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Contents




The largest/most-complete guide to all possible classic Mac Pro upgrades covering OS, Firmware, GPU, CPU, Storage, USB and Network upgrades.

Upgrading a classic Mac Pro isn't hard. The information is out there but knowing what is possible, what questions to ask, and where to find it isn't nearly as easy. This is as much a guide as it is a roadmap to primary sources by other brilliant people, written to be accessible to both new and advanced users. I hope you find this guide useful.

The Cheese Grater's last stand

This is the upgrade guide that never-should-have-been. Why would anyone choose to make a hobby of writing a guide that's 22,000+ words on a set of computers that are 7-13 years old? It's been an interesting experience, that's for sure. The success of this upgrade guide has been because of the failure of Apple to deliver a meaningful Mac Pro replacement. This guide started out in 2013 when I was upgrading my Mac Pro 3.1 and wrote a simple list of upgrades, then decided to rewrite it over a year ago after purchasing a 2010 Mac Pro. I was pretty sure that the Mac Pro 2012 was going to be the last Mac that shipped with PCIe slots and was easily user-serviceable. Well, I was wrong. Very wrong.

Sometimes it feels good to be wrong. My old intro to this guide was a world-weary, cynical outlook, standing on the edge of a precipice of planned obsolescence. Modular computing appeared to be doomed.

The Mac Pro 2019 is the computer I dreamed of... but at a large price. I imagine we'll be using our cMPs for a while longer. The future looks better, albeit very expensive. If you'd like to read the old intro, click the show old intro.

Like many, I had quite a few thoughts about the Mac Pro 2019. While the 2019 Mac Pro is relevant, this guide will remain focused on the 2006-2012 Mac Pros. If you want my personal take, you can read it here.

Show old intro

A hearty thanks to all the communities and websites where Mac power users still exist: MacRumors, Netkas, XL8yourmac, TonyMacx86, EveryMac, Ars Technica and to The Mac Pro Upgrade group on FB (users Gianluca M, Jean-Paul R., John C, Martin L, Jay V, Brennan F, Peter K, and many others) and Mac Pro Users on FB, (Eric Z.) for providing feedback, and many users who've taken the time to email me to correct any errors. Even MacVidCards chimed in to correct this guide.




Special Announcements

I've written a follow-up article, The Definitive Trashcan Mac Pro (2013) Upgrade Guide to commemorate the first anniversary of this blog post on April 7th of 2018!




Mini-Glossary of Terms / About this guide

Jumping into the world of Mac OS can be daunting as there's a lot assumed tribal knowledge and history. I try to avoid unnecessary shorthand, but there are a few unavoidable terms. I like to write for as many people as possible and to remain accessible. For sanity sake, there is a base assumption for understanding but hopefully a low-enough bar that novice users can follow along and learn. We all start somewhere, and no one should ever feel bad for asking simple questions. Examples of assumed knowledge would be like the fundamental difference between an SSD and Hard Drive is or what CPU cores are. Even then, I try to explain core concepts or provide links when necessary to help educate a user. If you feel that something is unclear or never adequately explained, please reach out to me and let me know as my readers are a global audience and of all walks of life and a wide variety of skillsets. Please see the Changelog for more details on how to reach out to me. We all start somewhere, and I frequently question my own aptitude when I see how much heavy lifting others have done to make this guide a reality. For my more technical users, I depend on you for accuracy. This is truly a community effort.

APFS - Short for Apple File System, a proprietary file system used on Mac OS and iOS. File systems define how data is stored and retrieved in an operating system. File Systems, like all software, has limitations, and APFS was used to fix many of the shortcomings of HFS+. The transition to APFS was (relatively) smooth, but Apple chose not to support certain older hardware when it moved to APFS.

Bits vs. Bytes - You probably know this one by heart: There are 8 bits to every byte. For this guide to avoid confusion, I use bytes instead of bits when discussing all things bandwidth related, even though networking favors bits and local storage favors bytes. It's pretty easy for mistake bits for bytes as it hinges on capitalization. 10 gigabits-per-sec is written in shorthand as 10 Gbps. 10 Gigabytes-per-second is written as 10 GBps or 10 GB/s. Converting bits to bytes means dividing by eight. 10 Gbps = 1.25 GB/s (or 1.25 GBps). Download speeds are expressed by operating systems in bytes per second which confuses consumers as internet connections are not. For example: A 100 Mbps network connection has a maximum bandwidth of 12.5 MB/s.

Cheesegrater - Slang for the classic Mac Pros. I did not invent this term but use it frequently. This term arose to describe the billet metal on the front/back of the Mac Pros that resembles a "cheesegrater" although functionally it'd be more appropriate to use it as a pasta press.

EFI - Short for Extensible Firmware Interface, a specification designed by Intel to replace BIOS as the method to interface between an operating system and the platform firmware. This former isn't essential to understand beyond that it is a computer's firmware. Apple adopted EFI on Intel Macs, and this is the interface that allows selecting a boot drive before OS X begins booting (by holding down the option), among other pre-OS loading functionality. I use the term EFI slightly loosely as I'll refer to the boot screen as the EFI even though this isn't all that EFI is providing for the Mac. Also, it is important to understand that the UEFI (Universal Extensible Firmware Interface) which is now industry standard for PCs isn't the same as Apple's EFI on computers from 2013 and before. They are similar, but Apple's implementation varies partly due to age and partly due to the closed nature of Mac OS. Apple has since begun adopting (at least portions of it) UEFI, so the implications are better for the 2019 Mac Pro and GPUs. In order for a GPU to display a pre-boot screen, need Universal Graphics Adapter Protocol (UGA) firmware for the Mac Pro 1.1/5.1s. The more modern UEFI replaced UGA with Graphics Output Protocol (GOP) which is not used on the classic Mac Pros .

32 Bit EFI - It's a common mistake on the internet to refer to certain Macs as "32 Bit" as most Intel Macs (sans the Core Duo Models) have had 64-bit CPUs. However, some of the older Macs, like the 2006-2007 Mac Pros used 32 Bit EFI. Apple dropped support for 32 Bit EFI with Mac OS 10.12.

DosDude1 - the handle of a prodigious Mac OS scripter who makes Mac OS installable on a large swath of older Macintoshes, under the same name, generally referred to as some variation of DosDude1 Patcher Tool for Unsupported Macs. In this guide, I refer to DosDude1 not as the person but as the scripts he has written.

Firmware - a term you probably have heard and already possess some understanding of, the standard definition is a program that is written into Read-Only Memory (ROMs), and requires a specialized process to change (if it can be changed at all) called Flashing.

Flash/Flashing - The act of writing over data that exists in an otherwise in Read-Only Memory (ROM) or space (Firmware).

Hackintosh - Any non-Apple hardware that is running any version of Mac OS, generally standard PCs using a lot of workarounds.

HFS+ - Short for Hierarchical File System but also referred to as "Mac OS Extended" a proprietary file system used on Mac OS, released with Mac OS 8.1 in 1998. It remained the default file system for Apple for nearly two decades, used on Mac OS 8/9, OS X, the iPod, early versions of iOS but lacked some core features found on file systems developed later.

Mac OS / OS X - Mac OS X was rebranded to Mac OS, I use these interchangeably as I have a tough time accepting Mac OS as OS X is still OS X to me. Generally, Apple writes macOS, but I find this annoying, so you’ll see Mac OS littered through this guide. Mac OS is not to be confused with Mac OS classic (Mac OS 7.x - 9.x).

Metal - Previously, Apple's default graphics library for graphics acceleration was OpenGL (Open Graphics Library), used on iOS and Mac OS. Over time, OpenGL fell behind in performance and features when compared to a library like Microsoft's DirectX. Without an ideal candidate to replace it (OpenGL's successor, Vulkan, was not out yet), Apple created it's own graphics library called Metal and shipped it in 2014 on iOS 8 first. Mac OS 10.14 Mojave uses Metal to now power Mac OS. The new API does not support many old GPUs as their drivers were not updated.

SIP - System integrity protection, a feature of later Mac OS introduced in OS X El Capitan, that walls off portions low-level features of Mac OS in order to protect it from malware. However, sometimes, when performing certain hacks, it requires disabling during installation and then can be re-enabled.

Trashcan - While Mac OS has a trash can for deleting files, in the context of this guide, this used to poke fun of the Mac Pro 2013 for its looks and lack of functionality compared to the almighty classic Mac Pro. Despite its shortcomings, I wrote a The Definitive Trashcan Mac Pro (2013) Upgrade Guide.




Know your Mac Pro's Model

A good portion of this guide (and others) uses terminology such as "Mac Pro 2008" or Mac Pro 4.1 or Mac Pro 6,1 when referring to what upgrades are feasible. The classic Mac Pros come in five iterations and there currently seven different iterations of Mac Pro family.

You can find out a Mac Pro's version by going to "About this Mac" under the Apple menu. All classic Mac Pros share a base level of specifications: Four full length PCIe Slots, 1 mini PCIe slot for an Airport/Bluetooth card, four SATA2 3.5 drive bays, two 5.25 inch Optical drive bays (ATA on 3.1 and lower Mac Pros, SATA2 on Mac Pro 4.1+) dual Gigabit Ethernet, five USB 2.0 ports, two Firewire 400 ports, two Firewire 800 ports, and optical digital audio in/out. The differences pertain to the bus/RAM/CPUs and tray designs for RAM and CPUs. Visually from the exterior, these computers are the same and difficult to identify from each other without opening them up. Internally the 1.1/2.1s, and 4.1/5.1s are nearly identical. A 1.1 Mac Pro can be firmware flashed to a 2.1 Mac Pro, and a 4.1 can be flashed to a 5.1 Mac Pro. The best way to verify what the original computer's version was is via using its model number (or serial number). For more info see EveryMac's Mac Pro specification section and EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup.

  • Mac Pro 1.1 aka 2006 aka Woodcrest (CPUs) - the first iteration of Mac Pros. The firmware can be upgraded to 2.1, uses 32 Bit EFI. Can run macOS 10.11.6 with hacks.
  • Mac Pro 2.1 aka 2007 aka Clovertown (CPUs)- The 2.1s were released only in dual quad-core CPU configurations, 2006 dual 2x Core Mac Pros sold used the 1.1 firmware whereas the 2.1s use a slightly updated firmware. Like the 1.1 before, uses 32 Bit EFI. Can run macOS 10.11.6 with hacks. Due to the hard limitation of OS upgrades, the Mac Pro 1.1/2.1s are not very popular.
  • Mac Pro 3.1 aka 2008 aka Harpertown/Penryn (CPUs) - The Mac Pro 2008s are the odd man out as there are little CPU options compared to the 1.1/2.1 Mac Pros and the 4.1/5.1 Mac Pros, 64 Bit EFI, can use modern macOS with minimal hacking. The 2008 Mac Pros lack SSE 4.2 instruction set on the CPUs as well as EPT/VT-x support, which aids greatly in virtual machine related tasks. For the most part, neither are required although the SSE 4.2 support means using modified drivers for modern AMD GPUs. The lack of later CPU instructions means some software isn't as performant.
  • Mac Pro 4.1 aka 2009 aka Nehalem (CPUs) - The firmware can be upgraded to 5.1, uses 64 Bit EFI. When flashed, they are natively supported for Mojave 10.14, depending on GPU. 4.1s tend to be the budget upgrader's choice (as they can be had for cheaper than a 5.1 Mac Pro). There is no performance difference between a flashed 4.1 -> 5.1 and a computer that shipped with the 5.1 firmware. However, the Mac Pro 4.1 requires delidded CPUs (see the CPU section).
  • Mac Pro 5.1 aka 2010/2012 aka Westermere (CPUs)- natively supported for Mojave 10.14, depending on GPU The Westermere CPUs are the highest-end CPUs supported by LGA 1366 Sockets. *Note, there were 2012 Mac Pros sold with a single Nehalem CPU, although somewhat uncommon. There is no difference between 2010 and 2012 Mac Pros beyond the CPUs and GPUs options Apple offered at the time of the sale. The Mac Pro 5.1s (or 4.1s flashed to 5.1s) have enjoyed several major firmware updates for Mojave enabling the ability to boot NVMe which previously required workarounds/hacks to do.
  • Mac Pro 6,1 2013, also known as the "Cylinder" or "Trash can." These are radically different than the classic Mac Pro models and will not be covered in this guide. For information about this model, please visit The Definitive Trashcan Mac Pro (2013) Upgrade Guide.
  • Mac Pro 7,1 2019 - also known as the xMP. The Mac Pro 2019 marks a return to modularity with plenty of PCIe slots and a massive price hike.

Identifying a Mac Pro visually

Mac Pro 1.1 vs. 3.1 vs. 4.1/5.1

The easiest way to distinguish a powered off Mac Pro is taking the side panel off. The Mac Pros, note the RAM configurations on the right-hand corner. The other sure-fire method is looking up the Serial Number.

PCIe and you

Mac pro 1.1/2.1- PCIe layout (uses PCIe 1.0)

PCI Express Slot Slot Speed
4 x4
3 x4
2 x1
1 x16

Note: The Mac Pro 1.1/2.1 allowed for lane configuration using Expansion Slot Utility


Mac pro 3.1/4.1/5.1 - PCIe layout (uses PCIe 2.0)

PCI Express Slot Slot Speed
4 x4
3 x4
2 x16
1 x16

Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe or also PCI-E) is the evolution of PCI, which migrated from having a parallel bus system (where all cards in a computer competed for the same bandwidth ) to discrete connections. Regardless of how many cards are connected, it will not adversely affect the bandwidth for each PCIe card. PCIe has become the backbone of computers since its first iteration in 2003 and continues to be used, even on laptops for high-speed storage.

Not all PCIe slots are the same. Since its inception, there have been several updates: PCIe 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, with the very first 4.0 PC motherboards demoed in 2018. Each iteration of PCIe radically increases the speed. Also to add a minor bit of confusion different chipsets a have different amount of total "lanes," the measurement of speed for a PCIe slot. PCIe slots are not all equal speed; thus, the total lanes are distributed across the PCIe slots, usually giving favor to one or two ports for maximum speed. In the case of the Mac Pros (3,1 and above), all have a maximum of 40 lanes and, thus, the lanes are pre-distributed among the PCIe slots. Since not all PCIe slots have the same amount of lanes; thus, they not all are the same speed. The amount of lanes a PCIe slot has access to is expressed numerically as follows: 1x (1 lane), 2x, (2 lanes), 4x (4 lanes), 8x (8 lanes) and 16x (16 lanes). The maximum speed of each lane depends on the version of PCIe a computer has. A 1.x PCIe 1x slot has access 250 MB/s. Thus a 4x has a maximum of 1 GB/s and 8x has a maximum of 2 GB/s and so on. Each generation of PCIe effectively doubles the speed of a lane. A PCIe 2.0 lane is 500 MB/s and PCIe 3.0 lane is 1 GB/s. Generally, PCIe speeds are expressed in bytes, not bits. A PCIe 2.0 16x speed (8 GB/s) would be 64 Gbps (64000 Mbps).

To reiterate the dramatic speed increases of PCIe based on generation: A 16x port in PCIe 1.x has a maximum of 4 GB/s, whereas a 2.x 16x port can handle 8 GB/s, 3.x is almost 16 GB/s. All PCIe slots are backward compatible however the caveat is that PCIe cards may not be backward compatible (this is not common). Also, not all PCIe cards will operate at the maximum speed of the port as they may be limited by the card's chipset. Conversely, a PCIe card may support much faster speeds but will work in any PCIe slot but will be limited by the port's maximum speed. For example, you could use a GeForce 1080 Ti in the Mac Pro's 4x slot but with a bit of a performance penalty.

For more information on the Mac Pro's PCIe slots, see EveryMac's guide and the archived article from developer.apple.com: PCI Product-Specific Details.

Bifurcation

Later motherboards, starting with PCIe 3.0 commonly support bifurcation, which allows a PCIe port to be split in half: One 16x port becomes two 8x. This is mostly used for SSDs. While the Mac Pro can use PCIe expanders, it doesn't support bifurcation. For PCIe -> M.2 NVMe adapter means selecting dual-port cards that do not require bifurcation, naturally thus costing more. This is also discussed in the PCIe NVMe sleds/blades section.

PCIe Power

By default, PCIe provides power via motherboard PCIe slot, up to 75w. The power requirements have increased for high-performance GPUs, going past PCIe initial design. To combat the power problem, PCIe cards started coming with additional power ports. Generally, in PCs, additional power is drawn directly from 12v taps off the power supply. On the Mac Pros, there are two power ports located on the motherboard that can be tapped for additional power. This design choice means less cable mess but also requires buying special mini-PCIe to PCIe cables. Apple's implementation of the PCIe power ports also is non-standard, allowing for more power-draw than required by the PCIe standard. Many PC power supplies also use similar configurations, so that 6 to 8 pin adapters can be used.




Firmware upgrades/hacks

The Mac Pro line has had a history of Firmware updates, depending on the model, there's quite a wide gamut of potential upgrades or hacks for your Mac Pro. The Mac Pro Firmware upgrades are now distributed as part of Mac OS and can only be performed when upgrading the operating system.

Check Your Firmware Version

Go to from the Apple menu, select About this Mac and click System report. Under the Hardware Overview, you should see a Boot ROM version, which is your current Mac's firmware version.

The Upgradable Firmware Macs

The Mac Pro 2006s (1.1) and 2009s (4.1) occupy a special place as both can be updated to enable a wider range of CPU configurations with a software update. The Mac Pro 1.1 to 2.1 enables later CPU (Clovertown) support. The 4.1 gets the bigger boost. The firmware update enables Westmere Xeon CPUs, faster bus/RAM. Once a 4.1 is flashed to the 5.1 firmware, it can then use all the 5.1 firmware updates which enable quite a few goodies like APFS booting, native NVMe support and such. This is one of those times where a software upgrade makes all the difference. See the CPU upgrades section for more details on CPU configurations. There is no performance difference between a flashed firmware Mac Pro vs. a Mac Pro that shipped with later firmware assuming the hardware configurations are the same.

Ars Technica reported on the success of the 2009 Mac Pros being flashed by Netkas forum members.

2006 1.1 Mac Pro

The Mac Pro 1.1 flash allows for later CPU models to be used.

Note: Sometimes it is incorrectly reported that the 1.1/2.1 Mac Pro cannot run 64-bit applications (such as Pindelski's upgrade guide) which is untrue, they are limited to a 32 Bit EFI ROM. 64-bit Applications run natively as this is independent of the EFI ROM. For reference, the G5 was the first Macintosh to support 64 bit, which mostly enabled them to address more than 4 GB of Maximum RAM. Every Intel Mac outside of the original Core Duos (not to be confused with the Core 2 Duo) is 64-bit.

2008 3.1 Mac Pro

The Mac Pro 2008 remains a bit of the odd man out when it comes to firmware. With the DOSdude1 High Sierra patcher, this computer can boot AFPS volumes but not from encrypted AFPS volumes.

Clever hardware hackers discovered how to enable bootable NVMe on Mac Pro, it requires making a custom firmware using ROMtool and EXEinject on the 3.1.

Note: this hack was originally performed on Mac Pro 5,1s but is unnecessary as Apple has released NVMe compatible bootROMs for them. Below is a collection of links related to the bootROM procedure.

2009 4.1 Mac Pro

2010-2012 5.1 Mac Pro Firmware

Despite the obvious age of the Mac Pro 5.1s, someone or at least a group of someones are/is still throwing bones to the community at large by providing updates for the Mac Pros 8 years after their release, an unprecedented olive branch. Developer Previews often carry updates both good and bad. Using beta OSes come with beta problems. Stability minded users should not use beta OSes. Both 10.13 and 10.14 have been welcome surprises for Mac Pro 5.1 users including firmware updates to enable APFS support, and later NVMe booting. Forum member, Tsialex of MacRumors (one of the experts on Mac Pros on the interwebs) has compiled and maintained a list of Firmware versions for the Mac Pro 5.1. I highly recommend this blog post as I've directly lifted his notes from it, but there's more info at his original blog post. I credit his work below. The BootROMs are distributed as part of the Mac OS upgrades. It is unlikely that we will see continued firmware updates for the Mac Pro 5.1s in Catalina.

All Firmware updates are performed during the OS installation process. A Mac Pro can be updated to the latest firmware and continue to run older OSes. Mac OS 10.13 can run off an NVMe drive.

* Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra), comes bundled with a new EFI update for AFPS bootablility and works with any 5.1 Mac Pros (including previously upgraded 4.1) Mac Pros but requires an EFI bootable graphics card as reported by MacRumors forum posters.

Clever hardware hackers discovered how to enable bootable NVMe on Mac Pro, it requires making a custom firmware using ROMtool and EXEinject on the 3.1.

Note: this hack was originally performed on Mac Pro 5,1s but is unnecessary as Apple has released NVMe compatible bootROMs for them. Below is a collection of links related to the bootROM procedure. However, this hack falls into adventure territory, see the Mac Pro 3.1 NVMe Drive Natively Booting post below. It’s highly recommended to stay with AHCI SSDs with the Mac Pro 3,1s.

*** The Mac Pro Firmware upgrade v142.0.0.0 included in the developer preview 4 of MacOS Mojave 10.14.4 (20190304) and 10.14.5 DP1 included a bad BootROM which not part of the regular releases. Users at MacRumors are reporting that the update bricks Mac Pro 5.1s with W3xxx Xeon CPUs. See the check your CPU model section.

Useful Links




OS upgrades

macOS Mojave Logo

OS upgrades might seem obvious but the 2006-2007 (1.1 - 2.1) Mac Pros only have 32 Bit EFI and 2008 (3.1) Mac Pros are officially unsupported. The 2009 Mac Pros can be firmware flashed to become 5.1 Mac Pros. The 2010-2012 can run modern OS X natively without nearly the hacking. The 2008 Mac Pros are relatively easy to upgrade although (and this is important), the airport card that the Mac Pro 2008 shipped with is unsupported. You can upgrade the wireless chipset or use PCIe or USB solutions.

Model: Max officially supported OS Max unofficially supported OS
Mac Pro 4.1/5.1 macOS 10.14* Current
Mac Pro 3.1 OS X 10.11 Current
Mac Pro 1.1/2.1 OS X 10.7 OS X 10.11

*Note:No word official word 10.15 Catalina

2006-2007 Mac Pro

The Mac Pro 2006s can run 10.11.6, but there are some hoops to jump through, notably a video card with at least 512 MB of VRAM and you'll need Captain Pike's Script which takes a lot of the leg work out. Also, wifi will be unsupported with the old chipset, but the Airport can be upgraded.

2008 Mac Pro 3.1s And 10.13/10.14/10.15

The Mac Pro 3.1s do not need the 32 bit EFI workaround which means mostly a native experience. The default wifi chipset isn't supported, but the Airport cards can be replaced, see Bluetooth/Wireless upgrades for details.,/p>

10.14 Mojave: The AMD drivers for off-the-shelf cards (like the Vega and Radeon 5xx series) do not support the Mac Pro 3.1 in Mojave, but can be used with Netkas patched AMD METAL drivers. Off-the-shelf NVidia cards also aren't supported in Mojave. Thus the Mac Pro 3.1 means tracking down a Metal compatible GPU or using the AMD drivers by netkas. The current favorite GPU for Mojave and Mac Pro 3.1s is a GeForce GTX 680, which has native Mojave support, can be flashed and works with the Mac Pro 3.1 although the Radeon 580x is now gaining traction.

Notably, some security updates may fail at installing since they require updating the recovery partition manually. See Update Recovery Partition on Unsupported Macs for more details

Upgrade to High Sierra without APFS

For many pros using legacy apps, High Sierra can wreak havoc on support. Many users have chosen to continue using HFS+ as it ensures compatibility with some legacy applications. Note: for Mac Pro 5,1 users, this can interfere with later firmware updates, MacProUpgrade group members for instance, report that Updating to 10.4.5 firmware won't install with HFS+ on the boot drive.

2010-2012 Mac Pro 5.1s And Mojave/Catalina

The Mac Pro 5.1s (including 2009 Mac Pros updated to a 5.1) can install 10.14 Mojave with one major caveat; they require a Metal compatible GPU and strangely will not allow installation to occur if there are any GPUs that aren't Metal compatible, such as the GT120. Updating requires pulling non-Metal accelerated GPUs (they can be installed after the update and will still output video). Apple published a partial list Metal-Capable Cards Compatible With macOS Mojave on 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro Models, but this does not include the NVidia cards that work with web drivers. Currently, NVidia users are waiting for NVidia to release official drivers, but we're currently at statemate with NVidia suggesting the lack of driver updates is (unsurprisingly) Apple's fault. See Apple's official, Install macOS 10.14 Mojave on Mac Pro (Mid 2010) and Mac Pro (Mid 2012) article for more info.

It's worth mentioning there is a petition for Apple to allow NVidia release drivers for Mac OS 10.14 Mojave. It is doubtful this will work but does help highlight illustrate the issue, and gives journalists a number to point to when writing about the lack of NVidia support.

2008-2012 Mac Pros and Catalina

The Mac Pro 5.1 may finally be dropped from Apple's support list (this is subject to change as the first beta of Mojave did not include 5.1 support). Never one to be stopped, DosDude1's Catalina beta enables Mac OS 10.15 Catalina support, or you can follow the MacRumors: What you need to do to make Catalina work with MacPro5,1 for a more nuts and bolts approach and additional info.

Catalina as of currently has buggy NVIDIA Kepler native support and Wifi requires a BCM94360CD or BCM943602CD chipset. Lastly, Sidecar (Apple's new screensharing for iPads) is actively blocked for the cMPs and even the trashcans.

Warning About Developer Previews in 10.14.x: Firmware updates are distributed with Developer previews for the Mac Pro 5.1s, one version of the firmware bricked Mac Pros running a fairly uncommon CPU configuration. See the Firmware Upgrades section for more info.

Stop the "Upgrade to MacOS..." banners

Apple in the past few years has moved to nagware for OS updates, often pestering users running non-compatible configurations to upgrade (such as running a non-Mojave compatible GPU). You can disable the notifications following osxdaily's handy guide.




CPU Upgrades

Xeon 5690

Every Mac Pro made (including the 2013s) have sported multi-core, interchangeable Xeon series CPUs. The Xeons are built on the same architecture as its desktop-grade siblings. The main benefit of the Xeon CPUs historically has been more CPU cores, ability to support multi-CPU motherboards, larger cache memory, more PCIe lanes, much higher maximum RAM and Error-correcting code memory (ECC). This comes at a trade-off as the Xeon line has much higher price points, doesn't have built-in support for overclocking and generally lower-clock speeds.

Seeing as a computer is the sum of many parts (not just the CPU), CPUs are not interchangeable between Mac Pro versions. For example, a CPU from a Mac Pro 4.1/5.1 cannot be used with a Mac Pro 2.1, as the supporting chipsets and the CPU socket itself are different.

Instruction Sets, SSE 4.2, VT-x/EPT

Apple has (so far) gone through three major CPU changes with the Macintosh lineup, going from 68k (Motorola), PowerPC (IBM/Motorola) and now currently x86 (Intel, AMD). Each of these terms refers to the family of instruction set architecture that a CPU can execute (the compiled binary code it can run). Among each of these instruction set architectures are various improvements that often require code to be optimized by code compilers and/or the software developers must (re)write code so they can be taken advantage of.

Overtime, CPUs have gained specialized single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) instruction sets that are beneficial for certain types of tasks. In a different era, these gains were often marketed to consumers like MMX or AltiVec (velocity engine) or 3Dnow. Today, these sort of CPUs changes aren't as frequent or as clearly advertised, but they still exist and affect performance.

Both SSE 4.2 instruction set first appeared in the Nehalem CPUs found in the Mac Pro 4.1+, as well as both VT-x/EPT. SSE4.2 generally is not required for Mac software, but the Radeon drivers for Mojave* do but can make a difference in specific applications such as Serato Djay. VT-x/EPT are both technologies used in virtualization. While all the Mac Pros are capable of running virtual machines as they include HyperVisor support, the Mac Pro 4.1s+ are noticeably more performant when running virtual machines as popular software like VMware and Parallels have VT-x/EPT support.

*The AMD Drivers have been hacked to include 4.2 emulation for Mac Pro 3.1s, enabling them to use modern AMD GPUs. See the GPU Upgrades section for more details.

CPU Compatibility Charts

I sourced the information from MacRumors, so all credit goes to the community there and forum member ActionableMango for compiling this list, this is truncated to the most important bits of information. Also, 4.1/5.1 Mac Pro 1x to 2x CPU upgrades requires a CPU tray capable of housing two CPUs which often cost as much as the computer itself.

Mac Pro 2009 / 2010 / Mac Pro 2012 (4.1, 5.1)

Mac Pros maximum RAM depends on the CPU configuration in a Mac Pro. Dual CPUs enable more than 2x the maximum RAM. Not all Xeons sold are dual CPU compatible thus cannot be pair with another CPU. i7 CPUs cannot be paired together. The CPUs must be the same, and installing a single CPU causes an error state. Also, go to the original thread to read up on 4.1 Mac Pro dual CPU upgrades.

  • 56GB in a single-processor Mac Pro using a single-processor-compatible Xeon
  • 64GB in a single-processor Mac Pro using a dual-processor-compatible Xeon
  • 160GB in a dual-processor Mac Pro

✔️* = Requires Mac Pro 4.1 -> 5.1 firmware upgrade. 4.1 dual CPU -> 5.1 Dual CPU upgrades require the process of delidding the CPUs to deal with the height difference. 5.1 Mac Pros use regular CPUs. The process of delidding can be performed manually or bought pre-delidded. Most users elect to delid the CPUs themselves based on forums.

🚫 = The X5687 despite being socket compatible does not work with the Mac Pro 4.1/5.1. Recently there's been interest in a few Mac Pro communities, but it's already been confirmed by a bold Mac Rumors poster. There's some misinformation on a few other sites like pindelski.org's guide (a dated early attempt at a comprehensive Mac Pro upgrade guide) so be careful.

Architecture Cores Grade CPU-Model GHz Turbo RAM Watt MP4,1 MP5,1
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon X5690 3.46 3.73 1333 130W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon X5680 3.33 3.60 1333 130W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon X5679 3.20 3.60 1066 115W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon X5675 3.06 3.46 1333 95W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon X5670 2.93 3.33 1333 95W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon X5660 2.80 3.20 1333 95W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon X5650 2.66 3.06 1333 95W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon E5659 2.53 2.80 1333 80W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon E5645 2.40 2.67 1333 80W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Dual Xeon L5639 2.13 2.67 1333 60W ✔️* ✔️
Gulftown 6 core Xeon W3690 3.46 3.73 1333 130W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Xeon W3680 3.33 3.60 1333 130W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 6 core Xeon W3670 3.20 3.46 1066 130W ✔️* ✔️
Gulftown 6 core Consumer i7 990X 3.46 3.73 1066 130W ✔️* ✔️
Gulftown 6 core Consumer i7 980X 3.33 3.60 1066 130W ✔️* ✔️
Gulftown 6 core Consumer i7 970 3.20 3.46 1066 130W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 4 core Dual Xeon X5687 3.60 3.86 1333 130W 🚫 🚫
Westmere 4 core Dual Xeon X5677 3.46 3.73 1333 130W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 4 core Dual Xeon X5672 3.20 3.60 1333 95W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 4 core Dual Xeon X5667 3.06 3.46 1333 95W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 4 core Dual Xeon X5647 2.93 3.20 1066 130W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 4 core Dual Xeon E5640 2.66 2.93 1066 80W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 4 core Dual Xeon E5630 2.53 2.80 1066 80W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 4 core Dual Xeon E5620 2.40 2.66 1066 80W ✔️* ✔️
Westmere 2 core Dual Xeon X5698 4.40 4.54 1333 130W 🚫 🚫
Nehalem 4 core Dual Xeon W5590 3.33 3.60 1333 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Dual Xeon W5580 3.20 3.46 1333 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Dual Xeon X5570 2.93 3.33 1333 95W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Dual Xeon X5560 2.80 3.20 1333 95W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Dual Xeon X5550 2.66 3.06 1333 95W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Dual Xeon E5540 2.53 2.80 1066 80W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Dual Xeon E5530 2.40 2.66 1066 80W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Dual Xeon E5520 2.26 2.53 1066 80W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Xeon W3580 3.33 3.60 1333 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Xeon W3570 3.20 3.46 1333 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Xeon W3565 3.20 3.46 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Xeon W3540 2.93 3.20 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Xeon W3530 2.80 3.06 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Xeon W3520 2.66 2.93 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Consumer i7 975 3.33 3.60 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Consumer i7 965 3.20 3.46 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Consumer i7 960 3.20 3.46 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Consumer i7 950 3.06 3.33 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Consumer i7 940 2.93 3.20 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Consumer i7 930 2.80 3.06 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️
Nehalem 4 core Consumer i7 920 2.66 2.93 1066 130W ✔️ ✔️

Mac Pro 2008 (3.1)

The 2008 Mac Pros have the least CPU options, and with the base CPU configuration from Apple, the 2x quad core 2.8 GHz Mac Pro makes for exceptionally modest gains in the benchmark department.

Architecture Cores Grade CPU-Model GHz RAM Watt MP3,1
Harpertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5482 3.2 800 150W ✔️
Harpertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5460 3.16 667 120W ✔️
Harpertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5472 3.0 800 80W ✔️
Harpertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5472 3.0 800 120W ✔️
Harpertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5450 3.0 667 120W ✔️
Harpertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5450 3.0 667 80W ✔️
Harpertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5440 2.83 667 80W ✔️
Harpertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5462 2.8 800 80W ✔️
Wolfdale 2 core Dual Xeon X5272 3.40 800 80W ✔️
Wolfdale 2 core Dual Xeon X5260 3.33 667 80W ✔️

Mac Pro 2006-2007 (1.1, 2.1)

The Mac Pro 1.1s with a firmware upgrade can use a wide array of CPUs, making it the second most upgradable in the series of Mac Pros.

Architecture Cores Grade CPU-Model GHz RAM Watt Min
Firm-
ware
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5365 3.0 667 150W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5365 3.0 667 120W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5355 2.66 667 120W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5355 2.66 667 120W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon X5355 2.66 667 120W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5345 2.33 667 80W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5345 2.33 667 80W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5345 2.33 667 80W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5340 2.4 533 80W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5340 2.4 667 80W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon L5335 2.0 667 50W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon L5320 1.86 533 50W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon L5320 1.86 533 50W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon L5320 1.86 533 50W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5320 1.86 533 80W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5320 1.86 533 80W 2.1
Clovertown 4 core Dual Xeon E5320 1.86 533 80W 2.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5160 3.0 667 80W 1.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5160 3.0 667 80W 1.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5160 3.0 667 65W 1.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5150 2.66 667 65W 1.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5150 2.66 667 65W 1.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5150 2.66 667 65W 1.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5130 2.0 667 65W 1.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5130 2.0 667 65W 1.1
Woodcrest 2 core Dual Xeon 5130 2.0 667 65W 1.1

Check your Exact CPU Model

You can check your CPU Model number using the terminal command:

sysctl -n machdep.cpu.brand_string  

Guides on Upgrading CPUs

CPUs are (mostly) plug-and-play upgrades but require applying thermal paste (thermal grease) to the CPU for proper heat transfer from the CPU to the heatsinks. There are many tutorials on how to upgrade a CPU, including YouTube videos and pictorial guides. In case of the Mac Pro 1.1 and Mac Pro 4.1, the firmware can be updated to include support for later generation CPUs using the same socket type. See Firmware Upgrades for more details on Firmware upgrades. Lastly, the Mac Pro 4.1s use delidded CPUs, see the Delidding CPUs upgrade.

Delidding CPUs

Delidding is the process of removing the integrated heat spreader (silver cover) on a CPU, that serves as a heat spreader and replacing it with a different thermal material. This is required for CPUs in the Mac Pro 4.1s due to the heatsinks. There are multiple ways to do this, the steady-hands method is to use a razor to scrape it off the CPU (inexpensive), and the more expensive is to buy a Delid-Die-Mate, (roughly $40 USD).

Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS) vulnerabilities

A vulnerability Intel CPUs was discovered, called MDS which targets hyperthreading (the ability to address two instructions in a single CPU cycle under stress loads). It affects CPUs from 2008+. Intel issued a microcode fix for CPUs designed in 2013 and up, leaving out the classic Mac Pros. Apple has updated Safari to prevent drive-by Javascript attacks. Using general safe browsing habits, makes it not very likely that this exploit will affect users despite very sensational headlines like Wired's Meltdown Redux: Intel flaw lets hackers siphon secrets from millions of PCs.The only way to ensure total safety is to disable Hyper-Threading (a significant performance hit), and Apple issued the article How to enable full mitigation for Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS) vulnerabilities.

Benchmarking

CPU benchmarks are useful but always a relativistic endeavor. Rather than get into a discussion about the pros and cons of types of benchmarks, the most popular theoretical benchmarking software, GeekBench 5, was released recently. Geekbench's scoring system always has been tied to other CPUs as its anchor for scoring. Users will notice dramatically smaller benchmark numbers in the latest Geekbench as the new reference point is the Intel Core i3 8100, which earns a score of 1000. This doesn't mean the Mac Pro is performing worse, but rather the baseline has risen.




GPU upgrades

GeForce GTX 1080

Thanks to PCIe, the Mac Pros have remained relevant as GPUs can be swapped out with ease. GPUs are probably the most annoying of the upgrades (due to the required research) yet one of the most commonly performed (and easy to do). There is no modern commercially available aftermarket GPU you can buy for macOS that supports an EFI boot screen (the preboot screen) and macOS Mojave. This could change but has not yet. When I originally wrote my first Mac Pro Upgrade guide four years ago, readers found it surprising that one could use off-the-shelf Nvidia cards. Today this seems to be common knowledge.

Dividing Up The GPU landscape

GPUs are routinely one of the most common upgrades to Mac Pros. There are roughly three classes of GPUs. Thus I've divided the bulk of the GPU Guide to discussing GPUs based on the following distinctions.

  • OEM EFI Bootable Cards / Aftermarket EFI Bootable: GPUs that are Mac Native - GPUs that out-of-the-box will display the Mac OS boot screen and do not require additional drivers if the minimum OS is met.*
  • Flashable to EFI compatible cards: These are graphics cards that shipped as a PC graphics card but require a ROM flash to display the EFI Boot screen, some may not work at all without first installing the Mac compatible ROM on them.
  • Non-EFI Bootscreen Cards: Graphics cards that can be used in macOS but will not display the boot screen and may require (in the case of Nvidia) additional drivers to output video

After that, we have two more sub-classes of GPU based on support for Metal, Apple's replacement for OpenGL.

  • GPUs with Metal drivers for 10.14.x+
  • GPUs that do not support Metal

To summarize, a GPU can be, OEM EFI compatible, flashable to EFI compatible or not EFI compatible but still work under Mac OS, and it may or may not be Mojave/Catalina compatible.

*The NVidia RTX series will output the EFI bootscreen but do not have drivers. If this ever is sorted, we might have an aftermarket EFI bootscreen card.

Generally, anyone running a non-EFI compatible boot screen will want to keep an EFI compatible card around for OS upgrades or emergencies. OS upgrades can stop aftermarket NVidia cards from displaying video until the proper drivers are installed. I've been in all camps: originally using a GeForce GTX 8800, flashing an ATI Radeon HD 6870 to Mac Native EFI and then landing on the GeForce 760 and 1060, and finally an AMD Vega 56.

Lastly, the superpower hungry GPUs (the GeForce 1080 Ti, AMD Vega 64, AMD Vega FE) can be powered by the Mac Pro PSU but require the Mac Pro Pixlas Mod (also covered in the Other mods section of this guide). Users have successfully powered two GeForce 1080 TIs using the Pixlas mod and (possibly upgraded) internal PSU.

OEM EFI Bootable Cards / Aftermarket EFI Bootable

EFI compatible cards that have a native Mac version: Mostly OEM cards although with a few notable aftermarket Mac Edition cards that included EFI Roms on the cards. The PC versions do not have EFI support.

DL DIV - Dual-Link DVI
SL DIV - Single-Link DVI
DP - Display Port
* Pirated Mac Vid Cards ROM, see changelog for details

NVidia
NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT 256 MB GDDR2 1 SL DVI 1 DL DVI
NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512 MB GDDR3 1 Mini DP 1 DL DVI
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB GDDR3 2 DL DVI
NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 512 MB 1 DL DVI 1 DP
NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 1.5 GB GDDR5 2 DL DVI
NVIDIA Quadro 4000 2 GB GDDR5 1 DL DVI 1 DP
NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600 1.5 GB GDDR3 2 DL DVI Stereo 3D
EVGA GeForce GTX 680 2 GB GDDR5 1 HDMI 1 DP 1 DVI-I 1 DVI-D
PNY NVIDIA Quadro K5000 4 GB GDDR5 2 DVI 2 DP
NVIDIA Quadro K4200 (Mac Edition) 8 GB GDDR5 2 DVI 2 DP?
NVIDIA Quadro K5200 (Mac Edition) 4 GB GDDR5 2 DVI 2 DP?
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 * 3 GB / 6 GB GDDR5 1 DL DVI, 1 HDMI, 1 DP
NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan * 6 GB GDDR5 1 DL DVI 1 HDMI 1 DP
NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X * 12 GB GDDR5 1 DVI 1 HDMI 1 Triple DP
ATI/AMD

ATI was purchased by AMD in 2006 and in 2010 retired the ATI name.

ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256 MB GDDR2 1 SL DVI 1 DL DV
ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512 MB GDDR3 2 DL DVI
ATI Radeon HD 4870 512 MB GDDR5 1 Mini DP 1 DL DVI
ATI Radeon HD 5770 1 GB GDDR5 2 Mini DP 1 DL DVI
ATI Radeon HD 5870 1 GB GDDR5 2 Mini DP 1 DL DVI
Amd Firepro S10000 6 GB GDDR5 1 DP 1 DL DVI

Flashable to EFI compatible cards

The most commonly flashable video cards are ones that have a Mac equivalent that was either sold by Apple as OEM or aftermarket, and the ROMs then were distributed on the internet. A user can then download utilities to flash the ROM onto the card. A few cards require physical modification. The advantage is once the ROM is installed, the card acts/behaves like a native card, but with a few cards some functionality might be lost (generally losing a video port functionality as the Mac version did not have the same ports). Below are software-only flashable cards. I used for years an ATI Radeon 6870.

Non-EFI Bootable Cards

Non-EFI Bootable Cards are firmly split between AMD and NVidia. Once the drivers are loaded (after the white Apple boot screen), the GPU will output video, just like a GPU compatible with Mac EFI. See the Mini-Glossary for more info on EFI.

Modern AMD GPUs are plug-n-play. Apple distributes Mac OS with AMD drivers, and thus new drivers are released within OS updates. This means there are no drivers to install. To use later GPUs, you must be running an OS new enough to include drivers for that specific GPU.

NVidia has chosen to write drivers (labeled "web drivers" as macOS is distributed with NVidia drivers for Mac EFI cards) for their video cards so that off the shelf cards can be used in Mac Pros. However, without a Mac compatible EFI ROM, they cannot display video at boot and do not output video until the driver has loaded. With the NVidia video cards, even security updates will require a web driver update, meaning if you update, next boot will not output video until the driver has been updated. All the GTX 700-1000 series are supported by web drivers but are limited to 10.13.x as NVidia has stated Apple is refusing to sign its drivers. So far 10.14+ does not have NVidia support (outside of the older Keppler NVidia GPUs found in certain Macs).

image

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

* It's worth noting, popular Mac upgrade seller OWC has the Radeon RX 580 for sale at an extreme markup, roughly 2x the price of other electronics stores. The only thing OWC adds is a $6 mini-PCIe power cable for a $150-$175 markup. This strikes me as predatory: OWC is actively abusing its market position as a trusted Mac upgrade vendor. MacVidCards now offers a custom-flashed RX 580 at a similar price markup but comes with a custom hacked ROM that enables EFI support which is a significant value add, unlike OWC's $6 cable.

** The AMD RX 590 is essentially an overclocked 580, with a larger fan. The larger fan tends to block the adjacent PCI slot, making it hard to recommend for its minimal performance gains.

For the best info on recommended versions of AMD cards, visit AMD Polaris & Vega GPU macOS Support.

Recently in Mojave, updates have enabled hardware acceleration for video codecs on the RX580. You can read about it here and find full instructions to Activate AMD hardware acceleration. (Thanks for Martin L. aka h9826790).

AMD Vega loud idling

Some of the Vega GPUs suffer loud idling speeds under older versions of Mac OS although that may not resolve it. Many of the cards can be flashed to different bios. See the first post in the thread (down towards the bottom) MacRumors: AMD Polaris & Vega GPU macOS Support.

Vega 56 -> Vega 64 Firmware flash

The Vega 56 can be flashed to use the Vega 64 firmware to increase the performance. It isn't quite as fast as running a Vega 64, but it is close. That said, without a power supply modification, many users (self-included) experienced crashing when the GPU hit intensive loads and required reflashing it to Vega 56 Firmware.

The BIOs for both Vega 56s and Vega 64s can be found at Tech Powerup.

The AMD/ATI Flash utility can be found at TechPowerUp as well. It requires Windows 10.

AMD GPUs and Mac Pro 3.1s and below

Several MacRumors forum members have found that Mac Pro 3.1s cannot use the AMD RX580 due to the drivers requiring SSE4.2 instruction set requirements for Mojave. However, and this is a big one, Netkas has been able to get the RX560 working in a Mac Pro 3.1 by adding in inline emulation for the SSE4.2 instruction for the drivers. Any of the AMD Polaris cards now are Mac Pro 3.1 compatible See the full list here.

Petitioning for NVidia drivers

With the advent of 10.14 Mojave, OpenGL has been deprecated and replaced with Apple's Metal library for GPU acceleration. This now means Mojave requires (to some degree), Metal compatible GPUs, AMD's modern Radeons and select NVidia cards both make the cut. Apple published an official list but did not list all compatible GPUs for Mojave. Notably, NVidia's line up of GTX 700-1000 and RTX series aren't Mojave compatible.

Currently, NVidia blames Apple for not approving its drivers for Mojave.

As an act of desperation, fans have created a petition for Apple to allow NVidia to release drivers for Mac OS 10.14 Mojave. I've signed it, and I suggest others do too, even if non-NVidia users as options matter. I doubt it'll shift the tide, but a long-shot is better than no-shot. One of the rumors was that this was fought is over the Volta GPU drivers. This rumor gained a lot of traction since the last released version of the NVidia drivers, 387.10.10.15.15.108 were pulled (for 10.13), and on December 10th, NVidia posted an update for 10.13 (not Mojave) for the last release of 10.13 marked version 387.10.10.10.40.113 that MacRumors readers are confirming do not contain the Volta drivers.

NVidia RTX series: as of writing this, users are reporting that the RTX NVidia cards are displaying bootscreens in macOS. That said, without Mojave support for off-the-self NVidia cards, this severely limits the impact and do not currently have drivers for the macOS. (They will show up as a generic VGA output). The RTX has UGA to GOP firmware thus may be a happy accident.

NVidia Webdriver Manual Installation

NVidia driver installation is a little more tricky than one would expect, first off NVidia does not list what cards are currently supported on its web pages. Secondly, you need to download the correct version of the drivers for whatever version of Mac OS you have.

TonyMacX86 forums do an excellent job of direct linking to the NVidia installers for driver version number by OS version. Currently, 10.14.x (Mojave) is not supported. The NVidia RTX series is also currently unsupported.

Note about SLI: Currently, there isn't any SLI support under macOS, and this seems unlikely to change. Windows, however, will support SLI in a Mac Pro.

NVidia Driver Automatic Installation

Seeing the above mess of information and the corresponding versions of drivers, Benjamin Dobell wrote a CLI utility to install the Mac NVidia drivers that work for your system, as described as "This script installs the best (not necessarily the latest) official NVidia web drivers for your system." Go to GitHub: NVidia Update.

Useful Links

Custom Flashed Cards: Depending on how much time you've spent researching upgrades, you may have read about the website/business, MacVidCards. MacVidCards sells custom flashed EFI NVidia and AMD cards (the 1000 series), but I hesitate to link directly to their site as several FaceBook/MacRumors posts have been lukewarm. The cards do work but the turn-around times are long, communication infrequent and the prices are high, but they appear to be legitimate, with many testimonials floating around message boards from longtime members that they do indeed work as promised. MacVidCards claims to have written a custom EFI ROM. Rather than collaboratively explain how said hack was done (Unlike previous releases TonyMacX86 / MacRumors / Netkas), MacVidCards chooses to be a monopoly. (Note: Dave of MacVidCards notes he did contribute on previous AMD card hacks and did not get paid for his work on this) I'd rather not weigh too much on the ethics on it, but software developers do deserve compensation, and depending on the actual work performed on the EFI ROM, it may very well be truly custom. As of writing this, they are the only game in town when it comes to making the NVidia 1000 series cards Mac EFI compatible. I suggest googling for them, and let you be the judge if its worth the cost. Note: I have to note that, after reading the previous statement, Dave of MacVidCards reached out to me and also corrected on errors found on this page. So if nothing else, my experience with MacVidCards has been fair in my limited dealings with them considering my hesitation in recommending them.

Which card should buy?

There isn't a "best card" for any computer, rather how much money you're willing to spend and if the money could be better spent elsewhere. This is an arbitrary metric as even a 3.1 Mac Pro will see significant gains in GPU tasks, with a GeForce 1080 Ti over lesser cards (for example, a GeForce 1070). Consider this: GeForce 1080 Ti sells for many times more than a Mac Pro 3.1 itself. Commonly, forums and groups will mention "pairs well," or "bottleneck" but any high-end GPU will "pair well," the question is more about where a user can see more performance gains. I'd argue buying a 4.1 Mac Pro, and mid-range GPU would be better money spent as it'd feel faster for many day-to-day experiences and is very upgradable and requires fewer hacks to run later OSes, but that's just my personal opinion.

The next question is, do you want an EFI native card? There are few cards that support the EFI boot screen, and they are all older generation cards. Most users elect to hold onto an older card as a backup, for the EFI screen. I personally have a GT120 in my Mac Pro at all times for this reason. Many users keep a 2nd video card as a "just in case" and choose not to run any backup GPUs.

Lastly, there's Mojave to contend with. According to NVidia, Apple is blocking NVidia from releasing drivers for Mojave. This means its AMD or bust. AMD Saphire RX 580x Pulse is well regarded, and so are the Vega series for Mojave users, however, neither have EFI support, but the drivers for the AMD cards do not support Mac Pro 3.1s.

  • Mac Pro 1.1/2.1 users are limited to a maximum of running Mac OS 10.11.x, thus do not have to worry about the lack of NVidia support in Mojave. 1.1/2.1 users should consider the GeForce 680 for EFI boot screen support or GeForce 7xx or 9xx series.
  • Mac Pro 3.1 users should consider GeForce 680 as it works in both older OSes and Mojave. They are one of the few cards that can be flashed for EFI support and support Metal and the Mac Pro 3.1. Notably: The AMD cards with a hack can be enabled by special drivers that enable SSE 4.2 emulation.
  • Mac Pro 5.1 users should consider the AMD 580x or Vega series. The 580x is relatively inexpensive and does not require any modifications to power the GPU, whereas the top tier Vegas are power-hungry but one of most performant GPUs supported in Mojave.

Installing a GPU

GPUs are straight forward to install except two minor "gotcha"s: they use Mini PCIe power adapters on the motherboard and for exceptionally power-hungry 250+ watt GPUs (GeForce 1080 Ti, Radeon Vega FE, etc.), require modification to power the cards. See the Mac Pro Pixlas PSU Mod or External Power Supplies sections of this guide for more information. Some readers have reported they are able to run high-power requirement GPUs off their internal power supply.

As mentioned above, the Mac Pro has two 6 pin mini-PCIe power ports, which require mini-PCIe to PCIe power cables. For reference, here are examples of a mini PCIe 6 pin to PCIe Power cable and a mini PCIe 6 pin to PCIe 8 pin cable. These are likely required to power your GPU. Example, a GPU that has a 6 pin power port and an 8 pin power port would require one of each cable.

I wrote two guides blog.greggant.com: Installing GeForce GTX 760/770/780 on a Mac Pro 3.1 and blog.greggant.com: Installing GeForce GTX 1060/1070/1080 on a Mac Pro 5.1 which both detail the installation process.

I tested a GeForce 760 Hackintosh vs. my Mac Pro outlined the installation process 2008 Mac Pro Full Instructions and benchmarks here. Upon purchasing a GeForce 1060, I wrote a follow up how to install a GeForce 1060 into a Mac Pro 5.1.

HDMI (and Display Port) Audio

Many modern graphics cards have HDMI and thus capable of outputting audio. There's a very long thread of intrepid hackers at Mac Rumors.




I/O Upgrades

USB 3.0 Card

The I/O (Input/Output) is a catch-all umbrella term I'm using for anything that doesn't fall under GPU, SSD interfaces, Wireless or audio PCIe cards such as networking and peripherals interfaces (USB/Firewire/SATA).

The Mac Pros can support many more cards than listed here. NewerTech and Sonnet are reliable. Not all cards are equal, some are more performant, in the case of USB 3.0/3.1 offering full-duplex per port instead of shared bandwidth. Also, some non-listed cards have issues. I had an off-brand Inateck PCI-E to USB 3.0 which worked but also caused a reboot loop when trying to shut down. The only way to turn off my Mac Pro was to hold down the power key forcibly. I personally use an SYBA SY-PEX40039 SATA card as my bootable SSD for my Samsung Evo. I've elected not to include USB 2.0 only or Gigabit Ethernet-only or SATA II only cards as all are found natively on all versions of the classic Mac Pros.

Note: This is not to be taken as a complete list, but rather a list of known working cards that users have confirmed. If you know of a card that's supported by macOS, please reach out to me.

USB 3.0

  • Sonnet Allegro USB 3.0 / Sonnet Allegro Pro
  • Inateck KT4004
  • RocketU 1144D / HighPoint RocketU 1144C
  • HighPoint RocketU 1144E
  • CalDigit FASTA-6GU3 Pro (Discontinued)
  • HighPoint RocketU 1144CM -
  • Inateck PCI-E to USB 3.0 - (Caused Reboot loop in 2008 Mac Pro)
  • Sonnet Technologies Tempo Duo PCIe (2x eSATA / 2x USB 3.0) - (discontinued)
  • Newer Technology MAXPower 2 port eSATA 6/GBs & 2 Port USB 3.0

SATA/eSATA

Note: Not all SATA cards are bootable on OS X. Currently, the list is expanding, non-bootable cards will be listed as such. Known bootable cards will be listed as such. If no notes appear, it's because I haven't researched this yet.

  • NewerTech MAXPower PCIe eSATA 6G Controller - Bootable
  • MAXPower 4-port eSATA 6G PCIe 2.0 - (bootable)
  • MAXPowereSATA 6G PCIe 2.0 RAID 0/1/5/10
  • MAXPower RAID mini-SAS 6G-2e2i
  • Sonnet Technologies Tempo SATA Pro - Bootable
  • Sonnet Technologies Tempo SATA E2P
  • Sonnet Technologies Tempo SATA 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 - (discontinued)
  • Sonnet Technologies Tempo SATA Pro 6Gb PCIe 2.0 - (discontinued)
  • SYBA SY-PEX40039 SATA III
  • HighPoint Rocket 620 2 SATA
  • ORICO PFU3-4P 3 Port
  • ATTO ExpressSAS H680 Low-Profile x8-External Port
  • ATTO ExpressSAS H644 Low-Profile 4-Internal/4-External Port
  • ATTO ExpressSAS H6F0 16-External

Firewire

  • Sonnet Technologies Tango Express Combo FireWire 400/USB 2.0 Card
  • Sonnet Technologies Allegro FireWire 800 PCIe
  • Sonnet Technologies Allegro FW400 PCIe - (discontinued)

USB 3.1

  • MAXPower 4-Port USB 3.1 Gen 1
  • Sonnet Technologies Allegro USB-C
  • StarTech 4-Port USB 3.1 (10Gbps) Card PEXUSB314A2V
  • Aukey B01AAETL6Y 2 port USB 3.1
  • CalDigit FASTA-6GU3 Plus (USB 3.1 / 2x eSATA)
  • Sonnet Technologies Allegro™ Pro USB 3.1 PCIe
  • Sonnet Technologies Allegro USB-C 4-Port PCIe

Ethernet (10 Gigabit)

Useful Links




Thunderbolt?

In the unlikeliest turn of events, Thunderbolt has landed on the cMac Pro... sort of. PCIe Thunderbolt cards were exclusively for PCs that have compatible motherboards with specialized chipsets, generally requiring a pass-through jumper connection. The original speculation started at eGPU.io.

Shortly after, MacRumors Forum members started testing the Gigabyte GC-TITAN RIDGE and getting promising results. Since then, a member of Mac Pro Upgrade and MacRumors posted a screenshot of ThunderBolt working on a cMac Pro using a digital audio interface and posted two YouTube videos Part 1 and Part 2 demoing his setup using Windows 10.

The only way currently to use a Thunderbolt 3 card is to cold-boot to Windows 10. Initialize the Thunderbolt 3 card with the proper drivers installed, then reboot to Mac OS, where the Thunderbolt 3 card will remain Initialized. If you shut down/reboot your computer, you will have to repeat the process. Also, only some Thunderbolt 3 devices work, such as audio interfaces.

Right now, it isn't very viable for all but tinkerers to purchase a Thunderbolt card, but this may change. As notable progress unfolds, this section will be updated to reflect it. For now, it's best to see the action on MacProUpgrade and MacRumors' forums.

That said, the Mac Pros can be upgraded to USB 3.1c without any complicated workarounds, and some of the Thunderbolt 3 devices on the market are also backward compatible with USB3.1c.

MacProUpgrade user reports using an ASUS Expansion Card for Z170 & X99 Motherboards ThunderboltEX 3 to enable video pass-through, from his GPU. This isn't recommended as the computer will not wake from sleep and remains experimental.




Storage Upgrades

Like many data interfaces, SATA (aka Serial ATA) has gone through multiple iterations, SATA1 (max transfer speed of 150 MB/s), SATA2 (max transfer speed of 300 MB/s) and finally it's last incarnation, SATA3 (max transfer speed of 600 MB/s). The classic Mac Pros all carry onboard SATA 2 and (the cMP 1.1-3.1 also have ATA) which has a limit of 300 MB/s. The Mac Pro will accept any standard SATA HDD, 5.25 inch in the optical bay*, 3.5-inch in the four drive bays (or in optical bays with brackets), or 2.5 inch (with 3.5-inch mounting brackets or 5.25-inch brackets in the optical bays). The SATA standard is limited to 144 PB (petabytes), and the maximum volume size macOS supports with HFS+/APFS is 8 exabytes. (For the record, 1 Exobyte = 1000 Petabytes, 1 Petabyte = 1000 Terabytes). Needless to say, Hard Drives and SSDs are well below these caps. All SATA drives are compatible with Mac OS with the caveat that NTFS (Windows) is not writable by macOS without 3rd party utilities.

During the transition from OS X -> Mac OS (macOS), Apple replaced its default file system, HFS+, with APFS in Mac OS 10.13 to address. HFS+ is still supported in 10.13+ and is unlikely to remove it any time soon.

*The Mac Pro 1.1 - 3.1 have two hidden unused SATA ports that can be run to the optical drive bays. The Mac Pro 1.1s - 3.1s also carry the ATA-6 (100 MB/s) standard that predates Serial ATA, which uses the larger ribbon connectors for its two optical drives.

SSDs come in multiple flavors: SATA, AHCI, and NVMe. The Mac Pro's SATA2's 300 MB/s is limiting for SATA SSDs. SATA SSDs are capable of coming very close to the theoretical maximum of SATA3's 600 MB/s when performing certain read/write activities. NVMe (today's fastest SSDs) can hit roughly triple the speed of a SATA SSD in certain read/write tasks. The Mac Pros can use SATA SSDs without any special modifications, with the caveat that read/write speeds are significantly lower than their potential max speeds.

SATA2 still hasn't yet been fully saturated even by performant 3.5 spinning disk drives. The even the fastest current-gen 3.5 drives such as the Western Digital Black drives are well below SATA2. Thus, the four internal bays are still quite useful for Hard Disk Drives and still workable for SATA SSDs. For those looking to sacrifice optical bays, OWC made a series of multi-mounts to go inside the dual 5.25 drive bays for 3.5 and 2.5-inch drives. SATA HDDs are still the best value price-per-gigabyte thus useful archiving/large media/backup.

Time Machine

New Mac users may not be aware, but built into macOS is an exceptionally powerful backup utility that not only keeps a backup of your entire boot drive (and any selected external drives), it also has ability to undeleted files and resurrect old versions of files in addition to being able to restore your entire computer. For my fellow developers, it's essentially version control (like Git) but for your entire computer. I highly encourage all users to use Time Machine. Unless you do not care about the data on your Mac Pro, Time Machine is the single best upgrade you can add to your Mac. Simply put, if there's any data you value on your computer, it is the best investment in this upgrade guide I can recommend.

I've written a mini-guide, Making the most out of Time Machine. It covers recommended ignore paths, how to use Networked Drives, how to change the update intervals, and so forth.

PCIe SATA + SSD Sleds

Historically, the most popular upgrades are PCIe sleds for SATA SSDs, which often feature two trays for RAID0 configurations on the PCIe board, bringing up the speeds to the 1 GB/s range. These are essentially a SATA 3 card with two mounting ports for 2.5-inch SSDs, making it more convenient than using a regular SATA 3 card. That said, users can still use PCIe SATA 3 cards + SATA SSD drives.

The 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1 Mac Pros also have two extra SATA ports hidden on the motherboards, which while a royal pain in the ass to access, can be routed up to the optical bay for modders looking for more SATA storage or replace optical bays with SATA variants. 4.1/5.1 Mac Pros removed ATA and thus have SATA accessible. Newer Technology made an eSATA Extender Cable Adapter specifically for users looking to make eSATA ports out of the hidden ports, but blocking off a PCIe port in the process.

Also worth noting both OWC and Newer Technology make 2.5 -> 3.5 speeds for the drive bays found in Mac Pros although I can attest for two years of not using a sled that they are optional if you rarely move your Mac Pro.

  • Sonnet Technologies Tempo SSD (2x 2.5 SSD) - bootable
  • OWC Accelsior series - bootable *
  • OWC Accelsior S: PCIe to 2.5" 6Gb/s SATA SSD Host Adapter * Not APFS compatible
  • Sonnet Technologies Tempo SSD 6Gb/s SATA PCIe 2.5" SSD Host Adapter
  • Sonnet Technologies Tempo SSD Pro Plus 6Gb/s eSATA / SATA PCIe 2.5" SSD Host Adapter

Useful Links

PCIe AHCI SSD

Without any firmware updates or modifications, Mac Pros can boot AHCI SSDs which faster than the standard SATA drives via PCIe sleds offering significantly faster speeds, often double that of SATA SSDs but tend to cap out at 1500 MB/s (usually more roughly in the 1 GB/s mark). Many of the NVMe cards can accept AHCI. However, due to the speed limitations, there aren't many models on the market, and the price per GB tends to be high as the industry has largely pivoted to NVMe.

AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) is what the SATA standard is based on although, PCIe AHCI interfaces can exceed SATA3 speeds.

Credit goes to MisterAndrew for doing the original compiling of this list here.

  • Angelbird Wings PX1 PCIe - (Bootable only with AHCI or Fusion drive if using NVMe)
  • Lycom DT-120 (bootable, not AHCI specific)
  • Sintech Apple PCIe
  • Kingstone Predator Ahci SSD
  • Amfeltec SQUID series (4x AHCI or NVMe M.2) - Must be Gen2
  • Highpoint 7101a (M.2)

PCIe NVMe sleds/blades

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is currently the holy grail of storage due to its extreme performance. For example, the 970 Evo by Samsung attains incredible 2237 MB/s reads, and 1405 MB/s writes, roughly triple to quadruple the read/writes of SATA (and often nearly double of AHCI PCIe SSDs). Also, due to the improvements in SSDs, NVMe tends to sport faster 4k Random read/write times, which also greatly affects the "zippiness" of a computer. NVMe was constructed to work only via the PCIe standard; thus, it's speed advantage over AHCI.

NVMe wasn't always supported under OS X. NVMe support started with the appropriate PCIe sleds under 10.13 with the glaring issue of only being read/writable but not bootable. Clever users found workarounds. They discovered that creating a Fusion Drive with NVMe, with only the boot record on the AHCI storage (it can be a thumb drive) allowed for NVMe boots allowing Mac Pros attain the incredible speeds of NVMe (See Fusion Drives section). Then users found using firmware hacking. They could enable NVMe booting by using a firmware hack upgrade. See the entire thread here. Notably, this firmware hack appears to work for 3.1/4.1/5.1 Mac Pros. The latest Mac Pro 5.1 bios have NVMe support. See below for more details.

PCIe NVMe sleds aren't all created equal as the performance is limited on the PCIe max slot speed (and which slot the card is placed in the Mac Pro) (see the PCIe and You portion of this guide for more info). Also, some cards can host multiple NVMe SSDs. To make matters more confusing, many PCIe NVMe multi-SSD adapters require bifurcation, which is a technology for later gen PCIe not supported on the Mac Pro, which allows a PCIe slot to be split, example: One 16x port becomes two 8x ports (see the PCIe and You portion of this guide for more info). Multidrive NVMe cards that support the Mac Pro are more expensive as they have a controller that handles the PCIe IC and register and some are higher-powerful than others.

The Mac Pro is limited 1500 MB/s on a card unless the card uses a PCIe switch. The PCIe switch lets the user toggle the PCIe maximum speed. A PCIe 3.0 NVMe card with a switch allows the user to toggle the card to PCIe 2.0 (the Mac Pros only have 2.0). Without it, most NVMe PCIe 3.0 sleds will fall back to PCIe 1.0, which is the above speed cap. Outside of PCIe 2.0 support, single-slot NVMe cards have little performance difference.

To summarize. NVMe speed is a function of three factors: NVMe sled, the NVMe itself and the PCIe port's maximum speed.

  • Lycom DT-120
  • Angelbirds Wings PX1
  • Aqua Computer kryoM.2 Evo PCIe 3.0 x 4, adapter
  • IO Crest IO-PCE2824-TM2 (aka Syba SI-PEX40129
  • Amfeltec Squid: Amfeltec x16 PCIe
  • Highpoint 7101a

Not all NVMes are Mac OS compatible, rather than list all that are compatible, here’s a shortlist of incompatible models as they are few and far between.

  • Samsung 950 PRO
  • Samsung 970 EVO Plus*
  • Samsung PM981

* The Evo and Evo Pro variants of the 970 are Mac compatible. There is a firmware update for the Evo Plus that fixes issues.

Useful Links

Not all SSDs are equal

While this guide will not explain the finer points of SSDs, it is important to understand that SSDs come in multiple variants based on its storage capacity. Data density in mechanical hard drives has greatly improved read/write speeds as more data can be read by a drive-head on a hard drive for each time the platter rotates. More data per square millimeter = more data read per second. This is the top reason why HDD performance has radically increased over time. However, the same cannot be said for SSDs. Each storage unit in an SSD is represented as a cell. The first SSDs could store a single bit per cell, positive or negative. This is referred to as a Single Layer Cell. Shortly after, came the introduction of the Multi-Layer Cell (MLC), which allowed for 2 bits per cell. Then came Triple Level Cell (TLC) which allowed for 3 bits of data per cell and finally Quad Level Cell (QLC) which can store 4 bits per cell. The doubling of data per cell comes at a price: speed and reliability. This additional data load per bit increases stress on each cell and takes more time to access the data, which is fractional, but 3 bits vs. 4 bits means 8 vs. 16 possible values stored in an individual cell and more time to retrieve and write.

SLC is the fastest/most reliable but also the most expensive. QLC drives have certainly dropped the price floor in the SSD market but are hard to recommend with their reliability being untested, with only roughly 1000 read/write cycles (the data can be overwritten roughly 1000 times before that cell becomes unstable and is retired). Worse, in very large file transfers, occasionally QLC can dip below HDD speeds. TLC offers roughly 3000-5000 read/write cycle, making three-to-five times as reliable as QLC and it's much faster. Samsung estimates 114 years for 1 TB TLC although this is entirely unproven, Windows utilities provide entirely-hypothetical guestimates of your SSDs life. Does a QLC have 1/5 the reliability of a TLC SSD? Is it worse? Does it compare to a mechanical HDD? There are better sources on the internet, but it is somewhat speculative. The best estimates are using Mean Time to Failure vs. Terabytes Written from large data centers, and we simply do not have the data. My bet is on QLC > HDD, but I would pay the extra money for a TLC drive.




Fusion Drives

The Fusion Drive once was Apple's solution to mitigating the high cost/low storage space of SSD. The Fusion drive was an OS-level pairing between a standard spinning disk SATA drive and an SSD. These days the idea of creating a Fusion drive might seem strange with SSD prices continuing to drop, where the economics of TB sized SSDs are much more attainable.

Fusion Drives have become en vogue once again thanks to the partial support that earlier version fo MacOS had regarding NVMe. NVMe isn't natively bootable prior to the 140.0.0.0.0 firmware update for the Mac Pro 5.1s, but Fusion drives are.

Note the following hack is no longer necessary, I'm leaving the information up for posterity and Mac Pro 3.1 users. The hack goes as follows: Disable SIP / Install the hacked NVMe driver for 10.12, (you may still need it for specific brands in 10.13), then a string of installation commands... Rather than re-outline them, the following links are useful.

Useful Links

OWC Aura and Accelsior SSDs and APFS

OWC appears to make the only SSDs that are incompatible with APFS, the default file system for 10.13+. According to the MacRumors forum posters, OWC Aura owners have been offered a rebate on Aura Pro SSDs. The Aura series is unlikely to be found in a cMac Pro setup as it'd require an external case. Users report that Accelsior SSDs work with HFS+ with 10.13.




Display Upgrades

The Mac Pro's display limitations are a factor of graphics cards, what OS you are running and whatever monitor you can afford.

5k and Beyond

There are users with 5k displays and Mac Pros, including a user confirming two 5k displays working perfectly fine on his Mac Pro.

10-Bit Color

Older NVidia GPUs with the web drivers will not support 10-bit color, but the latest GPUs do, and the same goes for AMD's. Most displays (especially budget) use Frame Rate Control (FRC) to achieve simulated 10-bit. FRC works by parsing the 10-bit color stream, and for colors that fall outside the 8-bit range, cycling between near shades of colors within the 8-bit spectrum. This visually creates a simulated 10-bit experience and improves the perceived gamut. This is acceptable for many purposes, but film editors, colorists, and graphic designers may require the accuracy of true 10-bit color. These come with a much higher price tag.

Refresh rates: 60 Hz (and above) 4k

The Hz of a display measures how many times a second the screen is refreshed, which defines the maximum frames-per-second (FPS) a display can render. A 120 Hz display can render a maximum of 120 FPS. 60 Hz is generally considered the minimum refresh rate for "smooth" User-Interfaces, like mouse tracking, dragging windows, scrolling, etc. As computer hardware has improved, so have refresh rates. FreeSync and G-Sync are technologies that allow for variable refresh rates to improve the visual experience (prevent effects like "tearing"), especially in the realm of gaming. Mac OS currently does not support Freesync/G-Sync. I can attest that enabling Freesync on a Freesync display caused the monitor to stop outputting video in 10.13.x with a GeForce 1060 and a Vega 56. Also, both tonymacx86 and MacRumors forum members have experienced the same sort of issues. The workaround is to disable the G-sync and Freesync if the monitor does not produce any video output. Under Windows 10, FreeSync/G-Sync is supported as the limitation is tied to Mac OS.

Depending on setup 4k @ 60 Hz+ via HDMI may require workarounds whereas DisplayPort tends to be far more reliable. I've personally used several 4k displays with my Mac Pro at 60 Hz via DisplayPort with no issues beyond Freesync. Forum members at MacRumors have confirmed that 144 Hz 4k displays do work.

There's a minor caveat that flashed 7950s and 7970s booting with 60 Hz 4k displays will hang, thus must run at 30 Hz at the boot screen. Most 79xx cards have dual ROM so day-to-day the UEFI ROM can function as the card's default which bypasses the boot-screen video output. Later GPUs do not have this issue.

Dual-Link DVI Displays & Modern GPUs
(and the 30-inch Cinema Display)

Many modern GPUs do not have DVI Ports, and many older monitors use DVI. Buying an HDMI -> DVI or DisplayPort -> DVI cable should work, right? Not so fast. If the monitor's resolution is over 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz, you will need an active Dual-Link DVI convertor.

DVI has always been a bit of a hodge-podge standard, owing to the era it came from when displays were mostly analog. There are multiple variants, DVI-A (analog only), DVI-I (analog or digital), and DVI-D (Digital). To add to the confusion, there's also Dual-Link DVI, which doubles the cable serial links (using the pinouts) in the cable to effectively double the bandwidth for DVI-D signals, allowing for 1080p @ 120 Hz/2560 × 1600 (or 2560 × 1440) @ 60 Hz/3,840 × 2,400 @ 30 Hz).

Because of the data rate limitations of DVI-D, the industry has primarily shifted to the newer DisplayPort and High-Speed HDMI. Both support 8k resolutions at their current iterations, as well as audio. Modern GPUs often do not have DVI connections and only have HDMI and DisplayPort. However, because of the pin-out shenanigans and also bitstream differences, using DVI-D displays (any display that allows for the resolutions listed above) requires an Active Dual-Link DVI to DisplayPort Adapter/Conversion. The converters need additional power, thus usually have a USB connector to draw power. Otherwise, DVI to DisplayPort or HDMI is limited to 1080p @ 60 Hz. This means the ever-popular 30-inch Apple Cinema Display with many modern GPUs will require the active conversion, which often cost north of $120 USD for decent quality ones.

If you are wondering "What about HDMI to Dual-Link DVI"? There isn't any solution as no such device exists on the market.

Why you can go HDMI to DisplayPort but not the inverse

There are plenty of HDMI -> DisplayPort cables on the market, but they will not work going DisplayPort -> HDMI.

HDMI was developed directly as a follow-up to DVI, whereas DisplayPort is a different beast. HDMI and DVI are both based on TMDS (Transition-Minimized Differential Signaling) for data transfer at 5V, thus a DVI and HDMI cable could be used interchangeably. DisplayPort is entirely different, running its LVDS signal protocol instead and at 3.3v. This is where things get a little more confusing, DisplayPort was later adapted to carry the 5V TMDS called DisplayPort Dual-Mode, but became so ubiquitous that most manufacturers don't even bother to list it. It can pretty much be assumed that any device with a DisplayPort manufactured in the last decade can accept video from an HDMI source. As mentioned above, DisplayPort requires active conversion to carry the Dual-Link DVI signal. DisplayPort also, like HDMI, can carry audio. It also can do more than that, and even can transmit bi-directional USB data.

HDMI has no such mode to carry LVDS video signals and wasn't designed to be as all-encompassing as DisplayPort. Also respectively, HDMI predates DisplayPort by four years, released in 2002, whereas DisplayPort was released in 2006. The summary is you cannot connect an HDMI Display to a DisplayPort on a GPU without a convertor.

Using a 4k TV as a display

The short answer is: yes, you can do it. TVs generally require some minor tweaking of the picture, such as enabling overscan correction in macOS. Those looking to use a TV as a full-time monitor should keep a few things in mind. Not all TVs us Chroma 4:4:4 subsampling. Video editors probably are familiar with this concept as not all cameras are 4:4:4 but may not realize nor are all displays. Chroma subsampling refers to pixel clusters and data representation. The Human eye is much more receptive to changes in luminance than color. Thus, video data can be compressed easily by tracking clusters of chroma values and mapping them over pixels of chroma value. This works great for video codecs when the data is at an endpoint where precision isn't as important (a streaming video, for example). TVs in an effort to cut corners often use this in the panels to both improve response times and lower cost, whereas PC displays are almost always 4:4:4 outside of extremely odd-ball instances. With lower Chroma Subsampling, things like text look blurry due to the decreased chroma resolution. Rtings has a great running list of The 6 Best 4k TVs For PC Monitors and pictorial examples of Chroma subsampling. A 60 Hz 4k 43 inch display suitable for a PC can be had for as low as $230, making them popular for many users. Mac OS supports audio over HDMI as well, see the GPU section for details.

Notably, with the increase in size comes a decrease in sharpness. For a monitor one intends to sit at normal desk-distance, 43 inches is appropriate as it's Pixels Per Inch (PPI) is approximately 102 PPI. For comparison: Apple's 30-inch Cinema display was roughly 101 PPI, it's 27 Inch Cinema Display 109 PPI. Apple's laptops pre-Retina generally were around 110 PPI and its retina laptops at 220 PPI.

UI scaling

External monitors receive the same UI scaling abilities as found in MacBooks. UI scaling requires Mavericks 10.9.3+ although the GPU may require a later version of Mac OS. Some 4k displays will not report all scaled resolutions. To display all the scaled resolution options:

  1. Open preferences and click the Displays
  2. If the option "Default for display" is selected, option-click Scaled
  3. If Scaled is already selected, option-click "Scaled."

Does my GPU support 4k?

This is where Google is your friend, search your GPU's model and max resolution (GPU model can be found the About This Mac section). That said, there's another way to check too: If your GPU does not have HDMI or Display Port, it cannot output 4k, as Dual-Link DVI maxes out at 2560 x 1600. That said, an HDMI port and/or DisplayPort does not guarantee 4k support but makes it simply feasible.

Apple Thunderbolt Cinema Display

The Mac Pro by default cannot use USB 3.1c displays nor use the Thunderbolt 1 Apple Cinema display and yet a MacProUpgrade user using an ASUS Expansion Card for Z170 & X99 Motherboards ThunderboltEX 3 to enable video pass-through, from his GPU. This isn't recommended as the computer will not wake from sleep and remains experimental and is unlikely to improve.




Bluetooth / Wireless Upgrades

The Mac Pros 1.1 - 5.1 all include one mini PCIe slot for Airport cards, but can also use USB and PCIe wifi adapters for both 802.11.x and Bluetooth. The advantage with the mini-PCIe slot is you do not have to sacrifice a PCIe slot and also upgrade Bluetooth and 802.11 at the same time internally. Mac OS 10.14 Mojave drops the support for the BCM94321MC chipset found in many Mac Pros. Users will need to upgrade their Wifi chipset to use Bluetooth and wifi (ethernet remains unaffected) Users need a BCM94360. If you are already running a BCM94360, you may need to purge your wifi settings for Mojave. Users can look up their chipset by going to About this Mac -> System Report -> Network -> Wifi. The chipset will be located within the Interfaces section, usually with starting numbers of the card's chipset in the firmware. Most upgraders prefer to use the mini-PCIe slot upgrade as PCIe slots are in short supply.

Mini PCIe Airport Cards

Apple's Airport cards originally started at 802.11.x wireless network adapters. With the advent of Bluetooth, Apple folded Bluetooth and 802.11x into one card that was in many different Mac models, making it possible to upgrade the Wifi abilities in those Mac models. All models of the classic Mac Pros shipped with an AirPort Extreme (802.11a/b/g/n + Bluetooth 2.0+). Any Mac Pro can be upgraded to 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.0+, and this enables features like Airdrop. With an upgraded wifi chipset, Continuity and Handoff can be enabled to work with a Mac Pro. See enabling Continuity and Handoff in this guide.

Buying/Installing a Mini PCIe Airport card

Vendors like OSXWifi sell a mini PCIe to Apple Airport adapter + the Apple Airport BCM94360. Each can be bought separately or packaged together. However, more intrepid users have noticed that you can buy for much cheaper, theBroadcom BCM94331CD Mini PCIe to wireless wifi card Adapter Bracket adapter for a Mac Pro 4.1/5.1 and the Mini PCIe Adapter. The BCM94322MC can be found on Amazon for roughly $15-$20 as well.

I bought a card from osxwifi.com and outlined my experiences here. Connecting the Airport cables before the card is seated will make installing a card much easier.

Installing the cards isn't much harder than regular PCIe cards.

Mac Pro 3.1s looking to keep wifi support for unsupported OSes can keep native wifi / Bluetooth with the BCM94360CD.

  • Apple Broadcom BCM94360CD - 1.1 / 5.1 Mac Pros (The Mac 1.1-3.1s have a Bluetooth antenna that's attachable via USB data lines, the 4.1/5.1s antennas are located off the logic board thus an extension cable is needed)

Useful Links

USB Bluetooth Adapters

Many users to go the easier route of using a USB Dongles. USB Bluetooth dongles aren't perfect but do (mostly) work. You may need to get Apple Bluetooth explorer, go to Apple Developer Bluetooth and click downloads. It'll require a developer account. The basic developer account is free. Users of MacRumors recommend USB dongles using the Broadcom BCM20702 chipset for compatibility. Readers of MacProUpgrade report both the Asus BT400 and IOGear BT4 USB GBU521 work without hitches.

PCIe Wifi Cards

Again, like the actual mini PCIe upgrades, any card based on the BCM94360CD works in a Mac Pro. The best place to get information on compatible PCIe Wifi cards is from the Hackintosh community, such as TonyMacX86's buyer's guide. Any cards that function without any hacks in a Hackintosh will also work in a Mac Pro without hacks. Popular cards include the TP-Link PCI Express Wifi Adapter 802.11N (N900), Fenvi 802.11AC A/B/G/N/AC Desktop Wifi Card (No Bluetooth), and Rosewill PCI Express Wifi Adapter 802.11N (US only).

Useful Links




Ram Upgrades (Memory)

As many users probably are already aware, the Mac Pros in certain cases can address more RAM than Apple officially lists. It depends on the CPU configuration. If for some reason you intend to run pre-10.9, OS X pre-Mavericks had a maximum of 96 GB of RAM.

By default, Apple shipped all models of the Mac Pros with Error-correcting code memory (ECC memory) although all the Mac Pros support non-ECC RAM. Most users choose to stick with ECC RAM for its increased stability. Mixing and matching RAM is feasible on the later Mac Pros.

Mac Pro 5.1 (2010/2012)

The 5.1s are the most flexible of the Mac Pros when it comes to memory. The 5.1 Mac Pro depending on CPU config may run 1333 MHz ram at 1066 MHz. Any CPU config can use the slower clocked memory; there is some debate on performance effects Mac Performance Guide tests for information. Users also report mixed ECC/non-ECC ram bootable, RDIMMS with UDIMMs and again mixing ECC and non-ECC on the Mac Pro 5.1. Lastly, OWC and EveryMac generally report the maximum ram on the 5.1 as 128 GB, but users have confirmed that 160 GB is possible although it appears not to be feasible after 10.13.x. The Mac Pro will not boot with more than 160 GB of RAM.

The Mac Pro 5.1 can run in both Dual and Triple channel memory modes. Channel modes are dependent on how many matched pairs of RAM is placed into the Mac Pro. A Mac Pro can 5.1 can run in triple channel mode with six paired DIMMs, whereas if 2,4 or 8 DIMMs are used, the Mac Pro will run in dual-channel mode. Notably, memory performance is increased roughly 50% by running a Mac Pro in triple channel mode but result in small real-world performance tests equate to 3% speed increase in limited testing. Other applications may see larger differences. Also, see "Is Tri Channel functionality maintained when 4th memory stick used?" for further info.

Maximum DIMM size: 32 GB*

Maximum RAM:

  • Single Processor Xeon: 64 GB
  • Dual-Processor Xeon: 128 (8x16) 160 GB (5x32)*
  • Dual-Channel configuration: 2, 3, 4, 5 or 8 DIMMs
  • Triple Channel: 6 DIMMs
  • Supports non-ECC**
  • Supports 1066 and 1333 MHz memory

Apple's Recommended DIMM type:

  • PC3-10600E, 1333 MHz, DDR3 SDRAM UDIMMs
  • 72-bit wide, 240-pin ECC modules
  • 36 ICs maximum per ECC UDIMM
  • Error-correcting code (ECC)

It's also worth noting that the Mac Pro 5.1 has a narrow chance supporting more than 160 GB of RAM due to a few factors: Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks increased the maximum RAM in OSX above 96 GB. The Mac Pro supports 32 GB DIMMS. The latest iMac Pros now have larger RAM configurations. Windows can support 192 GB in the Mac Pro. This has not changed but is in the realm of possibility.

* So far Mac OS 10.14 and 10.15 appear to no longer support 32 GB DIMMs. See MacRumors: note here and the threadMacRumors: Crazy idea. 32gb ram modules in a cMP. Anyone tried this?. 32 GB DIMMs work in Windows and Linux.

** A few users have had issues with certain non-ECC DIMMs. Many users advise against mixing and matching, but there seems to be no repercussions. See the above links about non-ECC RAM.

Mac Pro 4.1 (2009)

Maximum DIMM size: 16 GB

The 4.1 Mac Pros can be firmware upgraded to 5.1, which changes the RAM support and maximum RAM. Like the Mac Pro 5.1, it can run in dual and triple channel modes.

Maximum RAM:

  • Single Processor Xeon: 48 GB
  • Dual-Processor Capable Single Xeon: 64 GB
  • Dual-Processor Xeon: 128 GB

Apple's Recommended DIMM type:

  • PC3-8500, 1066 MHz, DDR3 SDRAM UDIMMs
  • 72-bit wide, 240-pin ECC modules
  • 36 ICs maximum per ECC UDIMM
  • Error-correcting code (ECC)

Like the Mac Pro 5.1, even with the 4.1 firmware, you can use non-ECC memory, with confirmations here. Placing 1333 MHz RAM in an unflashed 4.1 will only run at 1066 MHz.

Mac Pro 3.1 (2008)

Maximum RAM: 64 GB

Maximum DIMM size: 8 GB

RAM must be installed in pairs, and Apple recommends Apple approved heatsinks to keep fans at a minimum. Can use 667 MHz FB-DIMMs as found in the 1.1/2.1 but with a speed penalty. Also, XLR8yourmac's mixed speed pairing tests.

Apple's Recommended DIMM type:

  • 800 MHz, DDR2, FB-DIMMs
  • 72-bit wide, 240-pin modules
  • 36 memory ICs maximum per DIMM
  • Error-correcting code (ECC)

The Mac Pro 3.1 has confirmations that ECC is not required. However, you cannot mix and match ECC with non-EC due to the Fully-buffered RAM differences.

Mac Pro 1.1/2.1 (2006/2007)

The Mac Pro 1.1/2.1s Mac RAM depends on the firmware. OWC/Everymac reports the 2.1 Mac Pro with a maximum of 32 GB, which is incorrect. Users have confirmed using 8 GB DIMMs in 2.1s.

RAM must be installed in pairs, and Apple recommends Apple approved heatsinks to keep fans at a minimum.

Maximum RAM:

  • Mac Pro 1.1: 32 GB
  • Mac Pro 2.1: 64 GB

Maximum DIMM size:

  • Mac Pro 1.1: 4 GB
  • Mac Pro 2.1: 8 GB

Apple's Recommended DIMM type:

  • 667 MHz, FB-DIMMs
  • 72-bit wide, 240-pin modules
  • 36 devices maximum per DIMM
  • Error-correcting code (ECC)

The Mac Pros 1.1/2.1s have reports of non-ECC RAM working.

Useful Links

Buying RAM

RAM can be purchased rather cheaply if you know where to look, for example, aliexpress or ebay.




Audio

Every iteration of the Mac Pro comes with a front-facing headphone Analog Output, a back-facing analog output, a back-facing line-in analog input and S/PDIF (Sony/Phillips Digital Interface) I/O in the form of two Optical (Toslink), and is capable of transmitting audio via both USB and Firewire interfaces (and even Thunderbolt 3). The Mac Pro's internal hardware is limited to a maximum of 24-bit sound, and 96 kHz (Mac Pro 4.1, 5.1) via the analog output and 96 kHz, 24 PCM audio bit via the SPDIF interface. With various audio interfaces, the Mac Pro can support many, many channels of high-resolution audio, commonly tapping out at 24-bit, 192 Khz. A sound's bit-depth and sample rate (resolution) are analogous to a graphic file's bit-depth and resolution.

Surround Sound and High-resolution audio

The short answer is the Mac Pro can output multichannel audio but only passthrough popular surround sound used for movies (Dobly Digital, DTS, AAC) codecs via applications like VLC. It cannot output games in surround sound in Mac OS. This isn't a hardware limitation unique to the Mac Pros but rather software. In Windows, the Mac Pro fairs better for surround sound. Also, the Mac Pro's ability to output 96 kHz 24-bit sound via the analog output is a bit dubious, but it can play back high-resolution media without specialized hardware. Whether via the analog outputs is noticeable is questionable.

To explain the above adequately (analog outputs, surround sound, etc.), I've elected to hide by default as the long answer is long: Click to show long answer for

Speakers, headphones and more

Most likely, you will not be using the internal speaker in the Mac Pro other than to hear the startup chime.

Audio output is very free form when it comes to computers as they play nicely with analog and digital hardware. There's any number of routes to go, from inexpensive computer speakers, studio monitors, home theater receivers with esoteric audiophile brands. For most consumer applications, there's not much reason to use any dedicated computer hardware as digital out is digital out.

Prosumer/Professional Audio

Professional hardware is less of a grab bag than consumer audio as Mac OS has a very long and proud history as the defacto choice for studios, audio engineers and musicians. CoreAudio supports low-latency multichannel audio interfaces without any specialized drivers. For most audio interfaces, the basic functionality works out of the box. That said, audio-interfaces come in various formats, like PCIe Cards, USB, Firewire and Thunderbolt and additional functionality can be tied to both the drivers and compatible software.

CoreAudio allows device aggregation, which will map multiple pieces of hardware to appear to software applications as a single device, making it easier to assign inputs and outputs to a software application. Listing compatible hardware would be a losing game for this guide as there are decades worth of compatible gear. Most USB audio interfaces are HID-compliant, meaning even cheapo-USB audio boxes designed for Windows generally are compatible on a fundamental level with Mac OS. However, if they rely on additional drivers, they may not work with Mac OS. It's best to do your research. Hardware makers like Ableton, AKIA, Apogee, Behringer, Focusrite, IK, Korg, Line, MOTU, Native Instruments, Numark, Presonus, RME, Steinberg Tascam, Universal Audio, Yamaha make almost exclusively hardware compatible for both Mac OS and Windows (not one or the other). There's plenty more I didn't list, again I must stress doing your homework. Most likely the piece of PC audio gear you have your eyes on is Mac compatible.

CoreAudio also supports by default Midi, which can be done via Midi interfaces or via USB. For general midi devices, no specialized drivers are needed, but often additional drivers are needed for extended functionality like saving presets or configuration settings (it's worth noting some devices can also use esoteric midi commands to perform these same settings as well).

Overall, the Mac Pro is very capable audio workstation and more than capable of professional work even today. That said, as audio applications become more advanced/complicated/full-featured/robust as do the CPU requirements. Your mileage will inevitably depend on the number of software instruments/synths/effects and their combined requirements, but audio has a much lower bar for hardware requirements than video.

Lastly, the Mac Pro 3.1s and below do not support SSE 4.2 CPU instructions. I have personally encountered with Serato DJ that an 8-core 2.8 GHz Mac Pro 3.1 with 20 GB would often display buggy behavior and latency, whereas even a modest 2013 quad-core i5 MacBook Pro with 8 GBs of RAM and a Mac Pro 5.1 had absolutely zero problems running this software. I wouldn't be surprised if other software suffers under older Mac Pros as well although Logic, Cubase and Ableton all ran adequately on a 3.1 Mac Pro.

Audio over HDMI

See the GPU section of this guide.

Audio over Thunderbolt

See the Thunderbolt section of this guide.




Other Upgrades

Blu Ray / Blu Ray Writer

The Mac Pro can use any SATA or USB 3.0 Blu-Ray Drive as Blu-Ray is ISO compliant, thus no special drivers are needed, but macOS does not have native support for Blu-Ray disc creation or watching Blu-Ray movies. VLC supports Blu-Ray playback in all its HD glory, and Roxio Toast can burn Blu-Ray disks. There’s also plenty of software for ripping Blu-Rays for macOS. If you’re wondering why you’d want a Blu-Ray, see House of Moth (Jay)’s blog post on reasons why such as much longer shelf-life than CD/DVDs. Notably, VLC has 4k and 8k hardware decoding, HDR10 support, and Blu-Ray Java menus. The LG Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA Internal Blu-ray Burner is a popular model with several reviews confirming Mac OS X support and in Classic Mac Pros.

Fan Control

Macs Fan Control takes the champion of the best fan control software, allowing users to use different thermal sensors to control fan clusters or other values. The best parts are the application is free, and there's both a Mac and Windows port.

Macs Fan Control

Mojave has its own share of users experiencing fan rev ups. A forum user at MacRumors wrote a simple app Airout to stress the GPU quickly to cause the fans to rev back to a normal speed.

PCIe expansion

While the classic Mac Pros do not have Thunderbolt, they do support PCIe expansion chassis. Specialty companies like Cubix and Dynapower USA Netstor series make macOS compatible PCIe expanders, generally taking a 16x PCIe slot as a host and dividing its bandwidth into more PCIe slots. These do not come cheap as they're uncommon.

Mac Pro Pixlas PSU Mod

The Pixlas mod is a power supply specific modification to draw taps directly from the PSU as opposed to using the standard PCIe power cables, which are only six pins instead of 8 pins thus unable to make the full power draw needed for the 250 watts required for extreme-end GPUs. Mac-build specialist, Big Little Frank has run 2x GeForce 1080 Ti + NVMe successfully using the Pixlas modification with a possibly upgraded PSU.

External Power Supplies

To mitigate the stress on the Mac Pro's power supply (tallying in at 980w of power), some users use external PSUs for their GPUs, especially if they have two high-end GPUs such as the GeForce GTX 1080 as they peak at 250w power.

Replacing the Battery

Over the years, batteries can go bad and cause errant behaviors (generally resolved temporarily by zapping the PRAM, holding down command-shift-p-r). The Mac Pro uses a 3 volt, BR2032, located on most models above the bottom PCIe slot.

NorthBridge High-Temperature fix

The NorthBridge chipset is the host bridge chipset found on modern x86 computers. It is connected directly to the CPU via the front-side bus (FSB) and manages the highest performance activities (PCIe, RAM) and is usually paired with a SouthBridge chipset that handles other interfaces (USB, PCI, IDE, etc.). More recent Intel architecture has integrated the NorthBridge design into the CPU.

The NorthBridge chipset runs typically hot, to begin with, around 65C/150F but there have been a few owners who've had extraordinarily high temps (120C/250F) or have noticed NorthBridge Heatsink damage. Fortunately, users have tips for fixes.

Fan / Heat Sink / other case part Replacement

Shops like dvwarehouse, welovemacs, and macpartsonline carry parts for classic Mac Pros. eBay also tends to be popular grounds for finding classic Mac Pro replacement pieces.

Replacing the Mac Pro fans with 3rd party fans is not very popular as your computer will lose the ability to control the fans. This means using custom fan thermal monitoring and/or manual controls to adjust the fans speeds. There's a MacRumors post detailing a few users experiences.

Custom Front USB 3.0 PCB

In one of the more technical-yet-impressively-cool upgrades, MacRumors forum member MaikPfaffenrath designed and manufactured a custom replacement Printed Circuit Board (PCB) to replace the front-facing USB 2.0 ports with 3.0 ports.

Boot Managers

Due to the nature of Metal requirements of Mojave, many users have had to eschew their old GPUs for Metal compatible CPUs that do not display the EFI boot screen. There are a few options available to Mac users.

Look up serial Number

This may seem like an odd thing to do, but if you're buying a used Mac Pro 5.1, you may want to see a computer's stock information to see if the Mac was originally a 4.1 Mac Pro. This can be done at sites like appleserialnumberinfo.com.

Linux on 2006 Mac Pros

Running Linux on 32-bit EFI Macs takes more effort than 64-bit EFI Macs to run the 64-bit distros. Below are guides on running Linux on older Macs.

Windows 10 on Mac Pros

Officially Apple does not support Bootcamp with Window 10, but that shouldn't stop anyone. I've personally used Windows 10 on both a 3.1 and 5.1 Mac Pro, albeit at one concession: it was on a separate drive. Apple, as of late as well as Microsoft, seems less interested in supporting bootcamp. I highly recommend using a separate drive and using a native install of Windows 10 vs. using the Bootcamp partitioner as it can create a host of issues.

See the Boot Managers section for more information related to managing Windows 10 / Mac OS booting with an EFIless GPU (a graphics card incapable of displaying video before drivers are loaded).

Enabling Handoff/Continuity

The Mac Pros for Handoff/Continuity require using the Continuity-Activation-Tool to enable it once the hardware requirements have been met. The Mac Pro 1.1/2.1s cannot use Handoff/Continuity due to OS limitations.

  • Mac Pro 3.1 requires BCM94360CD (Airport Extreme)
  • Mac Pro 4.1/5.1 requires Bluetooth Adapter + original wifi Chipset OR BCM94360CD (Airport Extreme).

Source for above: Continuity-Activation-Tool

Enabling Nightshift on Mac Pros

Sometimes hardware support is entirely arbitrary as in the case of Nightshift. Nightshift can be enabled in 10.14+ Mojave using a nifty script written by a community member.

Enabling Apple Watch Auto Unlock with the Mac Pro

Officially Apple does not support Bootcamp the classic Mac Pros for Apple Watch Auto Unlock. Of course, enterprising users have figured out how to enable it, but it requires disabling SIP and a few terminal commands. Notably, you'll need a Mojave compatible Airport card.

How to Update the Recovery Partition in High Sierra on unsupported Macs / fix security Updates

High Sierra Security Updates will often fail on unsupported Macs as they require updates to the Recovery Partition. Luckily, MacRumors readers have concocted a script to automate this process.

Multi-OS USB Bootable Flash Drives

Recently in the Mac Pro forums, a user linked a "Five in one" USB solution that includes five versions of macOS on a single USB. These can be easily created by users following the directions from Apple, How to create a bootable installer for macOS. The only difference is the user first must divide the USB flash drive into multiple partitions (large enough for the Mac OS installers), which Apple also provides Partition a physical disk using Disk Utility on Mac.

Upgrading from a single CPU to dual CPU on a 2009 - 2012

It is possible to upgrade any 4,1/5,1 from a single CPU to dual CPU, but this requires a dual CPU tray, which is uncommon and often cost as much as an entire used Mac Pro. They occasionally do pop-up when someone parts out a non-functional Mac Pro. Notably, you cannot use the trays from Mac Pro 5.1 in a 4.1 even if the Mac Pro is flashed to 5.1. The trays have slightly different SMC, which confuses the fans, causing them to go into full leaf blower mode, and the same occurs if trying to use a 4.1 tray in a 5.1.




Diagnosing Issues / Troubleshooting

This section is a work in progress...

Time Machine: An Error Occurred Restoring from Backup

  1. Boot off a recovery partition, reinstall macOS
  2. At the end of the installation, you will see the Migration Assistant. Select transfer files from another computer/device/Time Machine then select your time machine drive

Internal Light error codes

The Mac Pros include a series of LEDs to help troubleshoot the computer. They are located near the back of the logic board, next to the PCI slot #1.

  • One short flash followed by a longer off period: No valid memory.
  • Three short flashes followed by a longer off period: Failed memory.

Below is a quote from Apple's service manuals.

Diagnostic LEDs

You can view these LEDs by removing the computer’s side access panel and looking through the memory cage to the logic board below. LEDs 2, 3, 4, and 5 are normally off and will automatically illuminate if an error occurs. To read LEDs 1, 6, 7, and 8, you must press the DIAG_LED button, which is adjacent to the LEDs (white button to the right). To press the DIAG_LED button, use a nylon probe tool.

Power Supply Verification

To power on, the computer’s logic board requires “trickle” power. If the system fails to power on, first reset the SMC. If the computer still doesn’t power on, follow the procedure outlined below to determine whether the issue is related to the power supply.

Verify trickle power

Diagnostic LED 1 indicates the presence of trickle power required by the logic board to begin the startup process. LED 1 should be yellow when the DIAG_ LED button is pressed, indicating that trickle voltage is present.

Verify Power Supply Is Providing Power

Diagnostic LED 7 indicates that the main power is OK and within regulation. Plug in AC power cord, and press the power-on button on the front panel. LED 7 should be green when the DIAG_ LED button is pressed, indicating that the main power is OK and within regulation.

Bent Handles

A semi-common issue is the Mac Pro handles are slightly prone to bending. A youtube video shows the process one user took to rebend his handles. (The video can be slightly disorienting as the user seems to have used an aggressive digital stabilization warp that creates a bizarre effect)




A word on Malware Protection

I urge users to install Malware protection, personally I rely on Malwarebyte. Anyone who has does the same or has irreplacable data should do the same. That said, rather than write an entirely new section dedicated to Malware protection, I'm going to recommend to reading HouseOfMoth: Do I need malware protection?

I strongly agree with Jay's run-down and recommendations. If you have never run any malware protection because "I’ve never used AV and never had a problem” or "Macs don’t get viruses", think again and read HouseOfMoth: Do I need malware protection?




Service Manuals

All the support manuals can be found at Apple.com - Manuals - Mac Pro, but for ease of use, I've organized them in this section. Notably, the 4.1/5.1 Mac Pros (2009, 2010-2012) are very similar internally; thus, any 2009/2010 manual works for the 2012 Mac Pro.

Note: All the manuals are linked are PDFs.

User Guide Manuals

Instruction Manuals




Buying Used Mac Pros on eBay

Seeing as the Mac Pros are no longer made, used markets are the only places to find Mac Pros. I bought my 2008 Mac Pro from Apple but bought my 2010 from eBay. I had a good experience.

If you're here, I assume you already are a capable user, but it bears repeating the Mac Pro might not be the best buy for some users. The Mac Pro is a tinkering box and ideal a certain class of users. It's by far the best computer Apple has ever engineered, and possibly any computer maker has ever produced for its sheer longevity and insane upgradability. (Perhaps the 2019 Mac Pro will prove to be a worthy successor.) That said, Used iMac 5ks 2017 iMacs often go for prices similar to Mac Pro 5.1s, have upgradable ram (up to 64 GB) and have Thunderbolt 3 making it eGPU viable and the 2019 iMacs have 128 GB max RAM and better benchmarks when outfitted with a top of the line CPU. The single-core score of an iMac 5k 2017 i5 is nearly double the best Mac Pro 2012 making for better certainly applications such as Photoshop. With the 5k monitor built-in and support for years to come and the ability to drop in an i7-7700k (for the adventurous) which bests all but the 12-Core Mac Pros in multi-core performance, I'd suggest considering an iMac as in many tasks it'd be noticeably faster if you are not planning to make use of the PCIe slots.

  • If considering a single CPU Mac Pro, Dual CPU trays for Mac Pro 4.1/5.1s are hard to come by, and often cost nearly as much as the computer itself (sometimes more).
  • The Dual CPU 2009 (4.1) Mac Pro is considered the upgraders choice as they're very hackable, as it only takes a firmware flash to convert them to a Mac Pro 5.1. The only caveat is upgrading the CPUs requires delidding.
  • Used CPUs can be found on quite a few sites for reasonable deals. The X5690 is the fastest CPU money can buy for the Mac Pro 4.1/5.1, but the X5680 is roughly half the price making it the bargain upgrade.
  • Some sellers sell 5.1 Mac Pros that are formerly 4.1s upgraded. Some sellers mislabel Mac Pro as "Mac Pro G5" or are unable to identify it's generation. If you're unsure or the seller is, the serial number can tell you when the computer was manufactured, or it's model type. Also, you can request a photo of the computer with the panel removed to identify it as 4.1/5.1.
  • Mac Pro 1.1/2.1s so far haven't been able to run later than OS X 10.11, which limits their longevity or utility. Consider the Mac Pro 3.1.
  • The Mac Pro 3.1 can run the latest OS X with minor hacks, making them bargains but are limited in upgrades and performance. Mojave requires a metal GPU but, the latest AMD drivers for recent cards do not support the 3.1 in Mojave without hacks.
  • 2010 and 2012 Mac Pros are virtually the same. There are no performance differences other than the base configurations.
  • Markets vary quite a bit based on geo-location. Based on my limited observation, North America is considerably cheaper than the rest of the world.
  • A few resellers still exist like OWC (other world computing) and Big Little Frank.
  • As tempting as a Mac Pro 2013 may be, the thermals are terrible, often leading the Mac Pro 2013s to fry their GPUs. There has been speculation that the D700 GPUs are destined to fail after a certain threshold of usage and there isn't any real way to prevent it. Others have gone to buying cooling pads meant for laptops in hopes of preventing a GPU failure. The worst part of the GPU problem is the only way to get a replacement GPU is to take the computer to Apple, which carries a hefty price tag. Despite the GPUs actually being replaceable, Apple has never sold the GPUs separately. Consider a modern Mac mini if the Mac Pro 2013 is of interest as the CPU performance is nearly the same, the computer isn't at risk of frying itself, and likely much cheaper. You can buy an eGPU with the money saved, and get better GPU performance than a Mac Pro 2013 as it has Thunderbolt 3.



Collected Articles on classic Mac Pro and the 2019 Mac Pro




Communities & Blogs

You're not alone. There are more people out there than you'd think who still love the classic Mac Pro.

  • MacRumors Mac Pro Forum - The center of the Mac Pro universe, if it's happening, it's probably here. My go-to for sourcing information as one can gather by reading this guide.
  • MacProUpgrade - The premier facebook group, very international with Mac Pro users across the globe. It requires requesting access, but they let anyone in, I'm there. Also, it is a strangely friendly and nice community. They are always willing to answer questions from the obscure to novice and has a lot of high tier creative professionals who can answer your questions about AVID, Premier, FCPX (and etc.) related to your Mac Pro.
  • Mac Pro Users - The another major FaceBook group for Mac Pro users, smaller but still helpful and it has the benefit of being public too (no signup process and can be browsed without a facebook account). Helpful and friendly community, with a lot of creative professionals too.
  • House of Moth - Jay's mac related blog, it's not explicitly Mac Pro related but has probably the best guide on the Pixlas mod and delves into old Mac hardware in super-geeky ways (in a good way). I name check his blog a few times here for good reason.
  • eGPU.io - Not classic Mac Pro related in the slightest but where I go for Thunderbolt information
  • Netkas - Blog related to GPU flashing and hacking
  • forums.netkas.org - The original group of firmware flashers for GPUs.
  • blog.greggant.com/topics/#macpro - I've written for six years now infrequent Mac Pro related blog posts.



Mac Pro 2013 Upgrade guide

Looking for information about the cylinders? It started out as a joke, but it is real! The Definitive Trashcan Mac Pro (2013) Upgrade Guide




PDF version of this guide

A few readers have requested PDF versions of this guide. Most users already will understand for obvious reasons, it is important to note a PDF will not contain the most current info as this blog post is continually updated. I encourage people to use the HTML version of this guide as it'll provide the best experience.

That said, instead of me maintaining a separate PDF Version, I've included CSS (styling) to my blog to making printing better, capping the image sizes, slightly reducing the font size and expanding the column to make use of a full page. This reduces the page count by about 1/5. If you would like a PDF version of this guide, hit print from any Mac web browser, I recommend Safari to ensure that the links within the guide work. In the printer dialogue, click the "PDF" dropdown in the lower-left corner of the printer box and hit "Save As PDF". All the links contained will work when viewed from Preview.

You do not need a printer connected to print to PDF.




Changelog

Due to the ever-evolving list of possible upgrades and hacks, this guide is a living document, and thus the information contained may change, I've included a robust log of recent changes to help repeat visitors discover new content. Making and maintaining this guide takes a fair amount of work, and feedback from users is greatly appreciated to make this the most accurate/best guide possible. If you have new information not included here, suggestions, corrections or edits, please feel free to contact me at: blog@greggant.com. I get a fair amount of questions, and I try to answer them to best I can. I'd recommend asking the MacRumors forum or MacProUpgrade group first as I'm just one person vs. the collective intelligence of a community.

09/10/19 - Happy Apple Event day. Added GeekBench 5 notes. Added a link about Mojave audio issues. Added note about Catalina support. Added custom PCB for front facing USB 3.0. Added Malware section which is essentialy a link to HouseOfMoth. Also added F.lux VS Night Shift. General typo and copy corrections.

09/09/19 - Busy two weeks on this guide, trying to provide a base-level for novice users to become more aquanited with their hardware. Added a little more info to the Firmware section, such as how to check. Added intro text to the CPU section and info about instruction sets. A few minor corrections in the GPU section. Added links CPU upgrade and Northbridge. Added short explination of NorthBridge chipset. Added link for the Samsung 970 Evo Plus. Still more to do but the list is whittling down. Added information on screen refresh rates.

09/06/19 - Added info on nightshift.

09/05/19 - GPU section editing. Still needs work but more clear and organized, and up-to-date. Added notes about Continuity to be more correct. Added Night Shift on Unsupported Macs. Added bits vs. bytes as I believe it is helpful.

09/04/19 - Added more current info about 32 GB DIMMs, one of the many things needed to be addressed.

09/03/19 - The past month has been the most significant for this guide in the last 4-5 months due to the re-writing and information validation. Re-added the Audio section now with the long explanation hidden. Added info about Dual-Link DVI. Updated Handoff section with more correct information thanks to Peter K in the MacProUpgrade group.

09/02/19 - error correction on SATA 3. Whoops, it was a typo too. Typo fixes. Slightly reduced intro. Ram Upgrades have more info on ECC.

09/01/19 - Added link to Delidding CPUs to thehouseofmoth vid. Broke out delidding into own section.

08/26/19 - Added Vega 56 Firmware flash info. Minor Corrections. Minor topic organization change in the GPU section.

08/25/19 - I received feedback for a PDF version of this guide. Rather than maintain one, I've added some basic CSS for print rules that reduces the guide (as of writing this) from 85 to 62ish pages.

08/19/19 - As planned, more rewriting. Reworked the Wifi section, now includes info on PCIe and USB. Reworked the Storage section to explain more about SATA, Time Machine, and SSD Memory types. The goal is both increase clarity, ease of reading, and onboard less-technical users.

08/13/19 - Man, I have some great readers, Jamie S. emailed me with two updates, noting I hadn't listed the GeForce 680 GTX 4 GB flashing instructions (I meant to) and one I never considered, updating the recovery partition. Reworked displays section as it was one big ugly wad of text. Added info about 4k TVs, chroma subsampling. It's now a proper section Fixed JS error.

08/05/19 - Grammar/punctuation edits. Moved "identify your mac" out of the PCIe section. Added RX 590 to GPU list. Added note about OWC overcharging for RX 580s as I find this egregious/predatory. Added Note about flashed RX 580s.

08/02/19 - Added more info on PCIe power for clarification, added more info on bifurcation. NVMe cleanup. Table for OS support. Added xMP 2019 to the Mac Pro list. It's annoyed me I haven't followed a clear structure on many topics (sometimes 2006 Mac pros are listed first, while other times 2012). I'll start doing more house cleaning. Started a troubleshooting section which is opening pandora's box.

07/17/19 - Added more info on Wifi chipsets (where to buy), and continuity. Added note on buying RAM. A few minor edits.

07/10/19 - Fixed bad URL thanks to a reader. Noticed I had two boot manager sections and consolidated them.

07/05/19 - Added more info about Bootcamp and Windows 10, more editing, typo fixes. Hid the old intro by default. Updated Intro. Added notes on THunderbolt 3. Added info about Vega chipset fans.

06/26/19 - Added more notes about the Radeon 580s in Mac Pro 3.1s and the first notes on 10.15 Catalina. Also added notes on Mac Pro Processor trays. Minor clarification on Know your Mac Pro, and added DosDude1 as a definition

06/03/19 - Fitting just north of the 1 year anniversary, the Mac Pro 2019 has been announced, and it is a beast. Those specs are beyond what I hoped for, and thus the price is beyond what I hoped for too, 2x the price of the 2006-2012 Mac Pros.

06/03/19 - Happy WWDC day, let's see if we're all disappointed. Added info about the RX560 in Mac Pro 3.1s.

05/17/19 - Editing, and clarity, Added how to install GPU section.

05/18/19 - Linked Jay’s article on Blu-Ray and added notes about VLC and Blu-Ray drive, added better recommendation against 3.1s and NVMe, added incompatible NVMe list.

05/13/19 - 10.14.5 notes on GPU AMD Radeon VII and added notes on enabling AMD video codec acceleration. Editing (typos + punctuation + corrections)

05/11/19 - Now that this guide has matured. The new focus is organization. More cleanup. I noticed a few typos. Reordered things a little more in the GPU section and other places. I dislike to make executive recommendations on hardware, but I ended up bowling it down in the GPU section. If you disagree with me, do e-mail me.

05/08/19 - Biggest update in a long time. Massive cleanup around the Firmware upgrades and OS upgrades sections as it annoyed me that the information wasn't organized well, better notes about Mojave on Mac OS 3.1s, better placement about 3.1s and NVMe, and lastly added a list of the firmware updates to the Mac Pro 5.1s. I tried to reduce redundancy. Reduced the GPU recommendation section to be less verbose and made it clearer. Removed warning about firmware and issued a general recommendation. Added a mini-glossary, added a few more anchors to sections. Still plenty more clean up to happen in the future.

05/07/19 - One year anniversary! Added links to The Definitive Trashcan Mac Pro 6.1 (2013) Upgrade Guide.

05/03/19 - Hey, it's almost been one year for this blog post! Added notes about custom fans on Mac Pro and RX 580 drivers. Added links to articles on Mac Pro 3,1s and NVMe. Also, as always a few grammar/editing corrections.

03/29/19 - Added the link the AMD Polaris/Vega GPU thread, added a note about 3.1s and Mojave GPU support. Minor typo corrections.

03/11/19 - Reader Benjamin R noted I was missing the Quadro K5200 and sure enough there's a Mac version as well as K4200. Also listed the Firepro S10000 to list of natively compatible GPUs.

03/05/19 - Added CPU check terminal command. Added version number, using the date, since this guide has evolved quite a bit and this gives repeat visitors a quick reference for when the guide was last updated. Updated Fusion drive section. Updated NVidia driver section only lists TonyMacX86's latest drivers rather than versions, and clarified RTX series. Added link to Expansion Slot Utility for Mac Pro 1.1/2.1s. Also, saw two FB users wondering if Apple bricked computers with the 142 firmware on purpose. I can assure you they did not. The W3xxx series aren't nearly as common, and if Apple wants to drop support, they can do so at any time. They do it frequently with major OS updates for both macOS and iOS. Why bother to play a cloak and daggers game and open themselves up to a potential class-action lawsuit? Not everything is a conspiracy (most things aren't in fact, youtube and social media is making us stupid), Occam's razor says this was an edge case that wasn't tested. As a developer, I can tell you this happens more than you ever want to know.

03/04/19 - Created the Special Announcements, as the DP4 of Mojave 10.14.4 has a new firmware the bricks the higher-end CPUs. Added more notes to the firmware section. Minor copy edits/grammar-y corrections are littered through this update.

02/27/19 - Wow, this guide is about 10 months old now has had nearly 50k visits. Added link to Mac Pro Users, added tables to PCIe section, clearer explanations on PCIe, linked a user confirming dual 5k displays and added a few lines to the eBay buying. Also took off a little of the AppleInsider slandering. It's not my favorite site but doesn't really add anything of value.

02/01/19 - Added new Sonnet USB 3.1 cards to compatibility, Added a link to Delidding cleanup.

01/24/19 - Added image to illustrate the Mac Pro generations under know your Mac Pro and subsection. Added RX580 Mac Pro 3.1 compatibility note.

01/23/19 - Moved the Thunderbolt info into its own section as it's moved beyond speculation. I'll track this best as I can. Added a communities section. Added an anchor to the changelog. Minor copy edits.

01/18/19 - Just when you think you've considered pretty much any upgrade feasible, there's a new one. It looks like there's been progress made on the Apple Watch Auto Unlock for the cMP, so I added it to the guide. I added minor corrections to grammar and punctuation as it'd been a while since I've proof-read this entire monster of an article. Fun fact, this article is 12,500+ words now, which is 24 pages, single-spaced 12-point text (48 double-spaced). For reference, a novel is generally considered to be 40,000+ words. Apple Insider, the apologist trash rag, seems to think that PCIe 5.0 might be in the 2019 Mac Pro. Why? Because it was ratified as a standard. I find this incredibly silly as PCIe 4.0 first motherboards were demoed in June and there aren't many floating around right now nor hardware. PCI 4.0 was finalized on Oct 26, 2017, and took roughly a year for the first devices to ship. With the extreme lack of PCIe 4.0 hardware, let alone 5.0, this is extremely dubious.

01/17/19 - Reader Arif pointed out an error on my guide, and I didn't have a checkmark next to the X5675 on the Mac Pro 5.1, also looks like more progress on thunderbolt and added it. First, update for 2019 and 7 months running of updates.

12/21/18 - Added a note about the X5687 since recently there's been a few posts on Mac Pro communities again. It's incompatible, and this guide lists it as incompatible. I linked a forum poster's attempt at getting it to work (despite knowing it was listed as incompatible). Hopefully, this saves a few people the heartache and money. Added notes about UI scaling to monitors and Freesync

12/14/18 - Thanks to reader Ian for confirming the RX 590 works in the cMPs. I hadn't even noticed it had been released. He even created a video. You can watch it here. Also, added info about the latest in NVidia driver updates as NVidia released new drivers for 10.13, but without Volta support, lending a lot of weight to the previous rumor that the drivers were pulled over a dispute with Apple's AMD contract. The issue has landed itself in Forbes under the blistering headline Apple Turns Its Back On Customers And NVIDIA With macOS Mojave. Hopefully, this helps Mac Pro users out, such as myself. I've had my NVidia GeForce 1060 less than a year. Oh, and this blog now supports Dark Mode for Mojave users using Safari Tech Preview 68 or higher.

11/28/18 - With the stalemating of NVidia drivers, I've added a link to the petition for drivers and updated the GPU section a bit to reflect better that it's AMD or bust right now for Mojave.

11/05/18 - Bad news on the Mojave front for NVidia users, NVidia blames Apple for not approving its drivers. Added links to the said article.

11/02/18 - Updated intro, Apple released Mac Minis, minor clarification in the intro and call to the right to repair.

10/29/18 - Big reworking of storage section (now ordered by ATA, AHCI, and NVMe), Added direct links to NVMe firmware.

10/26/18 - lots of copy editing on new (and some old) sections. Also thanks to Pressure G on Mac Pro Users (on Facebook) for spotting an error. This guide is now roughly 40 pages long! Added to Contents list of the "other upgrades."

10/25/18 - The first draft of NVMe section, and editing to more accurately reflect NVMe status, plus added first draft PCIe, and You section to explain PCIe ports. Both will require editing.

10/22/18 - 2018 is the year of the cMac Pro. In the space of not updating for a month, we have native NVMe support, bootscreens on RTX cards and the craziest of them all: promising ThunderBolt results. Added notes in relevant sections. Added Boot manager to both GPU and it's own section under other upgrades. Also, I was mentioned in a podcast a while back Brograph Podcast - Episode 134 (at the 33:05 mark). Added a TechRadar link. Added more AppleInsider insults. Why? It's apologist fanboy propaganda.

9/26/18 - It's Mojave time! Added notes on 10.14 Mojave installation, Metal, Mojave patcher for Mac Pro 3.1s, and OWC APFS problems.

9/19/18 - Added link to After Effects GeForce 1080 vs.Radeon 580

9/04/18 - Mild copy edit + driver downloader.

8/27/18 - Added note about DynaPower USA to PCIe expanders, full list of AMD cards and some minor copy editing.

8/3/18 - Added eBay purchasing notes, Minor copy editing to new content

8/2/18 - Special thanks to reader Geo B. for sending me info about the FASTA-6GU3 and Amfeltec SQUID. Added notes on Triple channel memory. Also, Big list of corrections (typo spot, correction about the language around UEFI, 2006 Mac Pro OS compatibility, and other bullet points), thanks in part to Dave @ MacVidCards for his very-direct but informative e-mail (Dont'worry, we're cool, or at least I assume we are). As per request, any reference was changed to from "Mac Vid Cards" to "MacVidCards." Notably, Dave mentions that the Mac 780/Titan/Titan X EFI compatible cards use a pirated version of his custom/hacked ROM. While I haven't verified this, as I don't really have means or time to do so (this page is for fun and to help other people like me), I see no reason to doubt this claim.

6/13/18 - Added Know Your Mac Pro, link to Pixlas dual GPU mod by Big Little Frank, added HDMI Volume control Lifehacker link.

6/12/18 - Minor update to GPUs list, also added firmware update info, finally added a blur about delidding, xlr8yourmac fixed.

6/1/18 - NVMe is now bootable with firmware hacks, added info in NVMe and firmware sections.

5/27/18 - Added link to Netkas Mac Pro 1.1 -> 2.1 firmware utility and StarTech 4-Port card to USB list.

5/23/18 - Added link to wifi install guide for 5.1 Mac Pros, link cleanup so links consistently open blank page, minor proofing.

5/22/18 - Added HDMI Audio links, Mac Pro 5.1 Update for 10.13, Also, time for some proofing: Fixed quite a few typos, grammar blunders, and punctuation.

5/21/18 - Added Mac Pro manuals from Apple.com

5/17/18 - Added Linux on 2006 Mac Pros links

5/16/18 - 5770 Error correction info

5/15/18 - Minor copy editing, fixed bad link to anchor tag for CPU upgrades, a note about SLI.

5/14/18 - Reworked the intro, it's wordy now. Minor copy editing, more PCIe sled info, more 4.1 firmware upgrade links.

5/13/18 - Added Pixlas mod info, Classic Mac Pro gone but certainly not forgotten.

5/11/18 - Added Upgrade to High Sierra without APFS, added NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600, AMD FirePro W7000 to flashable cards, AMD Radeon 770/5780 Roms link, mac-pixel-clock-patch-V2 link, How to Boot to Windows without a Boot Screen link, NVMe links, Disable internal Bluetooth (for USB dongles), note about pre-10.9 RAM, serial number lookup, note about 64-bit on 1.1/2.1 mac pros.

5/10/18 - Links to EveryMac for RAM instructions, quick thoughts on graphics cards purchases, and links to NVidia web drivers.

5/9/18 - Copy Editing + Responsive CPU tables + links open new windows.

5/8/18 - Images + feedback from users (added Replacing battery + memory) + restructure so contents supersedes intro.

5/7/18 - Guide launch, first published