- Know your Mac Pro Models
- CPU Upgrades
- GPU 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 upgradable than its predecessor. Is there a need or demand for such a guide? Probably not, 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 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.
Know your Mac Pro Models
The Mac Pro line debuted in 2006 and has had six major iterations by Apple's own 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 upgradable. 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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 but enterprising users at Mac Rumors found a maximum (similar to the previous Mac Pro) at 160 GB. The Mac Pro 2013 accepts 1866 MHz DDR3 ECC ( PC3-14900 ), but Mac Rumors users report that the Mac Pro 2013 can use non-ECC RAM as well.
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, 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 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
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.
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.
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: email@example.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. Notably, I do not own nor have I ever owned a Mac Pro 2013 so anyone who can provide more accurate information, please do!
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 upgradable the previous Mac Pros were and how much less Apple has cared about them since.