from v1.22 to 1.44 (as of the latest drives I've seen - one reader just noted his new QS DP800 had v1.49). The PC drives ship with v1.55 usually for months now (latest drives have v1.65 or later), but the v1.55 flasher (PC only) at Pioneer's site will not flash a OEM drive from a Mac drive mounted in a PC. One of the forum threads here have noted efforts to work around this and today a reader posted a link to a flasher that will update the OEM apple drives, but of course being a PC executable still requires the drive to be mounted in a PC to be updated. (Virtual PC normally can't be used to update firmware on drives.)

1.68 Firmware Update Info: (Added 1/2/2002)

" By the Way, this will void whatever warranty Apple provided you for your SuperDrive.

What you will need:

  • To not blame me if you screw up your SuperDrive. Proceed at your own risk. If this fails, your drive will be DEAD until you successfully upload a firmware.
  • A PC running Win9x/ME
  • A floppy
  • A SuperDrive DVR-103/A03
  • this firmware updater file:
    http://masterfluffer.tripod.com/Pion144.exe
    (and http://masterfluffer.tripod.com/Win168.zip - see below. Both Links as of tonight are not working, due to bandwidth limits being exceeded I believe.-Mike)

How to:

  1. You need to download the file onto the PC so you can run it there and make the boot floppy with firmware files. The updater has all the files you need.

  2. Place a 1.44 floppy in the PC and run the file - Pion144.exe from Windows. This will format and copy the files in one easy step.

  3. Shut the PC down. Open the PC case and attach the SuperDrive as IDE Master on the second IDE bus. No devices should be on the primary IDE bus [? this did not matter when I flashed 1.55 on a PC, but maybe 1.68 is different.-Mike] nor the Slave position of the second bus. Make sure the motherboard BIOS is set to look for a device on Master of the second IDE bus.

  4. With the updater floppy from step #2 in the PC floppy drive, start the PC so you can boot from the floppy. The updater will automatically run and should update your SuperDrive it finds as ID 2. When the updater says so, shut down the PC.

  5. Remove the floppy from the drive and setup your PC to boot normally while also keeping the SuperDrive/A03 attached. We are going to do another firmware update from your new 1.44 to 1.68 using Pioneer's updater. Startup your PC with attached and functional SuperDrive/A03.

  6. Using your PC's browser, get this file:
    http://masterfluffer.tripod.com/Win168.zip
    And extract Win168.zip to a new folder. You will have 2 files extracted - an updater and the 1.68 firmware file. Run the updater.exe file and you will be able to see your current firmware version, 1.44. The updater will probably select the 1.68 firmware for you so go ahead and update your SuperDrive/A03 to 1.68. It will take a minute then reboot the computer to check that the update has been successful.

  7. Remove the SuperDrive from the PC and reinstall into your Mac. You are done!

And now you SHOULD have firmware 1.68 loaded. Use Apple System Profiler or Toast to check the firmware is 1.68. You are now able to update your drive with any future updates from Pioneer that pertain to the DVR-A03 using the updater.exe program and the firmware file from Pioneer's distribution.

These files are a mixture of files I downloaded from the Net so this shouldn't upset anyone out there."

I successfully flashed an OEM drive using the 1.55 info (below) but have not personally tried the 1.68 version yet.

1.55 Firmware Update Info:
Here's a copy of his first article posting on the 1.55 update:

" What you will need:
-To not blame me if you screw up your SuperDrive. Proceed at your own risk. If this fails, your drive will be DEAD until you successfully upload a firmware.
- a PC running Win9x/ME
- a floppy
- a SuperDrive DVR-103/A03
- this firmware updater file:
http://ftp.nec-computers.com/pub/itemnr/NECFIUP05610200/Pion155.exe

How to:
1-You need to download the file onto the PC so you can run it there and make the boot floppy with firmware files. The updater has all the files you need.

2-Place any 1.44 floppy in the PC and run the file - Pion155.exe from Windows. This will format and copy the files in one easy step.

3-Shut the PC down. Open the PC case and attach the SuperDrive as IDE Master on the second IDE bus. No devices should be on the primary IDE bus nor the Slave position of the second bus. Make sure the motherboard BIOS is set to look for a device on Master of the second IDE bus.

4-With the updater floppy from step #2 in the PC floppy drive, start the PC so you can boot from the floppy. The updater will automatically run and should update your SuperDrive it finds as ID 2. When the updater says so, shut down the PC.

5-Remove the SuperDrive from the PC and reinstall into your Mac. You are done!

And now you SHOULD have firmware 1.55 loaded. Use Apple System Profiler or Toast to check the firmware is 1.55.

I merely came across this file on the Internet and didn't really "make" a fix for our drives. I would refrain from thanking NEC for the file (bringing attention to this) as we would like to continue to get future updates for our drives. :D"

Before posting this news item I download the file (on a PC), ran a virus scan on it and then flashed a v1.33 OEM Apple ROM drive in a P4/ABit TH7 RAID II system. It seems to have worked fine. There were several file creation errors seen during executing the PC batch file, as it creates a ramdisk and does a check/test of several drive letter ranges from a quick read of the batch file. (This did not affect the flash update which completed fine) With the TH7 RAID system (onboard RAID controller running the boot HD, with the Intel chipset dual IDE controller having one CDRW as master on the primary bus and the Superdrive as master on the secondary bus, it did not work until I disabled the CDRW (primary bus) in the bios. This would not normally be a problem since most PCs don't have onboard RAID controllers and use the primary chipset IDE bus for the hard drive.

It seems to have worked fine as far as the flash update but I have not tried the drive in a Mac yet. Win98 SE device manager reports v1.55 firmware, so I suspect it will be fine. The reader that posted the info said he's tested his in a B&W G3 and it seems fine.

I wish v1.55 helped with the very slow CDROM reading/copy performance with the Superdrive, but I doubt firmware can fix that. (It's the slowest CDROM reader I have seen since the 4x drive days... even with a v1.44 firmware Superdrive model in a G4/733, it is very slow copying files from CD; as low as 500KB/sec in some cases, as well as very low audio extraction rates based on tests in OS 9.x ) But then DVD burning is the reason to have this drive.

Remember flashing any drive has its risks - if anything interrupts the flash process the drive will be unusable.

BTW - Even after flashing v1.55 in the drive using a PC, the Pioneer 1.65 update flasher still reports a kernel mismatch error and won't flash the drive. Perhaps copying the 1.65 rom file and editing the batch file for the NEC flasher would fix that, but I've not had time to try that.

v1.55 Firmware Performance Tests: Although it's not a purely equal test (I had applied an OS update since the 1.44 firmware tests although the Apple CD/DVD extension was the same version for both tests); here are some comparisons of the 1.44 firmware to the 1.55 firmware flashed in the same drive. (Tests used a Digital Audio G4/733 overclocked to 800mhz. No ZIP drive installed, OS 9.2.x, 512MB of RAM, VM off.)

MacBench 5.0 CD Test Series:
macbench cd test results


I also ran Toast Audio extractor tests - my previous tests (w/OS 9.1) on the system with the 1.44 firmware showed under 800KB/sec rates even on the outer tracks of a CD using Toast's Audio Extractor 1.1. Tests with OS 9.2.x with the 1.55 firmware showed outer track rates of appx 1.7MB/sec (about double). Inner track tests still showed under 800KB/sec rates.

Here's an Apple system profiler screenshot showing the drive was successfully updated to v1.55 firmware.

apple system profiler

Listing of Fixes from v1.22 to 1.49 Firmware: It does not include fixes/changes for 1.55, but a reader noted a PDF (acrobat reader) file listing the changes/fixes in the Pioneer firmware from 1.22 to 1.49.

Reader Tests of 1.22 vs 1.55 Firmware: (Added 12/12/2001 from the main news page)

" Thanks again, Mike.
Your site fills a huge void that retail manufacturers leave in their wake. They consistently move on to the latest and greatest, forgetting to tie up loose ends on their current, and legacy, products. Case in point, the Apple DVD-R shipped with the first 733's. I had to replace my G4's drive less than a month ago, having had less that satisfactory results with the burning capability since I got it in March. Way too many DVD coasters! The unit shipped proved to be no better. The March production date on the original burner was replace, by Apple, with an April production date unit! What luck. Same firmware revision. 1.22

Taking your directions, and a friends PC, we did the upgrade in less than fifteen minutes. Initial boot locked up the machine, though I had just done the OS 9.2.2 upgrade and can safely say it, and not the firmware upgrade, was the culprit. Drive is still bootable and access times are up substantially, (see enclosed attachments, 3x FWB benchtests, 2x Astarte CD-Copy). Copy speeds now match the Sony 16x/10x/40x burner I have in a Beige G3 desktop. Brian "

1.22 Firmware Version tests:
FWB CD Read Tests v1.22

1.55 Firmware Version tests:
FWB CD Read Tests v1.55

CDcopy Rates w/version 1.55 Firmware:
CDcopy rates 1.55

(Brian didn't send info on CDcopy rates for 1.22)

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