Playing other region DVDs on the MacBook Pro

If you play DVDs on your computer, you may notice that if you play a different region DVD, the computer may prompt you saying the region of the DVD is different, and whether you want to change the region of your drive to match.   In some cases you only have a limited number of times you can change the region before the DVD drive is locked to that region.

If the number of times is limited, then it is most likely that the hardware itself (the DVD drive firmware) is checking the region and checking the number of times you’ve changed the region.  This type of firmware is known as RPC-2.   Nearly all new DVD-ROM drives are RPC-2.

If it’s not RPC-2, then your drive is known as RPC-1, which means that the actual hardware isn’t doing any checking at all, but software or the Operating System (eg. Windows) is checking the region.

My Problem

So what’s my problem?  Well, I have a large number of Region 1 DVDs that I bought from US stores many years ago over the internet.   Trouble is, if I watched them, then watched Australian DVDs on my MacBook Pro, I’m very quickly going to run over the 4 region changes I had left.

Possible Solutions

 Luckily there’s quite a few clever people out there, and to my knowledge, there seems to be a few options:

  1. Buy an external drive for the other region.   Costs more money and means you’ve got another device hanging off your computer. 
  2. Patch your drive to an RPC-1 firmware if available.   Some clever people have “hacked” the RPC-2 firmware for a drive to an RPC-1 firmware.   However, not all drives have been done, so this may not be an available option for you.     Flashing your drive is risky, voids your warranty, and if something goes wrong, there is a possibility that you will render your drive useless.   Also, having an RPC-1 drive means that your software may still be checking regions, which means you may need to run a software utility to reset the region.
  3. Patch your drive to an RPC-2 auto reset firmware.  The next best thing is an Auto Reset patch.   What this means is that your drive is still RPC-2 (the hardware will still check the region and you have 4-5 times to change the region), but every time you reboot your computer, the count and region will reset to whatever you had it when you patched your drive.   Patching your drive is risky, voids your warranty, and if something goes wrong, there is a possibility that you will render your drive useless.    Also, I’ve read that the memory on your drive may only support a number of region changes until it gets “damaged”.  
  4. Run a DVD viewing program or DVD-ROM utility that can get around the region encoding.    I don’t know how these work, but I’m guessing they read the raw DVD-ROM data and then pretend to be a DVD-ROM in another region on the fly so you never have to change the region of your hardware.   
  5. Rip the DVD movies and convert them into another format using software like Handbrake or MacTheRipper.   This works because Mac OS is still able to read the DVD as a DVD-ROM disc and show the individual files on there as if it was a data disc.   Since the computer has not got to the stage of trying to interpret the files on the disc and playing the movie, the region checking hasn’t kicked in yet.    However, this method is obviously slow and not useful if you want to bring a stack of DVDs on a trip with you.   I’m also doubtful of the legality of this option.

 

What did I do?

As I have quite a few Region 1 DVDs, and my drive doesn’t seem to have an available RPC-1 patch, I tried patching my drive with an RPC-2 Auto Reset patch.

I worked out that my MacBook Pro has an LG DVD-ROM GS23N drive with firmware model SB00-01.   DO NOT follow the instructions below if your computer and drive don’t match this.  However, you may be interested in reading the steps aas they may be similar to the procedure you’d need to carry out on other computers/drives.

Unfortunately, the patching software needs to be run in Windows, so the first thing I did was install a trial version of VMWare Fusion and install Windows inside it. 

  1. Download the original firmware for your drive from here:  http://files.rpc1.org/index.php?act=category&id=1823
  2. Download Media Code Speed Edit (MCSE) from here: http://www.videohelp.com/tools/MediaCodeSpeedEdit
  3. Run MCSE
  4. Click the Load button and select the firmware exe to load it 
  5. Check the RPC2 Auto Reset checkbox
  6. Click the Save button and save the modified firmware with a different name, eg. GS23N-SB00-01_speedpatched
  7. Run the new firmware executable
  8. Click the Update button
  9. You can click the Reboot button, but you really want to reboot the whole Mac, not just the Windows VM
  10. Reboot the Mac

Testing it out

Now, to test it out, I used DVD Info X to verify that my drive was in Region 4 with 4 region changes left.

 

Then I inserted a Region 1 DVD and used the in built Mac DVD Player.   The dialog box came up asking me if I want to change the region. 

I set the region to 1 which then allowed the movie to be played.   I used DVD Info X to verify the drive’s properties again and it confirmed that the drive had been changed to Region 1

However, after a reboot, all was back to normal.

 

Additional links if you’re interested:

http://www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html

http://forum.rpc1.org/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=45694

http://forum.rpc1.org/viewtopic.php?t=15294

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3 thoughts on “Playing other region DVDs on the MacBook Pro”

  1. Thanks for the blog. I was a bit nervous using the utility under VMware Fusion, but your blog gave me confidence to do it and it worked fine.

    One thing I found that using VLC as my media player, I have not needed to even set the region so therefore region resets are never needed.

    Thanks again.

    1. I agree 🙂 The last success was when I got my Dad to move to a MacBook Pro from a Dell laptop. Currently planning my daughter’s next computer and hopefully that will be a Mac too – just can’t decide which one!

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