Model A1311 / Mid 2011 / 2.5 & 2.7 GHz Core i5 or 2.8 GHz Core i7 Processor

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Is it possible to replace the DVD with a blu-ray drive?

My mid-2011 iMac came with a DVD drive. Is it possible to swap this for a Blu-Ray drive?

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Yes you can, but there's a limited range of Blu-Ray drives that fit the bay correctly. You'll need a 9.5mm slot-load SATA drive, such as the Panasonic/Matsushita UJ-267 CD/DVD/BR burner. Most of the laptop-style bare drives available are both 12.7mm and tray-load, and won't fit the iMac at all.

Assuming that your internal SuperDrive still works acceptably, it might make more sense to buy (or assemble) an external Blu-Ray player, and connect to your iMac through USB. OWC carries several Blu-Ray players/burners, in both laptop and desktop sizes. This helps you avoid the risk of pulling the display out of the iMac case.

Remember that Apple has never released a Blu-Ray player application; they have never modified DVD Player for Blu-Ray playback. There are a variety of commercial Blu-Ray player apps, most of which are around $30 (Leawo Blu-Ray Player, Aurora Mac Blu-ray Player and Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player are the ones I've paid for; they often come cheaper as part of software bundles, and Leawo does giveaways sometimes). For a lot of people, the freeware VLC is a perfectly adequate Blu-Ray player.

Similarly for disk burning, you can burn Blu-Ray data disks using standard OS tools such as Finder and Disk Utility. But to burn Blu-Ray player compatible movie disks requires third party software, such as Roxio Toast.

EDIT: I failed to note in the original answer that you can also use a 'combo' drive: CD, DVD recorder/Blu-Ray player. There are a wider variety of Blu-Ray combo drives available that will fit the iMac optical bay; apparently those drives are now a common option in Windows laptops. The same physical limitations still apply: 9.5mm thick, SATA, slot-load. The iMac case won't accommodate the far more common tray-load drives or 12.7mm drives.

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Great answer!

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I should also amend my software point: Mac Blu-Ray playback software is universally terrible. VLC will display the full user interface that you'd get on a standalone player, but only for unencrypted disks; with commercial encrypted BRs, VLC will only play if the proper decryption libraries are installed in the proper places. VLC has an Open Source download for those libraries, but with no installer; they refuse to provide installation instructions, in order to dodge licensing restrictions. The various commercial applications (I've added Aiseesoft, AnyMP4 and iDeer since my original post) all have the same crummy interface: A text-based splashscreen, with no description of menu items. Each file is described exclusively by its time duration. Since a Blu-Ray may have lots of extras and subfiles, you can easily have 100 files listed, with no idea of which is which.

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A second amendment on playback software, this time on DVDs: If your Mac had an internal optical drive originally, Apple's DVD Player will only work with an external drive if the internal drive is still attached to the internal SATA bus. This works even if the internal drive is dead; the system detects the devices, launches DVD Player, and offers the opportunity to play disks in either drive. If you remove the internal optical drive to do a two-HD/HD+SSD installation, DVD Player won't launch. In that case, VLC will play external DVDs. If your system never had an optical drive (MBA, MB Retina, MBPro Retina, 2013 and later iMacs, 2011 and later minis, coffee-can Mac Pro), any external DVD/BR drive will play DVDs with DVD Player; Blu-Ray playback will rely on one of the underwhelming third party options I've already described. I think Mac users are entitled to be ticked off about this; maybe Windows users consider the terrible text-based UIs to be acceptable, but we should demand something better. I'm in the middle of drafting nasty emails to send out to all the third party developers I've paid for their crummy UIs; I suggest that other interested users do the same.

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Thanks for all the input. I run Windows 10 via boot camp and I'm primarily looking just to rip the discs to put in my Plex media library. Hopefully it should work fine for that.

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Oh yeah, if you're approaching Blu-Ray playback from the Windows side, I assume the playback applications are less ugly. Frankly, I suspect the Windows versions of the apps I've listed provide normal movie UIs (I've never tried them), because I can't see why users would tolerate the terrible UIs in the Mac versions. There are Blu-Ray ripper apps on the OSX side; Aurora has a free BR ripper for both Mac and Windows. MakeMKV is a transcoder that can convert BR and DVD into MKV format for playback with many applications.

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