Burning DVDs with Apple's SuperDrive

Apple's SuperDrive is a special case because, along with CD-RW and CD-R discs, it can also burn DVD-R discs that can be used to record data and be mounted on the desktop or played in consumer DVD players when you burn them using iDVD or another DVD-creating application. This drive is available (at least as an option) on all Mac models.


Just as with CD-RW drives, third-party DVD-R/DVD-RW hardware and software are available. However, because Apple's DVD-R technology works so well and is included with Mac hardware and as part of Mac OS X, Apple's technology is the focus of this section.

One downside to this technology is the expense of DVD-R discs, which currently cost about $3 per disc for 2x discs or $4 per disc for 4x discs. Of course, when you compare that cost on a per-MB basis, DVD-Rs seem not to be so expensive after all.

Creating a data DVD is very similar to creating a data CD, except that you can store up to 4.7GB of data on a single disc (compared to about 750MB on a CD).

First, configure your Mac for the action you want it to take when you insert a blank DVD-R disc.

Open the System Preferences utility and click the CDs & DVDs icon to open that pane. Use the "When you insert a blank DVD" pop-up menu to select the action you want your Mac to take when you put a blank DVD into your machine. You have the following options:

  • Ask what to do? When you insert a blank DVD, your Mac prompts you and provides a list of possible actions from which you can choose. The Action pop-up menu contains a set of choices similar to those on the "When you insert a blank DVD" pop-up menu on the DVDs & DVDs pane, such as Open Finder and Open iDVD. From this dialog box, you can also name the DVD by entering its name in the Name field. You can make the action you select on the Action pop-up menu be the default (checking the "Make this action the default" check box in the prompt window does the same thing as selecting that option in the DVDs & DVDs pane). The Eject, Ignore, and OK buttons in the dialog box do what you expect (eject the disc, ignore it, or implement the changes you make, respectively). Because this option provides the most flexibility, I recommend that you choose this option. However, for specific situations, the other choices might be more appropriate for you.

  • Open Finder? When this option is the default or if you select it in the prompt, the blank DVD is mounted and the Finder becomes the active application. You can then use the Finder to name the DVD, add contents, and burn it. If you usually burn DVDs from the Finder and don't like to be interrupted by the prompt, this option is probably for you.

  • Open iDVD? When a disc is mounted, iDVD becomes the active application. If you mostly burn DVDs using iDVD, this setting can make the process more convenient.

  • Open other application? You can use this option to select a different application to open when a DVD is inserted.

  • Run script? With this option, an AppleScript you select is launched when you insert a blank DVD. After you select the script you want to launch, it appears on the "When you insert a blank DVD" pop-up menu. If you have a custom burn process implemented through an AppleScript, this is the option you should choose.

  • Ignore? When you insert a blank DVD, your Mac takes no action. In fact, this disc is not even mounted in the Finder. You have to manually take some action later, such as opening an application that can burn DVDs, to do something with the disc. If you prefer to keep blank DVDs in your Mac and don't want to be interrupted when you insert them, this might be the option you want to choose.

After you have configured your Mac, burning DVDs from the Finder is very straightforward, as the following steps demonstrate (these steps assume that you have selected the "Ask me what to do" option; however, using the Open Finder option works similarly):

  1. Insert a DVD-R disc into the drive. You are prompted to select an action.

  2. Select Open Finder on the Action pop-up menu.

  3. Enter the name of the DVD you are burning in the Name field. You can name DVDs just as you name other volumes on your Mac, such as hard drives. The one area of caution should be if you intend to share the disc with other users. If so, you should keep the name short (eight characters or fewer) and avoid spaces or special characters to prevent problems on other computers.

  4. Click OK. You move into the Finder and will see that the DVD you just named is mounted.

  5. Drag the files you want on the DVD to the mounted DVD-R disc, just like any other volume to which you can copy or move files. The files are copied to the DVD and you see the standard move/copy progress window.

  6. Arrange and organize the files as you want them to be on the DVD.


    Because burning DVDs from the Finder is a single session, you can burn to a DVD-R disc only once. After it has been burned, you won't be able to add files to it. Make sure you have all the files on the DVD that you want before you burn it. If you want to burn to a DVD in more than one session, use Disk Utility instead.

    To learn how use Disk Utility, see "Burning CDs/DVDs with Disk Utility," p. 799.

  7. Select the DVD and select File, Burn Disc.

  8. In the resulting dialog box, select the speed at which you want to burn the disc. In most cases, Maximum is the best choice. However, if you are having problems burning discs at your drive's maximum speed, you can open the Burn Speed pop-up menu and choose a slower speed.

  9. Click Burn. You will see a progress window as the data is prepared and the disc is recorded. When the process is complete, the DVD is mounted on the desktop and ready to use.

To create a DVD for video, images, and other multimedia content, you can use Apple's iDVD application, which enables you to drag and drop QuickTime movies, images, and other multimedia files to create a custom DVD, including DVD motion menus.

To learn how to use iDVD, see "Creating Your Own DVDs," p. 630.


Apple also offers DVD Studio Pro, which is a professional-quality DVD creation application.


DVD-R drives are currently in their infancy and several formats are competing for dominance. If you are considering a third-party DVD-R drive, make sure it is compatible with iDVD and other Apple DVD applications?not all drives are compatible. Eventually, DVD-RW drives will likely take the place of CD-RW drives, but for the next few years, you can expect some turbulence in this area.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life