Remember seeing those sleek formac cdrw drives advertised in the back of the Mac magazines around December/January? I ordered one. The case that looked so small and elegant in the advertisements was colossal and made of cheap plastic. The door covering the disc tray was absurd and the eject button barely worked. The plastic edge of the case around the door opening was cut so poorly that there were slithers of plastic hanging down that I had to shave off before it looked nice.

Even the drive mechanism itself proved to be a disappointment. Apple Disc Burner and iTunes do not support the Teac drive. The only compatible software seemed to be the included Toast, and even that couldn't burn at full speed for some reason. Perplexed, I visited the formac website. Lo and behold, the cdrw drive which a formac representative has once assured me would run purely off my Powerbook's FireWire port now required the addition of an AC adapter to burn at the higher speeds. And the AC adapter, which had not existed and for which there was no need when I purchased my drive, was now available for order - at an additional $29.

Not about to send more money to formac, I chose instead to improve the drive myself.


The screws are hidden under the plastic feet: four on the top and four on the bottom. If you are simply interested in opening the drive it is adequate to remove only the screws on top. The feet are glued into place, but they don't damage easily, so one merely has to pull hard to remove them. If one wants the feet to stay in place afterwards a dab of glue is all that is necessary. Once the case is open, it is a simple matter to remove the large, goofy cover door and the plastic button.


With the large door and button removed the drive's functionality is greatly improved; it is even possible to see the status lights. The eject button can easily be reached by reaching inside the drive's front opening. This looks a bit awkward but it is vastly preferable to formac's button. In formac's standard setup, the large plastic button is flush with the case and offers no tactile feedback when pressed. Pushing on the case itself beside the button is as effective as pushing the button itself; both require significant pressure.

Thanks to Dominique Simons, the iTunes and Disc Burner incompatibility has also been fixed. TeacCDR is a modification of the Teac Authoring Support file that adds support for the W512E mechanism used in the formac drive. Tear out the door and the button, add a third party software hack, and the formac cdrw becomes a downright usable.

None of this however, fixes the power supply issue, and the drive looks even uglier than before. Much nicer is the case to my old Pinnacle Micro drive...


Both the Pinnacle Micro and the Teac mechanism are standard size drives, making switching them a breeze. The Pinnacle Micro case also has a built in power supply more than adequate to power the Teac drive.


Removing the entire drive unit requires removing the plastic feet from the bottom to get at those screws as well. The IDE->FireWire board is simply fastened to the back of the case by a couple more screws.


The cdrw drive is hooked directly to the case's power supply. The IDE->FireWire board is still powered by the Powerbook's FireWire port. This method requires two switches - one for the drive and one for the interface - but takes the load for the mechanism off the Powerbook's FireWire interface to incease the drive's recording speed.


The interface board is held into place by two screws. The power switch is glued.


When all is said and done we're left with a drive that is a vast improvement over the original. The case is rugged and attractive, full burning speeds can be obtained, the button is easily accessible, the tray ejects without interference, the status lights are visible, and iTunes and Disc Burner compatability has been achieved.

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