- Know your Mac Pro Models
- CPU Upgrades
- GPU Upgrades
- OS Upgrades
- Firmware Upgrades
- Storage Upgrades
- RAM/Memory Upgrades
- ThunderBolt 2 to PCIe
- Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1c
To mark the first anniversary of my wildly successful blog post (garnering tens of thousands of views), The Definitive Classic Mac Pro (2006-2012) Upgrade Guide, I'm proud to announce a sequel. The Definitive Trash can Mac Pro 2013 upgrade guide started in jest on social media as the guide no one wanted, seeing as the Mac Pro 2013 is kinda in itself a joke as it over-promised and under-delivered, and is considerably less upgradeable than its predecessor. Is there a need or demand for such a guide? I don't know, but here we are, and while the origins are jocular the rest of this guide is serious. While most users (and Apple engineers) probably prefer moniker "cylinder," the trash can title stuck due to its obvious physical characteristics.
The Mac Pro 2013 has the dubious honor as the longest produced Macintosh, besting the Macintosh plus, which was produced from 1986 to 1990 without an upgrade. The 2013 Mac Pro was conceived as the successor of the original Mac Pro, eschewing the modularity for a (debatably) stylish and certainly radical redesign. After a few positive reactions by publications for its foreign looks, it quickly became snubbed for its lack of upgradability, stability, and Apple's complete and absolute antipathy (verging on enmity) towards it.
The Mac Pro 2013 has been prone to high rates of failures due to heat, with a nameless Apple exec quoted as saying, "think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner if you will". Apple also took steps to extend its repair program, but problems persist. Despite the naysayers, the Mac Pro 2013 isn't without its fans (no pun intended), as at the time of its unveiling, it was a powerful, quirky computer in a diminutive form factor. Despite its limited upgradability, the computer is a modular design, and nearly every part of significance can be replaced. No Mac produced after it has allowed for the range of upgrades (although the iMac 5k is a close second). It's the bridge to a by-gone era, where CPUs and storage and even GPUs were removable.
Perhaps the 2019 Mac Pro a return to PCIe, but more than likely, 2013 will be the template.. Edit: The Mac Pro 2019 marks an expensive return to PCIe.
Know your Mac Pro Models
The Mac Pro line debuted in 2006 and has had six major iterations by Apple's nomenclature, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1. These are also generally referred to by year, 2006 (1.1, 2,1), less commonly 2007 (2,1), 2008 (3,1), 2009 (4,1), 2010-2012 (5,1) and 2013 (6,1). The other terms for these computers are divided between "Cheesegrater" (2006-2012) and "Trash can" (late 2013) or "Cylinder". For the purpose of this guide, I will refer to the Mac Pro "trash can" as 2013 (as does much of the internet).
Please note This guide only covers the 2013 Mac Pro. For all other models, I've written a massive guide, The Definitive Classic Mac Pro (2006-2012) Upgrade Guide.
Apple has only shipped a grand total of 3 base configurations with a forth build-to-order option for the 12 core CPU. Apple has only made one minor change in the past six years to the Mac Pro 2013, by removing the original base configuration and lower the prices of the remaining models.
- Apple Mac Pro "Quad Core" 3.7 GHz, 12 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD, and dual FirePro D300 2 GB of GDDR5 (4 GB total). Discontinued April 4, 2017*
- Apple Mac Pro "Six Core" 3.7 GHz, 12 GB of RAM (16 GB after April 4th), 256 GB SSD, and dual FirePro D500 3 GB of GDDR5 (6 GB total). Discontinued April 4, 2017*
- Apple Mac Pro "Eight Core" 3.0 GHz, 12 GB of RAM (16 GB after April 4th), 2256 GB SSD, and dual FirePro D500 6 GB of GDDR5 (12 GB total).
- Apple Mac Pro "Twelve Core"* 2.7 GHz, 12 GB of RAM (16 GB after April 4th), 256 GB SSD, and dual FirePro D500 6 GB of GDDR5 (12 GB total). This is a build to order option only.
Apple has never acknowledged the upgradability of the Mac Pro CPU, but the Mac Pro 2013's CPU is not soldered in thus making it upgradeable. Only four CPU configurations were offered by Apple, E5-1620v2, E5-1650v2, E5-1680v2, and the E5-2697v2, but users soon discovered that the E5 v2 family was compatible. Unlike the previous Mac Pros, the Mac Pro 2013 was only offered in a single CPU configuration.
From personal observation, the E5-2697 can be found cheaper on Ebay and local used markets (in the US) vs the E5-2695 is considerably cheaper on aliexpress. This varies based on your local markets as the European markets tend to be much more expensive than North America.
Credit to the CPU list goes to Mac Rumors forum member ActionableMango.
|Ivy-Bridge||12 core||E5-2697 V2||2.7||3.5||1866||130W|
|Ivy-Bridge||12 core||E5-2696 V2||2.5||3.3||1866||130W|
|Ivy-Bridge||12 core||E5-2695 V2||2.4||3.2||1866||115W|
|Ivy-Bridge||10 core||E5-2690 V2||3.0||3.6||1866||130W|
|Ivy-Bridge||10 core||E5-2680 V2||2.8||3.6||1866||115W|
|Ivy-Bridge||8 core||E5-2687W V2||3.4||4.0||1866||150W|
|Ivy-Bridge||8 core||E5-2667 V2||3.3||4.0||1866||130W|
|Ivy-Bridge||8 core||E5-2673 V2||3.3||4.0||1866||110W|
|Ivy-Bridge||8 core||E5-1680 V2||3.0||3.9||1866||130W|
|Ivy-Bridge||6 core||E5-1660 V2||3.7||4.0||1866||130W|
|Ivy-Bridge||6 core||E5-1650 V2||3.5||3.9||1866||130W|
|Ivy-Bridge||4 core||E5-1620 V2||3.7||3.9||1866||130W|
Yes, the Mac Pro's GPUs can be swapped out, but only three different GPUs were ever produced for it, the AMD FirePro D300 2 GB, D500 3 GB, or D700 6 GB. Apple has kept tight control on these (any official repairs require the GPUs to be returned to Apple), and thus few-to-none exist on the aftermarket, and the two higher GPUs are prone to failures thanks to a wattage ceiling. For most intents and purposes, it is cheaper to buy a Mac Pro 2013 than to track down two GPUs. Apple discontinued the entry-level Mac Pro 2013 that sported the D300. All-new Mac Pros sold after April 4th, 2017, have either a D500 or D700.
For other GPU options, see the eGPU section.
Currently, the Mac Pro 2013 is still supported hardware (as it should be as Apple stopped selling it only in 2019), but the relatively low sales likely mean it may be dropped in future Mac OS updates. It can run Mac OS 10.15 Catalina but does not support Sidecar (as of yet).
Notably, all 32-bit binaries are no longer executable, meaning users of legacy software should really check before upgrading.
The Mac Pro 2013 has had a few firmware upgrades. Unlike previous Mac Pros that a firmware upgrade allowed for faster CPUs/RAM, AFPS, and NVMe booting for certain models, the Mac Pro 2013 has been more meager. The MP61.0120.B00 boot ROM included support for NVMe booting (found in the High Sierra update). Most recently, the boot ROM version 22.214.171.124.0 was included in the 10.14.4 Developer Preview. With some firmware upgrades, some users found 4k displays no longer supporting 60 Hz, which requires an SMC reset and removing the offending PLists, see the useful links below. Previously the updates were distributed separately from the OS ,but in 10.13+, these were folded into OS updates. The current BootROM version is 126.96.36.199.0 and ships with 10.14.6.
Notable, some users cannot update the bootrom without the Apple SSD. It's recommended hanging onto the original SSD with a copy of MacOS to perform Firmware updates.
To check your firmware version, go to About This Mac -> System Report, it will be listed on the first creen under Boot Rom.
- Apple.com: Mac Pro EFI 2.0 (released Dec 19, 2013) - This update improves system reliability during reboot, resolves an issue with memory self-test, and improves graphics power management when using Boot Camp.
- Apple.com: Mac Pro SMC Firmware Update 2.0 (released Feb 26, 2014) - This update enables Mac Pro to enter Power Nap without running the fan for most Power Nap activities, and addresses a rare issue where a low-speed USB device may not be detected at boot.
- MacRumors: Fixing Monitor no longer does 4k@60 High Sierra
There's a large number of external storage upgrades for the Mac Pro 2013, from USB 2.0/3.0 to ThunderBolt 2.0, and listing them all would be an exercise in futility. What's important to understand is that there are many multi-drive enclosures, spanning everything from RAID to multiple SSDs. External SSDs perform well in Thunderbolt 2, able to achieve roughly 1.2 GB/s depending on the storage solution in various tests.
Internally, The Mac Pro does feature one SSD slot, using a custom Apple SSD running at PCIe 2.0 x4, capable of a maximum of 2 GB/s. Very few native third-party solutions exist, but they are out there, by makers like OWC and Transintl.
That said... users have figured out how to shoe-horn NVMe drives in the Mac Pro offering top-tier performance and much better prices. Unfortunately, no one has taken the time to compile a list, so the known so far are: Samsung 960, Samsung 970 Pro, Toshiba XG3, and Crucial P1. Samsung released a firmware fix for certain models as well, including the 970 Pro,
The Mac Pro 2013 uses the same interface as the 2013-2015 MacBooks. There's a cottage economy of NVMe adapters now floating around. The first adapters that users tackled, such as the GFF M.2 PCIe SSD Card, required a bit of filing and tape to successfully mount the card, which users on MacRumors were able to pull off. NVMe with ST-NGFF2013-C; Vega Internal GPU; Mac Pro 2013 (6,1). Later adapters like the Sintech ngff m.2 NVMe SSD adapter do not require modification. The quick summary is you'll need a Mac Pro running 10.13+, an adapter and an NVMe SSD with a Sintech adapter, if you for some reason choose the GFF adapter, you'll need tape, a file and some free time.
Currently, the only vector for multiple M.2 NVMe drives internally is the Amfeltec Angelshark Carrier Board. This keeps the original port intact and thus allows for three internal NVMe drives.
Working SSD list
This list is from MacRumors by the user maxthackray, so all credit goes to him.
- Adata NVMe SSD : SX6000, SX7000, SX8200, SX8200 Pro etc.
- Corsair NVMe SSD : MP500, MP510
- Crucial NVMe SSD : P1
- HP NVMe SSD : ex920, ex950
- OCZ RD400 (and all Toshiba XG3-XG4-XG5-XG5p-XG6 line)
- Intel NVMe SSD : 600p, 660p, 760p etc.
- MyDigital NVMe SSDs : SBX - BPX
- Kingston NVMe SSD : A1000, A2000, KC1000
- Sabrent Rocket
- Samsungs Polaris NVMe SSD : 960 Evo, 960 Pro, 970 Evo, 970 Pro
- WD Black NVMe SSD v1, v2 and v3
Drives in red require, NVMe drives with 4K sector sizes which require changing.
- Samsung PM981
- Samsung 950 Pro
- Samsung 970 Evo Plus*
*Firmware update fixes this particular SSD
- ifixit: Mac Pro 2013 SSD replacement
- NVMe with ST-NGFF2013-C; Vega Internal GPU; Mac Pro 2013 (6,1)
- MacRumors: Upgrading 2013/2014 Macbook Pro SSD to M.2 NVMe
- Everymac: How do you upgrade the storage in the Gray Cylinder Mac Pro models? How many drives of what type are supported?
- Apple.com: Mac Pro (Late 2013): Removing and installing flash storage
Officially most sites list the maximum ram for the 2013 as 128. The Mac Pro 2013 uses PC3-15000 DDR3 ECC (1866 MHz) RAM, with 4 RAM slots. The Maximum DIMM size is 32 GB. Maxing out the RAM can be a somewhat pricey endeavor, but sites like aliexpress and eBay, mean this can be done for under $450 USD.
ThunderBolt 2 to PCIe
There's a fair amount of options today on the market like the Sonnet Technologies Echo Express SE1 - 1 PCIe Slot (roughly $200), and it scales up rather quickly.
The biggest modifications to the Mac Pro 2013 aren't internal, but rather massive PCIe enclosures that generally cost in the $1500-4000 range, making them often as expensive as the computer itself. There are a few options on the market like the Sonnet xMac Pro Server, which adds 3 full-length PCIe slots (you can see it on youtube), and the absolutely absurd JMR Quad Slot Expander adding 4 PCIe slots and 8 drive bay just to name a few. For the truly curious, you can see the JMR expansion system innards.
Not all PCIe enclosures support eGPUs. I've included in the eGPU section is a list of enclosures that support GPUs.
Additional Notes on Thunderbolt 2
There's a wide variety of Thunderbolt 2 products, chiefly storage systems (including RAID setups), and ThunderBolt 2 docks still on the market. Due to the sheer amount I'm unable to list them all, but it's important to remember that a fair amount of functionality missing from the 2013 can be recaptured with Thunderbolt 2, like previously mentioned, PCIe slots, eGPUs and the like.
The Mac Pro 2013 to date includes the six Thunderbolt ports, the most found on any Mac before or since. To obtain peak performance, it's recommended that displays be connected separately from other high bandwidth utilities like external storage.
The Mac Pro 2013 can drive three 4k displays or six 2560 x 1600 displays, and with the June 16, 2015 firmware update, three 5k displays (using two ThunderBolt ports and the HDMI port) internally.
Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1c
The Mac Pro 2013 can't be upgraded to Thunderbolt 3 bus speeds, but that doesn't mean it can't use Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1c devices (at the speed of Thunderbolt 2). Apple has a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter, which is bi-directional, meaning the same adapter can also be used for Thunderbolt 3 Macs to use Thunderbolt 2 devices. Notably, not all Thunderbolt 3 devices are backward compatible, so you may want to check with the manufacturer for compatibility.
It's nearly impossible to talk about the Mac Pro 2013 without mentioning eGPUs. Mac OS now supports AMD eGPUs (almost) natively, and macOS 10.14.x does not allow for modern nVidia support making it nearly a one-way path in eGPU. NVidia support for later eGPUs is limited to a maximum of Mac OS 10.13.x, and that does not appear to be changing due to a disagreement between Apple and NVidia. Unless this changes, this guide will not list Mojave incompatible NVidia eGPUs, despite the later GPUs being supported in Mac OS 10.12.x and 10.13.x. Currently, the RX (580x, 570x) line and the Vega (Vega, 48, 56, FE ) line by AMD are Mojave compatible, and the Keppler line by NVidia are Mojave compatible. The eGPU.io community has a searchable database. If going for an eGPU, I highly recommend upgrading to Mac OS 10.13+ as it includes more native support, thus much easier to set up, to the point of being (nearly) plug and play.
macOS Supported AMD eGPUs, * 10.13 required
- Vega FE*
- RX Vega 64 Liquid*
- RX Vega 64*
- Vega 56*
- Pro WX 7100
- Pro WX 5100
- Pro WX 4100
- RX 580
- RX 570
- RX 560
- R9 Fury X
- RX 480
- RX 470
- RX 460
macOS 10.14 Mojave Supported NVidia eGPUs - Only Keppler series GPUs are supported
- GTX 650
- GTX 660
- GTX 670
- GTX 680
- GTX Titan
*eGPUs require Mac OS 10.12 or above.
Confirmed working Enclosures with Mac Pro 2013
- Akitio Thunder2
- AKiTiO Node
- Asus XG Station 2
- Blackmagic eGPU
- Mantiz Venus
- Razer Core X
- Sonnet Breakaway 350
- egpu.io: 2013 Mac Pro (FP D500 x2) [3rd,6C,E] + RP 580 @ 16Gbps-TB2>TB3 (Blackmagic eGPU) + macOS 10.13.6 [itsage]
- Barefeats: Pumping Up The 2013 Mac Pro
- eGPU.io setup guide: 10.9 to 10.12
- eGPU.io setup guide: 10.13+
- Troubleshooting eGPUs on macOS
Outside of the extreme JMR solutions PCIe slot Rackmount cases, Mac Pro 2013 cooling solutions remain pretty slim. Most users elect to use various laptop cooling pads to place under Mac Pros (which do seem to help). If anyone has any information about physical mods or Mac Pro 2013 specialty cases, I'm all ears, and please reach out to me (see the bottom of this post).
The Mac Pro 2013 earns the distinction of sporting a modular design. There's not a lot to say here since iFixit gave it an 8 out of 10 for repairability and has pretty much every part in its Mac Pro Late 2013 Repair Guide. If you can do it, they probably have a beautiful step-by-step pictorial guide.
Mac Pro 2013 won't sleep
MacRumors members note that Hand-off can affect a 2013's ability to sleep. Disabling seems to be the fix.
Communities & Blogs
You're not alone. There are more people out there than you'd think who still love the Mac Pro 2013.
- MacRumors Mac Pro Forum - The center of the Mac Pro universe.
- MacProUpgrade - a private but very popular facebook group, primarily classic "Cheesegrater" Mac Pro users with some 2013 users.
- 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 sign-up process and can be browsed without a facebook account).
- eGPU.io - The go-to place for eGPUs.
Buying used Mac Pro 2013s
Most forums when this question is posed is don't. The updated Mac Mini may have a soldered on CPU and storage but with the Core i7-8700B is much faster than the 12 Core Mac Pro in single-core performance and spitting distance of the multicore in Geekbnech scores, and packs Thunderbolt 3, which is double the bandwidth for the inevitable eGPU, and comes with USB 3.1c support out of the box, and doesn't have a history of frying itself. Plus, it's new, comes with a warranty and is even smaller. Then there's the iMac 5k, which has an upgradeable CPU making for faster than the base iMac Pro when tricked out too. I personally would not buy a Mac Pro 2013 with much better and cheaper alternatives. The 2009-2012 Mac Pros, which pack oodles more upgrades and stupidly better GPU options or the aforementioned Mac Mini, even with an eGPU would be roughly the same cost of a lower end used 2013. Unless the used market prices drastically change, the Mac Pro 2013's shortcomings are too significant to make me ever consider one.
at the computer is booting, the GPUs are fine. They may have had their GPUs replaced with working ones. Next to the lower the AMD GPU model, the more chance it will remain problem-free. Unfortunately, Apple stopped selling the D300 Mac Pros long ago, so it's better tracking down a D500 model. Next up, many users have placed their Mac Pro 2013s on laptop coolers to help with the thermals. Due to the exceptionally tiny case, there are no internal cooling hacks beyond turning the fan up using 3rd party software. Lastly, have an exit strategy, you may live a full problem-free existence with a 2013 Mac Pro, but you may also end up with it's GPUs failing. Apple has closed its free replacement program as of April 2018 for the GPUs, and internet prices list anywhere from $700-$1200 from Apple or authorized service centers to replace the GPUs. At this price, it is effectively cheaper to buy a replacement Mac Mini. Working GPUs in the 3rd party sector are virtually impossible to find, and the rare ones that pop up fetch the price of Apple replacements. To be fair, this is the same problem laptop users face. While it is common sense, if you contract or freelance or work where you provide your own hardware, always have a plan that minimizes downtime. Despite being a modular design, the most failure-prone component is the absolute hardest to replace due to the lack of any inventory. Also, Apple quotes 3-5 days for a Mac Pro 2013 GPU replacement. This isn't to say it will fail, but there's plenty of horror stories on the internet. This could be the case relatively small, vocal group, but the general consensus is that the Mac Pro 2013 is not the most stable design.
Due to the ever-evolving list of possible upgrades and hacks, this guide is a living document. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Notably, I do not own nor have I ever owned a Mac Pro 2013 (not that I wouldn't take one, but it is cost prohibitve), so anyone who can provide more accurate information, please do!
10/15/19 - Added note on Catalina and 32-bit + firmware versions. Badly needed copy editing.
10/07/19 - It's catalina time. Added OS Section, fixed an error about max RAM, included RAM specs, included link to the Amfeltec NVMe M2 adapter. Added another two links to eGPU section.
07/05/19 - Added notes on sleep issues, mild intro update.
05/07/19 - a second update, Thanks to the feedback of Brennan F and Daniel C for feedback on SSDs and eGPUs and some copy editing to boot.
05/07/19 - First release and one year anniversary of my first Definitive Mac Pro Upgrade Guide. Fun fact, this guide is over 2300+ words whereas my other guide is 13,000+ words. Part of the amount of writing can be chalked up to having to discuss different models, five in total, spanning 6 years. This guide covers another 6-year span and only one model. It goes to show how upgradeable the previous Mac Pros were and how much less Apple has cared about them since.