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Inspired by this thread, I went out and bought a new toy on eBay....
We have several Mac Pro 5,1 towers, one of which (6-core) is in daily use for video production running under High Sierra. It's been substantially updated with a PCIe boot and other SSD drives, a USB 3 card for high bandwidth external storage (replacing our old FireWire drives), etc. Our other Mac Pro towers (4-core) are fully functional but no longer in service.

I'm conscious of the issue that at some point productivity software updates will force the production unit to be updated to Mojave and beyond. That will mean replacing the original Radeon 5770 video card with one that's Metal-compatible.

Like you, I've bought an AMD Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 card for that and have been experimenting with it in one of the leftover 4-core Mac Pros. Unfortunately, this RX 580 is not one with the much-referenced, but rarely if ever encountered in the wild, Apple-specific firmware. As such, it has some known drawbacks. There's no startup chime, and the screen remains completely black until the OS loads fully. As a result, the Option key startup drive selector is inoperative, although, once fully booted, you can use Startup Disk in System Preferences. It's probably not possible to boot into the recovery partition, although I haven't tested this yet. If it should become necessary, I can reinstall the original 5770 video card and regain access.

I assume you're faced with those same limitations?

There is a way to hack the RX 580 card's existing firmware to make the Mac recognize it as fully compatible, but the tools to do this only run under native Windows (including Boot Camp, but excluding VM's).

I have an internal SATA SSD set up with both High Sierra and Mojave, each on its own partition. Mac firmware is currently at 138.0.0.0.0, since I have not installed the latest Mojave update yet.

One of the things that I have not yet been successful with is to set up a Boot Camp partition, encountering an error message saying this isn't supported in my configuration. I still have some other options to try for getting Boot Camp to work. Assuming I'm eventually successful, I hope to try the RX 580 card firmware hack to get full compatibility.

This kind of experimentation is enabled by the Mac Pro's modular construction, since it's easy to set up different drive configurations using other Macs and then physically load them into the test tower.
 


A similarly configured current Mac Pro with this configuration:
  • 2.7GHz 12-core with 30MB of L3 cache
  • 64GB (4x16GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
  • Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM each
  • 1TB PCIe-based SSD
will cost $6999 plus tax.
Sure, if you buy it new. But you can get that exact configuration in a refurbished unit for less than half that price from ipowerresale on eBay. I always liked the "trash can" Mac Pro, an incredible (if ultimately flawed) example of Apple's "outside the box" hardware design thinking.

You'll be getting a significantly more powerful machine, and while the internal upgradeability certainly can't match the previous generation machines, you'd be surprised what you can find. Although Apple's standard SATA internal SSD uses a proprietary connector, you can easily install modern NVMe drives using a sub-$10 adapter widely available on eBay (most are sold for MacBooks, but the Pro uses the same connector). The one I used is made by Chinese company Sintech, but others are available.

If you really want to expand internal storage, Canadian company Amfeltec offers a clever product that allows you to install two internal NVMe blades in addition to the standard Apple SSD:

I used the Angelshark board to add 1TB and 2TB Samsung 970 EVO drives to my unit, and then I added an external Thunderbolt 2 dock from OWC to hold a couple of SATA SSDs for backup data transfer.

Yes, this is a significant amount to invest in obsolete technology, but I think it probably makes more sense than spending a similar amount of money on even older tech. The performance of the Mac Pro 6,1, especially with NVMe internal drive, will be superior to that of the older machine.
 


Yes, this is a significant amount to invest in obsolete technology, but I think it probably makes more sense than spending a similar amount of money on even older tech. The performance of the Mac Pro 6,1, especially with NVMe internal drive, will be superior to that of the older machine.
Depends on where your bottlenecks are though - yes, it’s solid, but I can put in a much faster graphics card and get hardware acceleration for some functions that outperform a Mac Pro 6,1. It’s also easier to add USB-C at full speed. Now there is the downside of no Thunderbolt. It’s all tradeoffs. If I had a Mac Pro 6,1, I certainly wouldn't ditch it, but it’s got its own limitations.
 


Like you, I've bought an AMD Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 card for that and have been experimenting with it in one of the leftover 4-core Mac Pros. Unfortunately, this RX 580 is not one with the much-referenced, but rarely if ever encountered in the wild, Apple-specific firmware. As such, it has some known drawbacks. There's no startup chime, and the screen remains completely black until the OS loads fully. As a result, the Option key startup drive selector is inoperative, although, once fully booted, you can use Startup Disk in System Preferences. It's probably not possible to boot into the recovery partition, although I haven't tested this yet. If it should become necessary, I can reinstall the original 5770 video card and regain access.
I assume you're faced with those same limitations?
There is a way to hack the RX 580 card's existing firmware to make the Mac recognize it as fully compatible, but the tools to do this only run under native Windows (including Boot Camp, but excluding VM's).
I bought the Radeon Pulse RX 580 for my 5.1 Mac Pro when I had macOS 10.13.6 installed and never had any problems with it. The Radeon 580 was used by developers, so it's natively supported on the Mac. If you want the start-up tone, I believe you will need High Sierra or even more preferably Mojave 10.14.1 or newer. Mojave 10.14.2 or 14.3 will also give you the 140.0.0.0 Boot ROM and NVMe support. Seriously, Mojave is the way to go if you have the 4,1 or 5,1 Mac Pro.
 



Quick question about adding a drive on a card: which slot is recommended? (2010 quad-core)
If you're talking about a PCIe M.2 NVMe SSD card holding one or more NVMe blades on it, it depends. If you have a non-controller card that doesn't have a switcher on it, then I would suggest PCIe slot 3 or 4. If you have the Amfeltec Squid, I/O Crest or the Highpoint 7101a, I would suggest (in fact insist) that you install them into the x16 slot 2, next to your GPU card. Slot 2 will give you the highest speed and is recommended for those cards that offer up to 8.0GT/s link speed.
 



Do you have a link for this?
Here's the discussion (rather long, but you'll want to read most of it):

Basically, you download and save the card's firmware locally (under Windows, for lack of suitable Mac tools), and use a hex editor to change its version number to one that a Mac will recognize. However, making that edit will also invalidate the card's checksum, preventing it from working. To fix that, you calculate the difference between the old and new checksum values and make an additional firmware edit to zero that out before refreshing the card.

(This should ring a bell with anyone who remembers messing around with ResEdit on the classic Mac OS.)

One might think that some kindly soul would make available for download a pre-baked and updated firmware version that anyone might use. Unfortunately, these cards are made with any of several brands of memory, each of which calls for different timing settings in firmware. As a result, it's best to start with each card's own firmware and work from there.
 



Here's another link to a lengthy discussion on the Radeon RX 580 being used in macOS Sierra all the way to macOS Mojave. It's natively supported on Macs as of macOS Sierra. It should be noted that you will want to use the SwitchResX app for setting your monitor screens, especially if you are using a 4K monitor. I don't know if this is the problem you are having, but it's worth mentioning.

 



I found out OWC has a limited stock of the Mac compatible (Metal) Radeon RX 580 cards. When these are sold, they will not be restocked.
Since this is just a stock Gigabyte Radeon RX 580 Gaming 8G GPU, you can find plenty out there in various sales channels and on the used market due to the collapse of the Bitcoin market. Currently on sale at Newegg for $210:
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Basically, you download and save the card's firmware locally (under Windows, for lack of suitable Mac tools), and use a hex editor to change its version number to one that a Mac will recognize. However, making that edit will also invalidate the card's checksum, preventing it from working. To fix that, you calculate the difference between the old and new checksum values and make an additional firmware edit to zero that out before refreshing the card.
That seems like a pretty big project. Apple says:
Apple Support said:
Install macOS 10.14 Mojave on Mac Pro (Mid 2010) and Mac Pro (Mid 2012)
These specific third-party graphics cards are Metal-capable and compatible with macOS Mojave on Mac Pro (Mid 2010) and Mac Pro (Mid 2012):
  • MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560 128-bit 4GB GDRR5
  • SAPPHIRE Radeon PULSE RX 580 8GB GDDR5
  • SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 7950 Mac Edition
  • NVIDIA Quadro K5000 for Mac
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Mac Edition
Is there any issue with buying one of these to get things going?
 


That seems like a pretty big project. Apple says:
Apple Support said:
Install macOS 10.14 Mojave on Mac Pro (Mid 2010) and Mac Pro (Mid 2012)
These specific third-party graphics cards are Metal-capable and compatible with macOS Mojave on Mac Pro (Mid 2010) and Mac Pro (Mid 2012):
  • MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560 128-bit 4GB GDRR5
  • SAPPHIRE Radeon PULSE RX 580 8GB GDDR5
  • SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 7950 Mac Edition
  • NVIDIA Quadro K5000 for Mac
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Mac Edition
Is there any issue with buying one of these to get things going?
The last three selections should pretty much be plug-and-play and have long been used to upgrade an existing Mac Pro 5,1. As these were meant to be used in a Mac, there are no drivers to install, have the necessary Mac firmware, and will immediately drive a display to show the full boot process. These are the cards to get if you can find them.

The first two cards are a bit different. First, neither of these has the necessary Mac firmware and, as a result, will not begin to drive a display until the driver loads. As a result, the display will not be recognized for much of the boot process. For many individuals, this is not an issue.

Driver support for these cards is also much more recent in macOS, starting at around macOS Sierra 10.12.4. I believe the Radeon RX 580 came into service on the Mac with the 2017 iMac 27", which shipped with that version of the OS. This is a definite performance upgrade over the other card choices listed. Later, it can be pulled and installed in an external Thunderbolt 3-capable chassis to use as an external GPU with newer hardware.

A final note regarding the MSI Radeon RX 560: There is a configuration of this card that is bus-powered and can be found far more easily and at cheaper prices. If you need to replace a bad GPU or want to upgrade a base ATI Radeon HD 5770 GPU, this would not be a bad choice for the cost-conscious, especially if you cannot find one of the Mac-specific cards listed above. You will just have to wait until everything loads before you see anything on your display.
 


I upgraded my 2010 Mac Pro 5.1 (running Sierra) with the Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Mac Edition, purchased from OWC. Installation was a breeze, but the first card sent to me would result in a system freeze while booting with no obvious workaround.

After working with OWC tech support, they decided to send me another card in exchange. Installed it and booted with my fingers crossed and everything worked as advertised.

Like TKS Ose said, no drivers to install and shows the full normal boot process on start. About This Mac shows the card and lists it as fully Metal-capable. I successfully upgraded the OS to High Sierra with this card installed, with no issues at all. I haven't taken the plunge to Mojave, yet, but I'm confident that the graphics card won't be an issue if I ever decide to do so.
 


If you're talking about a PCIe M.2 NVMe SSD card holding one or more NVMe blades on it, it depends. If you have a non-controller card that doesn't have a switcher on it, then I would suggest PCIe slot 3 or 4. If you have the Amfeltec Squid, I/O Crest or the Highpoint 7101a, I would suggest (in fact insist) that you install them into the x16 slot 2, next to your GPU card. Slot 2 will give you the highest speed and is recommended for those cards that offer up to 8.0GT/s link speed.
I got one of the IOCrest cards, put a single Samsung 970 EVO 1TB SSD in it and started using it. After a week I took it out, and here is why:

I am a software developer, and our main desktop app takes about 25 minutes to compile. Compiling software can stress a system in many different ways.

I have a 2012 Mac Pro 5,1 upgraded with a Radeon 7950 Mac Edition, 2 x 3.46GHz 6-core Xeons and a Sonnet PCIe add-in board that holds a pair of Samsung 850 EVO 1TB drives. After installing the IOCrest, I was expecting my compile times to be reduced significantly, but they were only reduced by 1 minute.

The 970 EVO has about 225K IOPS, whereas the 850 EVO has about half that. Compiling is a ton of I/O of very small files, so IOPS becomes important. We have a 10-core iMac Pro in the office that compiles in about 15 minutes.

After digging, the issue becomes one of memory access or PCIe 2.0 versus 3.0. The iMac Pro memory is 2400MHz, whereas the Mac Pro 5,1 is 1333MHz. The iMac Pro has PCIe 3.0, the Mac Pro 5,1 has PCIe 2.0.

These major differences in architecture simply do not allow the IOCrest card to see its full potential in my workflow. Your workflow might be different.

Also, the Mac Pro 5,1 seems to hard-restart a few times a day now. No kernel panic messages. Just a hard restart. This Mac is limping along until the new Mac Pro is released, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Moral of the story: if you are getting this card to put into a Mac Pro 5,1 and your workflows involve a ton of small file I/O, you will not see the benefits that you might be expecting. If, on the other hand, you are doing things like video editing, where you are transferring large chunks of files, then the card is probably worth it as an upgrade.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I got one of the IOCrest cards, put a single Samsung 970 EVO 1TB SSD in it and started using it. After a week I took it out...
Which slot did you install it into? (I wonder if this limited its performance.) Did you run any storage benchmarks?
After digging, the issue becomes one of memory access or PCIe 2.0 versus 3.0.
I'm curious which it is (it seems to me that SSD I/O is a more likely bottleneck than RAM speed).
Also, the Mac Pro 5,1 seems to hard-restart a few times a day now. No kernel panic messages. Just a hard restart.
I suspect the power supply may be overloaded (or worn out).

And, just for the sake of completeness (having seen some of these issues lately), are the memory cards and Mac Pro interior clean or dusty/dirty?
 


Here's another link to a lengthy discussion on the Radeon RX 580 being used in macOS Sierra all the way to macOS Mojave. It's natively supported on Macs as of macOS Sierra. It should be noted that you will want to use the SwitchResX app for setting your monitor screens, especially if you are using a 4K monitor. I don't know if this is the problem you are having, but it's worth mentioning.

I'm familiar with that discussion. Note the several mentions in it of the black screen/startup limitations of the RX 580 card that I previously described unless you have the the Mac Developer Edition version with its specific firmware. My card came from OWC and does not.

To confirm which version of the card is being recognized, go to Apple Menu > About this Mac > Overview (tab) > System Report. Scroll down to the Hardware listing in the sidebar and select PCI, then select Radeon 580 on the right side. As Name, the standard card's firmware will show "ATY,AMD,RadeonFramebuffer." The Mac Edition firmware instead shows "ATY,Orinoco."

I do have both High Sierra and Mojave running successfully on the test Mac Pro 5,1. And as pointed out by by another poster here, the startup limitations aren't a showstopper. However they are certainly a limitation.
 


FYI:
Sonnet Technologies said:
Sonnet Introduces Two Four-Port SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps PCI Express® (PCIe®) Adapter Cards
IRVINE, Calif. — Jan 30, 2019 — Sonnet Technologies today announced the availability of two new four-port, dual-controller SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps PCIe® adapter cards, the Allegro™ Pro USB 3.1 PCIe and Allegro USB-C 4-Port PCIe. The Allegro cards add four powered USB-A or USB-C ports, respectively, to any Mac®, Windows®, or Linux® computer with PCI Express® (PCIe) slots, and to Mac and Windows computers with Thunderbolt™ ports when installed in a Thunderbolt-to-PCI Express card expansion chassis.
 


  • SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 7950 Mac Edition
  • NVIDIA Quadro K5000 for Mac
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Mac Edition
The last three selections should pretty much be plug-and-play and have long been used to upgrade an existing Mac Pro 5,1. As these were meant to be used in a Mac, there are no drivers to install, have the necessary Mac firmware, and will immediately drive a display to show the full boot process. These are the cards to get if you can find them.
Thanks for all the info, TKS Ose and others. The Radeon RX 580 seems to be a great card for the Mac Pro 5,1, but it sounds like there’s no Mac-specific version. Hacking the firmware to give boot display options sounds challenging - maybe I could do it. I'd have to run Windows in a VM - would that work for changing the card's firmware?

Having the display available at boot, 4K support, and a quiet card are important to me. Assuming that one of the last three cards meets those needs, how important is it to get a Mac Edition vs. a Windows version that someone has hacked with Mac firmware? Would the functionality and compatibility be the same?

From reading macvidcards.com, sometimes they've had to change the firmware they use to upgrade cards, as OS updates come out, so maybe Mac Edition is best to avoid reflashing needs. And I didn't see the 580 listed as a flashing option from them.

Since Apple has dropped Nvidia support from new Macs, I wonder if the 7950 Mac Edition would be the best long-term choice? I haven't found it available.

Thanks for helping me make sense of this, and choosing between the Radeon 580, Radeon 7950, or something else.
 


The card I'd like to see is a multi-gigabit ethernet and USB-C (3.1) combo card: 1 USB-C port and even just ethernet up to 5Gb. Throw on a 2-lane NVME or even just a 6Gb SATA m.2 slot and you've got one card to make the most any Mac Pro and still be able to put in an extra card or two for other things (like a video I/O card, or a SAS card).
 


I got one of the IOCrest cards, put a single Samsung 970 EVO 1TB SSD in it and started using it. After a week I took it out, and here is why...
I've got the I/O Crest installed in PCIe Slot 2 x16 with 2 NVMe Samsung 970 EVO 500GB blades. One of these blades holds OS Mojave as a test and as a back-up. I used Carbon Copy Cloner to transfer the Mojave OS from my Anglebird Wings PCIe Card in Slot 3 using a single NVMe Samsung 970 EVO 500GB blade. It took 15 mins to transfer 270 GB of files to the I/O Crest. It's the fastest transfer of a complete OS I've ever had on a Mac Pro. I have to believe that in that complete drive transfer there were large files and very small files. In this instance, the transfer was amazingly fast.

I'm running the OS from the I/O Crest as my system hard drive for testing purposes every day and there have been absolutely no anomalies. It does take longer to do a cold startup with a PCIe card holding your OS on it. However, I generally put my Mac Pro to sleep and simply wake from sleep, which takes 1 second. (The ambient temperature of my PCIe bus is 41 degrees Celsius or 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit.)

There are limitations with the Mac Pro's inherent structure; however, the speed from the NVMe blades is very apparent. In my real-world usage, my Mac Pro is quicker, my graphics tools are quicker, my music/video production work is quicker, and opening anything on the Mac is generally quicker.

Then, we have to look at the future when apps take advantage of the newer NVMe technology. Maybe that will never take form on a 2012 Mac Pro. One thing for sure (at least for this moment in time), NVMe blades are the fastest dependable storage medium.
 


I'm familiar with that discussion. Note the several mentions in it of the black screen/startup limitations of the RX 580 card that I previously described unless you have the the Mac Developer Edition version with its specific firmware. My card came from OWC and does not.
To confirm which version of the card is being recognized, go to Apple Menu > About this Mac > Overview (tab) > System Report. Scroll down to the Hardware listing in the sidebar and select PCI, then select Radeon 580 on the right side. As Name, the standard card's firmware will show "ATY,AMD,RadeonFramebuffer." The Mac Edition firmware instead shows "ATY,Orinoco."
I do have both High Sierra and Mojave running successfully on the test Mac Pro 5,1. And as pointed out by by another poster here, the startup limitations aren't a showstopper. However they are certainly a limitation.
My PCIe name for the Radeon Sapphire Pulse RX 580 GPU in my Mac Pro is "ATY,Orinoco." Not sure what is considered detrimental by start-up limitations or what is limiting anyone. I believe that in macOS Mojave you have to choose the start-up drive inside your preferences to start up on a different drive, so the hold-the-option-key method at start-up is gone. You can, however, still start up into Recovery mode for emergencies. Otherwise, I use Sleep when I'm not using my Mac Pro, and wake-up time is 1 second.
 


Thanks for all the info, TKS Ose and others. The Radeon RX 580 seems to be a great card for the Mac Pro 5,1, but it sounds like there’s no Mac-specific version. Hacking the firmware to give boot display options sounds challenging - maybe I could do it. I'd have to run Windows in a VM - would that work for changing the card's firmware? Having the display available at boot, 4K support, and a quiet card are important to me.
With a new Mac Pro on the horizon, it is a hard decision as to how much money you put into an existing Mac Pro 5,1, if any. While the Radeon RX 580 is a very good GPU, it is dated and surpassed by more recent AMD choices, though those would best be used with newer Apple hardware in an external case over Thunderbolt 3, in my opinion.

With that said, the RX 580 has perhaps twice the performance of any of the other cards listed and can be made to work for a few out there depending on workflow and willingness to try, even with the requirement of being able to see the boot process.

One of the video cards formerly available on the Mac Pro was the single-slot, bus-powered, Nvidia GeForce GT 120. If you have one of these cards, you may have room inside your case for the dual-slot Sapphire Radeon Pulse RX 580 8GB GDDR5 and its power requirements, assuming you have no other cards installed. There is also the need for a special 8-pin adapter cable to provide the necessary power connection. Connecting a separate display to each card should allow you to see the boot process. You could also connect both cards to a single display and just switch inputs as necessary.

Unfortunately, I cannot report on anyone actually doing this or similar. Most have either moved on to newer hardware or have just replaced the Apple OEM video card with a Mac-specific card. Perhaps someone else in the audience can comment on the methodology.
 


Yet another update to my Mac Pro adventures:

Part I - I/O Crest card

So I ordered the I/O Crest PCIe 3.0 x16 to two NVMe SSDs, together with two Samsung 2TB NVMe SSDs. Everything arrived just fine, as expected, and I put all the pieces together. The card comes with all the screws needed to connect the SSDs to the board and hold them securely in place.

Then I inserted the card into one of the Mac's x4 ports, set up the two SSDs as one 4TB RAID0 drive and tested the speed, which was around 1456 MB/sec write and 1680 MB/sec read. Not too bad, but then it's only an x4 slot.

Next, I installed the card in the remaining (after the video card) x16 slot. Speed got better, around 2634 MB/sec write and 2880 MB/read. That's faster than the currently available 2TB SSD in my wife's iMac (2033/2444 write/read) and faster than a friend's 512GB MacBook Pro (1859/2676 write/read) from this year.

But:
  • The I/O Crest card now sat directly on top of the fans of the RX 580 card with maybe a millimeter or two between them, and the entire environment started to get hot.
  • Running a VM on the two SSDs turned out to be much slower than on the other RAID0 array with the three SATA SSDs. It took much longer for the VM to start up, and once it was running, it was very sluggish, similar to what Mike Jackson reported in this thread earlier.
  • When copying files to the NVMe drive, I started to see "artifacts" on the screen, which seemed to me like the drive and the video card are competing for lanes on the bus.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner copied my boot drive to the NVMe SSDs but the drive was not bootable afterwards.
Conclusion:
As much as I like a fast drive, the issues I experienced made me decide to return the card and the two SSDs. The heat and the PCI bus issues are somewhat worrisome, and I don't really need the drive, it was more a "want to have" than a "need to have".


Part II - Another audio port.

In releases prior to Mojave, I was able to use audio out via the Mini DisplayPort of the video card. That way, I was able to make system beeps audible through my monitor while having my headset plugged into the front of the machine. But then macOS 10.14 came along and the DisplayPort no longer provided audio. So I needed a new solution and, yes, there are plenty out there.

I decided to try out the "Sabrent USB External Stereo Sound Adaptor". It didn't cost an arm and a leg but just $7.50, including shipping. What can I say, it works perfectly. I now have my headset connected to it and can hear the system sounds, soft phone ringing and such through the internal speakers on the Mac.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
  • The I/O Crest card now sat directly on top of the fans of the RX 580 card with maybe a millimeter or two between them, and the entire environment started to get hot.
  • Running a VM on the two SSDs turned out to be much slower than on the other RAID0 array with the three SATA SSDs. It took much longer for the VM to start up, and once it was running, it was very sluggish, similar to what Mike Jackson reported in this thread earlier.
  • When copying files to the NVMe drive, I started to see "artifacts" on the screen, which seemed to me like the drive and the video card are competing for lanes on the bus.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner copied my boot drive to the NVMe SSDs but the drive was not bootable afterwards.
I wonder if either
  1. extremely tight positioning between graphics and NVMe cards created electrical interference between the two
  2. NVMe cooling was incorrect/insufficient (were thermal pads connecting the SSDs to heat sinks?)
SMART data may have revealed temperature issues.

What macOS version were you running?
 


I wonder if either
  1. extremely tight positioning between graphics and NVMe cards created electrical interference between the two
  2. NVMe cooling was incorrect/insufficient (were thermal pads connecting the SSDs to heat sinks?)
SMART data may have revealed temperature issues. What macOS version were you running?
Yes, the pads were touching the SSDs and the little chip that's on the card. The machine is running macOS 10.14.3.

I didn't think of looking at SMART at the time - it was getting late last night. This morning I put everything back in the boxes it came in and it's on the way back. Which is fine for now. If I need anything faster in the future, I'll look at what Apple has to offer then. For now, what I have is mean enough to tackle every project I can think of throwing at it.
 


When copying files to the NVMe drive, I started to see "artifacts" on the screen, which seemed to me like the drive and the video card are competing for lanes on the bus.
Video artifacts indicate a failure in the GPU. My guess is overheating, but Ric's points about EMI and/or power drain are also distinct possibilities.

It won't be contention for PCIe. PCIe (unlike older buses like PCI, ATA, NuBus, etc) is not technically a "bus" technology. You never have multiple devices sharing a single electrical connection to the CPU (or its core-logic chipset). Instead, each PCIe lane is a discrete point-to-point channel between a device and the CPU. A 16x slot has 16 lanes and a 4x slot has 4 lanes. But you will never find a single lane shared by multiple slots.

Some early Mac Pros (2006 and 2007 models) have configurable assignment of 26 lanes to four slots. The number of lanes assigned to the slots can be set to one of four configurations: 16/1/4/4, 16/1/1/8, 8/8/1/8, 8/8/4/4. But even in this case, each lane never belongs to more than one slot at a time - changing the assignment requires a full system restart.

See also EveryMac: Silver Tower Mac Pro Q&A and Apple PCI Developer Note.
 



With a new Mac Pro on the horizon, it is a hard decision as to how much money you put into an existing Mac Pro 5,1, if any....
And there's the rub. The future Mac Pro will be much, much faster than an old tower, but also much, much more expensive.

In our case we've long since updated to fast SSD's, added memory and a USB 3 card, etc. That's all sunk cost. The remaining bottleneck is the video card, both in what it can contribute to graphics processing, and to allow the use of Mojave and beyond as required. At about $400 the Radeon Sapphire Pulse RX 580 card is not a giant investment to keep what we've already got useful.
 


... So I ordered the I/O Crest PCIe 3.0 x16 to two NVMe SSDs, together with two Samsung 2TB NVMe SSDs. Everything arrived just fine, as expected, and I put all the pieces together. The card comes with all the screws needed to connect the SSDs to the board and hold them securely in place. ...
Just a quick note: I put a spacer (a hard rubber washer) between the I/O Crest card and the Radeon Sapphire Pulse RX 580 video card. This keeps the I/O Crest card straight, and away from the GPU fans, with no interference. The fans from the 580 actually cool the I/O Crest card. My temperature on the PCIe bus system is a steady 41 degrees Celsius.

I've been testing this card and others like it for weeks. Make sure you have the card properly seated in the 16x Slot No. 2, or you may have some anomalies. This card works great in my 2012 Mac Pro.
 


And there's the rub. The future Mac Pro will be much, much faster than an old tower, but also much, much more expensive. In our case we've long since updated to fast SSD's, added memory and a USB 3 card, etc. That's all sunk cost. The remaining bottleneck is the video card, both in what it can contribute to graphics processing, and to allow the use of Mojave and beyond as required. At about $400 the Radeon Sapphire Pulse RX 580 card is not a giant investment to keep what we've already got useful.
Yes, the future Mac Pro will be faster and probably more expensive. And while Apple claims it will be "modular", it may also be less upgradeable using existing [standard] parts. May be a non-started for many, making them need to keep these classic Mac Pros running even longer.

As I noted above, the Gigabyte Radeon RX 580 is currently on sale at Newegg for $210:

Unfortunately, it looks like the AMD Vega 56 and Vega 64 GPUs available all require 2 x 8-pin power connections, something I am going to assume would put them beyond the capabilities of the classic Mac Pro.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Unfortunately, it looks like the AMD Vega 56 and Vega 64 GPUs available all require 2 x 8-pin power connections, something I am going to assume would put them beyond the capabilities of the classic Mac Pro.
Would something like one of these help?
Or maybe add something like this:
Some other discussion:
 


Would something like one of these help?
There is a quote in the owner's manual for the 2010 Mac Pro which states, "Combined maximum power consumption for all four PCI Express slots should not exceed 300 watts (W)." That is just for the PCIe slots. There was a configuration of the Mac Pro available from Apple with two ATI Radeon HD 5770 video cards, so there is some capability there to use up the PCIe slots. MacVidCards also claims you can install a Nvidia GTX Titan X 12 GB in the later models of the classic Mac Pro. On paper, the AMD Vega cards "could work."

With that said, and going from memory, the Mac Pro has only two auxiliary PCIe power ports on the logic board. Each of those is capable of providing 75W. Each PCIe slot also provides on average 75W, based on the above info. That gives you 225W to drive the internal GPU. Is that enough? Maybe for the Vega 56. How much more does it need under heavy load? Very hard to find details on that. Is there spare power to provide what is necessary over the PCIe power bus? Does the user have any other cards installed? If so, there may not be enough power for all of this, plus all the drives, fans, and those power-hungry Xeon processors (perhaps two of them), especially for a power supply which may be reaching a decade in age. I would just be careful to make sure any purchase was returnable before committing to such an upgrade attempt.

It is an interesting subject. With the current iMac Pro coming in Vega 56 and Vega 64 configurations, a case can be made that the drivers are already there in macOS to support any such Vega card installed in a classic Mac Pro.

And yes, you could add an additional external or internal PSU, but at that point you might be better served with other solutions. One might be to build a custom hackintosh with the appropriate specifications needed for the job.
 



The Vega cards can be run by pulling additional power via the SATA power connectors as seen here:
Thank you, Todd. Should have remembered to go to Bare Feats to have a look around to see if they had details as to where to pull that extra shot of power from, and to see if they had not already performed this feat. Forgot all about the second optical drive bay and its available connections.

I did notice their test mule was running dual-Xeon processors, but only had the single graphics card installed in the case indicated by the photo provided. No additional USB 3.1, USB-C, or other cards which would help the classic Mac Pro fit in with more modern workstations.
 


Quick question about adding a drive on a card: which slot is recommended? (2010 quad-core)
I have the OWC Accelsior card and Samsung 1TB 840 EVO. My 2010 12-core Mac Pro came from a friend loaded with PCIe cards (3 of which I removed - zapped PRAM and reset SMC before proceeding), so I believe all my slots are clean and good, but when I installed the Accelsior card in slot 4 (top), the performance was awful. I thought I had damaged the SSD or something. But I confirmed the SSD was fine, so I tried slot 2 (next to the graphics card), and there it works great. According to the specs of the Accelsior, it should give full speed in any of the slots, but your milage may vary. Try slot 2 if it's open, if you haven't already.
 


I have the OWC Accelsior card and Samsung 1TB 840 EVO.
I, too, have an OWC Accelsior card in my Mac Pro (2009 4,1, firmware updated to 5,1) in Slot 2, just above the video card. It has a Crucial SSD in it and is my boot drive. Works fine!
 


I, too, have an OWC Accelsior card in my Mac Pro (2009 4,1, firmware updated to 5,1) in Slot 2, just above the video card. It has a Crucial SSD in it and is my boot drive. Works fine!
I have a Mac Pro 5,1 and tried different card slots for my old SSD adapter. They were all the same... according to Apple, the Mac Pro 5,1 slots are all the same speed. Strange behavior from supposedly identical computers! I ended up using a different slot to try to keep the video card cooler; Slot 2 is used just for the eSATA ports (no card, just a SATA cable and PCIe slot bracket plate). The other slots have the USB 3 adapter card and SSD adapter card.
 


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