Force Eject a CD or DVD From Your Mac Even When Stuck

4 ways to eject a CD or DVD in an emergency

What to Know

  • You can use the Terminal app to eject a disc. Unlike other methods, it doesn't require a shutdown and a restart.
  • You can use a Mac's Boot Manager utility to force it to eject a CD or DVD.
  • Another option is to add a CD/DVD Eject menu to the Mac menu bar. 

Older Macs with built-in optical drives for reading and writing CDs or DVDs lack an external eject button and an emergency manual eject system. The Apple USB SuperDrive also lacks any mechanical ejection capacities. If you own one of these devices, here are four ways to force your Mac to eject a stuck optical disc.

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How do I eject a CD from my Mac?

Mature putting CD in laptop drive, close-up of hand.
Tom Grill/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

I inserted a CD into my Mac, and now I can't figure out how to eject it. Where is the eject button?

Apple designers have removed the physical eject button and incorporated the eject function into the Mac and the operating system itself, allowing you to use various methods of ejecting an optical disc without having to fiddle with any buttons or in the worse case a paperclip to access the emergency eject hole.

Most of the methods for ejecting a disc are software based and one of them may be able to help you dislodge a stubborn optical disc.

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Eject Stuck CD/DVD - Use Terminal to Eject a Stuck CD/DVD

DVD being Ejected
Epoxydude/Getty Images

One of the least used methods for ejecting an optical disc is via the Terminal app. That’s too bad because Terminal offers a few capabilities missing from other methods. If you have multiple optical drives, an available configuration for the older cheese grater Mac Pro, you can use Terminal to eject one or the other, or both.

You can also use Terminal to specify an internal or external optical drive as the target for the eject command.

The other advantage of Terminal is that unlike some of the other eject options for getting a stuck disc ejected, Terminal does not require you to shutdown and restart your Mac.

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Eject Stuck CD/DVD - Use OS X Boot Manager to Eject a Stuck CD/DVD

OS X Startup Manager
Courtesy of Apple

Slot loading optical drives have a unique problem that can occur, a failed ejection may leave your Mac thinking that there is no optical disc within the drive, causing the most commonly used eject commands not to be available.

In most cases when you choose to eject a disc in a slot loading optical drive, your Mac first checks to see if the drive actually has a disc inserted. If it thinks there is no disc present, it will not perform the eject command.

If this happens to you, you can use this nifty trick involving the Boot Manager to easily force optical media to be ejected.

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Eject Menu Added to Menubar
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Our last tip for ejecting stuck media in an optical drive is also very useful as a standard way to insert and eject discs. Adding a CD/DVD Eject menu to your Mac’s menu bar lets you quickly be able to eject any optical drive connected to your Mac. This includes multiple internal or external drives.

And because the command is always available from the menu bar, you can always access this command, no matter how many windows and apps are cluttering up your desktop…

How Eject Buttons Work

The eject button on an optical drive sends a signal to the device that causes the tray to open, or for the slot-loading drive to spit out the CD or DVD. In case the optical drive's motor is shot, and power isn't getting to the CD/DVD player, there's also an emergency ejection hole. The hole allows a thin steel wire, usually a handy paperclip, to be pressed into the hole. This causes the ejection system in the optical drive to engage and force the CD or DVD out of the drive.

The optical drives in a Mac lack these two basic features, or if they're present, they're carefully hidden away by Apple’s designers, in order to ensure a uniform look to the Mac. In other words, a case of design trumping function.

While the designers were willing to turn a blind eye to the problem of ejecting a stuck disc, the electrical and mechanical engineers provided alternate methods of getting a stuck CD or DVD disc out of a Mac’s optical drive.

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