Ejecting Discs The Mac Way [Update]

Eject

I criticize because I love.

Yesterday, I discussed functional design with my better half (read: girlfriend) while driving home from IKEA. She uses Mac at work and mentioned how a new colleague who was used to The PC Way had trouble ejecting a disc on her new Intel Mac Pro Quad Xeon.

A little back story: On most PCs, consumer devices such as DVD players, CD players and other disc handling devices, there’s an “eject” button next to the tray / slot-loading mechanism. On the Mac, however, there isn’t. The Mac Way of ejecting discs is threefold: you can drag the disc into the virtual trash bin ((In addition, the trash bin turns into an eject icon, when volumes are dragged over it)), you can press the “Eject” button on the keyboard (top right corner), or you can press the “Eject” button next to the disc in the Finder device list (the Mac file explorer).

Now Apple makes beautiful and functional hardware. Whenever someone asks me what laptop they should buy, I say “buy a Mac”. I say this because they’re functional pieces of work. Except of course, for the mystery of the missing Eject button. Can someone please explain, using puppets if necessary, why Apple hasn’t included an eject button next to disc trays yet! To me this seems like another doomed-to-fail Apple crusade like the decade-long lack of right-click mice.

[Update]: Okay fine, so an eject button might not make so much sense on a Mac laptop, but I stand by what I said with regards to the non-portable macs, mainly for the reasons Brian mentions.

41 thoughts on “Ejecting Discs The Mac Way [Update]”

  1. I’ll let you know.

    It’s a design choice that goes back to when they were designing the first macs.

    The had a problem with it being possible to eject floppy discs when the computer was writing to them.

    The PC way was just to let people figure out that they needed to wait the extra few seconds for that final disc activity LED blink.

    Jef Raskin took another approach, which was to make the eject mechanism software controlled, which made it impossible for the user to be confronted with this problem – the disc would just eject when the machine was done writing.

    Now, why they are still doing it, is – I guess – because they like the old way and it probably saves on hardware costs (slightly) and keeps the computers super clean looking.

    It would be no problem for them to include a button that triggered the same software mechanism, but I guess they think the software eject is good enough.

    One argument for it could be that it’s a completely uniform way to eject any disc in mac os – be it a floppy, zip, jaz, syquest (walking down memory lane here), cd rom, dvd, digital camera or whatever.

    Strangely, I think the keyboard eject button only works for the physical media… don’t know how it reacts if you have 2 disc drives both having discs in them.

    I like dedicated hardware buttons, but in general the mac options available to me in Mac OS X haven’t left me wanting yet.

  2. Joen says:

    The had a problem with it being possible to eject floppy discs when the computer was writing to them.

    OOH that’s right! I seem to remember from somewhere.

    It would be no problem for them to include a button that triggered the same software mechanism, but I guess they think the software eject is good enough.

    Okay, well, I should rephrase my original question like this:

    Why does Apple incist on not including an eject button next to disc trays now that they can solve the previous disk-writing problem.

    One argument for it could be that it?s a completely uniform way to eject any disc in mac os – be it a floppy, zip, jaz, syquest (walking down memory lane here), cd rom, dvd, digital camera or whatever.

    So sue me, but I just ignore warnings and unplug them. What, me worry?

  3. OOH that?s right! I seem to remember from somewhere.

    Raskin writes about it in The Humane Interface, which you may have read?

  4. So sue me, but I just ignore warnings and unplug them. What, me worry?

    My argument was in regards to user interface consistency, not the warning thing.

  5. I just remembered how much I loved to use the command line eject for the drives when I used linux as my primary desktop 🙂

    So I am apparently at ease with the software approach.

  6. Joen says:

    Raskin writes about it in The Humane Interface, which you may have read?

    Ah. Yes. That’s the book that everyone recommends, so it’s still in my “To-Read” list.

    My argument was in regards to user interface consistency, not the warning thing.

    You mean consistency with previous Mac stuff, and consistency in what I think is a violation of basic usability principles. Here’s a really bad metaphor. Let’s say you want to enter a toilet. You open the door. Now let’s say you exit the toilet, well, to do that you have to grab the door and flush it. Spot the inconsistency.

  7. Florian says:

    Isn’t an eject button on the keyboard just as effective as one positioned next to the drive?

  8. Joen says:

    Florian,

    Sure, it’s as effective, but in my opinion it’s not nearly as userfriendly.

  9. Peter says:

    First: this comment may be off-topic as I don’t try to answer your rephrased question, Joen. Nevertheless I think it’s relevant 🙂

    I recently switched – although only partially – and had quite a few of the confusing experiences like the one with the trash bin.

    For a start I was looking for Ctrl+Alt+Del as I wanted to log out. Until I discovered the log out option and remembered that the notorious shortcut only makes sense to me because I have been forced to press it so many times over the years.

    Next I had severe problems installing Adium (a chat client – the first app I wanted to install). It kept on mounting some virtual drive and behaving weird until I realized that I in order to install the app, simply had to drag it to my applications folder.

    At some point I even asked one of my Mac-savvy friends what shortcut I could use when I wanted to shut down the Mac, now that I had learned that Ctrl+Alt+Del didn’t exist. He of course pointed to the power button and shook his head at me. I never had a PC where you would use the power button for shutting it down – unless it had crashed.

    I don’t miss the eject button. Eject buttons are ugly. I love the tiny eject icons displayed next to the drives in Finder. I like (don’t love) the keyboard eject button. I think the key term here is positioning. It’s positioned weird.

    I do however find the trash bin metaphor a bit ridiculous. You don’t scrap a CD when you eject it. You don’t delete it. You only flush it from your system.

    Maybe a toilet would be more appropriate?

  10. Dylan says:

    Another argument is that the Mac eject is software-dependent, so without a bootable OS you can’t eject a disc, while with a PC, the ejecting mechanism is only dependent on there being power supplied to it (I believe).

  11. Weili says:

    First of all, just because it’s not something you are used to, it doesn’t automatically make it “user unfriendly”…

    Second, how hard is it to press the eject button on the keyboard? Most of the time you are typing already so it’s just a matter of reaching half an inch. With PCs, you’d have to either bend under your desk or reach toward wherever you store your computer in order to eject the disk. Also because the Mac “eject” is software-based, you can program your multi-button mouse to have one of the buttons acting as an eject key as well.

    Finally, like someone else has already mentioned, the Mac “eject” being software based makes sure that no computer n00b will “accidently” eject a disc while it’s still being used.

    BTW, if your disc, for whatever reason, is truly “stuck”, you can always manually eject it with a straightened paperclip…

  12. Sandeep says:

    3 reasons

    1. Less is more

    2. Accidentally prevent ejecting disks when they are being burned

    3. Having an eject button next to the drive is aesthetically displeasing

  13. Joen says:

    Peter,

    I don?t miss the eject button. Eject buttons are ugly. I love the tiny eject icons displayed next to the drives in Finder. I like (don?t love) the keyboard eject button. I think the key term here is positioning. It?s positioned weird.

    You contradict yourself. On one hand you don’t miss the eject button, on the other hand you like the keyboard eject button although it’s positioned weird. Sorry to be splitting words, but are you saying an eject button near the keyboard is okay, and one near the physical drive is not okay?

    Weili,

    First of all, just because it?s not something you are used to, it doesn?t automatically make it ?user unfriendly?…

    Clearly, but in this case I’ve put a lot of thought into it, and I really think that, even if I was used to having to press the keyboard to eject, this is still “user unfriendly”.

    Second, how hard is it to press the eject button on the keyboard? Most of the time you are typing already so it?s just a matter of reaching half an inch.

    I agree, it’s not hard. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be an eject button near the physical drive.

    Finally, like someone else has already mentioned, the Mac ?eject? being software based makes sure that no computer n00b will ?accidently? eject a disc while it?s still being used.

    All the recent (i.e. last 5 years) CD & DVD / CD-R & DVD-R drives I’ve used on PC hardware have been software controlled as well, or a combination. Meaning, the PC can lock the drive when it’s in use, e.g. being burned to, but you can still eject as long as there’s power to the drive (and you’re not using the drive).

    Sandeep,

    1. Less is more

    2. Accidentally prevent ejecting disks when they are being burned

    3. Having an eject button next to the drive is aesthetically displeasing

    1 & 3 are purely aesthetic arguments, and in this case I’d argue that this is “aesthetics compromising usability”.

    2 is moot since any modern PC will also prevent your disk from being ejected while burned, as I said above.

  14. Lee Joramo says:

    I have used Mac’s as my primary desktop system for over 12 years, and I have used a wide variety of systems (DOS, CP/M, OS/2, Windows, etc) dating back to 1981.

    As others have said the Mac prevents users from manually ejecting to prevent data loss and program crashes. (Ever run an application from an ejectable media?)

    There are two more interesting questions:

    1) Why don’t other systems provide safeguards?

    2) Why has this never been addressed via hardware?

    If you examine a Mac system that has a full size CD/DVD drive, you will see that the drive is an standard drive. The drive actually has an eject button that is hidden behind the plastic of the bezel. Apple goes out of their way to hide this “feature”.

    The proper solution to this would be for the eject button on a drive to not directly eject the disk, but to send a disk eject request to the OS. The OS could then determine that it is save to eject straightaway, or flush caches and eject, or send a warning to the user.

    This feature could also be implement so that if you held down the eject button for an extended time (say 5 seconds) a force eject could occur.

  15. Chris says:

    Locating the eject button on the keyboard (and providing the soft-eject feature) also means that you don’t have to stoop over and fumble for the eject button if your computer is under your desk. I have a Windows PC on my desk and just instinctively use Window’s soft-eject feature so I don’t have go hunting for the tiny black and barely protruding button mounted on the black faceplate of my computer. Even sitting in front of the PC, with the CD drive in close reach, I prefer the soft-eject.

  16. b says:

    “it?s not hard. But that doesn?t mean there shouldn?t be an eject button near the physical drive.”

    What are you, retarded??

    My iBook has an eject button directly above the right corner of the CD tray where it’s fully protected when the laptop cover is closed (like during transport) It’s barely a 1/4 inch from the tray. How close do you want it.

    As for desktops; it much more convenient having the button right in front of you on the keyboard, rather than under a desk, or anywhere else one might choose to bury a CPU.

    And you didn’t even mention the most common method of ejection; simply right-clicking on a disk, and eject. Or just click the little universal “eject” symbol next to the disk in any finder window. (hell, I don’t have to let go of my mouse)

    Seriously, if you’re going to try and make an argument for PC advantages in UI over Apple’s you’re just ignorant or an idiot. Actually you probably just have bad taste. (welcome to the majority)

    Ask Mom and Dad for some more money to go back and retake ergonomic UI design class.

  17. Vuong Pham says:

    Other methods for ejecting a CD in Mac OSX

    1. Right click (or ctrl and single mouse button/left button click) Choose eject from popup menu.

    2. Ctrl + ( single mouse button/left button click) Choose eject from popup menu.

    3. Pressing the keyboard eject key

    4. Using the Command-E keyboard combination

    Enabling an Eject menu As a side note, you can enable another means of ejecting disks by opening the folder System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras and double-clicking the file “Eject.menu”. An eject icon will appear in the menubar that can be used to close and open selected optical drives.

    If you no longer want the Eject menubar item, hold down the command key while clicking and dragging the icon out of the menubar space.

    If the CD is “stuck” OS won’t respond.

    1. Boot into Open Firmware and eject If you have a Mac that will not startup properly and has a stuck disc, try booting into Open Firmware by holding down Command, Option, O key and F key during startup. After booting into Open Firmware, type the command eject-cd.

    2. Using the Terminal There are two commands that can be used in the Terminal (located in Applications/Utilities) which can be used to force disk ejection:

    The first command to try is drutil tray eject. Simply type in this command and press return.

    The other method takes a little more work but can work in instances where the first method fails.

    a. Type the command drutil list into the Terminal and press return . This will provide a list of all currently connected removable devices.

    b . Use the command drutil tray eject 1

    In the above command, the number “1” should be replaced with whatever drive number you obtained in the first step.

    3. Use Disk Utility to eject The first and simplest method, if you only want to unmount a single volume on the disk, is to use Disk Utility, located in Applications/Utilities. In Disk Utility, simply select the volume you want to unmount and click Eject.

    4. Hold Down the mouse button at startup In some cases holding down a connected USB mouse button at startup will cause a misbehaving optical drive to eject its media.

    ** The original NeXT Operating system didn’t have a trashcan icon. Initially it was a black hole but that reference was too obscure, so it became a recycle symbol.

  18. Scott says:

    I agree with all of the comments above (seriously, why add yet another button when you already have one on the keyboard).

    Unfortunately, everyone’s assumption about interface uniformity is incorrect. My old Performa 600CD, PowerMac 7100/80AV, and my circa 19998 Wallstreet PowerBook G3 (which runs early versions of OS X and has an eject key on it’s keyboard – possibly true of Lombards and Pismos too) all have hardware eject buttons on or next to their CD drives.

    My brother-in-law’s PCs will let us eject a CD or DVD with the hardware button while its in use, leading to all kinds of wonkyness.

    Definitely prefer Apple’s way.

    Scott

  19. Vuong Pham says:

    Then again… if thing ever get really wacky.. I just restart the computer and manually slide the cosmetic optical drive cover and press the eject button hidden on the inside. I have a dual 1.8 G5 so that is still an option.

    The older ibooks had a manual eject button accessible via paperclip tool.

    Your mileage will vary.

    But, generally speaking using the manual button/ methods bypasses the OS which cause weird joojoo (technical term).

    -Vuong

  20. Ha… this is odd.

    This very day I received my Mac Pro, and now I have changed my stance:

    If you, like me, think that the mac keyboards (for desktops) are crap, then I really am missing the hardware button; now I suddenly have to have a the mac keyboard connected just to use the eject button when I want to insert a new CD.

    This wouldn’t be a problem with a slot-in drive, but suddenly I need to be able to eject the tray without anything being in the drive.

    I have no idea how to do that except with the keyboard eject button.

  21. Joen says:

    Some good replies here.

    First, though:

    b,

    My iBook has an eject button directly above the right corner of the CD tray where it?s fully protected when the laptop cover is closed (like during transport) It?s barely a 1/4 inch from the tray. How close do you want it.

    I discussed this with a colleague at work (Peter, also commented in this thread), and we both agreed that on the portable edition macs (ibook, powerbook, etc) this was fine. Maybe not as logical as could be, but nothing to fuss about either. So yeah, I’ll give you that.

    Seriously, if you?re going to try and make an argument for PC advantages in UI over Apple?s you?re just ignorant or an idiot. Actually you probably just have bad taste. (welcome to the majority)

    Listen, this is not a damn pissing contest, “b”. You assume I’m a Windows fanboy because I criticize a single feature about the Mac, when in fact I bitch about Windows daily at work. I just so happen to have to use Windows only applications. Plus, a few tidbits here and there keep me from going OSX w. Parallels. I’ve even tried to migrate to Ubuntu, so far without success. So relax and read my comments as a “could eventually switch to Mac, but wants Mac to be better first” sort of guy before you go all batshit-loco Mac-zealot on me.

    Scott,

    My brother-in-law?s PCs will let us eject a CD or DVD with the hardware button while its in use, leading to all kinds of wonkyness.

    Hmm. Do you think it’s a per-drive “feature”? As you know PC hardware is a moving target as opposed to the latest macs. I know my DVD+R drive won’t eject while I’m burning. In fact, my burning app crashed on me one day, and I couldn’t eject the CD until I had rebooted.

    Vuong,

    But, generally speaking using the manual button/ methods bypasses the OS which cause weird joojoo (technical term).

    Are you absolutely sure? Because I’m almost positive my drive doesn’t bypass the OS.

    If you, like me, think that the mac keyboards (for desktops) are crap, then I really am missing the hardware button; now I suddenly have to have a the mac keyboard connected just to use the eject button when I want to insert a new CD.

    Wow, that sucks bigtime. Can’t you program one of the redundant PC keyboard shortcuts to eject? Like the “shopping” button we talked about? 🙂

  22. Weili says:

    Fact is, there is a number of ways to eject discs on a Mac. That’s just how Mac works. It may not make sense to a PC guy like yourself but the way PCs work tend to leave most Mac users puzzled as well, to say the least… this is why some of us are Mac people, some are PC.

    We can sit here and argue all day on something as irrelevant as which is the best way to eject a disc, but in the end you won’t learn anything if you keep your mind closed. Also, I don’t recall anyone ever forcing you to use a Mac 😉

  23. Tony says:

    To answer one of the early questions (apologies if I missed it when skip reading).

    If you have a machine with two optical drives, the OS in the menu bar eject area gives you the option of the two drives with slightly different symbols.

    Or, if you press the eject key usually does the top drive, option:eject key usually does the bottom drive

    Or you just just the little eject button next to the media you want to eject and the system knows which drive it is in.

    In the words of Darth…. All too easy…..

    Some of the above may vary slightly depending upon version of OS and machine. Haven’t got a new Mac Pro but assume it is similar to G4 dual optical drive machines.

  24. James says:

    I think you have too much spare time

  25. Someone smart please tell me this:

    How do I eject the CD tray on my mac, when there is no disc in it and I don’t have an apple keyboard?

  26. Cyrris says:

    Having never owned a Mac, can I just ask out of curiosity, how does the eject button on the keyboard work on a Mac desktop system which has two optical drives?

  27. won says:

    Brian,

    From Apple’s Help (from the Finder’s Help menu):

    “On keyboards with no Media Eject key, the F12 key performs two functions. If you press it normally, it performs the action selected in the Dashboard & Expos? preferences. (By default, that action is showing Dashboard.) If you hold it down until the Eject icon appears on your screen, it ejects your disc.”

    I’ve seen it work, so I can testify. Testify!!

  28. won says:

    Cyrris,

    To open multiple optical drives with the default OS X configuration, you can use iTunes 7?s eject button in the lower right corner. I think there must be an easier, built-in way, but I don’t know what that is.

    Personally I use Ardiem, a lovely, small menu bar utility that provides a menu which lists all optical drives (and possibly others, but I?m not sure).

    You can also assign keyboard shortcuts to any given drive in Ardiem?s Preferences. Very handy.

  29. Star Traveler says:

    It’s the “Mac way”. Just get used to it and quit the “gnashing of teeth”. Only people in Microsoft hell do that…

  30. Star Traveler, I can’t tell if you are being sarcastic or not.

  31. Here’s my argument FOR the hardware button:

    The hardware button is a thing people are used to from dedicated devices, so it shouldn’t be hard for that many to understand.

    It’s always the same, no matter what program you are using or state your OS is in.

    Instructions are like this:

    1) If you want to eject, press the eject button on the drive

    Meanwhile, the eject mechanism on my mac, I need to know the following:

    1) Drag to trash to eject

    2) or use the eject icon in finder

    3) … except if you are ejecting the tray to put something IN to it

    4) or use the eject button on your keyboard

    5) … except when you aren’t using an Apple keyboard

    6) then you press and hold F12 (unverified)

    7) but none of the above if you are in the process of booting your computer

    8) then you press and hold the left mouse button to eject the drive

    Somehow, summing all that up in my head, it just seems like it would be a nicer idea to have a hardware button, which would always be there and not preclude any of the other options, plus it would make PC people happy, because it’s less adjustment, and when they run boot camp, it also works in windows.

  32. Joen says:

    I didn’t know criticizing details of the Mac was cause for so much alarm! I’m not saying Mac is the vile waste of the earth… if you read what I’m actually saying you’ll see that I kinda like the hardware and aspects of what they’ve got going on, while I in fact dislike Windows in a number of ways. No reason to wave crosses at me.

    That said, I’ll admit the choice of omitting an eject button on the mac laptops was probably an informed choice and good idea. Fine, PC laptop makers can learn from this.

    Even so, omitting an eject button on standalone macs, the Mini, the Mac Pro, etc. I still think is a huge mistake and a case of “aesthetics over user-friendlyness”. Particularly comments like those of Brian reinforce this belief (see right above).

  33. Dave Child says:

    It’s the “Mac way”. Just get used to it and quit the “gnashing of teeth”.

    That (and the similar sentiments expressed earlier) is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, if serious. Just because Apple do something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way, or can’t be criticised, examined or reviewed. I like my mac but don’t think it’s perfect – not by a long way. The eject button, or lack thereof, is one of many things wrong with the mac. It’s still far better than my old Windows machine, or my Linux box, in many ways, but that doesn’t mean that computer design and development has reached its peak and should stop. Just because OSX has a far better GUI than Windows doesn’t mean everyone should just stand in awe of the majestic “Mac way” and never question it. There are always improvements to be made (as Apple themselves regularly demonstrate).

    Amazing how people respond to criticism of their chosen OS.

    Imagine if Macs had had an eject button since the very beginning. Would anyone be arguing for it to be removed? If so, on what grounds? That it makes a mac slightly prettier? That it makes more sense to only have the eject button in software? That it is wrong, or problematic, to have a hardware eject button?

  34. The comment above this one by Dave Child described my exact sentiments.

    Dave, I couldn’t agree more on your statement if we shared the same brain.

  35. Robert says:

    It might be a bit deeper that just style or looks, eg linux would lock the cd rom once the drive was mounted, makes sense so the os doesn’t panic if you open the cd tray whilst the os thinks it has a logical files system connected.

    I checked my mac pro (my first mac too!) and yer if all else fails there is provision to use a paper clip (not a silly virtual one) to manually extract the media.

    no button, it’s different but it’s the same for network, memory devices and cd/dvd etc so it’s consistent.

    looks, I like it with out an eject button.

    my 2 bobs worth ;o)

    Robert

  36. gregory says:

    Guys doesn’t xp do the same as Mac OSX because when the cd has been written the cd or dvd is ejected automacatlly so xp is no different to Mac OSX,I know this as my mechine ejects cds dvds execpt for floppys as soon as they are written

  37. ZiGora says:

    Different products are designed differently ok!

    Mercedes Cars have knobs on the doors to unlock them, Peugeot cars on the other hand have a button kinda thing on the door handle that you use to unlock. No one bitches about those differences, accept the difference in products OK we dont want to have all manufacturers making the same bloody thing…

  38. Shawn says:

    What i have concluded from the comments here and other posts…

    More Mac owners are douchebags who don’t understand as much as they thing and are far more close minded then they thing…

    I have 5 Macs, an apple TV and two iphones in my home…I’m a Mac user. I’m also a PC and linux expert from work. I know people and I know computers…more Mac owners on the internet are rude and are in fact fanboys when they claim they are not…

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