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2006-2013 Mac Pro and alternatives

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Upgrading a Mac Pro 5,1 (Mid 2010) with a Metal-capable graphics card,
  • What is displayed on monitor during boot-up with a Metal-capable video card? Should the boot process with Metal-capable card take about the same time? Anything else different – especially in System Preferences capability?
  • What is the experience with installation of various Metal-capable cards? Several video cards have been upgraded to use AMD RX 590 from AMD 580? UFX compared to Sapphire cards? NVIDIA TITAN X12 or NVIDIA GTX 980? Others? The Sapphire 590 and 580 cards seem to be most attractive both from capability and pricing (especially using Amazon MacInTouch shopping).
 


Hi, Gilman; for the Mac Pro 5,1, all one would see is the normal boot process (the progress bar movement) with Metal-compliant video card. Nothing really different in System Preferences.

I have the AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB installed in my Mac Pro 5,1 (mid 2012). It's great.

I also changed the video card to my departed dad's Mac Pro 5,1 (mid 2010) with the same video card. Everything looks normal there.

With the Metal-compliant video card installed, you'll be able to switch hard drives for the booting up process with the Option key. It's just like prior macOS systems. Hope this helps.
 


I bought a flashed Radeon R9 280 3GB card on eBay, based on a recommendation here. The seller is lonestarmacpro. Everything is working as you would expect a Mac graphics card to work. Snow Leopard is not supported, but it sort of works on my system. I say “sort of” because the screen is noticeably darker when I boot from Snow Leopard. I can’t be 100% positive that this is related to the new card, but it makes working in Snow Leopard a bit of a pain, since I would have to adjust my calibrated monitor to do so, and then after returning to my normal system drive, adjust it back to what works for all later OS versions.
 


I have a Mac Pro 4,1, firmware upgraded to 5,1. There is a selection of Metal-capable video cards to choose from, Mac and PC, that will work fine. Please be aware that if you install a PC version of your Metal-capable video card, you will have a black screen until the login window appears, so switching hard drives when booting up is no longer an option (or at least very difficult). You may wish to go to the web site MacVidCards.com to familiarize yourself with what's available for your Mac Pro, then decide if the extra $100 over the cost of a PC-version card for flashing the ROM for full Mac compatibility is worth it for you.
 


I bought a flashed Radeon R9 280 3GB card on eBay, based on a recommendation here. The seller is lonestarmacpro. Everything is working as you would expect a Mac graphics card to work. Snow Leopard is not supported, but it sort of works on my system. I say “sort of” because the screen is noticeably darker when I boot from Snow Leopard. I can’t be 100% positive that this is related to the new card, but it makes working in Snow Leopard a bit of a pain, since I would have to adjust my calibrated monitor to do so, and then after returning to my normal system drive, adjust it back to what works for all later OS versions.
I'm curious why your experience with this card is different than mine. I have no brightness issues when booting in Snow Leopard with this card.

Perhaps the cards are similar but not quite the same. Here is the output from System Information for the card.
Code:
AMD Radeon R9 280X:

  Chipset Model:      AMD Radeon R9 280X
  Type:               GPU
  Bus:                PCIe
  Slot:               Slot-1
  PCIe Lane Width:    x16
  VRAM (Total):       3072 MB
  Vendor:             ATI (0x1002)
  Device ID:          0x6798
  Revision ID:        0x0000
  ROM Revision:       113-E2080C-101
  EFI Driver Version: 01.00.624
  Metal:              Supported
In addition, GeekBench identifies the card as
Code:
AMD Radeon HD Tahiti XT Prototype Compute Engine
Another possibility for the differences is the monitor. I'm using a fairly old Apple Cinema Display.

Finally, whenever I install new hardware I always perform a NVRAM/PRAM reset (i.e., Cmd-Opt-P-R) to make certain that the new hardware is correctly recognized.
 


Upgrading a Mac Pro 5,1 (Mid 2010) with a Metal-capable graphics card...
Gilman, I would recommend that you do some research over at the Macrumors site under the Mac Pro forum. One of the recent threads is a wiki that lists all the many Metal-capable video cards and what their capabilities are. Another recent thread delves into MacVidCards' recent, umm, non-performance as a supplier. In any case, MacVidCards only flashes Nvidia cards, and the general consensus is that Apple doesn't seem to be supporting Nvidia natively any longer.

One other point... although Richard S describes accurately how a Radeon HD 7950 behaves in a Mac Pro 5,1, that is not how all Metal-capable GPU cards behave. The 7950 Mac Edition GPU has a ROM that the Apple boot process recognizes, and that is what allows a progress bar during boot and the ability to Option-boot to switch startup disks.

At this point you can't buy those Mac-compatible cards off the shelf, new. You can find them on eBay and different corners of the internet, but it is much more cost-effective to just buy a standard PC GPU card that Apple recommends (typical models are the Sapphire Pulse RX580 8GB and MSI Aero RX 560 4GB).
 


Hi, Gilman; for the Mac Pro 5,1, all one would see is the normal boot process (the progress bar movement) with Metal-compliant video card. Nothing really different in System Preferences.
I have the AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB installed in my Mac Pro 5,1 (mid 2012). It's great.
I also changed the video card to my departed dad's Mac Pro 5,1 (mid 2010) with the same video card. Everything looks normal there.
With the Metal-compliant video card installed, you'll be able to switch hard drives for the booting up process with the Option key. It's just like prior macOS systems. Hope this helps.
Thanks for your help. Just one more question: Which 590 card are you using? Sapphire and XFX both make cards using the AMD 590 chip, as probably do other card manufacturers. Sapphire has several flavors - what is the specific part number?
 


Thanks for your help. Just one more question: Which 590 card are you using? Sapphire and XFX both make cards using the AMD 590 chip, as probably do other card manufacturers. Sapphire has several flavors - what is the specific part number?
I purchased the AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB from eBay. I made sure before the purchase that the video card was properly flashed for the Mac. However, I purchased the video card a little over 3 years ago - when Mojave was released, it was fortuitous that it was Metal-compliant. Right now, it's hard for me to open up my Mac Pro to find the exact model number, but from System Information, here are the details of the video card:
AMD Radeon HD 7950:
Chipset Model: AMD Radeon HD 7950
Type: GPU
Bus: PCIe
Slot: Slot-1
PCIe Lane Width: x16
VRAM (Total): 3 GB
Vendor: AMD (0x1002)
Device ID: 0x679a
Revision ID: 0x0000
ROM Revision: 113-E2080C-101
VBIOS Version: 113-C3864000-100
EFI Driver Version: 01.00.624
Metal: Supported, feature set macOS GPUFamily2 v1
Hope this helps.
 


I purchased a pre-owned trashcan Mac Pro to replace my ancient cheese grater Mac Pro 5,1, which I previously upgraded with a 3.46GHz 6-core Xeon, 16 GB RAM and a 4GB Radeon RX560.

My "new" Mac Pro specs:
- Xeon E5-1620v2 3.70 GHz​
- 16 GB RAM​
- 512GB SSD​
- Dual AMD D300​

I'm not using this new computer to earn a living, since I'm retired, but I don't want to downgrade from my cheese grater. Will I need to upgrade the trashcan to equal the performance of my Mac Pro 5,1?
 


I purchased a pre-owned trashcan Mac Pro to replace my ancient cheese grater Mac Pro 5,1, which I previously upgraded with a 3.46GHz 6-core Xeon, 16 GB RAM and a 4GB Radeon RX560.

My "new" Mac Pro specs:
- Xeon E5-1620v2 3.70 GHz​
- 16 GB RAM​
- 512GB SSD​
- Dual AMD D300​

I'm not using this new computer to earn a living, since I'm retired, but I don't want to downgrade from my cheese grater. Will I need to upgrade the trashcan to equal the performance of my Mac Pro 5,1?
You don't say what you'd been using for a boot device in the 5,1. If it's a spinning disk, you'll notice significant improvements with the SSD, definitely in launch times and most likely in boot times as well.

The D300’s come with only 2 Gbyte of GDDR5 graphics memory each (and are the same generation used in the RX560), so graphics performance might depend on whether the application is savvy enough to use both GPUs. (Frustratingly, if you want to do graphics-based computing, only one chip is the available — the other is dedicated to the OS display, even in a headless configuration.)
 


Officially, Apple says that only the memory is user upgradeable in the cylinder Mac Pro. However, last week I bought a 10-core CPU from OWC for $430 and 64 GB of memory for $230. I watched OWC's 12 minute video on how to remove and replace the CPU. They recommend that this task be done by a trained professional. They estimate that it should take about an hour.

This cheap amateur with moderately coordinated fingers took about an hour and 10 minutes to remove 28 screws (in sequence), replace the CPU, and reassemble everything with no leftover screws.

For the work that I do, 10-cores gives me much more horsepower than my old quad-core. I am currently running a calculation that was impossible for me last week. This unofficial upgrade will significantly extend the life of my Mac Pro. I don't need the expansion capabilities or the graphics cards in the newly announced Mac Pro. Your workload and your work habits determine what you need.
 


This cheap amateur with moderately coordinated fingers took about an hour and 10 minutes to remove 28 screws (in sequence), replace the CPU, and reassemble everything with no leftover screws.
That is great to hear, Gordon_O. I am sure there is also at least a modicum of pride, as well, there, having done the work yourself. Good work, and happy computing.
 



Ok, I know I'm likely asking the impossible, but I have a 2009 dual processor Mac Pro with a damaged CPU socket. There use to be firms like Pre-Owned Electronics / Blue Raven that would either repair the board or perform a swap exchange module for it at a (somewhat) reasonable price. Most "alternate" sources make it cheaper to just replace the entire machine, but I would prefer not to have to resort to that. Any ideas of anyone who still offers services like this?
 


Ok, I know I'm likely asking the impossible, but I have a 2009 dual processor Mac Pro with a damaged CPU socket. There use to be firms like Pre-Owned Electronics / Blue Raven that would either repair the board or perform a swap exchange module for it at a (somewhat) reasonable price.
Unfortunately, what's damaged is one of the most expensive parts of the old Mac Pro. The dual-socket CPU trays are still in high demand and command a premium, because it's an easy upgrade to swap out the CPU trays to turn a single-socket Mac Pro into a dual-socket.

I don't know about repair services, but you can buy a used dual-socket tray on the aftermarket (eBay) for about $500-600. You have to make sure it's a tray for Mac Pro 4,1 though. If you get a 5,1 tray, it will make your fans blow at full speed always, because of the SMC firmware mismatch between the tray and mainboard (changing the SMC firmware is not possible).

If you can live with just a single CPU, single-socket trays go for only about $100-150. Alternatively, your dual-socket tray should still work with only one CPU installed, assuming that the undamaged socket is Socket A (the one towards the rear of the machine).
 


Unfortunately, what's damaged is one of the most expensive parts of the old Mac Pro. The dual-socket CPU trays are still in high demand and command a premium, because it's an easy upgrade to swap out the CPU trays to turn a single-socket Mac Pro into a dual-socket....
That was pretty much what I was afraid of. I was simply going to part out the machine but opted to pick up a single-processor tray to put the original machine back in service. I actually picked up a new-to-me dual-processor machine for less than the cost of a replacement tray for the original machine. I guess I'll at least have a spare machine, which maybe I'll turn into a server or a dedicated Windows box with the ability to boot back into OS X.
 


FWIW, I did replace the dual processors in my Mac Pro years ago, and it looks like the ones I put in fall into the "could be a problem" category (Intel Xeon W5590 3.33 GHz quad-core matching pair)
Yeah, for whatever reason, dual X55xx (or W55xx) is problematic. On the bright side, if you upgrade to X56xx, you'll get 50% more cores and AES acceleration. And they're cheap. Xeon X5680's go for about $40-45 each on eBay right now.
 


... Xeon X5680 ...
If I were to replace my processors (again), what options do I have to choose from?
I have two X5590 3.33GHz four-cores now. Looks like with the X5680 3.33GHz, I would need to get two six-cores. Will those run properly?

I forget: do I need de-lidded processors? Or will ones with lids work?

Anything else I should consider re: processors before diving in?
 


If I were to replace my processors (again), what options do I have to choose from?
There's a full list of compatible processors here, though you should only consider Westmere processors. in my opinion, either the X5675 (about $25 each) or X5680 (about $45 each) are probably the sweet spot now for price/performance. X5690 ($90 each) is ridiculous, running about twice as much as the X5680 for only a 4% increase in clock speed.
I have two X5590 3.33GHz four-cores now. Looks like with the X5680 3.33GHz, I would need to get two six-cores. Will those run properly?
The only potential catch is if you have a Mac Pro 4,1, you must do the 4,1 -> 5,1 firmware hack upgrade first, in order for it to recognize any Westmere processors.
I forget: do I need de-lidded processors? Or will ones with lids work?
De-lidding is only required for dual-processor 4,1. Single-processor models and dual 5,1's use normal CPUs.
 


There's a full list of compatible processors here, though you should only consider Westmere processors. in my opinion, either the X5675 (about $25 each) or X5680 (about $45 each) are probably the sweet spot now for price/performance. X5690 ($90 each) is ridiculous, running about twice as much as the X5680 for only a 4% increase in clock speed.

The only potential catch is if you have a Mac Pro 4,1, you must do the 4,1 -> 5,1 firmware hack upgrade first, in order for it to recognize any Westmere processors.

De-lidding is only required for dual-processor 4,1. Single-processor models and dual 5,1's use normal CPUs.
Did the 4,1 to 5,1 firmware upgrade years ago. Going to eBay now for a pair of lidded X5680s.
I note that the X5680s from China are much cheaper than the ones available in the U.S. Is this a case of "you pays your money, you takes your chances" or "absolutely not!"
 


What's the difference (if any) between these two X5680s now available on eBay for the same price, and is one or the other better for my Mac Pro 2009, firmware updated from 4,1 to 5,1? All the stats listed for each item is identical; only the six-digit number at the beginning is different.

614739-001 HPE XEON X5680 6 CORE 3.33GHz 12M 6.4GT/s 130W PROCESSOR
594880-001 HPE XEON X5680 6 CORE 3.33GHz 12M 6.4GT/s 130W PROCESSOR
 


Buying processors from China is fine. I've bought several from there. It just takes a little longer to ship. They probably have a lot there because of e-waste recycling sent to China for reclamation/disposal.

The numbers you cite are HP part numbers. I don't know what their distinction is in the HP parts system, but the processors themselves should be identical. So long as they say "SLBV5" on the lid, that is the Intel sSpec number for the X5680.

You do want to make sure that you avoid any processors that say "ES" (for Engineering Sample) on them. These are pre-production prototypes sent out to partners for testing (and were supposed to have been returned to Intel) and may contain errata. They'll have a different sSpec number on them than production models (and say ES on them) so it should be obvious.
 


I bought a Mac Pro 2013 (Late 2018) and some advice would be greatly appreciated.

Specs are:
Manufactured: Oct. 2018; Boot ROM 130.0.0.0.0 (one of the last made?)
8-Core, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD
Connected to:
Dell U2718Q 4K monitor via Mini Displayport to Displayport 1.2 cable
USB-3 drives (various portable); also networked to MacBook Pro

My uses: experienced Mac user recently using a Late 2011 MacBook Pro 17” with 16GB RAM and 500GB SSD; my dual-G4 tower is seldom used. I’ve been using the MacBook Pro as a desktop replacement and sometimes also driving a second Dell Ultrasharp 24” monitor from the Thunderbolt port, not doing much video editing now but do photos, etc., and also, a stock market program with 20+ windows updating data and charts every couple of seconds (this is demanding on the 2011 MacBook Pro, generating heat from the higher-speed graphics card and CPU).

My preferences: While I’ve been very pleased with my 17” MacBook Pro, the size of the 17” screen (and driving external monitors) is not ideal. Getting the new Mac Pro with a 27” 4K monitor reminds me how nice it is to have a large, high-resolution screen that is easily driven. While the new 27” iMacs are attractive, I prefer a desktop with a separate monitor that can be exchanged, rather than an all-in-one design whose monitor cannot be lowered. I’m not likely to need the very high performance of the upcoming (Late 2019?) Mac Pro; the 2013 cylinder with the Dell 4K is a bit over half the price. And I do like the attractive, compact silent cylinder setting on my desk next to the monitor.

I would greatly appreciate some comments, especially from users of the “Trashcan” 2013 Mac Pro:

1. Is this a good decision? I know it’s not the latest and greatest, but will it be current enough to run macOS upgrades for the next 5 years? An Apple store rep said it should be supported that long; it seems they should stand behind $4000 machines sold in 2019.

2. Limitations: I realize there are limitations like no USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, but USB 3/Thunderbolt 2 may be fast enough?

3. Graphics: It gas dual AMD 700D GPU’s, not replaceable. Is this likely to be sufficient in the foreseeable future? Have there been problems?

4. Monitor connections: I’m driving the 4K Dell with a DisplayPort 1.2 cable; seems OK and System Information says the monitor up to full 3840 pixels is at 60 Hz. Are there better choices to connect the monitor such as a high speed HDMI cable?

5. Apple Thunderbolt 3-to-2 Adapter: Anyone used this with the Mac Pro?

6. Networking: Should be possible to connect the Mac Pro to the MacBook with a LAN; perhaps even use the MacBook DVD drive to write? I’ve already used AirDrop to read from that drive.

7. Concerns: I’ve heard about heating issues, though I’m not likely to be chewing through big video files often. Also, being a 2018 build, perhaps Apple has alleviated some of the problems? I see that RAM and SSD upgrades are hardly available (except OWC, but they don’t quite equal the Apple specs; Crucial has stopped making them). For added storage I could get something like a Samsung T5 external USB-C/USB 3 SSD.

Any thoughts or comments will be appreciated; thank you.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I bought a Mac Pro 2013 (Late 2018) and some advice would be greatly appreciated.
...
2. Limitations: I realize there are limitations like no USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, but USB3/Thunderbolt 2 may be fast enough?
3. Graphics: It gas dual AMD 700D GPU’s, not replaceable. Is this likely to be sufficient in the foreseeable future? Have there been problems?
The limitation of Thunderbolt 2 is that you can't use external GPUs to improve graphics, the way you can with Thunderbolt 3.
4. Monitor connections: I’m driving the 4K Dell with a DisplayPort 1.2 cable; seems OK and System Information says the monitor up to full 3840 pixels is at 60 Hz. Are there better choices to connect the monitor such as a high speed HDMI cable?
DisplayPort is superior to HDMI and the best choice in general.
5. Apple Thunderbolt 3-to-2 Adapter: Anyone used this with the Mac Pro?
I use it routinely although I don't have a trashcan Mac Pro. The critical issue (aside from the performance bottleneck of Thunderbolt 2) is that it does not transmit power to the Thunderbolt 3 side, so any Thunderbolt 3 devices you attach must be self-powered. Thus, a Samsung X5 SSD won't work, for example, unless it is attached via an intermediary powered Thunderbolt 3 dock.
6. Networking: Should be possible to connect the Mac Pro to the MacBook with a LAN; perhaps even use the MacBook DVD drive to write? I’ve already used AirDrop to read from that drive.
You can certainly do that. And it will certainly be slow. The fastest option is using Thunderbolt for the network (via System Preferences > Networking; connect the Thunderbolt adapter and cable before setting this up).
 


I bought a Mac Pro 2013 (Late 2018) and some advice would be greatly appreciated. Specs are:
Manufactured: Oct. 2018; Boot ROM 130.0.0.0.0 (one of the last made?)
8-Core, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD
Connected to:
Dell U2718Q 4K monitor via Mini Displayport to Displayport 1.2 cable
USB-3 drives (various portable); also networked to MacBook Pro
Your boot ROM version is the latest available with Mojave 10.14.5. People running the Catalina public beta have reported a new ROM version.
I would greatly appreciate some comments, especially from users of the “Trashcan” 2013 Mac Pro:
1. Is this a good decision? I know it’s not the latest and greatest, but will it be current enough to run macOS upgrades for the next 5 years? An Apple store rep said it should be supported that long; it seems they should stand behind $4000 machines sold in 2019.
Shrug. You're the ultimate arbiter of that. I rotate between my 2013 Mac Pro (12-core, so slower than yours for most work), 64GB, FirePro D700's, and my Hackintosh, with a Core i9-9900K, 32 GB, and a Radeon 64 Vega. With benchmarks I can demonstrate that the Hackintosh is 50-100% faster, but in day to day use, I never notice the difference.
2. Limitations: I realize there are limitations like no USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, but USB 3/Thunderbolt 2 may be fast enough?
It is for me. I use an OWC Thunderbolt 2/USB 3 drive dock for backup drives; the 20Gbps throughput of Thunderbolt 2 is more than enough to run SATA SSDs at full speed (SATA 3 being only 6Gbps).
3. Graphics: It gas dual AMD 700D GPU’s, not replaceable. Is this likely to be sufficient in the foreseeable future? Have there been problems?
The Firepro D700's are roughly equivalent to the Radeon 7970s of the time; graphics performance is adequate for any non-professional use and even 1080p gaming. If you want to use an external GPU, OWC's Mercury Helios expansion chassis allows the connection of a double-width PCIE GPU via Thunderbolt 2. I've never used one of these and don't know what performance limitations there might be.
4. Monitor connections: I’m driving the 4K Dell with a DisplayPort 1.2 cable; seems OK and System Information says the monitor up to full 3840 pixels is at 60 Hz. Are there better choices to connect the monitor such as a high speed HDMI cable?
No. Thunderbolt 2 connections are your best option on this machine.
5. Apple Thunderbolt 3-to-2 Adapter: Anyone used this with the Mac Pro?
I have the Apple bidirectional adapter cable, but it didn't seem to work with the single Thunderbolt 3 device (an external SSD) that I have. The computer never saw the drive as connected. NOTE: I see another reply explains this: the adapter does not pass power.
6. Networking: Should be possible to connect the Mac Pro to the MacBook with a LAN; perhaps even use the MacBook DVD drive to write? I’ve already used AirDrop to read from that drive.
I suppose you could try something like this, but why not simply use an inexpensive external USB 3 drive? Amazon has dozens of them, many under $35. I keep one in a drawer and connect it when I need it.
7. Concerns: I’ve heard about heating issues, though I’m not likely to be chewing through big video files often. Also, being a 2018 build, perhaps Apple has alleviated some of the problems? I see that RAM and SSD upgrades are hardly available (except OWC, but they don’t quite equal the Apple specs; Crucial has stopped making them). For added storage I could get something like a Samsung T5 external USB-C/USB 3 SSD.
I've done some multi-hour mass Handbrake transcodes with no functional problems at all, although the computer was blowing rather a lot of hot air out the top! For added storage, your best bet is SATA SSDs in a Thunderbolt 2 dock as I mentioned above. A USB 3 dock will work fine, but you'll take about a 15%-20% throughput hit.
Any thoughts or comments will be appreciated; thank you.
If you don't need the absolute latest thing, a refurb Mac Pro 6,1 (I got mine from iPower Resale) might be a good fit. I wouldn't buy one new, of course.

A final note: Thunderbolt 2 devices are becoming more difficult to find. If you plan to keep your Mac Pro for a few years, I'd recommend getting everything you think you might need now.
 


I bought a Mac Pro 2013 (Late 2018) and some advice would be greatly appreciated.
... I see that RAM and SSD upgrades are hardly available (except OWC, but they don’t quite equal the Apple specs; Crucial has stopped making them). For added storage I could get something like a Samsung T5 external USB-C/USB 3 SSD.
Storage: If you can get your hands on one, the Amfeltec AngelShark card is a remarkable thing. It's not going to be super fast, because you're still limited to PCIe2 x4 speeds for the whole assembly, but you can easily add 4 or even 8 TB of extra internal M.2 SSD storage that will run as fast as the machine is capable of.

The memory used in this machine is standard DDR3-1866 registered ECC server memory. Make sure you understand the specs you need and then shop around - you can get name-brand memory on eBay for very reasonable prices, because a huge number of server machines that used this class of memory are coming off lease and getting retired.
 


I bought a Mac Pro 2013 (Late 2018) and some advice would be greatly appreciated...
... 4. Monitor connections: I’m driving the 4K Dell with a DisplayPort 1.2 cable; seems OK and System Information says the monitor up to full 3840 pixels is at 60 Hz. Are there better choices to connect the monitor such as a high speed HDMI cable?
DisplayPort (Thunderbolt) is the way to go. See this Apple document for choosing which Thunderbolt port:
Briefly, the Mac Pro has three Thunderbolt busses; the bottom two ports and the HDMI port are on Bus 0. If you use one of those for your display and the top four ports for external drives, etc., your display won't compete with them for bandwidth. (But get that PDF; it has more useful info.)
7. Concerns: I’ve heard about heating issues...
My impression was that the cooling system was well designed for the originally spec'd equipment; It just can't deal with the heat of later GPU's? I have pegged all six cores (and Hyper Threads) for two hours with no heat issues and barely ramped up the fan. (I was monitoring it all with Activity Monitor and Macs Fan Control.)
 


So... I have a question regarding [the 2013 Mac Pro): At this point in the world, does it make more sense to get a tricked-out 2018 Mac Mini instead of the 2013 Mac Pro that's being discussed in this thread?

(I'm going to be looking into replacing my old 12-core cheese grater.)
 


I would greatly appreciate some comments, especially from users of the “Trashcan” 2013 Mac Pro:
1. Is this a good decision? I know it’s not the latest and greatest, but will it be current enough to run macOS upgrades for the next 5 years? An Apple store rep said it should be supported that long; it seems they should stand behind $4000 machines sold in 2019.
2. Limitations: I realize there are limitations like no USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, but USB 3/Thunderbolt 2 may be fast enough?
...
7. Concerns: I’ve heard about heating issues, though I’m not likely to be chewing through big video files often. Also, being a 2018 build, perhaps Apple has alleviated some of the problems? I see that RAM and SSD upgrades are hardly available (except OWC, but they don’t quite equal the Apple specs; Crucial has stopped making them). For added storage I could get something like a Samsung T5 external USB-C/USB 3 SSD.
Any thoughts or comments will be appreciated; thank you.
I also have the trashcan, purchased as a refurb from Apple soon after it came out. The refurb units are always listed, so I'm wondering if this is some sort of back-door discount, because the sales on them were pretty low. Mine has worked fine into its sixth year. The specs on the new one are overkill for me, so I went and did some upgrades from the stock 256GB SSD and 16GB RAM to extend this 2013 machine now, while components are available.

I just bumped the 16 GB RAM to 64 (from Ramjet) and the SSD (from OWC) to 1TB from the measly 256GB that came with the machine. These were the sweet spots price-wise for upgrades—though another step up was also available from their sellers—and both went in without a hitch. (Well, a little bit of a hitch. My High Sierra boot drive backup to an HFS+ backup drive's partition wouldn't boot, so I had to reinstall High Sierra from scratch on the new SSD and use Migration Assistant. That boot backup partition worked when later converted to an APFS partition to match the SSD's new APFS format. Lots of cloning back and forth that day....)

The upgrades seemed to make a speed difference, though I also had to upgrade to High Sierra before installing the SSD (per OWC instructions) and don't know if the speed boost was helped by replacing a crufty well-used OS.

Most past work and media are stored on mirrored drives in a Thunderbay 2. I'm hoping for at least 5 more years with this machine, so extra mail storage and scratch space is useful. Yes, I have cables, lots of cables, but this little guy hides behind the monitor on a corner desk. My previous machine was a 2008 Mac Pro, so I keep them a long time, and much prefer the ECC RAM with an external color-calibrated monitor. I'm a graphic designer, no video, no games. I almost never hear the trashcan's fan running, so the machine doesn't appear to be taxed much at all.

Another member posted a link to an Apple doc detailing how the Thunderbolt ports are bussed. Definitely go read that to figure out how to cable into all those Thunderbolt ports to distribute displays and drives optimally. I've run out of USB-3 ports before the Thunderbolt ones on this machine and had to daisy chain a drive or two together to get everything connected.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
So... I have a question regarding [the 2013 Mac Pro): At this point in the world, does it make more sense to get a tricked-out 2018 Mac Mini instead of the 2013 Mac Pro that's being discussed in this thread?
Apple, as it often does, chose a misleading name for the 2013 model. In every possible way, except name, it is the 2013 Mac MiniPro.

The 2018 Mac Mini isn't "pro" per se, but it can be expanded close to a "pro" level through the magic of Thunderbolt 3, which breaks the Thunderbolt 2 performance bottleneck that handcuffs the 2013 Mac [Mini] Pro and pre-2018 Mac Minis. Thunderbolt 3 is a game-changer, bringing PCIe power to external enclosures and devices for storage, for networking, for graphics (eGPU), and more.

Given Thunderbolt 3 power, what else does the 2018 Mac Mini need to be "pro"? Well, it lacks powerful desktop CPUs (like those in the 2019 Mac Pro, iMac Pro or even top-end iMac 5K models), mammoth RAM capacity (though it'll handle 64 GB), and "pro"-level cooling. Do you need those?

An iMac Pro is actually "pro", and the 2019 Mac Pro is hard-core "pro", while top-end iMac 5K models are "semi-pro" and the 2018 Mac Mini is "quasi-pro".

It all depends on what you need to do with the computer. But one more factor is compatibility. The 2013 Mac [MIni] Pro runs all current macOS and app versions - anything back to 2013. The 2018 Mac Mini doesn't, and the 2019 Mac Pro may be a nightmare for older Mac software compatibility
 


...But one more factor is compatibility. The 2013 Mac [MIni] Pro runs all current macOS and app versions - anything back to 2013. The 2018 Mac Mini doesn't, and the 2019 Mac Pro may be a nightmare for older Mac software compatibility
Thanks, Ric, for the analysis. as far as compatibility goes, whatever the hardware doesn't break, Catalina likely will. The big problem is that i'm no longer exactly sure what I in fact 'need'.

I'm an actual professional video editor, primarily using Avid Media Composer. This is my home Avid. Fortunately, I don't actually have to make a living on it. I work for a company that provides my system, but I'd still like the 'option' for editing at home. Avid currently supports certain configurations of all of the current line: the Mini, iMac, iMac Pro, trashcan, and laptops.

My current system has four internal drives (two SSD, two spinners, about 8 TB), a G-Speed GS Pro RAID (SAS, 4TB), two computer monitors (1600x1200 actually) and an HD broadcast monitor driven by Avid i/o hardware.

I don't expect to be able to move all of the hardware to a new system without considerable pain, so I'm basically looking to spend as much as necessary/as little as possible when I upgrade. but I'm thinking around $3K for the CPU. This thread has given me too many ideas.

Again, thanks for the analysis.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I'm an actual professional video editor, primarily using Avid Media Composer. This is my home Avid....
You'll probably get the best advice from other professionals using the same Avid systems. But as a quick take, I'd ask you: What wouldn't an iMac Pro do that you need? It seems pretty ideal for video, if you're not looking to spend $20K on a 2019 Mac Pro system, and you can get some discounts in Apple's refurb bin. Again, the biggest issue to me could be compatibility. The iMac Pro is pretty leading-edge in terms of macOS requirements, T2 processor etc.

The 2017 iMac 5K refurb I've touted has more compatibility, but its price starts to add up pretty quickly when building it up with fast storage, RAM, etc., and it doesn't have anywhere near the cooling capacity. However, the ability to very easily upgrade RAM in the iMac 5K (64GB max) is a wonderful thing, and it has a great screen (though I prefer separate third-party monitors, especially given their hardware controls for things such as sharpness, color, contrast, etc., which Apple doesn't let you control for its bulit-in displays).
 


Apple, as it often does, chose a misleading name for the 2013 model. In every possible way, except name, it is the 2013 Mac MiniPro.

The 2018 Mac Mini isn't "pro" per se, but it can be expanded close to a "pro" level through the magic of Thunderbolt 3, which breaks the Thunderbolt 2 performance bottleneck that handcuffs the 2013 Mac [Mini] Pro and pre-2018 Mac Minis. Thunderbolt 3 is a game-changer, bringing PCIe power to external enclosures and devices for storage, for networking, for graphics (eGPU), and more.

Given Thunderbolt 3 power, what else does the 2018 Mac Mini need to be "pro"? Well, it lacks powerful desktop CPUs (like those in the 2019 Mac Pro, iMac Pro or even top-end iMac 5K models), mammoth RAM capacity (though it'll handle 64 GB), and "pro"-level cooling. Do you need those?

An iMac Pro is actually "pro", and the 2019 Mac Pro is hard-core "pro", while top-end iMac 5K models are "semi-pro" and the 2018 Mac Mini is "quasi-pro".

It all depends on what you need to do with the computer. But one more factor is compatibility. The 2013 Mac [MIni] Pro runs all current macOS and app versions - anything back to 2013. The 2018 Mac Mini doesn't, and the 2019 Mac Pro may be a nightmare for older Mac software compatibility
Don't forget ECC memory, which tends to go with server-class CPUs (Xeon). It does matter if you prefer never to have a cosmic ray flip a bit in some computation's data or in a program.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Don't forget ECC memory, which tends to go with server-class CPUs (Xeon). It does matter if you prefer never to have a cosmic ray flip a bit in some computation's data or in a program.
I thought I'd mentioned that, but maybe it got lost in an edit. It's a good point!
 


So... I have a question regarding [the 2013 Mac Pro): At this point in the world, does it make more sense to get a tricked-out 2018 Mac Mini instead of the 2013 Mac Pro that's being discussed in this thread?
(I'm going to be looking into replacing my old 12-core cheese grater.)
I switched from a 12-core Mac Pro (5,1) to a Mac Mini with 10gig Ethernet. Love it. Faster than the Mac Pro in most regards, even rendering video. I am sure there are some video workflows, that are slower on the the new Mini, but I have not run into them.
 


Thank you to everyone who replied to my questions about my new Mac Pro Later 2013 (manufactured in 2018). Each reply contained a lot of good informaiton. It appears I got a temporary price break on the Mac Pro and, with the exception of not having Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, it looks like it will do everything I want it to do and has sufficient external expandability to cover my needs. It's an elegant, compact quiet computer. A few comments:

USB-C/Thunderbolt
The Apple Thunderbolt 3 to 2 Adapter is bi-directional, except that it doesn't transfer power to the attached peripheral.... [Thunderbolt 3 powered docks can serve this function. USB hubs cannot; Thunderbolt 3 devices are not compatible with non-Thunderbolt USB ports. —Ric Ford.]

Computing Power and Cooling:
As David and Will point out, the Mac Pro can crunch through video editing with few heating problems. I did a test on my new Mac Pro using Handbrake to decode a 60-minute video (HD at 30fps) from H.265 to H.264. Wow, Handbrake utilizes all the computing power available; all 8 cores (16 threads) were maxed out. It took 10 minutes for this test, and the Mac Pro was sending more warm air out the top than for lower usage, and the external aluminum case got warmer at the top than usual, but I still couldn't hear the fan running.

Upgrades to Memory and Storage:
To upgrade the RAM or storage, it looks like one has to be careful of the specs, as mentioned by John. A discussion I saw about installing aftermarket SSD flash storage in the Mac Pro 6.1 (e.g. OWC storage) said that installing a major macOS system software upgrade (new-named system upgrade) could be a problem with 3rd-party flash SSDs in a Mac Pro 6.1; it wouldn't install on the Mac Pro with a non-Apple SSD and do the firmware upgrade. It required the original Apple SSD be installed and then porting the new system to the 3rd-party SSD.

Some 3rd-party memory (RAM) sellers, such as Ramjet, mentioned by Claire, and Transintl, mentioned in the blog by Inaudible Discussion, state their memory meets all Apple specs, including 1866-MHz, but I can't verify that myself. The Definitive Trashcan Mac Pro 6.1 (Late 2013) Upgrade Guide (Inaudible Discussion blog) is interesting, but some of the vendors (e.g. Crucial) are no longer selling Mac Pro 6.1 memory or flash drives.

Again, thank you to everyone who sent the informative responses to my questions. Any other comments are welcome.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
To upgrade the RAM or storage, it looks like one has to be careful of the specs, as mentioned by John. A discussion I saw about installing aftermarket SSD flash storage in the Mac Pro 6.1 (e.g. OWC storage) said that installing a major macOS system software upgrade (new-named system upgrade) could be a problem with 3rd-party flash SSDs in a Mac Pro 6.1; it wouldn't install on the Mac Pro with a non-Apple SSD and do the firmware upgrade. It required the original Apple SSD be installed and then porting the new system to the 3rd-party SSD.
I assume this is the well-known issue that third-party NVMe SSDs require macOS 10.13 or later, including updated EFI/firmware, such that you have to first upgrade to macOS 10.13 or 10.14 before you can use third-party NVMe storage. This should be documented at OWC's website.
 


I assume this is the well-known issue that third-party NVMe SSDs require macOS 10.13 or later, including updated EFI/firmware, such that you have to first upgrade to macOS 10.13 or 10.14 before you can use third-party NVMe storage. This should be documented at OWC's website.
I think OWC did document this, just in a weird way. As you know, they say clearly that their modern SSDs are "designed for High Sierra" and "take full advantage of APFS" and "the host computer must be updated to macOS 10.13 or later before installing". But the SSD doesn't actually care at all what filesystem it's formatted with, it's just data blocks. in my opinion what OWC is really saying here is that it's an NVMe SSD, and it won't work until you update. I think they just decided to mix in some odd combination of marketing and not wanting to explain what NVMe is when they chose how to say it...
 


I thought I'd mentioned that, but maybe it got lost in an edit. It's a good point!
I ponder for my practice what to use as a server, mainly file server. Currently I do have an old Mac Pro 4,1 with the default video card on OS X 10.11, with two 500GB SSDs on NVMe on PCIe, and four 3TB hard disks, running OpenZFS on OSX ZFS with Z-2 (two disks may fail without losing data).

Clients will run on the latest macOS (MacBook Pro, macOS 10.14) or iPadOS.

The software runs a Postgres data base. We are five therapists, so the load is low - maybe a few GB of data, an entry every 15 min.

Pondering whether to
1 - flash the Mac Pro 4,1 (has ECC RAM) to run macOS 10.14 — what hoops do I have to go through?​
2 - buy a Mac Pro 5,1 (has ECC RAM) that runs macOS 10.14 natively — can I transfer the disks, the SSDs, possibly the RAM for the Mac Pro 4,1? Costs some $1000.​
3 - buy a new Mac Mini (does not have ECC RAM), some $1300, plus I need an external enclosure for the disks — what enclosure would hold at least 4 disks and work with ZFS? (I have the experience of an older USB 3.0 8 bay case that does not work; it seems to power up the disks in sequence.​
)​
The solution should be good for a few years to come. I'm leaning towards #2 - get a used Mac Pro 5,1 (does it matter whether it is a server version or is that just no DVD?).
 



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