Saturday 12 January 2008

How to make the DVD drive on a Intel MacBook DVD region free

I've finally found the Achilles heal of using an Intel Apple MacBook. Note that I never noticed this with my Intel Apple MacBook Pro, but we had a region free DVD player in the house which cost approximately £20. No more however.

I've just emigrated from Europe, which is Region 2, to Australia, which is Region 4. I do a lot of DVD purchases via the States using Amazon: the States is Region 1.

Apple lets me change the region code on the DVD player 4 times. That's 4 times total. So for example, I can watch one region 1 DVD player, then one region 2, then one region 4, then another region 1. And then no more DVDs on this machine ever, except for whichever region I end up selecting last. That means approximately 2/3rds of my DVD collection will be unavailable to me.

Now, the savvy amongst you will suggest using a region free software DVD player like VLC. Unfortunately, on the Intel Macs this doesn't work. The Matshita DVD player itself compares the DVD region of the disc to the DVD region held in the firmware, and prevents any access to the disc if the regions differ. This means any access, including at a data layer - you just end up with read/write errors using any of the suggested workarounds you may have found on various Mac forums.

The only option is to download a hacked firmware downgrade that changes the DVD player from an RPC-2 player to an RPC-1 player. This of course immediately means the hardware is unsupported - and you risk the OS/X software updater overwriting the downgraded firmware, potentially cause system instability, brick the DVD drive etc.

Here's how you do it:

  1. Download the DVD info utility from MacUpdate here.
  2. Run DVD info. You'll get output of the form shown at the end of the article.
  3. Check this thread and this thread on to see if you've lucked out, and a hacked firmware is available for your particular make and model of DVD player.
  4. If it is, download the firmware and install it.
  5. If it isn't, you need to follow a slightly different process. This only works if you have DVDs of 4 or less regions.
  6. Take all the DVDs of your current drive firmware and rip them using Handbrake, DVD Backup or another DVD ripping software. You'll probably want to DivX or Xvid encode them to reduce disk utilisation.
  7. Locally back them up to your Buffalo TeraServer.
  8. Remotely back them up to using Vuze or another bittorrent client. By doing this you ensure the files are available later - effectively an offsite disaster recovery solution.
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 for the remaining three regions worth of DVDs that you have.
  10. File a suit with the World Trade Organisation against Matshita, Apple, the DVD Forum and other suitable bodies for violating the WTO agreement against region based restraint of trade. The Australian and New Zealand governments may support you, as may Antigua.
Thanks for your patience. This is a public community service announcement. Please note that I strongly support copyright and believe a 14 year copyright term should be the maximum provided for in law. Please ensure before proceeding with any actions outlined here that you are covered by the fair use conventions of your relevant jurisdiction and you are not circumventing a copyright protection mechanism.
DVD Info X v1.0.2, by xvi (

WARNING --- DVD Info X will only list DVD drives that have some WRITE
capabilities, like combos, DVD-R, DVD-RW, etc...
DVD-ROM-only drives will NOT be listed.
WARNING --- You also must eject any inserted medium to list the drive.

Model: CD-RW CW-8221
Firmware: GA0J
RPC-2 (region locked)
State is SET
4 vendor resets left
4 region changes left
Region 2


Anonymous said...

Alas, as of Feb 08, DVD Info appears to have disappeared off the face of the planet. :-(

Unknown said...

Hi, I see from the info x output that you have a Matshita CW8221 drive but I can't see the firmware on either of those links you've posted - I assume you got yours working, so can you point me to the firmware you used?

Andrew Doull said...

Unfortunately, I didn't. The latest Matshita drives have region blocks implemented at a 'hardware' level that you can't circumvent using these techniques.