] ]

    Radeon RX 6600 XT and 6800 for the classic Mac Pros (4,1/5,1)?


    Update: Syncretic has done it again, you can download the patched ROM from MacRumors for AMD RX 6600 / RX 6800 /RX 6900 XT cards.

    Original article below.



    It has been nearly a year since I wrote the end of the classic Mac Pro after selling my classic Mac Pros for a 2019 and yet here we are, OpenCore 0.7.9 can run macOS 12.3.1 with very good results.

    The big news comes from MacVidCards.Eu and the 6000 AMD GPUs. MacVidCards.Eu is an affiliate of MacVidCards.com, but I'm not sure of the business relationship. MacVidCards.com is a service that flashes GPUs with custom firmware that is Mac EFI compatible.

    In my excitement and haste to post a video, I incorrectly stated that it's a RX 6800 XT and not a 6800.

    The Mac Pros EFI implementation predates UEFI, the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, which replaced BIOS computers. Apple's implementation uses Universal Graphics Adapter Protocol (UGA). The more modern UEFI replaced UGA with Graphics Output Protocol (GOP) Thus, any UEFI GPU will not output video before drivers are loaded. This meant for years, Mac users who bought any sort of non-OEM GPUs did not display a boot screen until OpenCore. OpenCore is a boot loader, meaning it launches before the operating system and has the ability to perform functions before the OS is loaded. It can inject the low-level driver support, thus giving classic Mac Pro users a boot screen, among many other features.

    MacVidcards.com offered an alternative for aftermarket GPU upgrades. It would flash GPUs with its custom hacked ROMs for a fee. MacVidCards.eu had some business arrangement with MacVidCards.com, as MacVidCards.com didn't ship to Europe. MacVidCards.Eu is now selling flashed 6600 XTs and 6800 XTs for classic Mac Pros with screenshots to back up the claim. I'm inclined to believe these are real, and here's why.

    Syncretic of the SurPlus fame had a look at the ROMs found on the 6000 series AMD GPUs and postulated it was due to bad code on the ROM. During the init, the ROM checked for UEFI HII (Human Interface Infrastructure) protocols but didn't have any error handling. Apple's EFI implementation does not have UEFI HII support. Thus the ROM on the card would look for these settings, and it'd fail to return a value. When the GPU hit the unexpected null state, it'd hang, thus interrupting the boot process.

    Synchretic theorized patching this error in the ROM on the GPU would allow the boot sequence to continue, and thus you could use the GPU.

    My guess is that MacVidCards.eu figured out how to do this and is now selling these GPUs. MacVidCards.com, interestingly is not. I have to stress that I haven't had any firm confirmations that these are real, but I'd most likely wager they are.

    First, it's coming from a reliable source. The MacVidCards group(s) have shipped working EFI hacked GPUs for years. Even if the MacVidCards.com in the US has a negative reputation for customer service, plenty of people can attest their products work.

    Second, thanks to community research, we know (at least part of) the scope of the problem for these GPUs. It's not an insurmountable fix

    Third and final, the benchmarks pass the "sniff test" . They are about 6% slower in the Metal scores for a 6800 vs a 2019 Mac Pro with the same GPU. This checks out as PCIe 2.0 vs 3.0 generally only incurs about 5% hit for PCIe 3.0 GPUs as GPUs aren't as bandwidth-intensive as most people assume they are. Side Note: This will likely change with technologies like DirectStorage in Windows, where the GPU can bypass the CPU for accessing NVMe but for now, there's not a huge advantage for larger PCIe buses when concerning GPUs.

    While currently this is only avaliable in Europe, this news should make all Mac Pro owners excited as it means there's just a few more drops left in the tank for the classic Mac Pros. Perhaps we will see a community solution for the ROM now that we know it's possible.


    Reclaiming storage/space from 'System Data' in macOS: A tutorial on understanding the System Data usage.

    macOS System data

    macOS is pretty great and bad at the same time, communicating how and what is taking up storage on one's Mac. Most users are probably familiar with using About this Mac -> Storage. Clicking on Manage will give you a more detailed view. The one point of contention is "System Data," as it's ominous and nebulous.

    You can't just delete System Data... or can you?

    macOS System data ???

    I see pretty frequently posts on Reddit posts like "Can someone please explain how to get rid of the "sYsTeM dAtA" this?" or hyper verbose " Why do I have 130 gigs of system data 💀 (and how do I get rid of it cause a normal mac barely has like a 20 gigs or so of system memory) (I checked the usual culprit i.e. editing cache data but thats not it this time and I can't figure it out)".

    This isn't because these individuals are incapable, rather that Apple does not clearly communicate what is happening nor give you any meaningful course of action. One user might have "System Data" that is is only 10 GB and another might have 250 GB. Why this difference is so large or why this difference even exists at all is not explained. I commented on both of these but I figured it'd be smarter just to actually make a blog post about this.

    System Data is the tally of the contents of the /Library, /System and ~/Library and /usr. Three of these can be managed by the user, /System being the outlier. This is confusing as there are at least two Libraries on your computer and more if you have multiple users on a single computer.

    Hint: Tilde (~) indicates the home directory of the user, this is a *nix convention that macOS carried over.

    • /System - This is where macOS itself resides. Under modern macOS this resides on a separate partition that isn't manipulatable by the user. To run macOS, you need this, and Apple protects its users from tampering with the /System.
    • /Library - This is the global library accessible to all users. Things like Fonts, Audio plugins, support libraries for applications (Such as the Adobe CC suite), and assets for Final Cut Pro end up in this folder. Audio plugins end up /Library/Audio, fonts go into /Library/Fonts, and the bulk of Application libraries into Application Support
    • ~/Library - This is hidden by default (more on this in a minute), but it uses a very similar structure to /Library with a large number of files landing in ~/Library/Application Support, things like Apple Messages, Apple Photo Libraries, Xcode Simulators, Crossover Bottles (games), Docker Containers, and Steam games within ~/Library/Application Support or ~/Library/
    • /usr - This is where CLI utilities installed by Homebrew and other applications end up.

    In the OS X days, the ~/Library (the Library folder found in /Users/your-user-name/) was a visible folder that you could easily poke around in. In modern macOSes, this is hidden, which is both good and bad. It's suitable for the basic user who probably shouldn't be manipulating it but bad for anyone with an intermediate level of familiarity with the underpinnings of their Mac. It obfuscates where storage is going on behind the scenes.

    The easiest way to view what's in your user's ~/Library is from the Finder select under Go, "Go To Folder..." and type in ~/Library. You can also make the Library visible either using "Get Info" from the finder (on the user directory) and checking "Show Library" or using the terminal and running the following command:

    chflags nohidden ~Library

    go to folder in macos

    Managing the ~/Library

    With the ~/Library, Calculating Folder sizes is going to be probably the easiest way to get a break down, this is done by using "Get Info" within library and enabling calculate sizes.

    While you can delete items from your ~/Library, this isn't recommended unless you know what you're really deleting. There's no hard-fast rule. Deleting a Steam game via the Finder is safe from ~/Library/Application Support/Steam/steamapps, but deleting the entire Steam Directory will cause issues. The best advice is to tread lightly. Generally, (but not always) items that land in ~/Library can be managed elsewhere. For example, Steam Games can be removed via the UI and Apple Messages cache can be controlled via the Apple Messages app by clearing out data over a month old.

    A short but incomplete list of common data hogs in ~/Library

    • /Messages - Apple Messages can creep up in size with the number of large media files now typically shared among friends and family. Every lousy gif sent to you via text message by an aunt, gets cached in /Messsages. Use Apple Messages to get a handle on your Messages.
    • /Containers - these are freeze and sandboxed states for macOS, generally from the Mac App Store, sometimes these get orphaned. For example if you install NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition from the Mac App Store, it'll install the application in your Apps folder and a 4 GB file within /Containers. If you delete the app by dragging the game to the trash folder from your Applications folder in the finder, you will not delete data within the container and thus will need to do this manually.
      • /Containers/Docker - Docker is generally a requirement depending on a toolchain for developers, but containers/images are downloaded into the /Containers/Docker folder, the CLI utility is the best way to manage these.
      • /Containers/UTM - UTM is a popular QEMU based emulator for creating virtual machines other operating systems. Installing the UTM virtual machines by default will install into /Containers/UTM. Virtual Machines often are multiple GBs per virtual machine so this can be a place to reclaim a lot of space.
      • /Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library/Logs - Log files for Apple Mail. In mail, select window/Connection Doctor Uncheck Log Connection Activity (Credit to JeremyAndrewErwin)
    • /Mobile Documents - This is the iCloud driver folder. The easiest way to manage this is to go to Apple ID within the system preferences and under iCloud drive select options.
    • /Developer - This is the location where Xcode installs its simulator environments. This can be managed within Xcode using preferences -> Components and caches cleared from the Storage "Manage" in about this Mac.
    • /Photos - This contains the Apple Photos library, and Photo management can be done via the Photos app. The entire Photos library can be uploaded to iCloud (assuming you have a large enough iCloud subscription).
    • /Caches - Caches are application-specific temporary data. Depending on the application, these can be deleted with little repercussions. Generally, applications provide ways to manage their own caches. Deleting them is often temporary, as using an application will cause it to create new cache files as needed. It's recommended to do this every so often as you add and remove applications and upgrade them, you may end up with orphaned caches. This is best thought of as a spring cleaning activity as opposed to daily or even weekly maintenance. The same can be down with ~/Library/Logs as occassionally some applications can eat up hundreds of MBs and even GBs of data in log files.
    • /ScreenRecordings - These are screen captures by QuickTime. Quicktime doesn't provide a smart way to manage these and they are best deleted via the finder.
    • /Application Support - this is where a bulk of Applications install user-specific data.
      • /Application Support/Steam - Steam is a popular application store for games and game interaction, providing community features like in-game chat, and user profiles alongside its massive amount of videogames. Steam provides ways to delete games via it's user interface, but games can be found and deleted in the /steamapps folder.
      • /Application Support/OpenEmu - OpenEmu takes an interesting approach of stashing games in the Applications Directory (as do a few few emulators). Games can be managed from the UI but also deleted from Game Library/roms and artwork from Game Library/artwork
      • /Application Support/com.splice 2.Splice - The popular subscription-based Sample library app, Splice, stores its cache within Application Support instead of ~/Library/Caches`. It can be dumped.
      • /Application Support/RetroArch - RetroArch has a habit of stashing quite a bit of resources in /Application Support, but deleting this directory should only be done when deleting the entire emulator.
    • /Application Support/Devonthink - Makers of document organization software, this can be a data hog (Credit to JeremyAndrewErwin)
    • /Application Support/PFU - Scansnap scratch files, can be safely removed (Credit to JeremyAndrewErwin)

    In summary, viewing the contents of your ~/Library gives you an idea of where your data is going. Once you have established what is taking up space, you can then check said application to see if you can delete or remove packages/support files/items from that application.

    The Scourge of invisible folders

    macOS invisible directories in finder

    Toggling hidden files only a keyboard shortcut away, in the finder hit Command + Shift + . (period).

    macOS has a surprising amount of invisible folders. Most are located at the root of the hard drive. These are (mostly) related to the *nix underpinnings of macOS and are essential for proper operation.

    This includes bin, cores, etc, opt, private, sbin, tmp, usr, var and volumes, however in the ~/ (your user directory) has many more, as a general rule any in that start with . are created by applications and ones that are not, are OS related, which should only be Trash, which is where your Trash directory is.

    Homebrew users may find that they've installed a significant amount of utilities to their usr, and it's highly recommended that you use Homebrew to remove undesired packages.

    These probably will not be very large for the average user, but for developers, various versions of Node, Ruby Gems, and VScode files can end up sapping 100s of MBs if not GBs. I had an issue with Node v14 installing improperly with my M1 Max and eating 8 GB per Node V14 version.

    Utilities

    There are a lot of not-so-great "disk cleaner" utilities that help grapple with disk storage. I've linked two tried and true freebee open source utilities that have been around for a decade plus. These aren't the only valid utilities but both allow you to understand macOS better and of course, are free.

    Disk Invetory X

    macOS Disk Inventory X

    The old standby, Disk Invetory X still works under macOS 12 Monterey but requires right-clicking and opening to bypass security alerts. Disk Inventory X scans your entire Mac similarly to macOS's internal utility but does allow you to more quickly view what's taking up space in a Finder-like experience.

    It benefits from showing hidden folders even if they're not set to visible. It's also not the fastest utility, somewhat out-of-date, or 100% accurate in identifying files. My Docker.raw file was identified as .RAW photographs in the above screenshot.

    Onyx

    macOS Onyx

    Onyx makes deep cache scrubbing fast and easy.

    While not specifically a utility for disk management, Onyx, the classic macOS tweaking utility, allows you to dump cache files on macOS quickly. More often this is less about reclaiming space but also forcing macOS rebuild caches with newer/more accurate versions to help system performance.

    This concludes my primer to managing your system data. Happy File Hunting!


    Getting Drupal 9's Twig Templates Changes to Show Up / Render

    I had a hell of a time getting Drupal 9 to show template changes. There are other posts and such on the interwebs about this, but none worked. Perhaps it was the lando configuration. Here are the changes I needed to make. Change the following in your services.yml (this should be located in the sites/default

    The exact lines are subject to change of course, but these are where I found the following in the services.yml.

    line 74:

        debug: true
        

    line 83:

        auto_reload: true
        

    line 94:

         cache: false
        

    That's it! Happy Drupal Developing (if there's such a thing).


    Scam3 - The Problem With NFTs


    I have to admit I was unfamiliar with Dan Olsen prior, but this singular herculean two-hour explanation of crypto is better than the entire HBO Max series "Generation Hustle" about grifters. If you had a sinking feeling that NFTs were a scam, this incredibly dense and darkly humorous look at NFTs ranks as easily the top things ever to appear on youtube.

    I link this hoping to use my tiny bit of google index rankings in the hopes this becomes the default position on "crypto-bros". It's two hours, but I doubt there are many two hours of better YouTube.a

    Also, some other YouTuber *who I think is a gaming channel?) gives an incredibly cogent explanation of the NFTs. There are a lot of really good analogies in plain speech.


    How to fix the 'Complete your HBO Max Registration' on the Apple TV when trying to sign in into HBO Max

    If you're here, you have an Apple TV, you've signed into your cable service, and you're trying to connect to HBO Max. You can't use your cable company (probably something like yourname@charter.net) and its password. When you try to sign in using your provider, you see the following message:

    Complete Your HBO Max Registration

    Please do one of the following

    Phone or tablet: Sign in to the HBO Max app Computer: Sign in to HBOMAX.com on your computer

    Hbo Max error

    Pictured: The dreaded complete your HBO Max registration error

    Below is an OK button. Nothing else is explained, and of course, HBO's documentation sucks and doesn't help.

    First, use a computer, and sign in to your HBO Max account using your cable login. Next, go to your profile. Click in the upper right-hand corner and click account.

    Hbo Max settings

    Pictured: Account window in the HBO Max website.

    Make sure you have an email address here and that it's verified. You'll have to work through the verification process involving emails if it isn't. Then make sure you know the password in this section, as this will be what you're after.

    Once you have verified your account, you can now go back to your Apple TV. Instead of using sign-in with your cable provider in the HBO Max app, you will use your login information from this panel (The email address as your login and the password is the password).

    I also noticed that after the sign-in, it goofed, and it didn't seem to work. I quit the app, and it loaded again, this time presenting me with a profile choice, and HBO Max was working.

    Hopefully, this really stupid fix helps. I wasted about an hour trying to figure out what was wrong only to discover this was the issue.


    Getting XEMU to work on macOS (Intel / Apple Silicon)

    XEMU on macOS

    Time for another tutorial / how-to on emulating stuff on the Mac. Getting XEMU on macOS running can be kinda of a pain, and it requires a few things:

    First, you need to download XEMU. It's updated frequently. Grab it from the official website here. It's a universal binary, so it runs natively on both Apple Silicon and Intel Macs.

    After you need a few files, these are legally speaking are the parts of the emulator that are copyrighted. I happened to stumble across them on Reddit. I own an Xbox, so I'll just say I extracted them myself. Please do not ask me about where to get these files or games.. I'll ignore your request.

    The files are:

    • Flash (Bios) - Complex_4627v1.03.bin
    • MCPX Boot Rom File - mcpx_1.0.bin
    • Hard disk Image File - xbox_hdd.qcow2

    And the EEPROM, which will be created automatically. Leave the RAM at 64 MB.

    You'll have to go settings and manually assign each of these files, I found for whatever reason, placing them in the same directory as the emulator is recommended, it seemed to get confused when I didn't. Also, be sure to quit as you'll need to reboot the emulator for the changes to take

    Next, it's running games. Games are generally in the ISO format. It's up to you to determine how your ethics work on this and please do not ask me for ISOs. There are places where people back up the games they own, like Archive.org.

    This is Xbox emulation that gets tricky. You cannot just play ISOs. You need to format them properly.

    For that, we have extract-iso, a command-line utility that is used to convert ISOs into playable ISOs.

    First, we need to build the emulator. You'll need Xcode and the command line utilities installed. These are mostly the same instructions.

    Open up a terminal window and do the following:

    Step 1: Dependencies

    Run the following, first update brew and then install cmake, a utility to create the necessary files to build/compile the application.

    brew update
    brew install cmake

    Step 2: Clone Repo

    We'll clone our repository. You may want to navigate in your terminal into another directory as this will install into your user directory by default.

    git clone https://github.com/XboxDev/extract-xiso.git

    Step 3: Go into the directory

    Now we enter the directory where extract-xiso was cloned to.

    cd extract-xiso

    Step 4: Create a build directory

    Next we are creating a build folder, and jumping into that.

    mkdir build
    cd build

    Step 5 Building the app

    Next, we're going to run cmake and after it completes and creates the makefiles, run make.

    cmake ..
    make

    Now we're ready to prep Xbox ISOs

    Using extract-xiso

    From the build folder, we can run the CLI utility.

    The utility has the ability to unpack Xbox ISOs and repack them into usable ISOs for XEMU.

    There are two ways to about converting the ISOs. The easier method, which I had mixed success with, is to use:

    ./extract-xiso -r path/to/.iso

    This will convert the ISO into the correct format. It'll rename the original iso to .iso.old and place in the build folder the converted ISO.

    The other is a two-step process.

    Step 1: extract the game contents

    ./extract-xiso -x /path/to/iso

    Step 2: repack the game contents

    ./extract-xiso -c /path/to/extracted-files

    A few tips:

    XEMU is a fickle beast, it's best to quit it and reopen it after changing settings. If you try an ISO that does not work, you'll need to quit and reopen the app with a working ISO. Don't expect perfect emulation as Xemu is still actively being developed. I found NBA Street Vol 2 playable but annoying crackles in the audio.

    XEMU running NBA Street Vol 2

    Other Emulation Articles I've written


    The Definitive Mac Pro 2019 7,1 Upgrade Guide

    header

    This is a public beta  :)

    I don't think people realize how many hours writing/research my Mac Pro guides take, and my previous guides all started somewhere too. The information should be accurate but is expanding and being formatted. If it isn't, please reach out to me. For information about changes and future plans, check the bottom of this blog post.

    Thank you for understanding.

    Contents

    Introduction

    Upgrading a Mac Pro 2019 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 less a how-to guide/manual than it is a roadmap to primary sources by other brilliant people, written to be accessible to both new and advanced users. 

    This is the 3rd edition of the Definitive Mac Pro Upgrade series, as I've written guides for the classic Mac Pros 1,1-5,1 (2006 - 2012) and the Mac Pro 6,1 (2013), and now the Mac Pro 7,1 (2019). The original had its roots in 2013 when I wrote up a list of Mac Pro upgrades and graphic card update articles. In 2018, I went to update the guide for recommended updates which morphed into a complete rewrite. The result became the Definitive Mac Pro Upgrade Guide.

    The 2019 Mac Pro represents the best and worst of Apple's intentions. By every measurable standard, it is the most upgraded Mac, brilliantly engineered with the loftiest "Apple tax" of any Mac ($699 wheels). Instead of embracing the rugged utility that the previous Mac Pros represented, Apple made it an aspirational device over an everyman's professional computer. Its entire design is striking, and its internals are artful. Regardless of its overpricing, it harkens back to a nearly bygone era of modular computing, which may end with Apple Silicon. While we live in a world of planned obsolescence, the Mac Pro 2019 feels even more important. There's likely one more iteration of the 2019 Mac Pro (2022? 8,1?), and then we can only speculate as to the future of the Mac Pro and the Macintosh platform.




    This guide borrows heavily from my other guides and does include some direct paragraphs lifted from my other guides when appropriate.

    Getting Started / Glossary

    Jumping into the world of macOS can be daunting as there's a lot of assumed tribal knowledge and history, but it isn't insurmountable. 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 as my guides are read by the novice and technical-minded, native-English speakers to people using translation software.

    There is a base assumption for understanding for sanity's sake, 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 questions. Examples of assumed knowledge would be the fundamental difference between an SSD and Hard Disk Drive or the basic concept of CPU cores. Many other sources can educate users on these topics and do a better job than I would. I try to explain core concepts or provide links when necessary to help educate a user. This means this guide is long but informative. The initial inclination will be to skip sections. However, some key information may often be discussed in intros and other sections. I've tried to mitigate this, but there's a lot of information to digest. 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. I've often been humbled by people who are much more knowledgable than me, and I appreciate anyone who points out errors or novices who feel something is confusing. Please see the Changelog for more details on how to reach out to me. We all start somewhere, and I frequently question my aptitude when I see how much heavy lifting others have done to realize this guide. For my more technical users, I depend on you for accuracy. This is truly a community effort.

    Apple Silicon - There's a lot to unpack on this topic. Still, the short answer is that Apple is transitioning away from using Intel CPUs to CPUs of its own design, manufactured by TSMC using the ARM CPU instruction set, a form of RISC. There's a bit greater irony as Apple once used RISC CPUs in its Macs in the 1990s, known as PowerPC. No one knows how long Apple will continue to support Intel Macs. See 86x.

    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, have limitations, and APFS was used to fix many of the shortcomings of HFS+. The transition to APFS was (relatively) smooth. APFS has limitations, such as a lack of native support for RAID0 boot volumes.

    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 to 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.

    cMP - shorthand for classic Mac Pro. It is used to refer to any Mac Pro released between 2006-2012. The phrase "Classic Mac Pro" only refers to these models and not the similar-looking PowerMac G5 or the 2013 Mac Pro.

    UEFI - Short for Universal 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, designed to replace BIOS. 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 loosely to refer to the pre-boot functionality. The previous classic Mac Pros used a non-standard EFI as Apple built its earlier Intel Macs before UEFI. The Mac Pro 2019s use UEFI. Thus, any GPU that supports UEFI (which is all of the current AMD GPUs) will output a boot screen.

    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 software workarounds and particular hardware.

    HomeBrew - long-time computer users are probably familiar with the term "homebrew" regarding user/hobbyist applications written for systems that generally were closed architecture like a videogame console. However, regarding the Macintosh platform, HomeBrew is a package manager for macOS for (mostly) command-line utilities. Package managers function in principal like an App store for open source software as you can quickly install/update/uninstall the software from your command-line. For developers, Homebrew occupies a very important space as it's one of the most preferred ways to install nodejs, python, git, MySQL, as well as utilities like youtube-dl, FFmpeg, ImageMagick, and MonitorControl.

    Kext - With OS X, the architecture for drivers uses kernel extensions, called .kext files. Kexts are supremely powerful and the backbone for the Hackintosh community to enable unsupported hardware. However, Apple has deprecated kexts in 10.15 Catalina for security reasons, replacing them with EndpointSecurity, SystemExtensions, and DriverKit. How this affects unsupported hardware remains to be seen. Kexts are located within /System/Library/Extension and /Library/Extensions.

    OS X / macOS- Mac OS X is Apple's XNU kernel-based operating system evolved from NeXTstep. Mac OS X was rebranded to macOS in 2016. I use these interchangeably as I have a tough time accepting macOS, as it is still OS X to me. The difference is superficial. Mac OS is not to be confused with Mac OS classic (Mac OS 7.x - 9.x). Today, all of Apple's OSes share the XNU kernel and are all descendants of NeXTStep.

    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, would not be released until 2016), Apple created its own graphics library called Metal and shipped it in 2014 on iOS 8 first. Later, Apple ported Metal to OSX. 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. This isn't much of a concern for 2019 Mac Pro owners. 

    NVRAM/PRAM - Non-volatile random-access memory (previously Parameter RAM) is a space reserved for various low-level settings found on Macs pertaining to the pre-boot settings. These settings contain data such as default boot volume, backup boot volumes, default audio output, audio levels, computer's name, Keyboard language, backlight level (for laptops), whether Bluetooth is enabled, default GPU, and so forth. The contents of the NVRAM can be viewed via the terminal using nvram -xp. The difference between NVRAM vs. PRAM is transparent to the user. NVRAM uses a small storage space using flash-based storage, whereas the PRAM uses a battery to keep the settings buffered in the RAM. Occasionally, problems can arise (generally associated with hardware upgrades) that can cause problems. Resetting the NVRAM is still referred to as "zapping the PRAM". This is performed by holding down Command + option + p + r keys during boot prior to the system chime and will cause the computer to reboot immediately and chime again. This will clear out the NVRAM. Alternatively, the NVRAM ram can reset via the terminal using nvram ​-c, which will require restarting manually for the changes to take effect.

    SIP - System integrity protection, a feature of later Mac OS introduced in OS X El Capitan, that walls off portions of low-level features of Mac OS to protect it from malware. Prior, any application with root-level access could read/edit/modify system files. However, sometimes, when performing certain hacks, it requires disabling during installation and then re-enabled. There are legitimate reasons why users may want to leave it disabled. See Disable System integrity protection for instructions. See About System Integrity Protection on your Mac on Apple.com for more details.

    Terminal/shell - OS X is famously built on NeXTStep, which was a *nix-based operating system, which gave it access to a new (old) feature, a command-line shell. This gave Mac users the ability to interact with the OS akin to Unix/Linux. Many advanced Mac OS operations can only be performed via the terminal, such as disabling SIP or enabling TRIM for an SSD. Users unfamiliar with the terminal world should always exercise due diligence before copying and pasting random snippets of code found on the web for the terminal. Any Mac user looking to become a power user should make an effort to learn terminal basics. The ability to operate the terminal unlocks a feature set outside of the GUI and can do many of the GUI's functions. An additional perk is that terminal skills translate to Linux and Unix, good for server management/networking or web development. Many utilities are command-line only, like the ever power ImageMagick which can batch process images much faster than GUI applications. Prior to 10.15, Apple used Bash for its terminal but now has pivoted to ZSH.

    X86 - This is shorthand for "Intel" as the Intel CPU family has its roots in the 8086 family would evolve to the Intel 80286 in 1982, a CPU that was not initially designed for personal computers but would become one of the foundations for the PC revolution. The CPUs would be reduced from the long "80286" moniker to shorter names like the popular "i386" successor. The  CPU family eventually would land on "x86" to describe the set of instructions the CPU could execute. Apple would abandon in 2006 the IBM PowerPC (PPC) family for the Intel family, marking the 3rd time it had switched CPUs, as it originally started on the Motorola 68k instruction set.




    Know your Mac Pro 2019

    Mac Pro Tower and Rack Mount

    Pictured: Apple Mac Pro 2019 only comes in two form factors: tower and rack mount. Both are listed as a Mac Pro 7,1.
    Photo credit: Apple.com

    You can find out a Mac Pro's version by going to "About this Mac" -> System Report under the Apple menu. Currently, there is only one iteration of the 2019 Mac Pro, with the only meaningful difference being a rack mount vs. a standard case. This may change if Apple releases an updated Mac Pro.

    The Mac Pro desktop can be outfitted with Apple's comically overpriced $699 wheels. OWC, never one to miss an opportunity to overcharge, offers its $249 Rover Wheels. Apple has instructions on how to remove the feet / install the wheels.

    Mac Pro wheels

    Pictured: The infamous Mac Pro wheels
    Photo credit: Apple.com

    Installation required. A 1/4-inch to 4 mm hex bit is included, but additional tools are necessary. Replacing the Mac Pro wheels with feet reduces approximately one inch to the height of the frame.

    Specs overview

    • CPU LGA 3647 (Socket P). It is removable (upgradable)
    • Eight PCIe Slots (Four PCIe slots accommodate two MPX modules)
    • Two SATA-3 internal Ports
    • One internal USB 3.2 port
    • Two USB 3 ports (on a pre-installed Apple I/O card)
    • four Thunderbolt 3 ports (two on the Apple I/O card and two on the top of the case
    • two 10Gb Ethernet ports
    • 3.5 mm headphone jack with headset support
    • 802.11ac/Bluetooth

    Mac Pro ports

    Pictured: Mac Pro 7,1 default ports
    Photo credit: Apple.com

    Apple reports that each of the two MPX bays "provides x16 Gen 3 bandwidth for graphics, x8 Gen 3 bandwidth for Thunderbolt, DisplayPort video routing, and up to 500W power for an MPX module. Mac Pro has three full-length PCIe Gen 3 slots (one x16 slot; two x8 slots) with 75W of auxiliary power available; and one half-length x4 PCIe Gen 3 slot with an Apple I/O card installed by default.

    Also, see: How do you upgrade the processor in the "2019" Mac Pro? How is the processor mounted? Is it even possible to upgrade the processor?

    The only difference is the 8-Core CPU that ships with the base model down-clocks RAM, but upgrading the CPU will unlock the ability to use higher-clocked RAM.




    PCIe

    PCIe slots

    Pictured: Mac Pro 7,1 PCIe layout
    Photo credit: Apple.com

    Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe or PCI-E) is the evolution of PCI, which migrated from a parallel bus system (where all cards in a computer competed for the same bandwidth ) to discrete connections. The Mac Pro has a total of 64 lanes that can be managed via a utility that allows the user to define what ports receive more bandwidth, defined in "lanes". 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. Apple Silicon computers for NVMe storage do not use PCIe.

    Each iteration of PCIe radically increases the speed by doubling the available bandwidth. Also, to add a minor bit of confusion, different chipsets have different amounts of total "lanes," measuring speed for a PCIe slot. PCIe slots are not all equal speed; thus, the total lanes are distributed across the PCIe slots.

    Not all PCIe slots are the same. The amount of lanes a PCIe slot has access to is expressed numerically: 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 to 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 3.0 16x speed (16 GB/s) would be 128 Gbps (128000 Mbps). In this guide, I will use MB/s and GB/s instead of Gbps and Mbps as transfer speeds are generally expressed in bytes, not bits.

    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 port speed, as the card's chipset may limit them. 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. 

    The Mac Pro 2019 also uses "MPX" (Mac Pro Expansion Module), a double-height PCIe slot used for Apple-branded GPUs, and the Promise Pegasus R4i 32TB RAID MPX Module for Mac Pro. Apple lists one of its reasons for MPX, citing that modern GPUs were not designed with the entire thermal design of a PC, complicated to install because of power requirements, and they do not enable video-over-thunderbolt without taxing the PCIe bus additionally.

    The MPX slots have two independent Thunderbolt 3 ports with four total slots on the card. The Thunderbolt 3 controllers are on extra 8x lanes, hence having independent buses from the GPUs, leaving the entirety of the 16x slot bandwidth for the GPU.

    The advantages MPX offers are more power delivery, which means not needing to run additional cabling and Thunderbolt 3 passthrough and video support. There haven't been any 3rd party MPX modules. These have entirely been GPUs. MPX is not a requirement for GPUs.

    • PCIe 3.0
    • 64 Total PCIe Lanes
    • 8 Total PCIe SLot
      • Four double-wide slots
      • Three single-wide slots
      • One half-length slot preconfigured with the Apple I/O card
      • PCIe slots 1 and 3 direct CPU access
      • PCI Express switch fabric for other PCIe lanes

    PCIe lanes aren't always what they seem either, as some PCIe lanes have priority over others. The Mac Pro uses a 96-lane PEX8796 PCIe switch (PCI Express switch fabric) to manage PCIe lanes outside of the MPX slots. The MPX slots have direct CPU access. The end effect is that the direct access lanes are more performant. The end effect is that the direct access lanes are more performant. The lanes that are direct access are DMI or Direct Media Interface, which exist behind the Intel Direct Media Interface 3.0 bus MacRumors: Tsialex's about PCIe SSDs - NVMe & AHCI.

    PCIe slots

    Pictured: Mac Pro 7,1 PCIe controller layout
    Photo credit: Apple.com

    Bifurcation

    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 or in quarters (16x -> four 4x slots). An 8x PCIe lane card thus can interface by splitting it into two sets of 4x lanes. This is almost exclusively used for NVMe SSDs as a singular PCIe slot can be used to connect to multiple NVMe SSDs. Bifurcation is mostly used for SSDs, allowing a single PCIe card to host two SSDs. Due to the majority of the PCIe bus being behind a controller, bifurcation isn't possible.

    While the Mac Pro can use PCIe expanders (a separate technology for external PCIe slots by harassing the bandwidth of a single PCIe slot), it doesn't support bifurcation. 

    PCIe cards can host more than two M.2 NVMe SSDs without bifurcation, but they require specialized controller chipsets. The result is that multi-drive M.2 PCIe cards, which are Mac Pro compatible, cost more. This is also discussed in the PCIe NVMe sleds/blades section.

    For a list of m.2 cards that support multiple NVMe drives, see the M.2 SSD hosts (sleds) section.

    PCIe Power Delivery

    PCIe Power Delivery

    Pictured: PCIe card layout and power
    Photo credit: apple.com

    By default, PCIe provides power via motherboard PCIe slot, up to 75w via the port itself. The power requirements have increased for high-performance GPUs, going past PCIe's initial design. PCIe cards started coming with additional power ports and increased pins to carry more power to combat the power delivery problem. Generally, additional power is drawn directly from 12v taps off the power supply that the user can configure in PCs. The Mac Pro uses an uncommon passthrough where the PCIe power is delivered via pass-throughs on the motherboard rather than directly to the power supply and these use the mini-PCIe power cables format akin to it's older sibling, the classic Mac Pro. There are two power ports on the Mac Pros on the motherboard that can be tapped for additional power.

    The Mac Pro 7,1 features:

    The MPX modules can provide up to 300w of power.

    Apple I/O Card

    Apple I/O Card

    Pictured: Apple I/O Card
    Photo credit: ifixit.com

    The Mac Pro 2019 comes preinstalled with a specialized card in slot 8, which features a headphone jack, two USB 3.0 Ports (5 Gb/s), and two Thunderbolt 3. The card sports a specialized routing connection that allows for routing display output from MPX modules to these two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

    Due to the customized nature of the card, you cannot install a second Apple I/O Card.

    PCIe 4.0 and the Mac Pro

    When users complain about the lack of PCIe 4.0 on the 2019 Mac Pro, there are certainly practical reasons to want PCIe 4.0 today, but its effects depend on the device. There are a few modern PCIe 4.0 GPUs, most run at PCIe 8x 4.0, which effectively places them at the same speed as a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot. This is because GPUs do not use the amount of bandwidth most people assume they do. Puget Systems tested running an Nvidia Titan X in a PCIe 3.0 8x and 16x slot, and differences were really minor, and we can go much more modern with TechSpot.com testing out an RTX 3080 FE in a PCIe 4.0 and 3.0 computer and a smaller YouTube channel, SkuezTech tested out RX 5700 XT on PCIe 4.0 and 3.0. Again, the results barely changed. When we move to PugetSystem's test to Machine Learning Training, there's little difference between 8x and 16x PCIe slots. At least for the near future, GPUs, despite their huge power draws, aren't massive PCIe bandwidth hogs.

    However, SSDs are much more capable of saturating the PCIe bus than GPUs. NVMe is based on the 4x standard. The Samsung 980 Pro can hit 6500 MB/s on a PCIe 4.0 computer and is capped at 3500 MB/s on a PCIe 3.0. Mac Pro 2019 users looking to obtain PCIe 4.0 speeds can buy specialty M.2 Host cards that negotiate more lanes for PCIe 3.0 to get the full speed. This was a common upgrade path for classic Mac Pro owners as they could use a PCIe 16x slot to get PCIe 3.0 speeds to their full potential.




    Power Supply

    The Mac Pro uses a non-standard PSU that does not follow the ATX convention. The power supply provides a 1.4 kW power supply capable of delivering 1280W to the system at 108–125V or 220–240V and 1180W at 100–107V. Thus far, the PSU's pin-outs have not been mapped.

    The Mac Pro featuers internal power connectors from the motherboard:

    See Apple.com - Mac Pro: Power consumption and thermal output (BTU/h) information.

    ATX Power Supplies?

    To my knowledge, no one has bothered to attempt replacing the Mac Pro's PSU with a non-Apple PSU. Few users will tax their PSU to the point of worrying about damaging it or triggering an auto-shutoff. Apple designed the PSU to handle extreme configurations such as a 2.5GHz 28-core Intel Xeon W processor, two Radeon Pro Vega II Duo MPX Modules with Infinity Fabric Link, 1.5TB RAM (twelve 128GB 2933MHz DDR4 ECC DIMMs), Afterburner card, 4TB SSD, which Apple boasts on its official documentation.




    Case

    Apple's aluminum lattice design allows for a passthrough from front to back. Apple claims that the lattice design "two-dimensional open area for a high-airflow, low-impedance design that allows the system to be cooled efficiently while operating very quietly compared to competitive tower workstation systems."

    While that may be up for debate if the lattice design is superior to other forced-air passthrough cases on the market, the Mac Pro 2019 is very quiet and unique.

    Opening the case requires using the handle latch on the top and rotating it 180 degrees to unlock it. Due to the sliding mechanism, all the cabling must be unplugged to open the case. Snazzy Labs demonstrated in a video that you could modify the case so this isn't required.

    Once the outer aluminum chassis is removed, you can the Mac Pro from multiple angles, making it very easy to work on.

    To my knowledge, absolutely no one has bothered to try and replace the case, and for a good reason: I haven't used any better design cases as the Mac Pro 2019 is incredibly easy to work on. Case mods are unlikely to be popular.

    Fans

    Mac Pro Fans

    Pictured: Apple Mac Pro
    Image Credit: Apple WWDC 2019 Keynote

    "Years ago, we started redistributing the blades ,” he says. “They’re still dynamically balanced, but they’re actually randomized in terms of their BPF [blade pass frequency]. So you don’t get huge harmonics that tend to be super annoying.” Popular Mechanics "The Thermodynamics Behind the Mac Pro, the Hypercar of Computers"

    Thus far, no one has replaced the fans on a Mac Pro 2019, and for a good reason, the cooling design of the Mac Pro 2019 and near silence is one of the biggest selling points of the computer. At best, any fan replacement with a non-OEM model would be a lateral move.

    Something loud but pleasantly pitched can be more tolerable than something quiet but irritating. “You can have something at a certain SPL [sound pressure level] that sounds really good, but you can have something that’s actually at a lower SPL that grates on your nerves and sounds really awful,” says John Ternus, VP of Hardware Engineering at Apple and head of the Pro and Pro Display’s development. “We want to get really great performance where you either can’t hear it, or if you can hear it, it’s kind of a pleasant noise. A ton of analysis goes into figuring out how to optimize for that.” - Chris Ligtenberg, Senior Director of Product Design, Popular Mechanics "The Thermodynamics Behind the Mac Pro, the Hypercar of Computers"

    Apple's previous Macs have used non-standard fan controls and unique cooling solutions. The classic Mac Pro requires a custom PCB to be wired to interface correctly with standard PC fans. The Mac Pro 2019 is unlikely to be any easier.




    Onboard networking

    The Mac Pro 2019 features dual 10Gb Ethernet with independent controllers for each ethernet port.

    • NBASE-T standard RJ45
    • 1Gb, 2.5Gb, 5Gb, or 10Gb/s

    The Mac Pro features onboard wireless networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible, and Bluetooth 5.0.




    Apple T2 "Security" chip

    t2-chipset

    Pictured: Apple T2 Security chip
    Image Credit: wikipedia.org

    One of the "features" of the Mac Pro 2019 is the Apple T2 which is a SOC designed exclusively for Apple's Intel-based Macs and is essentially a computer within a computer as it has its own RAM and CPU. The T2 integrates discrete controllers like System Management Controller (SMC), audio, and the SSD controllers, the latter used for Secure Enclave. Apple has a dedicated coprocessor for Secure Enclave called the Secure Enclave Procesor (SEP) running its own OS called sepOS, which allows for hardware-accelerated and validated encrypted boot and storage. It features its own random number generator (apart from Intel's) and provides the cryptographic operations for key management (FileVault, macOS keychain, UEFI firmware passwords, and machine's UID/GID.). The secure boot uses components that are cryptographically signed by Apple and verified by T2 during the boot sequence for boot loaders, firmware, kernel, and kernel extensions. This ensures the OS is software trusted by Apple loads. However, it has since had several security flaws found.

    "Apple uses SecureROM in the early stages of boot. ROM cannot be altered after fabrication and is done so to prevent modifications. This usually prevents an attacker from placing malware at the beginning of the boot chain, but in this case also prevents Apple from fixing the SecureROM. The net effect is Apple cannot fix this problem without replacing the T2 chip, but as long as a machine is bootable into DFU, it can be “repaired” by a trustworthy second machine." - Rick Mark, blog.Rickmark.me

    The known T2 security compromises require physical access to the computer, which of course, any digital system is greatly compromised. An attacker has direct physical access to the system, and doesn't appear to compromise FileVault.

    The T2 is a variant of the Apple 10, a 16 nm 64-Bit ARMv8.1. The T2 chipset also provides an Image coprocessor which is used for Facetime cameras on Intel Macs. The Mac Pro 2019 does not have an internal webcam, so it is unclear if the Image coprocessor is used. It also has a video codec accelerator for encoding/decoding h264/h265, speech recognition for "hey Siri," and for TouchBar Macs, runs the Touchbar.




    Afterburner

    afterburner

    Pictured: Afterburner
    Image Credit: Apple.com

    The Afterburner card is a curiosity by Apple. It is a PCI Express hardware accelerator for only decoding ProRes and ProRes RAW video (ProRes 422HQ, ProRes 4444, ProRes XQ, and ProRes RAW) with the exception of interleaved video (1080i). It also does not accelerate encoding.

    The Afterburner card is an FPGA (field-programmable gate array) chipset. Retro game enthusiasts might be familiar with FPGAs as they've become quite popular as a hardware-level way to re-create retro game consoles without full emulation for unparalleled accuracy while allowing for modern features. The Afterburner can handle 6.3 billion pixels per second.

    Apple boasts:

    "It uses a secure firmware loading process that ensures it can only run Apple authorized code and can be reprogrammed on the order of 50 milliseconds. The driver that manages the Afterburner card will load-balance ProRes decode tasks across multiple Afterburner cards if installed. With application support, Afterburner and CPU can be utilized together, enabling even higher stream counts and more demanding projects on a Mac Pro."
    Codec stream type 28-Core Xeon CPU + Afterburner
    ProRes 422 4k 30FPS 15 streams 16 streams
    ProRes Raw 4k 30FPS 2 streams 23 streams
    ProRes Raw 8k 30FPS 2 streams 6 streams

    It works within applications that use Apple's VideoToolbox APIs, such as Final Cut Pro, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere Pro, QuickTime Player, and other media applications.

    The AfterBurner card has been since replaced in Apple Silicon with the "Media Engine," which is much more effective. The M1 Pro is able to outperform a Mac Pro equipped with the $1999 Afterburner card. 




    Firmware And OS

    The Mac Pro 2019 is a T2-equipped Mac. The T2 chipset uses a different mechanism than previous Mac Pros to update the firmware and are unable to run "eficheck". 

    You can check the firmware version by going to "About this Mac". 

    OS upgrades

    The Mac Pro 2019s were first supported in Catalina 10.15.1, which is the earliest OS they can run. If you are looking for pre-Catalina support, macOS can be virtualized with popular software like VMware Fusion, Parallels, or Virtual Box. This may or may not work for your needs.

    The Mac Pro 2019 is natively supported by macOS and will likely be so for years to come. 

    It can also dual boot Windows or other alternative OSes, but this requires disabling SIP to allow non-Apple SSD booting.

    The Mac Pro using emulation such as QEMU, can run PowerPC versions of Mac OS with varying degrees of success. 

    Downloading old versions of macOS

    While the earlier version of macOS that can be booted on the xMP is 10.15.1, there's a wide variety of virtual machine software available. The Mac Pro's ability to have massive amounts of RAM and many CPU cores makes it ideal for virtual machines, docker setups, and QEMU.

    Apple has finally wised up and allowed direct downloads of (some) DMGs, which can be found here going back as far as macOS 10.10. Apple does still sell CDs of 10.7 and 10.8 and finally offers them as a direct download. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Below is a list of download links (and source) for previous macOS versions. 


    Disabling System Integrity Protection

    As mentioned in the glossary, SIP functions as a method of system protection. Apple describes it as follows:

    "(A) security technology in OS X El Capitan and later that's designed to help prevent potentially malicious software from modifying protected files and folders on your Mac. System Integrity Protection restricts the root user account and limits the actions that the root user can perform on protected parts of the Mac operating system."

    Before Apple implemented SIP, any software that was granted root access (by the user entering her/his password) could modify/edit system files. Generally, a user shouldn't disable SIP unless there's a specific reason. That said, there are plenty of reasons to disable SIP, such as certain boot managers or for unsupported hardware cases. SIP can always be re-enabled.

    Disabling Secure Boot

    Disabling Secure Boot on the 2019 Mac Pros is generally a common behavior as the only volume the Mac Pro will boot off of is the factory SSD if you do not enable the SSD. You cannot remove the Apple-provided SSD(s) and still boot regardless if Secure boot is on or off.

    Running Apps from unidentified developers

    opening a mac app using right click

    Left: the warning users will receive without right-clicking open. Right: warning message when right-clicking/option clicking bypass

    Gatekeeper no longer has a "allow apps downloaded from anywhere," but it is still possible to bypass and whitelist applications by right-clicking and selecting open.




    CPU Upgrades

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

    As a computer is the sum of many parts (not just the CPU), CPUs are not interchangeable between Xeon generations.

    The Mac Pro Xeon Ws feature Turbo Boost (dynamic frequency scaling, allowing the CPU "overclock" when demanding tasks are running), Hyper-threading ( Intel's proprietary simultaneous multithreading that allows for a single core to be addressed as two cores to share workloads when possible), dual AVX-512 Vector units with FMA (fused multiply add) support and six DDR4 memory channels. AVX (Advanced Vector Extensions) are additional instruction sets for x86 that were proposed by Intel and AMD in 2008 and later adopted in CPU designs. The latest is AVX-512. Due to long-tail support and slow adoption of AVX changes by AMD, AVX requirements for applications have been slow to roll out on both macOS and Windows. Rosetta under Apple Silicon does not support AVX translation, also further reducing adoption by programmers to use AVX under macOS.

    AMD's Ryzen 4000 series are 7-nm. Apple's A14 CPUs are 5-nm. This is one of the main drivers for Apple's switch to Apple Silicon. The original Mac Pro 1,1 shipped with a 65-nm CPU, and the 3,1-5,1 with 45 nm CPUs, with the 6,1s coming in at 22-nm. Intel hit 14 nm in 2014 with the Intel Core-M series. It wasn't until Alder Lake in late 2021 Intel moved beyond 14 nm.

    Complete compatible CPU list

    Note: The Apple listed maximum RAM is below what MacRumors.com Forum posters discovered.

    Architecture Cores Grade CPU-Model GHz Turbo RAM Watt Max RAM
    Cascade Lake 28 core Xeon W W-3275M 2.5 4.4 2933 205W 2TB
    Cascade Lake 28 core Xeon W W-3275 2.5 4.4 2933 205W 1TB
    Cascade Lake 24 core Xeon W W-3265M 2.7 4.4 2933 205W 2TB
    Cascade Lake 24 core Xeon W W-3265 2.7 4.4 2933 205W 1TB
    Cascade Lake 16 core Xeon W W-3245M 3.2 4.4 2933 205W 2TB
    Cascade Lake 16 core Xeon W W-3245 3.2 4.4 2933 205W 1TB
    Cascade Lake 12 core Xeon W W-3235 3.3 4.4 2933 180W 1TB
    Cascade Lake 8 core Xeon W W-3225 3.7 4.3 2666 160W 1TB
    Cascade Lake 8 core Xeon W W-3223 3.5 4.0 2666 160W 1TB



    GPU upgrades

    Likely for most users, the most attractive upgrade for the Mac Pro 2019 is the ability to upgrade the GPU thanks to PCIe.

    The Mac Pro 2019 GPU landscape can be divided up into two classes of GPUs: MPX and standard PCIe.

    MPX Module

    Pictured: W6800x Pro Duo MPX Module
    Image Credit: Apple.com

    Apple's MPX standard is a modified PCIe GPU that has a secondary interface to provide Thunderbolt 3 video passthrough / Thunderbolt 3 ports and additional power delivery (removing the requirement for PCIe 6 / 8 pin power cables).

    The standard PCIe GPUs are non-MPX and do not have the ability to pass video through Thunderbolt 3. 

    Users familiar with the classic Mac Pros needn't worry about EFI boot screen support as the Mac Pro 2019s use UEFI, and thus off the shelf supported AMD GPUs can out.

    NVidia and Apple

    The Apple vs. Nvidia squabble easily could form a novel based on rumors, accusations, and half-truths. The hard facts are as follows:

    Apple and Nvidia had a falling out after including Nvidia GPUs in their MacBooks resulting in Apple switching to AMD. For years, Nvidia was able to write 3rd party drivers for its GPUs known as web drivers. This supported Nvidia GPUs that Apple never supported and lasted years until Apple decided to revoke Nvidia's developer license at the end of 10.13 High Sierra, drastically harming Apple's most dedicated user-base. The only usable GPUs in Mojave and beyond are a handful of older Nvidia GPUs based on the Kepler architecture. The best Kepler Nvidia GPU doesn't outperform the lowest MPX GPU Apple ships. These GPUs have been omitted from this guide.

    Mac Pro 2019 owners can still install Nvidia GPUs and use them in Windows or other OSes, but they are unsupported in macOS. 

    If you'd like to learn more about the history, I've written Apple vs. Nvidia: What happened? to try and contextualize Apple and Nvidia's relationship.


    The Compatible GPU list

    As mentioned in the Nvidia section, I've elected to omit the lower tier AMD GPUs even though you can use an AMD RX 560 in 2019. If you'd like to see them, go to The Definitive classic Mac Pro Upgrade Guide, the complete aftermarket GPU List.

    AMD GPU VRAM Ports
    Radeon Pro 580X MPX Module 8GB of GDDR5 Two HDMI 2.0 ports
    Radeon Pro W5500X MPX Module 8GB of GDDR5 Two HDMI 2.0 ports
    Radeon Pro W5700X MPX Module 16GB of GDDR6 four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and one HDMI 2.0 port
    Radeon Pro Vega II MPX Module 32 GB of HBM2 four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and one HDMI 2.0 port
    Radeon Pro W6800X MPX Module 32GB of GDDR6 four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and one HDMI 2.0 port
    Radeon Pro W6900X MPX Module 2GB of GDDR6 four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and one HDMI 2.0 port
    Radeon Pro Vega II Duo MPX Module 32GB of HBM2 four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and one HDMI 2.0 port
    Radeon Pro W6800X Duo MPX Module 32GB of GDDR6 four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and one HDMI 2.0 port

    Non-MPX GPUs

    Aftermarket GPUs do not have the Thunderbolt 3 passthrough. If an MPX module isn't present, the Thunderbolt 3 ports on the Mac will not output video. Displays will need to be attached directly to the GPU. All aftermarket GPUs will output a boot screen as the Mac Pro 2019s use UEFI. The Mac Pro 2019s cannot boot below Mac Pro 10.15.1. GPUs that perform below the RX 580 are not listed as the lowest GPU. Any Mac Pro 2019 is likely to have at the very worst, the Pro RX 580 MPX module.

    AMD GPU Min OS Support
    Radeon RX 580 10.12.6 - Curr
    Radeon RX 580x 10.12.6 - Curr
    Radeon Pro WX 7100 10.13? - Curr
    Radeon Pro WX 8100 10.13? - Curr
    Radeon Pro WX 9100 10.13? - Curr
    Radeon Pro Duo 32GB GDDR5 512-Bit 10.13? - Curr
    Vega 56 10.13.x - Curr
    Vega 64 10.13.x - Curr
    Vega Frontier Edition 10.13 - Curr
    Radeon VII 10.14.5 - Curr
    Radeon 5500 XT 10.15.2 - Curr
    Radeon 5600 XT 10.15.3 - Curr
    Radeon 5700 10.15.2 - Curr
    Radeon 5700 XT 10.15.2 - Curr
    Radeon 6600 Unsupported
    Radeon 6600 XT 12.1 - Curr
    Radeon 6700 Unsupported
    Radeon 6700 XT Unsupported
    Radeon 6800 11.4 - Curr
    Radeon 6800 XT 11.4 - Curr
    Radeon 6900 XT 11.4 - Curr

    Windows and GPUs

    The MPX GPUs are compatible with Windows and will output Thunderbolt 3 over the MPX ports found in the upper-tier MPX modules. Mac Pro 2019s can boot with Nvidia GPUs, but they will be only usable in non-macOS operating systems like Windows 10 or 11.



    I/O Upgrades

    The Mac Pro 7,1 can use a host of upgrades. The I/O (Input/Output) is a catch-all umbrella term I'm using for anything that doesn't fall under GPU, SSD interfaces, or audio PCIe cards.  I/O Upgrades include networking and peripherals interfaces (USB/Firewire/SATA). This isn't a complete list of all possible I/O cards, but instead, a list of common significant I/O cards, and I'm always looking to extend the list.

    USB 3.1 / USB 3.2 Gen 1 / Gen 2

    The USB 3.x standard has had a few rebrandings, and the language on devices can often be confusing, as due to the recent rebranding, some devices might be labeled as "USB 3.0" or "USB 3.1 Gen 1" or "USB 3.2 Gen 1" which is entirely the same. Cynically, device makers lobbied for this change so that they wouldn't potentially lose out on sales moving forward.

    Below is a small chart of names for each tier of USB.


    Original Name 2013 Rebrand 2019 Rebrand Bandwidth
    USB 3.0 USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB 3.2 Gen 1 5 Gbps (625 MB/s)
    USB 3.1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB 3.2 Gen 2 10 Gbps (1250 MB/s)
    USB 3.2 - USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20 Gbps (2500 MB/s)

    If the above is confusing, I do not blame you as I find it too.


    USB Cards and Performance

    USB 3.x cards with type-A are one of the most common upgrades for a Mac Pro. Still, it is important to understand that there is a great deal of performance difference between cheap USB cards vs. high-end ones (such as Sonnet's Allegro Pro), and this comes down to three factors: How many controllers per port, USB generation, and how much bandwidth.

    Generally, inexpensive USB cards will feature one controller and 4-ports, and be listed as USB 3.0 or USB 3.2 Gen 1. This means 625 MB/s is divided roughly 4 by 4 (although not exactly). A user should expect to see only roughly 150-250 MB/s on a singular port regardless of anything else is plugged into a card.

    A USB 3.2 Gen 2 or USB 3.1 card with four ports and two controllers will likely see 625-800 MB/s per port.

    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

    USB 3.x

    Any card using the ASMedia ASM3142 should be macOS 10.11.x+ compatible as this controller is supported by macOS as long as it doesn't require external power. One of the most popular ASM3142 import cards (often a black PCIe card with names like Tuneway Usb3.1 Type-C, WEI-LUONG USB 3.1 to Type-C, YISUNF USB 3.1 to Type-C 2 Port, Camisin USB 3.1 to Type-C 2) is not macOS compatible due to the power requirements.

    • MAXPower 4-Port USB 3.1 Gen 1
    • Sonnet Technologies Allegro USB-C
    • StarTech 4-Port USB 3.1 (10Gbps) Card PEXUSB314A2V
    • 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
    • Rosewill RC-20002 USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports
    • FebSmart 1X USB-A & 1X USB-C 10Gbps Ports PCIE USB 3.1 Gen 2 Card
    • FebSmart 2X 10Gbps USB-C Ports PCIE USB 3.1 Gen 2
    • FebSmart USB 3.1 Gen 2 2X 10Gbps USB-A
    • FebSmart 2X USB-C & 3X USB-A 10Gbps Ports PCIE USB 3.2 Gen 2 Card
    • FebSmart 5X 10Gbps USB-A Ports PCIE USB 3.2 Gen 2
    • BEYIMEI PCI-E 4X to USB 3.1 Gen 2
    • LTERIVER PCI Express to 2 USB 3.1 Gen2 Type A 10Gbps Ports Expansion Card
    • LTERIVER PCI Express to 2X USB 3.1 Gen2 Type C 10Gbps
    • Ableconn PEX-UB158 USB 3.1 5-Port PCIe 3.0 Card (1x USB-C & 2X USB-A & 1x 2-Port Internal USB Header

    SATA/eSATA

    Note: Not all SATA cards are bootable on macOS. Known bootable cards will be listed as such.

    • 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

    Ethernet (10 Gigabit +)

    If I'm missing cards or any are no longer supported in macOS, please let me know.




    Storage Upgrades

    The Mac Pro 2019 can use a variety of storage options, between SATA Hard disk Drives, SATA SSDs, AHCI SSDs, and NVMe SSDs, and Apple's proprietary NGFF SSDs.

    Hard Disk Drives / SATA connections

    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, its last incarnation, SATA3 (max transfer speed of 600 MB/s). The Mac Pro 2019s sport two internal SATA3 ports and a USB 3.0 port, allowing them to use three internal drives without any additional controller cards.

    The Mac Pro 2019 does not come with any internal drive mounts, and thus the internal drive bays must be purchased / 3D printed/manufactured. Even in the high-speed era of NVMe SSDs, SATA is still useful as the price-per-gigabyte still favors mechanical (Spinning disk) Hard Disk Drives.

    </p>The Mac Pro 2019 uses a custom power connector to provide power SATA3 devices. This makes adding in internal SSDs even more of a hassle beyond lacking standard mounting. (see j-w.co's article on Mac Pro 2019 pin-outs)</p>

    Thanks to their price-per-gigabyte, mechanical hard drives are still a place in the SSD world, especially for backup. The Mac Pro can use any SATA Hard disk drive, including 2.5-inch drives with 2.5-inch to 3.5-inch mounting brackets for the 4 drive bays. This extends to eSATA as well, although an eSATA PCIe card must be present to make use of eSATA drives.

    Not all HDDs are equal, and more goes into HDDs than cache sizes and RPMs. Many of the inexpensive HDDs use Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR), which lowers the cost per gigabyte by allowing more data on a platter but with a performance penalty. It's important to do research, depending on the application.

    Any external HDD should be presumed to be compatible with Mac OS (outside of extreme edge cases).

    PCIe SATA + SSD Sleds

    Once very popular with classic Mac Pro owners, PCIe sleds are PCIe cards that are a SATA3 controller with one to two mounts for 2.5 SATA drives. Users can still use PCIe SATA 3 cards + SATA SSD drives. These are compatible with the Mac Pro 7,1 but generally represent a legacy vector for Mac users transitioning from a classic Mac Pro to the 7,1 as it provides two SATA 3 ports or users with a collection of SATA SSDs.

    There are numerous makes, including Sonnet Technologies (Tempo SSD (2x 2.5 SSD), OWC (Accelsior), and Newer Technology.

    The M.2 format and Apple NGFF

    M.2 (also known as NGFF, Next Generation Form Factor) is the latest common format for high-speed SSDs. M.2 is the interconnect, and modern motherboards often have M.2 card slots built-in, especially in the laptop market. M.2 itself doesn't dictate the underlying technology. The M.2 format has a standard set of pin-outs, whereas Apple's variant uses a non-standard pin-out.

    M.2 has two main variants, AHCI and NVMe, which are discussed in the AHCI SSD and NVMe SSD sections. Apple's variant is no different and supports AHCI or NVMe. In the 2019 Mac Pros, these are exclusively NVMe.

    By default, the Mac Pro comes equipped with internal SSD(s) using proprietary Apple SSDs. These are managed by Apple's T2 chipset and are required for booting. These are user-replaceable but require Apple-certified SSDs (you cannot use NGFF to NVMe adapter) as they require T2 compatibility. Once the SSD has been replaced, you'll boot into restore using the Apple configurator 2. Apple lists the process here and also has a support document on its website about Apple Configurator 2 and Intel Macs. Apple sells its internal SSDs at its website for incredibly poor pricing, at $600 for 1 TB. Most users will elect to boot off NVMe SSDs as the single drive performance of the Apple SSD is underwhelming and wantonly overpriced for lower storage configurations.

    One of the quirks of the Mac Pro 2019s is if you remove the Apple SSDs, even if Secure Boot is disabled, the computer will fail to boot.

    The M.2 format and host PCIe cards
    One half of the NVMe puzzle

    Sonnet M.2

    Pictured: Sonnet M.2 4x4 PCIe Card (with controller chipset for multiple NVMe SSDs)
    Pre-edit Image Credit: Sonnet.com

    Apple's Macs with removable SSDs all use non-standard slots for NVMe Apple's semi-proprietary NGFF variant, which doesn't have an official name. For example, previous-generation Macs like the Mac Pro 2013 or MacBook Pros 2013-2015 allowed NGFF key adapters to convert to standard M.2 pin-outs. Apple introduced the first upgradable storage with the T2 chipset on the iMac Pro, which only accepts Apple-OEM drives. To my knowledge, no third party makes sell Apple NGFF SSDs.

    Using M.2 SSDs requires a host PCIe card as the Mac Pro 7,1 does not have any standard M.2 slots. The Mac Pro 2019 doesn't quite have the PC field's options for host card options because it does not support bifurcation, the ability to split high-speed PCIe port into two lower speed ports (see the PCIe portion of this guide for more info). Instead, the Mac Pros must use cards with controller chipsets specifically for computers that do not support bifurcation, hence more expensive. Also, important to note that some M.2 cards' physical sizes can pose problems for certain host cards, so go to the MacRumors thread for more info.

    Multi-drive cards use a controller chipset such as the ASMedia ASM2824 and PLX8747. The users can search for cards that use the ASM2824 or generic PLX8747 as they are usually macOS compatible.

    TThe ASM2824 chipset is currently the most popular NVMe chipset for multiple NVMe drives as it's less expensive and able to achieve faster speed caps in single-drive performance, although the PLX8747 is the performance crown used in the Sonnet and Highpoint 16x cards.

    Classic Mac Pro owners will be happy to learn that with the PCIe 3.0 bus comes a lot more performance for SSDs, but PC users might be disappointed to learn that the Mac Pro's performance is capped to PCIe 3.0.

    Multi-drive cards with a single drive can sometimes have issues, specifically the lesser ASM2824 cards, requiring both slots to be filled to prevent crashes.

    Generally, many users opt to boot off a single SSD and use RAID as a storage/scratch disk.

    Below is a list of known-good adapters. Most generic NVMe single slot hosts are Mac Pro 2019 compatible.

    Model NVMe M.2 slots
    Kingston HyperX Predator (AHCI only) 1
    NGFF M key M.2
    This is a generic card with multiple variants by various importers
    1
    Lycom DT-120 1
    ULANSEN M.2 to PCIe 1
    Angelbirds Wings PX1 1
    Aqua Computer kryoM.2 1
    Aqua Computer kryoM.2 Evo 1
    Wolftech pulsecard 1
    RIITOP M.2 NVMe/DIEWU TXB122
    (This particular card has multiple variants by various importers)
    2
    Syba I/O Crest SI-PEX40129 (ASM2824)

    (This particular card has multiple variants by various importers (ASM2824)) Warning: New versions of this card appear to require two drives present
    2
    Ableconn PEXM2-130 / StarTech PEX8M2E2 / Lycom DT-130 / etc
    (This particular card has multiple variants by various importers, (ASM2824))
    2
    Accelsior 4M2 (PLX8747) 4
    Amfeltec Squid series
    Some are PLX8747
    4
    PLX8747 Generic 4
    Highpoint 7101A (PLX8747) 4
    HighPoint Technologies SSD7540 4
    ASM2824 Quad M.2 NVMe SSD
    (aliexpress generic card) confirmed working by MacProUpgrade (requires FaceBook Membership). This is a card also available from many no-name white-label vendors: Add On/ADWITS/RIITOP/BGNing etc.
    4
    Sonnet M.2 4x4 PCIe Card FUS-SSD-4X4-E3: 4
    Sonnet M.2 4x4 PCIe Card (Silent) 4

    Can I use a card that isn't listed above that host's multiple NVMe drives?

    Almost 95% of the time, no, but other cards are floating out there that might. Most M.2 hosts rely on bifurcation. The Mac Pro does not support bifurcation. See the bifurcation section for details. Many cards that support bifurcation can be used for a single drive giving users the illusion it might work with multiple cards. Popular cards like the ASUS Hyper M.2 x16 Card v2 4 x M.2 Socket 3 will not host multiple drives in a Mac Pro. However, if the card uses the ASM2824 or PEX8732, or a PLX8747 chipset, you can use it. An easy way to tell if a card doesn't have a chipset is if it is significantly cheaper than the Ableconn PEXM2-130 / StarTech PEX8M2E2 / Lycom DT-130 / etc. (this card has many importers) in your area of the world. If it is, it most likely doesn't have a controller.

    Which card is the best?

    Inevitably this question will be asked. It's complicated to recommend a single card because of the price. From a pure performance standpoint and hassle-free experience, the four-port cards from Highpoint and Sonnet are the most desirable. Each company has a high reputation with Mac users.

    M.2 and Heatsinks

    When looking at SSD options, you'll probably notice some hosts include heat sinks, and others do not.

    It's easy to find conflicting info on AHCI and NVMe SSDs and heat sinks. The short answer is that SSDs are intelligent enough to self-throttle if they get too hot. Thus it is extremely unlikely heat will damage them. NVMes run warm, but it takes quite a bit to heat them. The NAND memory itself doesn't require any cooling and generally is supposed to be warm to touch. The controller chipset is the portion of the SSD that heatsinks benefit the most from cooling. There have been debates about whether cooling could be detrimental, but the current consensus is a passive heatsink at worst doesn't do much and likely keeps the SSD running at optimal speeds, so it doesn't have to thermal throttle. Even a cheap generic SSD heatsink often causes a drop of 10-15C (roughly 50 degrees in Fahrenheit).

    For most users, self-included, the heatsink won't change day-to-day operation. Only when you get to cards that can operate four drives, it tends to be the general consensus that a heatsink is advisable as there are multiple NVMes in close proximity that could lead to thermal throttling.

    Aftermarket heatsinks can be bought and attached to SSDs. Still, if you do go this route, some experts recommend removing the label as many labels function as heat distribution/heat dissipation, like those found on the Samsung drives. Multi-drive M.2 cards require a heatsink over the PCIe switch/controller chipset as the popular ASMedia 2824, or the PLX8747, runs warm. Often this is folded into the entire chassis like on the Highpoint and Sonnet designs, which provide a large heatsink that works for both the PCIe card itself and the drives.

    PCIe AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) SSDs

    AHCI is the technology behind the SATA standard.

    Mac Pros can boot AHCI SSDs faster than the standard SATA drives, offering significantly faster speeds, often double that of 2.5-inch SATA-connected SSDs. These are not nearly as strong performers as NVMe as they tend to cap out at 1500 MB/s (usually more roughly in the 1 GB/s mark). Most NVMe adapters also accept AHCI. However, due to the speed limitations, and age, there aren't many models on the market. The price per GB tends to be high, as the industry has largely pivoted to NVMe for its huge performance advantages.

    Generally, most people and manufacturers only reserve the term AHCI SSD for M.2 sized drives, although some places will list SATA SSDs as AHCI.

    PCIe NVMe

    NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is currently the pinnacle of storage due to its extreme performance. NVMe is roughly triple to quadruple the read/writes of SATA (and often nearly double of AHCI M.2 SSDs), clocking in at transfer speeds over 3 GB/s in PCIe 3.0 and for the latest PCs, 5 GB/s with PCIe 4.0 drives. 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.

    Some cards can host multiple NVMe SSDs, but many or most PCIe NVMe multi-SSD adapters require bifurcation, which is a technology 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 portion of this guide for more info). Multi-drive NVMe cards that support the Mac Pro are more expensive as they have a controller that handles the PCIe IC and registers, and some are higher-powerful than others.

    The Mac Pro is limited to PCIe 3.0 outside of ultra specialty cards like Highpoint SSD7540, which addresses more PCIe lanes to compensate for the speed of PCIe 4.0 NVMes. The PCIe switch lets the user toggle the PCIe maximum speed.

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

    Not all NVMes are Mac OS compatible. Rather than list all that are compatible, here's a shortlist of incompatible or ones that need firmware updates 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. Most drives at this point should have the new firmware preinstalled at this point in time, but it should be noted.

    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 their storage capacity and even sometimes different controllers and memory cell technology the same model (more on this later). 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 one of the main reasons why HDD performance has steadily 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 cycles, making it 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 that QLC would easily outlast an HDD, but I would pay the extra money for a TLC drive.

    Memory density isn't the only factor, the very first SSDs didn't use a controller with a DRAM cache, and thus performance would "stutter. In an effort to harass the power of SSDs, controllers started packing DRAM to store the data map as DRAM is much faster than NAND and alleviating a common choke point in the SSD design. Many inexpensive SSDs are now also switching to DRAMless configurations, which generally result in lesser performance and lesser longevity due to the lack of a buffer to quickly read/write to before going to the SSD. Tomshardware's has an excellent summary of DRAMless SSDs.

    Lastly, larger SSDs (of the exact same model) tend to be faster as they have more channels to the controllers on the NVMe itself.

    Some makers, especially during the pandemic due to shortages, have quietly altered the specs of their SSDs without making it clear to their customers. Linus Tech Tips has a great video demonstrating this, and publications have even revised their ratings after component swapTom's Hardware dropped its rating of Crucial's P2 after discovering they moved from TLC to QLC memory.

    Benchmarking SSDs

    amorphousdiskmark

    Pictured: AmorphousDiskMark

    The best benchmarking software for SSDs is on Windows, as there are a plethora of utilities, whereas the Mac landscape is limited. Mac Pro 2019 owners can boot Windows to benchmark SSDs (assuming it is formatted in NTFS or a file system that Windows supports), but it isn't ideal. Previously, users would use utilities like AJA Disk Speed or Blackmagic disk speed, which are, quite frankly, bad as they only test continuous read/write speeds. The popular Windows utility, CrystalMark now has a Mac clone called AmorphousDiskMark. It tests more aspects of an SSD, such as random read/writes, and can use IOPS (Input/output operations per second ) instead of MB/s. I've written more about it in a blog post, AmorphousDiskMark is CrystalDiskMark for macOS; let's all stop using BlackMagic Disk Speed Test and AJA Disk Test.

    RAID and APFS and performance

    As previously mentioned, RAID after AFPS is very ugly for booting. The process involves cloning your boot disk to a single disk drive and cloning the updates back to the RAID array. This remains unchanged from 10.14 - 12.x I recommend reading Catalina on RAID with APFS on MacPro 5,1.

    RAID0 may be "worth it" for users looking for maximum performance. A 16x NVMe RAID0 can hit 12000+ MB/s read and write speeds, but far more important is that it improves the latency, giving a perceptual "snappiness" that is noticeable, as demonstrated in this old but good article by PCPER.com, Triple M.2 Samsung 950 Pro Z170 PCIe NVMe RAID Tested – Why So Snappy?.

    Soft RAID

    RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) comes in management styles, hardware controllers that handle the RAID volume's setup, and presents the RAID cluster as a single volume to the OS and RAID that relies on OS drivers to manage the RAID cluster. macOS supports soft raid for those looking to make use of multi-volume drives, for both RAID 0 (striping, no data mirror) and RAID 1 (Data mirroring, no parity/striping). If you need help remembering RAID axiom goes, RAID 0 means you'll get zero files back if a drive fails in a RAID 0 cluster. Mac OS also supports RAID 1 + 0 (often incorrectly referred to as RAID10), allowing for the benefit of mirroring the parity/striping drives. RAID 1+0 requires a minimum of 4 drives at the cost of 1/2 the storage of the array.

    However, with the switch to APFS, Apple no longer supports APFS for soft RAID for bootable volumes. Hardware RAID is still supported with APFS as the OS is unaware of the RAID Cluster. NVMe cards like the Western Digital Black AIC will work under macOS despite being a raid array thanks to the hardware controller. This is how the internal SSDs on the Mac Pro 2019

    Making APFS bootable requires first having a bootable drive, then creating an APFS RAID array, then cloning the boot drive to the RAID array. Any updates to the OS will require first updating the boot drive, then copying over to the RAID array as you cannot update the RAID volume's OS. This is usually done using Carbon Copy Cloner but means users will spend a non-trivial amount syncing amount of syncing data as the usual update flow is: sync APFS RAID to single drive APFS, then boot single drive APFS, update, then sync to APFS RAID array, finally booting back to the APFS RAID array.




    Ram Upgrades

    RAM DIMM

    Pictured: LR-DIMM
    Photo credit: Apple.com

    The Mac Pro 2019's RAM capabilities depend on what CPU you have installed, although the RAMs on either CPU are so high that the vast majority of users needn't be concerned. Apple.com: official documentation lists the top memory specs as 768 GB/1.5TB depending on the CPU configuration, but MacRumors forum members have discovered this is 1 TB / 2TB.

    While RAM is fairly straightforward, users should read the following section closely as there are some gotchas concerning configurations.

    Mac Pro model Max RAM Unofficial Max RAM Speed Type
    8-core 768GB 1TB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC LR-DIMM or R-DIMM
    12-core 768GB 1TB 2933MHz DDR4 ECC LR-DIMM or R-DIMM
    16-core 768GB 1TB 2933MHz DDR4 ECC LR-DIMM or R-DIMM
    24-core 1.5TB 2TB 2933MHz DDR4 ECC LR-DIMM or R-DIMM
    28-core 1.5TB 2TB 2933MHz DDR4 ECC LR-DIMM or R-DIMM

    RAM speed and R-DIMM vs LR-RDIMMs

    The Mac Pro uses 2933MHz DDR4 ECC RAM R-DIMMs or LR-DIMMs, although the 8-Core version uses 2666 MHz DDR4 ECC RAM (Apple ships these with 2933 Mhz RAM, which is automatically downclocked by the CPU). Apple ships its factory RAM type depending on RAM configuration. Users with the 8-Core Model shouldn't buy 2666 MHz RAM if they have ANY intention of upgrading in the future.

    The following is from Apple.com Mac Pro (2019) memory specifications, so if you acquire a Mac Pro from a third party, you will want to check what type of DIMMs you have or ask the seller what type it has before purchasing more RAM.

    • R-DIMMs for configurations up to 192GB (6x32GB).
    • LR-DIMMs for configurations of 384GB (6x64GB) or more. 
    • 2933MHz DDR4 full-length DIMM. Mixing memory speeds is not recommended.
    • Error-correcting code (ECC)
    • 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB DIMMs
    • Registered (R-DIMM) or Load-Reduced DIMM (LR-DIMM). Do not mix R-DIMMs and LR-DIMMs.
    • 288-pin
    • Use the same size memory modules across all slots to maximize performance.
    • DIMMs with heatsinks are not supported and may damage the DIMM mechanism.

    The general rule is if you're using below 32GB modules, you should use R-DIMM, and if you plan to use more than 32GB Modules, you should use LR-DIMMs I recommend reading Server Memory: RDIMM vs. LRDIMM and When to Use Them for further reading.

    The W-3223 / W-3235 / W-3245 have a listed maximum of 768 GB of RAM, and the W-3265M / W-3275M have a listed 1.5 TB Maximum. Users have observed 1TB and 2 TB, respectively.

    Ram configuration

    Pictured: Apple RAM Configuration
    Image Credit: Apple.com

    RAM is bought in pairs and installed on the backside of the Mac Pro. The case over the RAM slots also has a pictorial guide to display the proper RAM configurations, and this can be checked in the "About this Mac." The RAM utility in this Mac can also detect faulty ECC DIMMs.

    About this mac ram utility

    For top performance, the Mac Pro 2019 is installed with 6 or 12 DIMMs to run in 6-Channel mode. Otherwise, the memory controller will be operating in 2 or 4 modes. The performance is fairly negligibly.





    Display Upgrades

    Pro XDR

    Pictured: Pro Display XDR
    Photo credit: Apple.com

    The Mac Pro's display limitations are a factor of graphics cards, what OS you are running, and whatever monitor you can afford or are willing to pay for. The Mac Pros running 10.9 or later can use resolution scaling akin to Macs that ship with "retina" (high-density pixel-per-inch displays).

    8k and macOS?

    While the Mac Pro 2019 certainly can support hardware capable of 8k, thus far, the OS appears to be the limiting factor even in macOS 12 Monterey, MacRumor.com forums have an in-depth look into trying to get single cable 8k displays working, and thus far, it hasn't gone well until very recently. macOS does not support 8k out-of-the-box but clever MacRumors.com user ZombiePhysicist have found a working solution. It isn't perfect and it remains to be seen how effective this strategy with other hardware configs but the work-around requires:

    • Monterey 12.1
    • 8k capable GPU
    • DisplayPort 1.4 to HDMI 2.1 cable
    • SwitchRez

    This is unfortunate that we do not have native support as 8k displays continue to drop rapidly in price. 6k seems to be the highest supported resolution currently. Displays that use dual inputs like Dell UP3218K 8k (or '8k4k') display support in macOS? are a bust as well. I suggest reading, MacRumors MacRumors.com: SOLVED: 8k Displays Running on Mac Pro? Any? What Video cards would work that support 8k HDMI 2.1/Displayport 1.4/2.0 displays on Mac Pro? YES you can.

    High refresh rates and macOS?

    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. 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.

    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 use 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 4:4:4 Chroma Subsampled 4k 43 inch display suitable for a PC can be had for as low as $230 USD, 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 a normal desk distance, 43 inches is appropriate as its Pixels Per Inch (PPI) is approximately 102 PPI. For comparison: Apple's 30-inch Cinema display was roughly 101 PPI, its 27 Inch Cinema Display 109 PPI. Apple's laptops pre-Retina generally were around 110 PPI and its retina laptops at 220 PPI. A 4k 42 inch TV is roughly 105 PPI, making it appropriate as a very large standard definition display. I suggest the PPI calculator for calculating a display's PPI quickly.

    HDMI 2.1 is stupid like USB

    Regardless of your Mac Pro's configuration, congrats, it's HDMI 2.1 as of December 14th, 2021.

    The new features of HDMI 2.1 are impressive, like eARC (for comms), higher refresh rates/resolutions (10k@120Hz max), Dynamic HDR, auto-Gaming mode to trigger low-latency modes, etc. Your expensive Mac Pro 2019 probably doesn't support any of these new features, but it is HDMI 2.1. How could that be?

    HDMI has decided to the same messy route as USB and renamed all previous HDMI 2.0 devices to 2.1 regardless if they only support 2.0 features. In fact, manufacturers moving forward are only allowed to apply to have devices certified as HDMI 2.1. This means that effectively to be an HDMI 2.1 cable/device, all it has to do is support HDMI 2.0. What features the device in question supports, fortunately, isn't entirely a mystery. There is a requirement that HDMI 2.1 devices need to call list what exact HDMI 2.1 features they use.

    This effectively means every GPU that the Mac Pro 2019 supports with HDMI 2.0 also is "HDMI 2.1" regardless of whether they support any new HDMI features. Expect to have a lot of confusion just like USBc and the wacky world of USBc cables and devices. While I try not to editorialize a lot in this guide, this is a terrible move by the HDMI standards board that'll confuse buyers, and this is likely because the partners on the HDMI board do not want to list "HDMI 2.0" devices for fear of missing out on sales. Welcome to modern consumer electronics.

    Pro Display XDR

    Apple launched the Pro Display XDR with the Mac Pro, its first stand-alone monitor since the Apple Thunderbolt Display. The 32" Pro XDR sports a true 10-bit display, mini-LED backlit with a resolution of 6016 x 3384, aimed at professionals although received flak for a $4999 display that charged $999 for the stand and not even including a power button. While accurate for color, it is not as accurate as professional displays targeted at color grading.

    Pro XDR settings

    Pictured: Pro Display XDR Settings
    Photo credit: PetaPixel.com

    • P3 wide color gamut (99% coverage), 10-bit color depth
    • IPS LCD panel
    • Anti-reflective coating, optional Nano-texture glass
    • 576 full-array local dimming zones
    • Timing Controller (TCON) for parity between LED backlight/LCD display
    • 1600 Nits 39% of the screen area at once
    • sustains 1000 nits across the whole display indefinitely
    • 16 dBA fans for near silence in "typical" room conditions
    • Three USBc Ports
    • VESA Mount

    The XDR only accepts video via a single Thunderbolt 3 port. The full white paper can be found Apple.com: Pro Display white paper.

    Recommended Places to go for Monitor Recommendations

    The wonderful thing about monitors is the large variety, but it can make it daunting to select one. I'm personally a fan of the following sites: Rtings, PCmag, Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, Tomshardware, Digital Trends, as all sites do actual hands-on reviews as opposed to listicles of dubious rapport.




    Audio

    The Mac Pro 2019 sports a single 3.5 mm jack for audio output and can output audio over HDMI, USB, or Thunderbolt. It doesn't feature audio input.

    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 inexpensive 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, M-Audio, 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.

    Overall, the Mac Pro is an extremely audio-capable workstation.




    Mac Pro 2019 Error Codes

    The 7,1s has one of the more ingenious design choices: placing light error codes on the top of the case. The following information is from Apple.com: Mac Pro (2019) status indicator light behavior. The Rack Mount error lights appear on the front panel, whereas the tower is on the top.

    Memory Error (Memory Data Error)

    The status indicator light is solid amber for 0.2 seconds and repeats every second.

    enclosure-memory-data-error.gif


    Housing unlocked or top cover removed while computer is on

    The status indicator light is solid amber for 0.3 seconds and repeats until the housing is locked or the top cover or access door is reinstalled.

    enclosure-open-system-on


    Power button pressed while housing is unlocked or top cover is removed

    Status indicator light is solid amber for half a second after button press.

    enclosure-open-system-off


    PCIe card error (System Resource Overload)

    Light flashes amber twice and repeats until the computer is turned off.

    system-resource-overload


    Firmware recovery mode (iBoot Recovery Mode)

    The light rapidly flashes amber three times, briefly flashes amber three times, then rapidly flashes amber three times. This repeats until the computer is turned off.

    system-resource-overload




    Windows 10/11

    While Apple offers Bootcamp, the recommended method by the community and this guide is to install Windows on a separate drive from your OS. Windows can be installed by booting off a USB installer or using the Bootcamp assistant. I personally used the native Windows installer and used the brigadier utility to install Windows 10.




    iPhone as a webcam

    Since many people are virtually these days, webcams are in short supply. This isn't Mac Pro specific, but the iPhone's cameras are higher quality than pretty much all dedicated webcams and have decent audio to boot. I wrote a short guide on How to use Zoom with external webcams, iPhones / Android Phone, and/or Snap Camera on MacOS.

    This isn't the only vector as you can use NDI HX but requires more setup. OBS-NDI also interfaces with professional cameras, so it is possible to use studio cameras in video conferencing too.




    Multi-OS USB Bootable Flash Drives

    On various sites, you can find "Five in one" USB solutions 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 that the user first must divide the USB flash drive into multiple partitions (large enough for the Mac OS installers) Partition a physical disk using Disk Utility on Mac.

    The Mac Pro 2019 can only boot Catalina and up.




    Communities & Blogs

    Due to the nature of the Mac Pro and its upgradability, it's formed some of the most dedicated communities to any piece of Apple hardware. It's hard to overstate how crucial the community support is for the Mac Pro's reputation as Apple's finest line of computers ever produced, the fierce loyalty users feel towards the hardware, and surprisingly open and welcoming to users of all backgrounds and walks of life. This guide is a reflection of said communities. If there's a group you feel I have missed, let me know.

    • 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 have 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 - 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.
    • Reddit.com/r/macpro - Not as large as the Facebook group but active, friendly, helpful, and of course has the benefit of not being under the regrettable Facebook umbrella.
    • 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 for classic Mac Pros and delves into old Mac hardware in super-geeky ways (in a good way). It's not nearly as vital to Mac Pro 2019 users but still worth a gander as the author has produced several guides that are the bedrock of the Mac Pro world.
    • Reddit.com/r/mac - Mostly useful for Apple news and general questions, one of the essentials of the Mac world.
    • blog.greggant.com/topics/#macpro - I've written for six years now semi-frequent Mac Pro-related blog posts.

    Apple Silicon and the Mac Pro's fate (and additional observations)

    The biggest burning question is "How long will Apple support X86". The short answer is no one knows how long Apple intends to support Intel Macs. We have two statements from Apple, they will offer Intel Macs until 2022, and they pledged to support x86 for years.

    Apple has transitioned its Mac lineup two times now, from 68k to PPC and from PPC to x86. To assist the previous transition, Apple offered Rosetta a real-time translation layer to run PPC binaries on x86, which included both PPC and x86 libraries for applications to access. This time Apple has Rosetta 2, which works similarly, translating x86 to ARM. In an ironic twist, ARM is the second time Apple has switched to a RISC-based CPU.

    Apple transitioned to x86 quickly, starting with offering in late 2005 Intel iMacs and laptops using the Core Duo, which quickly jumped to the 64-bit Core 2 Duos mere months later and in 2006 refreshed its entire lineup with stark and drastic performance increases. Apple supported PPC Macs until 2009 when Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard dropped support. Apple supported PPC for roughly three years.

    However, the lay of the land is different today. In 2005 Apple sold 4.5 million Macs. Today, Apple sells roughly 20 million Macs. Roughly, Apple has 140-150 million still supported Intel Macs in Big Sur, vs. Apple the 15 million PowerPC Macs that were capable of running OS X when Apple switched to x86. Apple is also no longer the same company and now faces increased scrutiny as it finds itself the most valuable tech company and often the world's most valuable company. At a minimum, we can safely assume Intel Macs will be supported until 2025 as Apple has supported PPC Macs for almost three years. My guess would be 2026-2027, as 4-5 years seems correct. It's also worth noting only in May of 2020, Microsoft stopped distributing the 32-bit version of Windows 10 ( even owners of 20-year-old Pentium 4 desktops could run Windows 10 ). Windows will undoubtedly support old Intel macs for many years. For comparison, Apple dropped 32 bit CPUs in 2011, axing support for the first 2005 Macs featuring Core Duo CPUs.


    Updates & Author Notes

    This guide is the 3rd iteration of the Definitive Mac Pro Upgrade GUide. This guide will be more media-centric than previous guides to accommodate more styles of information gathering. The goal is to have more imagery and video to assist in learning the many concepts in this guide. Also, as the information is "fresh", it's much easier to cite official documentation.

    Stylistically, I was never a fan of my "Useful links" found in the Definitive Mac Pro Upgrade as they often lacked context.

    01/10/22 - Added Mini PCIe power cable spec,

    01/03/22 - Image Width fix for mobile

    12/29/21 - Minor copy editing, SATA 3 power information, PCIe power information, more up-to-date 8k info

    12/28/21 - Added links and info about Apple wheels.

    12/27/21 - Added Apple I/O Card, T2 section, and networking section, added 6600 XT.

    12/25/21 - Added contents for easier navigation, added info about HDMI 2.1, first editing pass with a lot of typos, spellings, and poorly worded passages fixed.

    12/24/21 - Added Windows info, ports image, cleaned up I/O section somewhat, added communities section, extras, Added displays section

    12/23/21 - images added to RAM, SSD, Afterburner, cooling, quotes added about cooling, moved raid info below SSDs, more info in PCIe section

    12/21/21 - SSD section info added, RAM info extended, error codes added

    12/20/21 - SSD section started

    12/19/21 - init


    Emulating Mac OS 9.2 with sound on Apple Silicon and Intel

    I've already written a slap-dash guide on how to use QEMU on Apple Silicon prior to there being an Apple Silicon native version. Now there is one and that makes things easier. As always emulation is a legally grey area. This guide has an additional video if you'd like to follow along and see the relative performance.

    Easy Mode!

    1. Download latest UTM release from github (grab the DMG)
    2. Install it and launch it
    3. Click the UTM gallery and find Mac OS 9 and click "Open in UTM", you may need to locate the app on your computer. It'll automatically download and launch when done
    4. You'll need to manually engage the mouse/keyboard by clicking the icon. To release your mouse and keyboard, click the command+control option



    Hard mode!


    You'll need the following on your Mac to get started:

    Xcode is Apple's IDE for developing software for macOS and iOS/tvOS/iPadOS and it includes a lot of software that is beneficial to power users. Homebrew is a package manager for installing open-source software on the Mac. Think of it as the App Store but for mostly command-line utilities.

    You can check if you homebrew installed on your mac by running brew and seeing if it gives an error or additional instructions

        brew

    Installing QEMU via Homebrew

        brew install qemu 

    That's it!

    Setting up QEMU and installing Mac OS 9

    First, we need to make a hard drive disk image. Anyone familiar with virtualization will understand this concept. It's just a file that contains a virtual hard drive. Once it's done installing we can create our virtual hard drive. The utility is called qemu-img

    The comand

        qemu-img create -f qcow2 myos9.img 2G 

    Let's break down this down.

    • qemu-imgis the name of the utility application that qemu comes with to create disk images.
    • create -f is format and qcow2 is QEMU's file format of choice for disk images.
    • -f qcow -M is the model, and our model is a mac99 which is a G4 Mac. The other option QEMU supports is a Beige G3.
    • myos9.img< is the name of the disk image and you can give this any name you want with a .img suffix. You can specify the path of this image but I'm going to leave at the default, which is in the root of your user directory.
    • 2G stands for 2GB. Notably, this file will not eat up 2 GBs of space. Rather it's just capped at 2GB. You can make it whatever you like, but 2 GB is plenty for my needs. .

    Hit enter to run this command and application. It'll happen very fast as this utility is very quick.

    I want to be very clear that terminal commands aren't magic. Anyone can look up with *nix utilities manuals by using the man command or searching in a search engine, qemu-img man and get detailed explinations like this page that explain the various flag options. No one is born knowing esoteric flags like this, and this is how users such as myself figure out comamnd line utilities. If you're already a terminal user who knows about man, awesome.

    Step 2: Download Mac OS 9

    I recently discovered the Mac OS 9 lives version of macOS 9.2 installer, which is tailored for emulators like QEMU, as it launches to the disk utility and is a stream lined install It's about 500 MB. Download it.

    Step 3: Running QEMU

    The command:

    qemu-system-ppc -L pc-bios -boot d -M mac99 -m 512 -hda myos9.img  -cdrom path/to/disk/image  

    Now we're going run the qemu-system-PPC, app which is exactly what it sounds like. It's emulating a PowerPC processor. Here's a quick break down of the flags.

    • -L pc-bios -L is bios. I'm still not sure if this is necessary or there's a more correct way but this works perfectly fine. We are telling the emulator to use PC bios.
    • -boot d -boot is self explainatory. This is the boot drive for the computer, like old PCs used to use. Macs never had this, it's strange but this what we have to do. The D drive is the CD-Rom and C drive would the Hard Drive.
    • -M mac99 -M is the model, and our model is a mac99 which is a G4 Mac. The other option QEMU supports is a Beige G3.
    • -m 512 -m is memory, and this expressed in megabytes. I'm using 512 MB which is a lot for the Mac OS 9 era. It should be plenty.
    • -hda myos9.img -hda is our hard drive and this is the disk image we created. This can be a path to the disk image.
    • -cdrom path/to/disk/image -cdrom should be self explainatory as well. This is the path to the CD ROm's dsik iamge. Replace the path/to/disk/image with the path to the disk image. The easiest way to get this is to find the disk image you downloaded and drag it into the terminal.

    Hit return to launch the emulator. It'll take a minute or so to boot, usually with a strange yellow screen then it'll change to the Mac boot sequence. Once you ahve booted, you'll need to use the disk format utility. If you're using the Mac OS 9 Lives installer, this will be open on boot. Format the drive and close the utility.

    Then within your virtual environment, run Apple Software Restore or the Mac OS installer if you're using a different Mac OS 9 installer. This will go fast with the Mac OS 9 Lives installer.

    Now we need to shut down. You can use ctrl-alt-g so you can move your mouse and just close the window or if you go the terminal hit control-c, you'll immediately shut down that application.

    Now it's time to boot our Mac. We'll use the same command, but we don't need the cdrom and we need to remember to swap our boot drive letter as we aren't booting off the CD Rom drive to the c drive.

    qemu-system-ppc -L pc-bios -boot c -M mac99 -m 512 -hda myos9.img  

    Congrats, you should be able to boot Mac OS 9!




    Installing Software

    What's an OS without software? Websites like macintoshgarden.org and archive.org have old software to download. There's plenty more and you can find them with search engines. In my video I downlaoded Sim Ant and Unreal but the software doesn't need to be a game. Download a disk image and then you'll need to attach the downloaded disk image to the command string when booting:

    qemu-system-ppc -L pc-bios -boot c -M mac99 -m 512 -hda myos9.img  -cdrom path/to/disk/image  

    The only difference between the Mac OS installer and this, is that we are booting of the Hard drive's disk image. QEMU doesn't come prebaked with sound but we can build our own from the source code.




    QEMU screamer.

    In my video I followed this guide. You'll only need the first four commands int the section and it takes a bit. You can go to it or follow the commands below.

    Step 1

    Clone the repository.

    git clone --recursive -b screamer https://github.com/mcayland/qemu.git qemu-screamer

    Once finished:

    cd qemu-screamer/

    Step 2

    Install the dependencies via homebrew (if you followed the first part, much of these will be already installed).

    brew install libffi gettext glib pkg-config autoconf automake pixman ninja meson gnutls jpeg libpng libslirp libssh libusb lzo ncurses nettle snappy vde

    Step 3

    Configure the build.

    PKG_CONFIG_PATH="$(brew --prefix)/opt/ncurses/lib/pkgconfig" ./configure --target-list="ppc-softmmu"

    Step 4

    Go into the build folder and now build the app.

    cd build/
    make -j$(sysctl -n hw.ncpu)

    From here you can now run your disk images using this copy of QEMU screamer from the build folder (or wherever you place it). You'll need the correct path to your disk iamge. You do not need to use the Homebrew installed version of QEMU to set up Mac OS 9, all of it can be done with this version.

    ./qemu-system-ppc -L pc-bios -boot c -M mac99 -m 512 -hda path/to/myos9.img 

    It'll most likely be two directories outside of this project so it'd be<:/p>

    ./qemu-system-ppc -L pc-bios -boot c -M mac99 -m 512 -hda ../../myos9.img 

    And that's it for installing and running QEMU with sound. QEMU works great for games that do not require 3D hardware on the Mac as RAVE or Glide would take a lot to reverse engineer. You can play 3D games in software rendering modes in QEMU. Of course, QEMU isn't limited to gaming but this is probably one of the more popular uses for PowerPC emulation, and it's very fast.

    In my previous article, I demostrated how to boot Mac OS X 10.0 - 10.4. I suggest checking it out if you'd like to try your hand at emulating Mac OS X. There's a few more flags that need to go into it as later Mac OS Xs require USB and some enviroment flags that I had to figure out through trial and error.


    The M1 Pro and Max Window Server Memory Leak Fix

    So I've run into a stupid problem with the M1 Max under macOS Monterey: The WindowServer eats up a lot of RAM, much more so it should. I've seen other people with WindowServers eating 10s of GBs of RAM, which is unacceptable. The fix?


    Above is the video, but you prefer written instructions if you're like me. Especially when its simple, so here it is:

    1. Open up system preferences
    2. Click Displays and then disable promotion (set your display to 60 Hz)
    3. Reboot! Leave ProMotion disabled, lest you want to feel the wrath of the WindowServer.

    Okay, so it's not a "fix" so much as a workaround until Apple patches it.


    M1 Max review


    The M1 Pro and Max is here and I have many things to say about it. I tried to condense it down into a succinct review but realized it wouldn't be that interesting. Instead, I decided to bring my Mac Pro 2019 into it.

    This is by far the most work I've dumped ever into a video project, featuring my trademarked stilted on screen presence and overly long winded narration over cheap motion graphics.

    Huge thanks for ALBATROSS for letting me use his music for speaker the test. He's a bilingual hip hop artist who raps in English and Russian≥

    ALBATROSS - Serdtze♥️ - LIVE Acoustic

    ALBATROSS - Serdtze (Birchpunk music video) - One of the craziest music videos I've seen in the best way possible, complete with a plot, huge VFX in set in a dystopian Russian cyberpunk future with art collective, Birchpunk.

    Benchmark sources (in order of appearance)

    wccftech: Intel Alder Lake Mobility CPU Benchmarks Leaked: Faster Than The Apple M1 Max, Smokes AMD 5980HX, 11980HK

    pugetsystems: Apple M1 MacBook vs PC Desktop Workstation for Adobe Creative Cloud

    phoronix: Apple macOS 10.15 vs. Windows 10 vs. Ubuntu 19.10 Performance Benchmarks

    anandtech: Apple's M1 Pro, M1 Max SoCs Investigated: New Performance and Efficiency Heights

    barefeats: Max MacBook Pro versus 2019 Mac Pro

    barefeats: M1 Max MacBook Pro versus 2019 Mac Pro - Part 2

    barefeats: M1 Max MacBook Pro versus 2019 Mac Pro's Newest GPUs

    wccftech: AMD & NVIDIA GPU Silicon Performance, Efficiency & Cost Progress From The Last 10 Years Visualized

    techgage: Adobe Premiere Pro May 2020 AMD vs NVIDIA GPU Encoding Performance

    Recommended links (in order of appearance)

    LTT: DDR5 is finally here

    Marques BrownLee: Reviewing EVERY iPhone Ever!

    Barefeats.com

    Will APPLE make a DISCRETE GPU for the Apple Silicon Mac Pro?

    Sources (in order of appearance)

    extremetech: The 2016 MacBook Pro Keyboard May Fail Twice As Often As Older Models

    zdnet: A journalist's wrecked MacBook keyboard tells a terrible story

    extremetech: Dust Is Still Breaking Apple’s Improved MacBook Pro Keyboards

    9to5mac: The latest MacBook Pro has a different keyboard, so is it safe to buy an Apple laptop now?

    appleinsider: Apple confirms new MacBook Pro models have only slower UHS-II SD card slots

    techradar: What is CFexpress? The new camera memory card format explained

    appleinsider: Apple's T2 chip makes a giant difference in video encoding for most users

    ymcinema: The new MacBook Pro is More Powerful for 8K Video Editing Than the Mac Pro

    engadget: ARM unveils Cortex-A7 processor, 'big.LITTLE' computing

    pcmag: Intel's Alder Lake Combines 'Performance' and 'Efficiency' CPU Cores on One Chip

    techspot: Intel Alder Lake-P sample beats Apple's M1 Pro and M1 Max in leaked benchmarks

    wccftech: M1 Max With 32-Core GPU Is Slower Than 100W Laptop RTX 3080, Barely Beats Low-Wattage RTX 3060 in Gaming Benchmarks

    macrumors: Five Games Worth Firing Up to Show Off Your New MacBook Pro

    tomshardware: Market Researchers Make Predictions: DDR5, GDDR6, GDDR6X, LPDDR5, LPDDR5X Examined

    tomshardware: AMD's Zen 5 CPUs, APUs Will Likely Tap TSMC's 3nm Process Node

    pcmag: Intel 'Alder Lake' CPUs to Support PCIe 5.0, DDR5 RAM

    anandtech: Samsung Announces First LPDDR5X at 8.5Gbps

    tomshardware: LPDDR5X Memory Extends Speeds to 8533 MT/s

    ymcinema: What’s the Ideal Laptop for Video Editors: RTX Studio or Apple M1 Max?

    dpreview: Apple M1 Max First Impressions: A MacBook Pro that's actually 'Pro'

    techradar: The Apple M1 Max means you don't need a gaming laptop for video editing anymore

    phonearena: Mini-LED iPad Pro display issues explained: What's "blooming" and is there a fix

    LTT: Does High Frame Rate matter

    bloomberg: Apple’s Product Design Has Improved Since Jony Ive Left

    ifixit: We Have the Right to Repair Everything We Own

    macrumors: Mac Pro Rumor roundup

    bloomberg: Apple Preps Next Mac Chips With Aim to Outclass Top-End PCs


    A healthy distrust of the Metaverse

    I feel like it's almost trite to point out how wacky and the wrong Meta is. I'm almost positive that I'm hardly the first person to question why any would want to create the Metaverse based on Neil Stephenson's breakout novel, Snowcrash. For those who haven't read it, it's a tongue-in-cheek parody of the cyberpunk genre with everything ratcheted up to 11, but also wildly imaginative, donning us with the common lexical use of "Avatar." It's a technocratic dystopian universe where society is so fractured that nation-states exist by neighborhood enclaves, generally aligned with various corporations and/or political ideologies or ethnicities. The world's resources are out of reach for all but the extremely rich thus, everyday citizens exist in an alternate escape reality, called the Metaverse.

    If that sounds unappealing and a bit on the nose, it's because it is. I don't know if I can lob any extra insight other than I'm confident that Facebook will wedge NFTs into the Metaverse in an upcoming press release./p>

    Now, what is interesting is an interview by Wired Magazine, ‘AR Is Where the Real Metaverse Is Going to Happen’ with Niantic CEO John Hanke (the company that brought the world Pokemon Go). The most interesting thing is the tonality of Wired Magazine, which with a healthy distrust of this technology. While I don't read Wired regularly, I have read Wired articles over the past 20 years. This feels like the new default position instead of a contrarian, skeptical, neo-Luddite, or paranoid position. I'm not sure when this shift happened at Wired, but I certainly felt my faith in progress via the internet in the mid-2000s wane pretty sharply. That was earlier than most people I know but hardly the first. Now, as we're fully into the current decade, it feels like skepticism is the default position as it feels irresponsible not to be.

    </section>


    Speed Up iCloud Photo Uploads from iPhone


    The first time I used this method was back in 2015 when I originally wrote this article, after getting an iPhone 6 128 GB with iCloud's basic data plan. It was taking days to upload photos and it was annoying. I decided to test a theory, not letting my iPhone sleep. In roughly 3 hours, my phone uploaded 4,000 photos; a massively increase over  the previous three days landing somewhere between 5000-6000 photos.

    image

    Picture: Uploading photos back in 2016 on an iPhone 6

    The second time I used this method was in 2020, when I switched to a 2 TB plan, moved my RAW photos into iCloud, and merged a separate library. I left my Mac syncing while my iPhone 12 did the same.

    I recently upgraded iCloud to the 50 GB / $0.99 a month plan, almost exclusively to test out the Photo stream feature. I take a lot of photos. Currently, my photo library spans thirteen years, and is heavy even for a 128 GB iPhone 6. For years, I’ve photos a few times a month to Lightroom, usually in tandem with my camera, but I rarely remove photos from my phone.

    However, with 10k photos the sync was slow. After the three days, only about half the photos were uploaded, despite being connected to wifi roughly 18 hours a day, and on a charger for roughly 16 hours a day during the span.

    I started toying with methods to speed up uploads. Here's the process I figured out:

    The Zero-Sleep Method

    1. Plug in your iPhone and connect to Wifi
    2. Open settings
    3. Go to display and brightness
    4. Select Auto lock and set it "Never"
    5. Return to settings and tap your profile
    6. Tap iCloud
    7. Make sure iCloud Photos is enabled and leave it on this screen....
    8. .... and wait, this will take along time, depending on library size and your internet speed. This will not "speed up" uploading, rather keep it continously uploading.

    A few users reported leaving it on the Photos screen worked as they could see the progress bar there. Also, if you're looking to keep things moving and have unlimited data or a huge data plan, you can enable unlimited updates.

    1. Go to settings and scroll down and tap Photos
    2. Tap Cellular Data
    3. Warning, this will use a lot of cellular data! Toggle on Cellur Data and unlimited updates

    Apple vs. Nvidia. : What happened?

    If you've been using macOS for a while, you might remember a time when Apple had both GPU options from ATI (purchased later by AMD) and Nvidia. In fact, the Macintosh was the first platform to sport the GeForce 3 in 2001. Nvidia even made a special chipset that was found in the 2008 MacBooks that helped deliver better GPU performance and skipped the Intel integrated chipsets. </p

    Then suddenly, Apple stopped using NVidia chipsets. The last Macs featuring an Nvidia GPU was in 2015.

    The video version differs slightly as it includes more personal ancedotes and asides.


    Appleinsider isn't my favorite source for Apple news as it's too evangelical, generally portraying Apple as the protagonist in its reporting. Still, I have to give them credit as they've followed the Apple/Nvidia saga better than any other publication. It's Apple's management doesn't want Nvidia support in macOS, and that's a bad sign for the Mac Pro is a great first stop, but it's a bit dated and self-referential. I've tried to piece together the narrative as told by many news reports over the years, much of it I read as it was happening. It's a particular topic that interests me as it dates back to when I bought my first Nvidia GPU in 2001, a VisionTek GeForce 3, and used DOS with nvflash.exe to load the Mac Firmware onto the GPU. It was a crazy leap of faith as I read some guy who claimed to have done it on XLR8yourmac.com (once a powerhouse of a website for power users) and then reported back the steps I used to flash the card to the community. Over the years wrote a few popular guides on using Nvidia GPUs on the Mac and wrote a lot about Mac GPUs as part of my monstrous The Definitive Classic Mac Pro (2006-2012) Upgrade Guide. I don't have any particular insider info, but what I do have is the power of hind-sight.

    The history of Nvidia and Apple

    The first Mac to ship with an Nvidia chipset was the Nvidia GeForce 2 MX, with the G4 Digital Audio in 2001, and Apple would also at the same time ship the PowerMacs with an option GeForce 3 GPU.

    In 2004, 30-Inch Apple's Cinema Display release was delayed by Nvidia's GeForce 8600 Ultra yields, not producing the cards in a timely enough fashion for Apple's liking. Still, Apple continued to offer plenty of Nvidia options. As important as Apple was during this time frame, it wasn't the goliath it is today.

    The year 2008 is when the relationship with NVidia changed during a flurry of events. Apple pulled into a legal battle that was primarily between Nvidia and Intel. To understand this, we have to jump back to 2004.

    In 2004, Intel and NVIDIA joined forces for a patent licensing agreement for Intel CPUs with integrated memory controllers, the MCP79 and the MCP89. Then in 2008, Nvidia produced Nehalem-based chipsets that bypassed the Intel Northbridge (Memory controller) and South Bridge (I/0 controller) chipset. Apple was the first PC maker to adopt Nvidia's new chipset. The advantage was that Apple was going to be able to simplify its GPU strategy. It'd allowed Apple to stop using the underwhelming Intel integrated GPUs and unify them to mirror the desktops. At the time, Intel's integrated GPUs were pretty bad and could not support OpenCL, thus limiting the amount of offloading to the GPU that Apple could reliably bank with the OS.

    Intel was much more central to Apple as a business partner, and Intel enjoyed Apple in its company roster. Nvidia pulling a fast one on Intel put Apple in the center of its own controversial strategy.

    Predictably, Intel then filed suit against Nvidia, throwing Apple's plans into disarray. Neither company was endeared to Apple, as the squabble had many industry people speculating that Apple may look into AMD processors, even though AMD had very few competitive offerings in the laptop space. Nvidia tried to court Apple into its legal saga but ultimately failed, leaving Nvidia feeling spurned. Apple continued to use Nvidia GPUs, but sadly, its lower-end offerings were constrained to Intel's supremely mediocre integrated GPUs. This wasn't the only issue Apple was having with its relationship with Nvidia.

    Meanwhile, in 2008 Nvidia was hit with a securities lawsuit around knowingly shipping faulty GPUs and trying to mitigate the problem through firmware, burning $196 million for replacements. HP at the time said it had 24 models of laptops affected, and Dell had 15. Apple had 2, the MacBook Pro using the GeForce 8600M GT.

    GPUs were failing at a steady clip (not just for Apple), and Apple had to extend its warranties for consumers in 2009 (ending in 2012) and issued a software update in 2009 trying to mitigate the GPU issues. The problem came down to the soldering that held the a chip it's printed circuit board cracked under thermal stress. This still landed Apple in a class action lawsuit. Nvidia saw Apple as a smaller player and refused to extend support costs beyond an unknown amount of money (it only handed out $10,000,000 to Dell after it threatend to pull from Nvidia), putting another twist in the Apple relationship. This was the dividing moment by most accounts.

    By this point, multiple publications reported a frosty air between Nvidia and Apple, although the high-end MacBook Pros would continue to use Nvidia GPUs.

    Tried to use an AMD chipset in the MacBook Pros in 2011 and ended up in yet another class action lawsuit over faulty GPUs. Apple would switch back to Nvidia in 2012 MacBook Pros.

    2013 marked a substantial shift away from Nvidia. Apple went with long-time Nvidia rival AMD for its partnership to produce custom variations of the Radeon FirePros for the 2013 Mac Pros. The iMac 2014s moved to AMD with the introduction of the 5k iMac.

    If there was any hope of Nvidia and Apple reconciling, 2014 was the end of it. Nvidia went litigious against Samsung and Qualcomm over mobile graphics patents, filing a lawsuit over mobile GPUs. They went as far as to try and block shipments of Samsung Galaxy S / Note /Tab lines, with speculation that Nvidia wanted the iOS and Android business. At this time, Apple was still relying on components from Qualcomm and Samsung for its mobile units.

    Things seemed quiet. Nvidia had ported CUDA to macOS and created Web Drivers even while Nvidia still was producing GPUs for Apple as their relationship fizzled.

    Apple had embraced OpenCL, the popular framework used for GPU accelerated computing tasks. Nvidia had created its own closed alternative, CUDA, and using its marketing power to court various software publishers to use it over OpenCL. NVidia's CUDA did not work on AMD hardware, thus giving Nvidia a competitive advantage if a software maker chose to use CUDA. Adobe embraced CUDA even on macOS and thus earned CUDA a favored position among creative professionals, especially those using the Adobe Suite. Adobe went as far as to build CUDA specific applications for Nvidia GPUs. In the background, Apple was poaching industry talent for it's own GPU ambitions.

    Nvidia continued a quiet strategy for macOS by bringing support for its later GPUs on macOS and updating CUDA. This meant classic Mac Pro owners, eGPU users, and Hackintosh users could enjoy the latest Nvidia hardware under macOS, which continued uninterrupted for nearly seven years. Many Mac professionals invested in Nvidia hardware as AMD's offerings generally paled against Nvidia at the higher end, and CUDA offered a lot more performance in Adobe video applications like Premiere Pro and After Effects. Nvidia didn't overtly flaunt its web drivers, and it came as a surprise to many Mac users to learn that they could buy Nvidia GPUs and use them in their Mac Pros. As a personal anecdote, I wrote two popular guides on using a GeForce 700s series and GeForce 1000 series GPU in a Mac Pro.

    With the release of macOS 10.14 Mojave, everything changed. Outside of the people on Infinite Loop, no one knew for sure that Apple's grand ambition was to merge macOS and iOS hardware. Most users at the time feared the iOSfication of Apple's software instead of hardware.

    For years, Microsoft had a huge leg up in the graphics department by owning its own graphics API in the form of DirectX. OpenGL, Apple's preferred graphics API, had floundered in the late 2000s, whereas DirectX, for all its faults, leaped ahead of OpenGL in graphics capabilities and support.

    Rather than wait for the next open-source library, Vulkan, to formalize, Apple developed its own graphics API, Metal, for use with iOS. Microsoft most certainly inspired Metal. Bringing Metal to macOS was all-but given and was ported to macOS in 2019, set to replace both OpenGL and OpenCL and skip Vulkan support.

    macOS 10.14 Mojave required metal-compatible GPUs. At some point, during the macOS Mojave beta, Apple pulled Nvidia's ability to sign its code, which ended Nvidia's support for macOS in one spiteful, anti-competitive move. In order for GPUs to be Metal compatible, they needed drivers, and Nvidia wasn't able to release drivers.

    Nvidia publicly announced that it had working metal drivers on its forum, but Apple had revoked its developer license leaving the blame squarely at Apple's feet. Nvidia even called out apple on his support page but has now since modified it.

    My personal take is that it boiled down to CUDA, Metal, and the M1. CUDA represented a significant problem for Metal adoption. In order to get professional applications on board with Metal, they had to cut out CUDA, and my guess is that NVIDIA was not willing to give up CUDA in its driver. Yet again, this was the impasse between Apple's management and Nvidia.

    In order for Apple to launch Apple Silicon very smoothly, they needed everyone to support Apple's current technologies, and CUDA was a roadblock to that success.

    Apple also knew the aftermarket install base for NVidia GPUs was quite small and limited to classic Mac Pro users and adventurous people who had eGPUs and the Hackintosh community. The group of people this affected was a group Apple the past decade has seemed vaguely resentful of: users who like modular computing. Axing Nvidia was another blow against modularity and another win for Apple's tight-fisted control of when products are obsolete.

    The goalposts have now changed. The question isn't whether Nvidia and Apple will get along. It is now whether Apple will allow external GPUs or dedicated GPUs. At the time of writing this, this MacRumors on its buyer's guide page lists that it thinks that apple will release GPUs that outstrip AMD and Nvidia's current offerings.

    Usually, MacRumors is pretty on point. Still, I'm just hyper skeptical the year-over-year gains in the GPU market have been not just consistent but going up also. Nvidia and AMD are two of TSMC's biggest clients. They, too, will have access to the same manufacturing processes as Apple. They've been doing it much longer, and they're very good at it.

    I have a very unusual take on this whole thing, and that is that in the future, we're going to see macs that absolutely rock at laptop performances and low wattage.

    Also, we'll probably see iMacs in a year or two that can edit 8k natively but also can't ray trace and are pretty crap when it comes to things like TensorFlow.

    To quote myself after I received my first Apple Silicon mac in December of 2020: "for the portable class of computing, Apple silicon looks like it'll be unmatched, and expensive brute force versus efficiency will be the story of x86 versus Apple Silicon versus ARM, and I expect there will always be a clear winner. Welcome to the next decade of computing."


    Uninstall Iriun Webcam

    Iriun Web Camera on the Mac is a bit of a pain to uninstall. Utilities like AppCleaner will not completely uninstall all the Iriun as it doesn't know about the services that run in the background, which will continue to run the background of your computer regardless if it's uninstalled or not.

    Fire up Activity monitor, and search for iriun, and force quit any tasks it has operating (there should be at least two).

    Next, you'll need to delete the following (this will be from the library located at the root of your boot volume, not in your /Users/ ):

    • /Library/CoreMediaIO/Plug-Ins/DAL/IriunCamera.plugin
    • /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/HAL/IriunMic.driver
    • /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.iriun.cmio.DPA.camera.plist
    • /Library/CoreMediaIO/Plug-Ins/DAL/IriunCamera.plugin

    These will likely require your admin password to delete. That's it. Enjoy your Iriun free life as it'll stop popping up as an input option.


    The Definitive Trashcan Mac Pro 6.1 (Late 2013) Upgrade Guide

    Mac Pro 2013 is Oscar's home

    Contents


    Introduction

    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. The 2013 Mac Pro is a tale of hubris for Apple, 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 produced from 1986 to 1990 without an upgrade. The 2013 Mac Pro was conceived as the original Mac Pro's successor, eschewing the modularity for a (debatably) stylish and 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 an abnormal rate 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. Only the 2019 Mac Pro since it has allowed for the range of user servicability (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 this guide's purpose, 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.

    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.

    Configurations

    Apple has only shipped a grand total of 3 base configurations with a fourth 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 lowering the remaining models' prices.

    • 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.



    CPU Upgrades

    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.

    Architecture Cores CPU-Model GHz Turbo RAM Watt
    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

    Useful Links




    GPU Upgrades

    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.

    Useful Links




    OS Upgrades

    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 11.x Big Sur 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.




    Firmware upgrades

    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 128.0.0.0.0 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+. they are distributed with OS.

    • 10.14.2: 127.0.0.0.0
    • 10.14.4: 130.0.0.0.0 - removes requirement for Apple SSDs to perform firmware upgrade
    • 10.14.6: 131.0.0.0.0
    • 10.15.3: 134.0.0.0.0
    • 10.15.4: 135.0.0.0.0
    • 10.15.5: 136.0.0.0.0
    • 10.15.6: 137.0.0.0.0
    • 10.11.1: 426.0.0.0.0

    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.

    Useful Links




    Storage Upgrades

    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. Generally, it can be assumed that NVMe drives will work long as they do not use 4k sectors by default.

    • 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.

    Incompatible NVMes

    • Samsung PM981
    • Samsung 950 Pro
    • Samsung 970 Evo Plus*

    *Firmware update fixes this particular SSD

    Useful Links




    RAM/Memory upgrades

    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, meaning 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, slike the Sonnet xMac Pro Server, which adds three 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 Mac pro 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.




    eGPUs

    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 is 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.

    Note: All Thunderbolt 2 Macs require disabling SIP and running Purge Wrangler to enable eGPU support.

    Lastly, Catalina requires some changes with eGPUs, and I highly recommend, epgu.io - State of epgu for Macs - Catalina 10.15, the short answer is PurgeWrangler continues to be the most common vector for support.

    AMD GPUs

    Note: Minimum OS list required may not be correct, please contact me if incorrect

    AMD GPU Min OS Support Supports Metal
    R7 260X 10.12 - Curr Yes
    R9 270 10.12 - Curr Yes
    R9 280X 10.12 - Curr Yes
    R9 290X 10.12 - Curr Yes
    R9 380 10.12 - Curr Yes
    R9 380x 10.12 - Curr Yes
    R9 390 Requires hack Yes
    R9 Fury 10.12 - Curr Yes
    R9 Fury X 10.12 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 450 10.12 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 455 10.12 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 460 10.12 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 470 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 480 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 555 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 555x 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 560 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 560x 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 570 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 570x 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 580 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 580x 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 2100 10.12- Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 3100 10.12- Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 4100 10.12- Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 4130 10.12 - Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 4150 10.12 - Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 4170 10.13? - Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 5100 10.13? - Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 7100 10.13? - Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 8100 10.13? - Curr Yes
    Radeon Pro WX 9100 10.13? - Curr Yes
    Vega 56 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Vega 64 10.12.6 - Curr Yes
    Vega Frontier Edition 10.13 - Curr Yes
    Radeon VII 10.14.5 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 5500 XT 10.15.2 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 5600 XT 10.15.3 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 5700 10.15.2 - Curr Yes
    Radeon 5700 XT 10.15.2 - Curr Yes


    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: Note there may be more.

    • Akitio Thunder2
    • AKiTiO Node
    • Asus XG Station 2
    • Blackmagic eGPU
    • Mantiz Venus
    • Razer Core X
    • Sonnet Breakaway 350

    Useful Links




    Cooling

    Outside of the extreme JMR solutions PCIe slot Rackmount cases, Mac Pro 2013 cooling solutions remain pretty slim. Pro Cooling Base by SPEED Designs is the only other solution I'm aware of designed specifically for the Mac Pro. 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).

    Useful Links




    Repairs

    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 - 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.



    Collected Articles




    Buying used Mac Pro 2013s

    Most forums when this question is posed is don't. The chief reasons are: price and stability. 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 Geekbench 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.

    Always make sure the computer is able to output video before buying. 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.




    Changelog

    Oscar over the Mac Pro 2013

    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: blog@greggant.com. I get a fair amount of questions.I try to answer them as 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-prohibitive), so anyone who can provide more accurate information, please do!

    01/22/21 - Added list of the firmware updates that have been released with note about firmware. Added cooling base station info, slightly edited intro, copy editing to remove typos.

    05/12/20 - Massive GPU list updated. SSD updated. Catalina notes on eGPU updated. Minor visual update.

    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.


    The Definitive Classic Mac Pro (2006-2012) Upgrade Guide

    Mac Pro Face



    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 less a how-to guide/manual than it is a roadmap to primary sources by other brilliant people, written to be accessible to both new and advanced users. It has been continuously updated for over four years and will continue to be updated as long as there is a community to make new discoveries. I hope you find this guide useful.

    The Cheese Grater's last stand

    This guide's intro has changed multiple times over years as the landscape has radically altered for the Mac and after four years my perspective has changed. The Mac Pro 2006 - 2012 represents a high water mark Apple, an era unburdened by the preoccupation of iOS and the trappings of planned obsolescence or it's self-indulgence of $1000 monitor stands or $10,000 smart watches. Apple still offered a practical, user-servicable that was as beautiful on the inside as the outside. The dedication to these computers is as much of a testament to their success as much as it was to Apple's misteps and inability to offer an affordable heir. Apple Silicon's future is bright but under the shadow of right-to-repair.

    Now, with the era of the Intel Mac coming to a close, there's a slightly poetic quality that classic Mac Pro, the pinnacle of modular computing, will be there to see its end.

    If you'd like to read the old intro, click the show old intro below.

    Like many, I had quite a few thoughts about the Mac Pro 2019. 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, Reddit, and to The Mac Pro Upgrade group on FB (users Martin L, Jay V, Gianluca M, Jean-Paul R. John C, Brennan F, Peter K, Antonio A, Adam S and many others) and Mac Pro Users on FB, (Eric Z.) for providing feedback, the guys who do a lot of heavy lifting in the community like Martin (h9826790), tsialex, Jay Fac and many users who've taken the time to email me to correct any errors. Even MacVidCards chimed in to correct this guide. I've learned as much as anyone writing and refining this guide.





    YouTube Channel

    This guide is now expanding into video. The goal is to create videos related to Mac upgrades, specifically the Mac Pro, Youtube.com: Mac Pro Upgrade Guide. Videos will be added to this guide as they are created to the relevant, but there'll be content exclusive to the channel, too, so please do subscribe.

    Think of the guide as a companion to this guide, as the latest info will be here and this guide will remain the focus as, quite frankly writing is easier than video.



    Special Announcements


    The Radeon 6000 series is now flashable to work with the classic Mac Pros.

    header

    Here we go again, The Defintive Mac Pro 2019 7,1 Upgrade Guide beta is now public, 100% ad-free and open to the world.




    Your macOS 11 and macOS 12 dreams have been answered (sorta), the SurPlus boot fix has landed, a fix for macOS 11.3 and above for the classic Mac Pros and other unsupported computers. See the macrumors thread and the GitHub repository for more info and h9826790 (aka Martin)'s OpenCore instructions and the OpenCore section of this guide Monterey looks like a new set of issues are coming, with MonteRand (probably the start of an ongoing saga).




    Community Tip Jars

    There's been a lot of tireless work put in by the community at large, all the resources are freely available. A few members have tip jars as a way of saying thank-you.

    • Syncretic aka Piquant Innovation - Creator of Latebloom/SurPlus enabling Mac Pros to boot beyond macOS 11.2. Direct link to tip jar.
    • House of Moth - (blog featured frequently in this guide), featuring the Pixlas mod tutorial and video tutorial. He also has a patreon located on his blog.
    • MartinLO - Maintainer of the most popular preconfiguration of OpenCore for the Mac Pros and tireless advocate for the Mac Pros.
    • Personally I haven't set up a tip jar for this blog (yet), if you want to thank me, justcheck me out on YouTube. I don't ask anyone to like or subscribe.


    Getting Started

    This guide is long and sometimes a bit hectic as there's quite a bit of onboarding jumping into the world of classic Mac Pros, as they are aging hardware and thus not always straight-forward. Running a classic Mac Pro today means using workarounds. Here's a shortlist of considerations before taking the plunge.

    • Mac Pros require workarounds to run the latest OSes. The 1,1/2,1 cannot run the latest OSes.
    • Apple switched from OpenGL/OpenCL to Metal as its graphics API. This switch meant dropping support for many old GPUs. Thus, generally you will need to replace the GPU to run macOS Mojave or above.
    • Most modern GPUs will not support the pre-boot screen, meaning you will not see a picture until the OS has loaded the full graphics drivers.
    • Apple's feud with NVidia means that no modern NVidia GPUs are supported in macOS. It's effectively AMD-only GPUs.
    • A few high-end GPUs draw more power than the Mac Pro PCIe power leads, thus requiring modifying the power supply pin-outs.
    • GPU drivers are tied to the OS release, meaning if you want to use a newer GPU like the 5700 XT, it will only work in 10.15 or later.
    • OpenCore allows the Mac Pros to run the latest OSes with minimal workarounds and enables the bootscreen by loading the correct pre-boot drivers. OpenCore pairs with various tweaks like SurPlus to enable support for macOS 11.3 and above.
    • Depending on the wifi chipset, you may upgrade your Mac Pro for wifi support in the latest operating systems.
    • The Mac Pros can run Windows 10 but require different installs depending if you are using OpenCore or not. The Mac Pro 1,1 can run Windows 10.
    • The 4,1s/5,1s have native NVMe support but require a firmware update in order to do so. Due to PCIe bus limitations, getting full NVMe speeds requires expensive M.2 hosts with special chipsets.

    Going through the process of updating and maintaining a Mac Pro is a crash course in both macOS/OS X's underpinnings and modular computing. For users looking for a painless experience, I recommend buying a used iMac 27-inch 2014 and above as they are fast, can be found for relatively cheap, and run the latest OSes without upgrades or workarounds. For those who are interested in the path of becoming a power user or already are, the Mac Pro is a great place to start.

    Mini-Glossary of Terms / About this guide

    Jumping into the world of Mac OS can be daunting as there's a lot of 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's 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 questions. Examples of assumed knowledge would be the fundamental difference between an SSD and Hard Drive or what CPU cores are. . Many other sources can educate users on these topics and do a better job than I would. Even then, I try to explain core concepts or provide links when necessary to help educate a user. This means this guide is long but informative. The initial inclination will be to skip sections. However, some key information may often be discussed in intros and other sections. I've tried to mitigate this, but in the GPU and storage sections, there's a lot of information to digest. 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. I've often been humbled by people who are much more knowledgable than me, and I appreciate anyone who points out errors or novices who feel something is confusing. 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.

    Lastly, one regrettable note for my international readers, I list prices in USD, dates Month/Day/Year, and measurements in imperial as I live on the mainland of the United States and thus also incurs some of the bias of an American English speaker. Prices differ vastly in foreign markets, and unfortunately, generally, the US is remarkably cheaper for Apple products and some hardware upgrades. Any buying advice will reflect the bias that is implicit to someone living in the US. As far as measurements, I apologize for our measurement system based on ambiguous associations with tangible objects like a child would use. I fully admit the metric system is superior. Temperatures in this guide are expressed in celsius as computer thermals sensor default to celsius.

    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 to 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.

    cMP - shorthand for classic Mac Pro. It is used to refer to any Mac Pro released between 2006-2012. The phrase "Classic Mac Pro" only refers to these models and not the similar-looking PowerMac G5 or the 2013 Mac Pro.

    Cheesegrater - Slang for the classic Mac Pros. I did not invent this term. 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 it isn't all that EFI provides for the Mac. It is also 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 before. They are similar, but Apple's implementation varies partly due to age (predating UEFI by a few years) 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) support on the GPU 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. Most aftermarket cards only support GOP and not UGA. This means without using OpenCore. Aftermarket GPU upgrades will not output video before the drivers are loaded. The lack of UEFI also has implications for other OSes like Windows, where MBR (Master Boot Record) needs to be used instead of UEFI if you are not using OpenCore.

    32-Bit EFI - When used in this guide, bits are pretty much limited to discussion of a CPU architecture or color depth. 64-bit CPUs can execute binaries that use 64-bit virtual memory spaces. A 32-bit CPU was limited to 4 GBs of memory space, whereas a 64-bit CPU can address roughly 18.4 exabytes. 64-bit CPUs are not faster at executing 32-bit code unless the memory thresholds are prohibiting functionality. (It's a common mistake on the internet to refer to certain Macs as "32-Bit" as almost all 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 and Macs that do not support SSE4.1 with Mac OS 10.12. 10.15 Catalina dropped support for 32-bit applications.

    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. See his personal website. I encourage users to donate to him for his hard work.

    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 and 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.

    HomeBrew - long-time computer users are probably familiar with the term "homebrew" in regards to user/hobbyist applications written for systems that generally were closed architecture like a videogame console. However, with regards to the Macintosh platform, HomeBrew is a package manager for macOS for (mostly) command-line utilities. Package managers function in principal like an App store for open source software as you can quickly install/update/uninstall the software from your command-line. For developers, Homebrew occupies a very important space as it's one of the most preferred ways to install nodejs, python, git, MySQL, as well as utilities like youtube-dl, ffmpeg, imagemagick, and MonitorControl.

    Kext - With OS X, the architecture for drivers uses kernel extensions, called .kext files. Kexts are supremely powerful and the backbone for the Hackintosh community to enable unsupported hardware. However, Apple has deprecated kexts in 10.15 Catalina for security reasons, replacing them with EndpointSecurity and SystemExtensions, and DriverKit. How this affects unsupported hardware remains to be seen. Kexts are located within /System/Library/Extension and /Library/Extensions.

    Mac OS / OS X / macOS - Mac OS X is Apple's XNU kernel-based operating system that evolved from NeXTstep. Mac OS X was rebranded to macOS in 2016. I use these interchangeably as I have a tough time accepting macOS, as it is still OS X to me. The difference is superficial. 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). Today, all of Apple's OSes share the XNU kernel and are all descendants of NeXTStep.

    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, would not be released until 2016), Apple created it's own graphics library called Metal and shipped it in 2014 on iOS 8 first. Later, Apple ported Metal to OSX. 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. Metal often draws ire from users as it dropped support for many older GPUs that OpenGL drivers had. Regardless had Apple used Vulkan, there'd been a day of reckoning with older hardware and support that Apple was unlikely to support.

    NVRAM/PRAM - Non-volatile random-access memory (previously Parameter RAM) is a space reserved for various low-level settings found on Macs pertaining to the pre-boot settings. These settings contain data such as default boot volume, backup boot volumes, default audio output, audio levels, computer's name, Keyboard language, backlight level (for laptops), whether Bluetooth is enabled, default GPU, and so forth. The contents of the NVRAM can be viewed via the terminal using nvram -xp. The difference between NVRAM vs. PRAM is transparent to the user. NVRAM uses a small storage space using flash-based storage, whereas the PRAM uses a battery to keep the settings buffered in the RAM. Occasionally, problems can arise (generally associated with hardware upgrades) that can cause problems. Resetting the NVRAM is still referred to as "zapping the PRAM". This is performed by holding down Command + option + p + r keys during boot prior to the system chime and will cause the computer to reboot immediately and chime again. This will clear out the NVRAM. Alternatively, the NVRAM ram can reset via the terminal using nvram ​-c, which will require restarting manually for the changes to take effect.

    OpenCore - In the Hackintosh world, utilities are usually required to facilitate booting macOS on unsupported hardware, commonly referred to as "boot loaders" like Clover. OpenCore is the latest iteration of the boot loader, designed to be more modular and stable and useful to non-Hackintosh Macs. It can emulate EFIs allowing for additional functionality. For the Mac Pros, OpenCore can enable a pre-boot screen to pick a bootable drive, and it's UEFI emulation can be used in 10.14 to enable hardware encoding of MPEG (.h264), among other things. It can be paired with other fixes like SurPlus to extend support to even macOS 12.

    SIP - System integrity protection, a feature of later Mac OS introduced in OS X El Capitan, that walls off portions of low-level features of Mac OS to protect it from malware. Prior, any application with root-level access could read/edit/modify system files. However, sometimes, when performing certain hacks, it requires disabling during installation and then re-enabled. There are legitimate reasons why users may want to leave it disabled. See Disable System integrity protection for instructions. See About System Integrity Protection on your Mac on Apple.com for more details.

    Terminal/shell - OS X is famously built on NeXTStep, which was a *nix-based operating system, which gave it access to a new (old) feature, a command-line shell. This gave Mac users the ability to interact with the OS akin to Unix/Linux. Many advanced Mac OS operations can only be performed via the terminal, such as disabling SIP or enabling TRIM for an SSD. Users unfamiliar with the world of the terminal should always exercise due diligence before copy and pasting random snippets of code found on the web for the terminal. Any Mac user looking to become a power user should make an effort to learn terminal basics. The ability to operate the terminal unlocks a feature set outside of the GUI and can do many of the functions that the GUI can do. An additional perk is that terminal skills translate to Linux and Unix, good for server management/networking or web development. Many utilities are command-line only, like the ever power ImageMagick which can batch process images much faster than GUI applications. Prior to 10.15, Apple used Bash for its terminal but now has pivoted to ZSH.

    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 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 are currently seven different iterations of the 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 the original computer's version is via 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 Model Name/Year CPUs Max OS Description
    Mac Pro 1.,1 / 2006 Woodcrest 10.11.6 with Pike's Script The first iteration of Mac Pros. The firmware can be upgraded to 2,1, uses 32 Bit EFI. PCIe 1.0. Lacks SSE4 (aka SSE4.1)
    Mac Pro 2,1 / 2007 Clovertown 10.11.6 with Dosdude1 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, it uses 32 Bit EFI. PCIe 1.0 + ATA for optical bays. Lacks SSE4 (aka SSE4.1)
    Mac Pro 3,1 / 2008 Harpertown / Penryn 10.15.x with Dosdude1 The Mac Pro 2008s are the odd man out as there are few CPU options compared to the 1,1/2,1 Mac Pros, and 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 is 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. PCIe 2.0 + ATA for optical bays. Optional SATA ports for the optical bay. The Mac Pro dual 4-core 3,1s performance is less than a single CPU 6 Core Mac Pro 5,1.
    Mac Pro 4,1 / 2009 Nehalem 10.15.x with Dosdude1/OpenCore 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 historically 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 for dual CPU trays (see the CPU section). PCIe 2.0, no legacy ATA.
    Mac Pro 5,1 / 2010/2012 Westermere 10.15.x with Dosdude1/OpenCore The 5.1s are 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. PCIe 2.0, no legacy ATA.
    Mac Pro 6.1 / 2013 Ivy-Bridge Current 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 Xeon-W Current also known as the xMP. The Mac Pro 2019 marks a triumphant return to modularity with plenty of PCIe slots and a massive price hike. It features PCIe 3.0, the ability to have up to 28-cores, 1.5 TB of RAM. It is in a rare class of computing, doubling its predecessors' entry price.

    Mac Pro 5,1 2010 vs 2012

    Everymac has a good rundown of the minor differences of the 2012 vs. 2010 Mac Pros. The short answer is there is no real difference beyond the CPU/RAM/GPU configurations Apple offered and the manufacturing date. Unlike the Mac Pro 4,1s, every piece of hardware found in a 5,1 regardless of year, is interchangeable. Whereas the 4,1 and 5,1 share most of the most components, with exceptions for the backplane and CPU tray. Apple identifies both 2010 and 2012 models as the Mac Pro 5,1.

    Mac Pro 5,1 and 4,1 CPU tray

    There are minor phyiscal differences between the CPU trays, most notably the 4,1 CPUs require delidded CPUs in the dual tray, and the CPU trays are incompatible between 4,1s and 5,1s, causing fan revving errors. You can see in the above photo that heat sink screw hole positions on the 5,1s are positioned further.

    Due to the lack of any meaningful differences, this guide (and the community at large) treat the Mac Pro 2010 and 2012 as one-in-the-same. I owned both a 2010 and a 2012 and the only difference was in the "About this computer" from all my observations.


    Identifying a Mac Pro Visually

    Mac Pro 1,1 vs. 3,1 vs. 4,1/5,1

    Mac Pro 1,1 - 3,1s sport FW400 ports, whereas the Mac Pro 4,1/5,1s only have Firewire 800 ports. The easiest way to distinguish a powered-off Mac Pro is by taking the side panel off. For the Mac Pros, note the RAM configurations on the right-hand corner. The other sure-fire method is looking up the Serial Number.

    Never be fooled by a PowerMac G5

    PowerMac G5 vs. Mac Pro

    Picture provided by Peter R.M. Fitskie

    The Mac Pro's case is based on the PowerMac G5. The Apple tower was produced from 2003-2006, which predated the Mac Pro. The G5 used an IBM PowerPC 970 CPUs and represented the last PPC Macs produced. They look exceptionally similar to the Mac Pro but sport only one optical drive, one front-facing USB port, one firmware port, and two fans on the back, among other differences. Sometimes mislabeled listings will list the PowerMac G5s incorrectly as "Mac Pro G5s" or even as a Mac Pro.

    If the computer in question has one optical drive and two fans, it is a PowerMac G5, meaning it cannot run any OS later than 10.5. For more info about PowerMac G5's, see EveryMac: PowerMac G5 and Low-End Mac: PowerMac G5.

    PCIe and you

    Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe or PCI-E) is the evolution of PCI, which migrated from 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.

    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

    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 and shipping in many PCs today. Each iteration of PCIe radically increases the speed by doubling the available bandwidth. Also, to add a minor bit of confusion, different chipsets have different amounts of total "lanes," measuring 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 Mac Pros (3,1 and above) case, 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 are not all at the same speed. The amount of lanes a PCIe slot has access to is expressed numerically: 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 to 250 MB/s. Thus a 4x slot has a maximum of 1 GB/s, and an 8x slot 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). In this guide, I will use MB/s and GB/s instead of Gbps and Mbps, as transfer speeds are generally expressed in bytes, not bits.

    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 port speed, as the card's chipset may limit them. 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 an AMD Radeon RX 580 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 Mac Pro PCIe overview (including how to install cards) 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 or in quarters. An 8x PCIe lane card thus can interface by splitting it into two sets of 4x lanes. Bifurcation is mostly used for SSDs, allowing a single PCIe card to host two SSDs. While the Mac Pro can use PCIe expanders (a separate technology for external PCIe slots by harassing the bandwidth of a single PCIe slot), it doesn't support bifurcation. PCIe cards can host more than two M.2 NVMe SSDs without bifurcation, but they require specialized controller chipsets. The result is that multi-drive M.2 PCIe cards, which are Mac Pro compatible, cost more. This is also discussed in the PCIe NVMe sleds/blades section.

    For a list of m.2 cards that support multiple NVMe drives, see the M.2 SSD hosts (sleds) section.

    PCIe Power Delivery

    By default, PCIe provides power via motherboard PCIe slot, up to 75w via 4-pin cables. The power requirements have increased for high-performance GPUs, going past PCIe's initial design. To combat the power delivery problem, PCIe cards started coming with additional power ports and increased pins to carry more power. Generally, in PCs, additional power is drawn directly from 12v taps off the power supply that the user can configure. 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. MacProUpgrade members like Brennan F. and MacRumors members have demonstrated that the Mac Pro using various techniques, can deliver roughly 120w and using 4-pin to 6-pin adapters, just shy of the more common 150w with 6-pin cabling.

    If a PCIe card draws more power than the PCIe power can provide, it will trigger the Mac Pro to shut down instantly. This scenario is generally limited to GPUs with exceptionally high power requirements. The Mac Pro PSU can be modified to deliver more power to the PCIe power taps using modifications such as the Pixlas PSU Mod, allowing the Mac Pro to use high power GPUs, providing the expected 150w safely.

    PCIe 2.0 vs. 3.0 vs 4.0 and its impact on GPU performance

    In computer parlance, the idea of bottlenecking is when a single component limits a computer system.

    For whatever reason, there's an incorrect belief that modern GPUs require the bandwidth of a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot or would greatly benefit by using PCIe 4.0. This myth is persistent and wide, despite a lot of information that clearly demonstrates otherwise. When benchmarked in the real-world using an 8x vs. 16x PCIe 3.0 slot, the impact is minimal, pugetsystems.com performed this very test, and it comes out to be roughly 3%-4% impact. An 8x PCIe 3.0 slot has the same bandwidth as a 16x PCIe 2.0 slot. In gaming, this tends to be even lower. See this youtube vid comparing 16 4.0 vs. 3.0 vs. 2.0 and PCIe 4.0 vs. PCIe 3.0 GPU Benchmark Feat. GeForce RTX 3080 FE, which shows the impact of sticking the RTX 3080 in a 16 PCIe 4.0, 16x PCIe 3.0, and 8x PCIe 3.0 slots. The story is always the same: GPUs are not very bandwidth-intensive. Another common misconception is the Mac Pro's CPUs/bus isn't fast enough to benefit from a high-end GPU, which is patently false. Notably, when it comes to graphics performance, the Mac Pro 2010/2012 remains a performance monster, in most tests besting the iMac Pro running a VII. It may not be as fast as a modern gaming PC running a VII, but depending on the tasks (especially GPU compute), it'll be only 1%-4% slower. More interestingly, when an AMD Radeon 5700 XT was tested in PCIe 2.0 vs. 3.0 vs. 4.0, TechPowerup, after many tests, found a 2% average performance difference between PCIe 2.0 and PCIe 4.0. DigitalCitizen found similar results by comparing PCIe 3.0 to 4.0. GPUs are not nearly as bandwidth-intensive as most people assume (other hardware like SSDs can easily saturate a PCIe bus). I'll give another example, if "bottlenecking" existed in a sense most people visualize it, performance would be capped by bandwidth. Thunderbolt 3, which is also even more bandwidth constricted than a PCIe 2.0 16x slot, still finds improvements running a Radeon VII in a Thunderbolt 3 case over less powerful GPUs, including an iMac's own internal AMD Vega 64. The performance is more realized, though, when adequate bandwidth is available as opposed to a brick wall limitation. Also, in gaming, at high resolutions, the Mac Pro will be nearly as fast as a modern PC. At lower resolutions where the GPU can achieve extreme framerates, the number of calculations per second increases for the CPU to process, as data needs to be calculated per frame. 240 FPS means the CPU has more data to process per second than if a game was running at 60 FPS, regardless of the resolution. At higher resolutions, the frame rate goes down as the GPU becomes the limiter. The Mac Pro makes a fine entry-level 4k gaming machine if one desires to invest in a Vega series GPU or better and is willing to boot Windows 10.

    PCIe 4.0 GPUs and the Mac Pro

    When users complain about the lack of PCIe 4.0 on the 2019 Mac Pro, there's some truth to it, but its adverse effects are minimal. Many modern PCIe 4.0 GPUs run at PCIe 8x 4.0, which effectively places them at the same speed as a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot. However, when an 8x PCIe 4.0 PCIe card is placed into a 3.0 slot, it'll run at 8x 3.0 speed.

    For the cMPs, this only gets worse as an 8x PCIe 4.0 GPU will only run at 8x PCIe 2.0, effectively 1/4th the speed of the intended 8x PCIe 4.0 slot. While the speed penalty for 16x cards is pretty negligible in a 2.0 slot, it is more so for 8x.

    The rise of 8x 4.0 GPUs is largely due to GPUs simply not requiring as much bandwidth as, say, bleeding-edge SSDs and the limited lanes found on most PCIe 4.0 motherboards.

    I haven't seen any benchmarks of 8x PCIe 4.0 GPUs in a PCIe 2.0 slot, but my guess is the speed penalty is only marginal considering how well eGPUs perform in more bandwidth-constricted environments.




    Power Supply

    The Mac Pro uses a non-standard PSU that does not follow the ATX convention and can deliver 980w continuous with a 1200w peak. Apple does not officially list the PSU's maximum power but can be found on PSU stickers, as seen here. It is recommended that PSUs be used from the same Mac Pros iterations as there are minor changes between models. The 4,1 and 5,1 generation Mac Pros are interchangeable as they are the same physically. MacRumors users have successfully used, PSUs in 3.1s.

    PCIe Power

    The Mac Pro uses an uncommon pass-through where the PCIe power is delivered via pass-throughs on the motherboard. The pass-throughs can deliver 120w via the PCIe power ports, 30w shy of the more common 150w found in many PCs. Thus, for high power requirement GPUs, clever users have turned to PSU modification to mimic a standard ATX power supply by bypassing the passthrough throughs to deliver more power-draw. See the PCIe power and Pixlas PSU Mod sections for more info.

    Sites like iFixit have pictorial guides for PSU replacements.

    ATX Power Supplies?

    Thus far, to my knowledge, there's only been a single instance of replacing the Mac Pro PSU with an ATX PSU. MacProUpgrade user Jay Fac's guide includes the pin-outs, a video, and plenty of photos of his completed project. He notes that he has lost the ability to put the computer to sleep. However, this modification is unnecessary for most people as users have successfully installed two GeForce 1080 Tis + NVMe + USB 3,1 and filled the drive bays on dual CPU 3.46 GHz 5,1s when using the Pixlas mod with no negative consequences. The Pixlas mod is much easier than a full PSU replacement.

    To illustrate why so few users have attempted an ATX PSU conversion, we can do some guestimation. Using back of the napkin math: A theoretical top of the line build would be two X5690s (peak 130w x 2), VII (peak 321w), four NVMe (peak 7w x 4), four 7200 RPM SATA HDDs (peak 8w x 4), eight 16 GB DDR3 DIMMs (3w x 8), Sonnet USB 3.1c card (75w peak), misc PCIe card (50w), DVD-RW (peak 20w). This means, even if everything was under peak loads at once (a nearly impossible feat), the power draw would be 824w, leaving a continuous supply of 166w for the cooling/motherboard, well under the continuous 980w and 1200w peak. The Pixlas mod works sufficiently well.

    Some users have taken to iMore: adding a second PSU to a Mac, MacRumors (from 2012) How To Rig A 2nd PSU (For Modern GPUs or Adding a Second GPU) (w/& w/o soldering.




    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

    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. This is not to be confused with "About this Mac". For example: A 2009 Mac Pro will still be reported as a 2009 Mac Pro in the "About this Mac" tab even after a firmware flash.

    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. Currently, there is a firmware hack to allow for Mac Pro flashing script (github.com) to boot alt OSes. Also, there's research being done on firmware hack to enable Harpertown CPU support.

    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. 32 bit only Intel Macs are an oddity,

    2007 2,1 Mac Pro

    There are no firmware upgrades for the Mac Pro 2.1s.

    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 APFS volumes but not from encrypted APFS 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. Today, this path is no longer necessary for NVMe support as OpenCore can inject the proper drivers for NVMe support.. Note: this hack was initially 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. 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.

    2009 4,1 Mac Pro

    Mac Pro 4.1s are flashable to the Mac Pro 5,1 firmware. Once flashed, they are a Mac Pro 5,1 and thus can use all Mac Pro 5,1 firmware updates. Below is a collection of links, all demonstrating how to upgrade a Mac Pro 4,1 -> 5.1. There are multiple guides on how to flash the Mac Pro 4,1 -> a 5,1. You will need the MacProFirmwareToolUpdate utility.

    A Mac Pro 2009 running 5,1 Firmware will still appear as a 2009 Mac Pro in "About This Mac". However, this is not the firmware version but rather the manufacturer date. The firmware version can be found in the System Report. The Firmware can be found in the System Report.

    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 managed to throw a few bones to the community by providing updates for the Mac Pros 8 years after their release, an olive branch. 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. However, with macOS 10.15.x dropping 5,1 support, the Mac Pro 5,1s have hit the end of the road for EFI updates. 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 in 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. Now that the classic Mac Pros have been dropped unceremoniously for 10.15 Catalina in Appleistic planned-obsolescence fashion, it's safe to assume that we've seen the last firmware updates.

    Version OS shipped with Changes
    with MP51.0083.B00 10.13 DP5 Beta APFS support*
    MP51.0084.B00 10.13 DP6 Beta APFS support
    MP51.085.B00 10.13.4 + Mojave DP/PB 1-3 APFS support
    MP51.087.B00 10.13.5 missing the Intel Xeon microcodes
    MP51.089.B00 10.13.6 updating to the Spectre mitigated microcodes on the April 2 Microcode Update Guidance
    138.0.0.0.0 10.14 DP7/PB6 5GT/s support for every PCIe 2.0 card and new microcodes support
    139.0.0.0.0 10.14.1 DP1 minor updates and corrections
    140.0.0.0.0 10.14.1 NVMe boot, minor updates and corrections**
    141.0.0.0.0 10.14.4 DP2 minor updates
    142.0.0.0.0 10.14.4 DP4 W3xxx Xeon "bricker" & updated APFSJumpStart EFI module (see below for more details)***
    141.0.0.0.0 10.14.4 final NVMe boot, minor updates and corrections
    142.0.0.0.0 10.14.5 DP1 3xxx Xeon "bricker"***
    141.0.0.0.0 10.14.5 DP2 minor updates and corrections
    144.0.0.0.0 10.14.5 DP4 lots of corrections, booting improvements

    * Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra), comes bundled with a new EFI update for APFS 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.

    *** 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.

    Updating a 4,1 to 5,1

    The process of updating a 4,1 to a 5,1 requires disabling SIP in 10.11+ and running the Firmware Tool, I highly recommend following HouseOfMoth: Turning a 2009 4,1 Mac Pro into a 2010/2012 5,1 Mac Pro – 2021 Edition as it'll help you avoid common problems.

    Sometimes firmware upgrades can be tricky. Users occasionally will see the "The program has encountered an error: 5570". There's a MacRumors thread, what's wrong? Why won't you let me upgrade 4,1 to 5,1 firmware? and MacProUpgrade: I’m trying to update my firmware for 4,1 to 5,1. I’m following the procedures, and I’m stuck at this error. Most threads recommend by starting with disabling SIP which the HouseOfMoth's guide starts with.

    Updating Fireware Strategies for Mac Pro 5.1s

    Mojave doesn't always make the update process clear, and it's possible to get stuck on 138.0.0.0.0 or 140.0.0.0.0 and miss upgrading to the last firmware released, version 144.0.0.0.0. The most tried and true solution is to have a spare drive or volume to install Mac OS 10.13, High Sierra, on. Then download from High Sierra the last version of Mojave, 10.14.6. The easiest way for most people is to use DOSDUDe1's Mojave installer, ignore the installer.

    I've written a pictorial guide to walk anyone through upgrading to 144.0.0.0.0 for anyone looking to update their firmware, regardless of what OS they want to run.

    Useful Links




    OS upgrades

    macOS Catalina Logo

    The Mac Pros can run much later OSes than officially supported, although there are caveats. Installing unsupported OSes can be done easily using scripts or using OpenCore. These scripts have been named after the authors who created them. Pike's Script is exclusively for the 1,1/2,1. DosDude1's scripts cover a brevity of Macs, including the Mac Pro 3,1/4,1/5,1. All but the 1,1/2,1s can run modern iterations of macOS using Dosdude1's hacks, which can be found at his website dosdude1.com. Below is a list of the official vs. unofficial supported OSes.

    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

    The Rise and fall of scripts to OpenCore

    Prior to boot loaders, the vector to run the latest macOS were scripts that generally modified the OS itself so it'd pass hardware checks to install and boot and often included fixes. The most popular and prominent were the DOSDUDE1 installers.

    These were fairly imperfect as installing updates would break the compatibility check and ultimately leave the updated OS unbootable. Installing updates meant re-running the entire macOS installer.

    OpenCore came from a desire to create a bootloader to allow for per-boot injections of various things, be it legacy hardware support, drivers and boot flags. The advantage is that macOS itself (mostly) was not being modified, and changes could easily be swapped by reconfiguring the boot loader. While the process of OpenCore is more complex for the end-user, its advantages are massive, thus drawing in a larger community of both Apple hardware owners to Hackintosh users.

    OpenCore: chasing Apple's whims (SurPlus/MontRAND)

    OpenCore isn't without its own set of complications. This is largely due to to the classic Mac Pros no longer being supported, as Apple's changes to macOS in later versions have created issues for the classic Mac Pros.

    Big Sur 11.3+ presented problems as boots would often fail. Eventually, a failed boot would result in a corrupted boot volume documented by users on MacRumors, which resulted in the experimental latebloom OpenCore hack and eventually SurPlus.

    Late Bloom worked by interjecting a delay() during the boot sequence to give the Mac Pro (hopefully) enough time to load properly without interrupting it entirely. It was a bandaid fix but was later resolved when the race condition was identified and patched.

    The Mac Pro 4,1/5,1 is Big Sur compatible using OpenCore, and at least one user's preliminary test shows mildly improved Geekbeck scores (Opencore - on the Mac Pro, requires membership). The Mac Pro 3,1s are still able to run with a bit of work. The most popular distribution of OpenCore, h9826790 (aka Martin)'s bundle now includes SurPlus to fix 11.3+ and above

    macOS Monterey requires the SurPlus to boot safely, macOS Monterey 12.1 makes extensive use of RDRAND, a CPU random number generator that does not exist on the classic Mac Pros, and OpenCore - on the Mac Pro is recommending holding off on Monterey as it enables SecureBootModel (SBM) in OpenCore and resetting the NVRAM ram can leave your Mac in an unbootable state.

    With some of the OS updates come the dropping of various hardware support. This chart does not include notes for macOS and the 1,1/2,1s. See below for notes on OS upgrades for Mac Pro 1,1/2,1s.

    * macOS 11.3 requires SurPlus, and macOS 12.1 requires MonteRand

    OS version: Hardware Requirement Changes: DOSDude1 required models:
    10.11: El Captian none none
    10.12: Sierra Drops support for wireless chipset BCM4321 (found in the Mac Pro 3.1). 32-Bit EFI Mac support dropped / SSE 4 required. (Mac Pro 1,1/2,1s) 3.1
    10.13: High Sierra No wireless BCM4321 support, switches to APFS as the default file system. 3.1
    10.14: Mojave No wireless BCM4321 support, now requires Metal compatible GPU to install*, SSE4.2 requirement for AMD GPU Drivers**, no modern Nvidia support*** 3.1
    10.15: Catalina No 32-bit Application/binary support, No wireless BCM4321 or BCM94322MC support (found in the Mac Pro 4,1/5,1), requires Metal compatible GPU to install*, SSE4.2 requirement for AMD GPU Drivers**, no modern Nvidia support*** See below for details. 3.1, 4.1, 5.1
    11.0 Big Sur No 32-bit Application/binary support, No wireless BCM4321 or BCM94322MC support (found in the Mac Pro 4,1/5,1), requires Metal compatible GPU to install*, SSE4.2 requirement for AMD GPU Drivers**, no modern Nvidia support*** See below for details. Requires OS hack SurPlus. None yet.
    12.0 Monterey No 32-bit Application/binary support, No wireless BCM4321 or BCM94322MC support (found in the Mac Pro 4,1/5,1), requires Metal compatible GPU to install*, SSE4.2 requirement for AMD GPU Drivers**, no modern Nvidia support*** See below for details. Requires OS hack SurPlus. Currently, Recommended advice is to way because of SecureBootModel (SBM) configuration. See OpenCore - on the Mac Pro - MONTEREY WARNING!!. Monterey 12.1 appears like it will not be usable on the Mac Pro 5,1s without extensive hacking.. None.

    * Mojave and Catalina will not allow installation to occur if there are any GPUs that aren't Metal compatible plugged in, such as the GT120. Updating requires pulling non-Metal accelerated GPUs (they can be installed after the update and will still output video). See the Aftermarket GPUs section for a complete list of Metal compatible GPUs.

    ** 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. These are provided in the DosDude1 patchers for Mojave and Catalina.

    *** NVidia Web Drivers are no longer supported, meaning any Kepler-based chipset has been dropped in macOS over a dispute between Apple and Nvidia. See the GPU section for more details.

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

    The popular OpenCore bootloader enables installing the latest OS by tricking it by making the Mac Pro to the OS as appearing as an iMac Pro. The advantage is that all OS updates would be performed via the control panel. See the MacRumors thread for more details and h9826790 (aka Martin)'s OpenCore overview.

    Catalina vs. Mojave vs. Big Sur

    Feature Mojave Catalina Big Sur Monterey
    Max GPU Support Vega Series (Vega 56, 64, FE, VII) Navi (5500, 5600, 5700 + XT) Navi Navi
    Application support 32-Bit / 64-bit 64-Bit 64-Bit 64-Bit
    Graphics API Metal (OpenGL depreciated) Metal Metal Metal
    Media iTunes Apple Music/Apple TV+ Apple Music
    (Lossless and Dobly Atmos Support)
    Apple TV+
    Apple Music
    (Lossless and Dobly Atmos Support)
    Apple TV+

    Monterey and Big Sur few major changes for Mac Pro users beyond GPU support, security updates, improved consumer audio formats, and new versions of Apple's applications (Music, Apple TV+, Messages, Safari, etc.). It runs stable on Mac Pros, and Big Sur has been demonstrating to slightly improve Geekbench scores. Users can view Apple's list of Monterey features here.

    Downloading old versions of macOS

    Apple has finally wised up and allowed direct downloads of (some) DMGs, which can be found here going back as far as macOS 10.10. Apple does still sell CDs of 10.7 and 10.8, and finally offers them as direct downloads. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Below is a list of download links (and source) for previous macOS versions.

    OS Installer is Damaged error

    If you are having problems with the Sierra / High Sierra / Mojave installer running, with an error reading to the effect of "This copy of the Install macOS Mojave.app application is damaged and can’t be used to install macOS", the signing certificate expired. From the installer (if booted by USB), go from the menu, select terminal, and run the following command:

     Date 1023120019

    This will set your Mac's date to October 23, 12 pm 2019, temporarily, and this will allow you to run the installer.

    10.15: Catalina - Known Issues

    Upgrading to Catalina may not be in everyone's interest as 32-bit applications are no longer supported. No Mac Pro (sans the 2019 xMP) can run sidecar, although I wouldn't be surprised if enterprising hackers find a workaround.

    Know Issues:

    • Apple removed the BCM94322MC wifi chipset support, the original wifi card found in the Mac Pro 4,1/5,1s. However, BCM94360CD or BCM943602CD chipsets are still supported. These can be upgraded.
    • NVIDIA Kepler GPU support is buggy.
    • Sidecar (Apple's new screen-sharing for iPads) is actively blocked for the cMPs and even the trashcans.

    Helpful Links

    Upgrading to Catalina / Big Sur / Monterey: OpenCore vs DosDude1

    Currently, upgrading to Catalina has two vectors to upgrade to 10.15 Catalina: OpenCore and DosDude1. Hackintosh users may recognize OpenCore, the opensource bootloader, Big Sur, and Monterey are only obtainable using OpenCore.

    OpenCore - see the install guide here as well as the refined instructions in the same thread.

    Pros:

    • Allows System Updates via the Update Panel
    • OS entirely unpatched
    • Can run the latest macOS.\
    • Vectors for Hardware Acceleration for modern GPUs and Video
    • Can enable a pre-boot boot selector (boot screen)
    • Protects boot ROM from Windows 10 when installed in UEFI mode
    • Can use 32 GB DIMMs in 5,1s for 256 GB of RAM

    Cons:

    • Complex setup
    • Requires Westermere CPU for Mac Pro 5,1s g

    DosDude1 - official website for Catalina Patcher

    Pros:

    • Easy, intuitive installation
    • Direct OS download from the installer
    • Includes patched drivers for modern AMD GPUs for 3,1 Mac Pros

    Cons:

    • OS updates require re-running the Catalina Patcher process
    • Does not include the benefits of OpenCore (bootscreen, video codec acceleration etc)
    • No vector currently for beyond Catalina

    OpenCore: Acceleration, Boot selection, and unpatched OS updates

    The Mini-Glossary contains a good overview of OpenCore. In short, OpenCore is a boot loader that loads before macOS and can improve functionality, such as enabling full GPU acceleration for video codecs, enabling boot screens with after market GPUs, and the only way to run macOS 12. It is now the standard recommended vector for Mac Pro users running 10.14 Mojave, 10.15 Catalina, 11.0 Big Sur, and 12 Monterey. The most popular implimentation is the pre-configured OpenCore distribution found on MacRumors maintained by Martin Lo.

    As far as macOS is concerned, the Mac Pro is an iMac Pro that allows OS updates to be installed seamlessly.

    Any OS beyond Big Sur 11.2.3 is susceptible to a serious bug, a PCIe race condition. This particular glitch caused the Mac Pro to fail to boot frequently and often, eventually, after repeated crashes resulting in a boot drive corrupting crash. As a stopgap, a very experimental workaround known as LateBloom, a hack to inject delays into the boot process to allow for the callbacks (that cause the crash) to respond. Now, the exact issue was identified, and SurPlus is included in h9826790 (aka Martin)'s OpenCore bundle. For users who've already installed OpenCore, Mac Sound Solutions has a great YouTube video demonstrating the process to upgrade to Big Sur 11.6, Jessie's Flying - macOS on unsupported Macs also some interesting OpenCore content as well.

    OpenCore is continuously in development and has evolved to provide more stability and features for the Mac and Hackintosh communities.

    Apple's EFI vs UEFI and implications for OpenCore

    Again, the Mini-Glossary covers EFI, but the short answer is that EFI that Apple used on its earliest Intel Macs predates the UEFI standard; thus, it creates issues around pre-boot graphics card drivers (hence lack of pictures before the drives fully load with aftermarket cards) and also with other OSes expecting UEFI. Typically, with PCs, before EFI, a the boot order went: bios -> MBR (Master boot record) -> bootloader -> Kernel. With UEFI, this changed to UEFI -> EFI bootloader -> Kernel. Thus a properly partitioned drive for the EFI world has an EFI partition + GUID partition. However, Apple's implementation of both EFI and UEFI is unusual, to say the least, as as famed eclecticlight.co points out the EFI partitions aren't particularly used for anything besides perhaps firmware updates. OpenCore provides a way to modify EFI to provide UEFI-like functionality. It works by adding in a middle step to the boot sequence that can be altered, Mac EFI bootloader -> OpenCore Bootloader -> Kernel. This additional step is crucial as allows OpenCore to inject changes without physically modifying the OS. This is much more desirable than OS patching as changes happen as part of the boot sequence, and will not be overwritten when the OS is updated.

    OpenCore has rapidly progressed, with a flurry of massive successes, starting with GPU fixes and now has moved towards extending the life of the classic Mac Pros. Thus so has the complexity of OpenCore, and thus for my own sanity (this guide is already massive), I am not providing a comprehensive guide but rather a primer in this section as OpenCore could easily be as large as this guide itself. End of the day, this guide is a road map.

    Currently, this is a work-in-progress as the community continues to develop out features. In macOS 10.14+, hardware acceleration for video codecs isn't enabled (for decoding or encoding) for cMPs.The newest vector uses OpenCore, a bootloader that bypasses macOS's hardware check (declaring a Mac Pro 5,1 as an iMac Pro), which allows users to do many things. Below is a list of popular OpenCore use cases.

    • Install/update Catalina without any need for patches like DOSDude1 (meaning OS updates can be performed)
    • Enable hardware acceleration for 10.14+ for video codecs (this will drastically improve applications like FCPX & DaVinci Resolve).
    • Properly map drives connected via PCIe (NVMe and SATA3 cards) as internal drives
    • load Pre-O Sdrivers to display boot screens
    • Enable hot-swapping for modified Thunderbolt 3 Cards
    • Enable HDMI audio for certain GPUs which HDMI Audio was not working
    • Use 32 GB DIMMs in macOS for up to 256 GB of Ram
    • Inject a boot sequence fix for macOS 11.3+ and above.
    • Continue support for the USB Apple SuperDrive
    • Use OpenCore Legacy Patcher to inject missing drivers for old hardware like Kepler GPUs into macOS 12

    The OpenCore Bootloader supports an EFI screen for newer GPUs by loading additional generic device drivers, enabling video output.

    OpenCore Legacy Patcher

    OpenCore also supports OpenCore Legacy Patcher which allows even deper legacy support. One of the most popular applications for OpenCore Legacy Patcher (often referred to as OCLP) is Nvidia driver injection for Kepler Metal compatible drivers in macOS Monterey.

    OpenCore Guides

    As previously mentioned, due to the nature of this guide, it'll never cover the full OpenCore process (partly because I no longer have a classic Mac Pro and time). However, there are plenty of great guides out there.

    Currently, the instructions and downloads for OpenCore 0.7.9 can be found at MacRumors and a user's YouTube video demonstrating OpenCore bridge boot rEFInd with legacy Windows and The OpenCore MacRumors thread for more details.

    Also, Joerg Henninges's YouTube Channel has a fair amount of OpenCore Content, with several users of MacProUpgrade finding success with his OpenCore - The Basic Way and OpenCore - The Basic Way Part #2 "Catalina" and House of Moth has a good Quick Guide to installing OpenCore on the Mac Pro. Mac Sound Solutions has a great YouTube videos on OpenCore.

    MacVidCards.eu has tutorial on how to configure OpenCore Legacy Patcher.

    The Mac Pro 3,1 has its own special set of considerations. See the OpenCore and the 2008 Mac Pro 3,1.

    MacRumor's Mac Pro Forum and Open Core on the Mac Pro (Facebook) are great OpenCore communities that are invaluable and where I frequented when I used OpenCore.

    A lot of the leg work and informal tech support has been done by Martin LO (whose name repeatedly appears in this guide. If you've benefited from his work and would like to see more, he has a tip jar on paypal.

    Martin LO on MacProUpgrade posted a complete step-by-step guide on MacRumors and an accompanying video.

    Lastly, there is now a Facebook Group dedicated to running OpenCore on cMPs, Opencore - on the Mac Pro.

    Running DosDude1 Patcher Successfully

    You'll need a 16 GB+ drive or USB flash that can be wiped clean. Most will do, although some USB Flash drives can cause issues with the installer. For instance, a Lexar MicroSD card in a USB adapter and an old USB Flash drive caused the installer to crash when trying to boot off the installer volume. I used an old Firewire HDD to upgrade to High Sierra on my Mac Pro 3.1.

    Also, it is very important to run the post-install scripts. Your Mac will likely reboot suddenly after the DOSdude1 installer has completed and most likely will try and boot from the new OS. It will crash. Fear not! Boot from the DOSDude1 installer and run from the dropdown menu and run the Post Install Scripts. Force building cache may cause a lot of headaches (including the inability to boot without using safe-mode). Unless you have a good reason to do so, I recommend not force clearing the caches.

    Disabling System Integrity Protection

    As mentioned in the glossary, SIP functions as a method of system protection. Apple describes it as follows:

    "(A) security technology in OS X El Capitan and later that's designed to help prevent potentially malicious software from modifying protected files and folders on your Mac. System Integrity Protection restricts the root user account and limits the actions that the root user can perform on protected parts of the Mac operating system."

    Before Apple implemented SIP, any software that was granted root access (by the user entering her/his password) could modify/edit system files. Generally, a user shouldn't disable SIP unless there's a specific reason. That said, there are plenty of reasons to disable SIP, such as certain boot managers or unsupported hardware cases. SIP can always be re-enabled.

    1. Boot to recovery mode
    2. From the recovery mode, from the Utility dropdown select, "Terminal"
    3. Enter the command:
       csrutil disable
    4. Reboot

    To re-enable SIP, repeat the above steps. Instead, run

     csrutil enable

    You can check your SIP status at any time without booting to the recovery mode from the terminal with the following command:

     csrutil status 

    Stop the "Upgrade to MacOS..." banners

    In the past few years, Apple 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.

    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.

    Running Apps from unidentified developers

    Gatekeeper no longer has a "allow apps downloaded from anywhere," but it is still possible to re-enable this setting using the terminal.

    sudo spctl --master-disable

    This can be re-enabled at any time by running the inverse of this command:

    sudo spctl --master-enable

    Big Sur requires an entirely new paradigm. A user must Right-click an application and click open to be presented with the ability to safelist the application.

    iMore has a good article explaining the entire process for the curious.

    Mac Pro 1,1/2,1 and Pike's Script

    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.

    Final Cut Pro 7, Aperture, and later OSes

    The open-source project, Retroactive, allows users to run Final Cut Pro 7 up to macOS 10.14 and Aperture on macOS 11, Big Sur.




    CPU Upgrades

    Xeon 5690

    Every Mac Pro made (including the 2013 and 2019 Mac Pros) has sported multicore, interchangeable Xeon series CPUs. The Xeons are built on the same architecture as its desktop-grade siblings. The Xeon CPUs' main benefit has been more CPU cores, the ability to support multi-CPU motherboards, larger cache memory, more PCIe lanes, much higher maximum RAM, and Error-correcting code memory (ECC). These benefits come with a trade-off as the Xeon line had much higher price points, doesn't have built-in support for overclocking, and generally operates at (slightly) lower-clock speeds.

    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. The Mac Pro 1,1/2,1s used 65-nm (nanometer) CPUs, and 3,1/4,1/5,1 used 45-nm CPUs. The Mac Pro 6,1s that came after the classic Mac Pros used a 22-nm. In 9 years, the Mac Pro CPUs had shrunk to roughly 1/3 the size. Incidentally, seven years later, Intel will not ship its first 10-nm CPUs until 2021, let alone a 7-nm. A smaller CPU means more efficiency (see Denard Scaling). AMD's Ryzen 4000 series are 7-nm. Apple's A14 CPUs are 5-nm.

    Instruction Sets, SSE 4.2, VT-x/EPT, AVX/AVX2

    Apple has (so far) gone through three major CPU changes with the Macintosh lineup, going from 68k (Motorola), PowerPC (IBM/Motorola), and currently x86 (Intel, AMD) and ARM (Apple/TSMC). 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.

    Over time, CPUs have gained specialized single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) instruction sets that are beneficial for certain types of tasks where the same operation on multiple data points simultaneously (like changing the volume of PCM audio or rotating an image). This allows a CPU to perform the task with much greater efficiency. In a different era, these gains were often marketed to consumers like MMX or AltiVec (velocity engine), or 3Dnow. Today, these sorts of CPU changes aren't as frequent or as clearly advertised, but they still exist and affect performance.

    Both SSE 4,1 instruction set and SSE 4.2 first appeared in the Harpertown (SSE 4.1) and Nehalem CPUs (SSE 4.2) found in the Mac Pro 4.1+, as well as both VT-x/EPT. SSE4.2 generally is not required for Mac software to run, but the Radeon drivers for Mojave* do. SSE 4.2 can make a world of difference in some applications, such as the application Serato Djay. The application is barely usable on a Mac Pro 2x Quad Core 2.8 GHz 3,1, whereas a Mac Pro 4,1 2.4 GHz 4-Core will have no trouble with it.VT-x/EPT are both technologies used in virtualization. While all the Mac Pros can run 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.

    There are some CPU instructions that the Mac Pros 4,1/5,1s do not support, such as Advanced Vector Extension (AVX). Not much software requires AVX, but Massive X does. AVX/AVX2 dependency is unlikely to ever be required for macOS x86. Apple's own Rosetta 2 does not support AVX/AVX2/AVX 512. CPUs are unlikely to be the limiting factor for future macOSes.

    There are plenty of quality high-level overviews on CPUs and their design which are much better than this guide.

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

    Apple Silicon and the Mac Pro's fate (and additional observations)

    The short answer is no one knows how long Apple intends to support Intel Macs. We have two statements from Apple, they will offer Intel Macs until 2022, and they pledged to support x86 for years.

    Apple has transitioned its Mac lineup two times now, from 68k to PPC and from PPC to x86. To assist the previous transition, Apple offered Rosetta a real-time translation layer to run PPC binaries on x86, which included both PPC and x86 libraries for applications to access. This time Apple has Rosetta 2, which works similarly, translating x86 to ARM. In an ironic twist, ARM is the second time Apple has switched to a RISC-based CPU.

    Apple transitioned to x86 quickly, starting with offering in late 2005 Intel iMacs and laptops using the Core Duo, which quickly jumped to the 64-bit Core 2 Duos mere months later and in 2006 refreshed its entire lineup with stark and drastic performance increases. Apple supported PPC Macs until 2009 when Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard dropped support. Apple supported PPC for roughly three years.

    However, the lay of the land is different today. In 2005 Apple sold 4.5 million Macs. Today, Apple sells roughly 20 million Macs. Roughly, Apple has 140-150 million still supported Intel Macs in Big Sur, vs. Apple the 15 million PowerPC Macs that were capable of running OS X when Apple switched to x86. Apple is also no longer the same company and now faces increased scrutiny as it finds itself the most valuable tech company and often the world's most valuable company. At a minimum, we can safely assume Intel Macs will be supported until 2025, as Apple has supported PPC Macs for almost three years. My guess would be 2026-2027, as 4-5 years seems correct. It's also worth noting only in May of 2020, Microsoft stopped distributing the 32-bit version of Windows 10 ( even owners of 20-year-old Pentium 4 desktops could run Windows 10 ). Windows will undoubtedly support old Intel macs for many years. For comparison, Apple dropped 32-bit CPUs in 2011, axing support for the first 2005 Macs featuring Core Duo CPUs.

    The performance of M1 Macs is impressive, boasting Geekbench single-core 3x as fast as the best cMP and besting its multicore performance by roughly 8%-10%, but also faces some hard limitations that are unanswered. Currently, the M1 cannot support eGPUs (or may not support eGPUs yet), currently capped at 16 GB of RAM, cannot run unsigned code (I and others disproved this), and cannot boot Windows. The synthetic benchmarks are very impressive. That said, in some more real-world tests like Logic or clickbaity Intel And AMD x86 Mobility CPUs, Destroy Apple’s M1 In Cinebench R23 Benchmark Results (which isn't the case seeing as the m1 has half the cores and less than half the power consumption as a Ryzen 9 4900H). In many other real-world tests, the M1 shines very brightly. It's apparent that MacWorld has jumped the gun with With M1 Macs, memory isn't what it used to be, as more real-world testing is needed to back up such a claim. Apple uses unified memory architecture, where both the GPU and CPU share the RAM, instead of having a separate buffer for the GPU (VRAM). Unified memory previously was most commonly found in videogame consoles (starting with the Playstation 2) and smartphones. Unified memory means that VRAM isn't required as both the CPU and GPU have direct access to items stored in RAM, and thus there isn't additional latency when items are moved from RAM to VRAM. However, this comes at the cost that VRAM doesn't operate independently of RAM when large amounts of VRAM are required, such as high-end gaming, certain machine learning operations, video compositing, etc. Tasks that require/greatly benefit from large amounts of RAM or VRAM will undoubtedly continue to benefit from large amounts of RAM (or VRAM) on Apple Silicon.

    On its tight thermal budgets and against integrated graphics chipsets, the M1 is a monster. Still, there is a reason why Apple has chosen to keep both the Intel MacBook Pro 13 inch and Intel Mac Mini on the market, which appears to be an admission that the memory limitations and GPU performance can't contest the Intel offerings of dedicated eGPUs and large amounts of RAM.

    It's reasonable to assume that when the time comes for Apple to jump to the rumored first desktop Apple Silicon (8 high performance, four low performance), that Apple will be batting around an AMD Ryzen 9 3900 in multicore performance. It really doesn't take much imagination to envision an Apple Silicon CPU in two years that bests any of AMD/Intel's desktop-grade (not Epyc/Xeon) CPUs in terms of performance. It's less reasonable to assume Apple can close the GPU performance gap when pitted against the higher-end consumer GPUs, which, unlike CPUs, have marched forward at a very impressive pace. Teraflops (a unit of computing speed equal to one million million (1012) floating-point operations per second) isn't a great metric for measuring GPUs. Still, they do give a rough ballpark estimate. NVidia' march from the 1080 ti (2016 for $699) to RTX 2080 Ti (2018 for $999) to the RTX 3080 (2020 for $699) moves from 8.9 Terflops 15.1 Terflops to 29.7 teraflops. Both AMD and Nvidia will be moving to 5nm GPUs in 2021, which is bound to increase performance. In two years, we very well may see GPUs in the 45-60 teraflop range based on the trajectory in the GPU market. Apple's GPU clocks in at 2,1 teraflops. While an absurd comparison, a GeForce 3080 clocks in at 203333 in OpenCL in GeekBench 5. Apple's m1 is less than 1/10th of Nvidia at 18751, roughly the same as the budget GeForce GTX 950, released in 2015 for $159. AMD's 6800 series makes this comparison even more absurd, clocking in at 356337 in OpenCL, almost twenty times more powerful, and the 6800 XT is more than 22x than Apple's first GPU. Apple's laptop future looks exceptionally bright, but its professional desktop future is murky. Core counts are high, thermal budgets are big, RAM measures into the terabytes, GPUs are massive, and modularity is king.

    I can easily imagine a strange future where Apple's hardware aces high-end GPUs when rendering video from video editing applications but gets pummeled in gaming or tensor-flow.

    Will Apple release any Apple Silicon with modular components? Will they be based on current standards? We can only hope that the ideal Mac Pro is capable of using common GPUs like AMD's RX 6800 or the bigger AMD's RX 6900 XT.

    How to replace the CPUs in a 4,1 - 5,1

    For the majority of the life of this guide I realized, I've never listed how to install guides. The Hex 3.2 update from 2010 quad 2.8 photos new! CPU to use! from 2011 has been a community standby, amassing well over 200k views since it was first posted. ifixit it also has "Mac Pro 2009-2012 CPU (8 core) Replacement" that demonstrates the process of replacing the CPUs. There's also quite a bit of youtube content on the subject. The 4,1 dual trays use delidded CPUs.

    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 list 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 / 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
    • 128GB in a dual-processor Mac Pro (although in certain circumstances, 160 GB of RAM works in 5.1s, RAM Upgrades section)

    ✔️* = Requires Mac Pro 4,1 -> 5,1 firmware upgrade. 4,1 dual CPU 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. I'm not picking on Pindelski's guide, as it certainly contains mostly good advice, but the collective community knowledge has progressed quite a bit since then.

    *️⃣ = The iSeries CPUs cannot address ECC memory nor be used in dual CPUs. Multiple users have confirmed more 56 GBs of RAM with iSeries.

    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. Note, the Mac Pro 3,1s use Krotox as it's thermal grease/compound (the lubricant applied directly on the CPU between the heatsink.), a Perfluorinated compound (PFC) according to MacRumors posters, which is recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EU as toxic to humans. Due to the health concerns, it's best not to reapply thermal grease on a Mac Pro 3,1 rather swap CPUs. It's recommended to let the Mac Pro 3,1 cool for at least an hour and the CPU thermal before changing the CPUs.

    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. Note, a few of the Mac Pro 2,1s use Krotox as its thermal grease/compound (the lubricant applied directly on the CPU between the heatsink.), a Perfluorinated compound (PFC) according to MacRumors users (see the post for details on the 2,1 affected models) which is recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EU as toxic to humans. Due to the health concerns, it's best not to reapply thermal grease on the affected Mac Pro 2,1 models rather swap CPUs. It's recommended to let the Mac Pro 3,1 cool for at least an hour and the CPU thermal before changing the CPUs.

    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 the 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 for dual core models. See the Delidding CPUs section for more details.

    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 in the dual CPU models. 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).

    The single CPU tray 4,1 use a single CPU tray.

    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 discussing the pros and cons of types of benchmarks, the most popular theoretical benchmarking software, GeekBench 5, was released recently. Most users are used to seeing Geekbench 4 numbers, which are not comparable to GeekBench 5. 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. GeekBench 5 removes individual memory tests (which isn't very indicative of the real-world) but is entirely 64-bit only for bigger memory stress tests. The encryption and codec manipulation tests have also been updated to reflect current standards and new tests related to machine learning and map calculations. The full list of changes can be read here: GeekBench: Geekbench 5 is released with all-new tests, modes, and scores.




    GPU upgrades

    Radeon VII in Mac Pro 5,1

    Mac Pro 5,1 running a Radeon VII using a Pixlas Mod

    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 10.14 (and above). This could change but has not yet. When I originally wrote my first Mac Pro Upgrade guide seven+ years ago, readers found it surprising that one could use off-the-shelf PC Nvidia / AMD cards. Today this seems to be common knowledge.

    I made a GPU overview video as a primer to the GPU section.

    Annoyingly, Apple bundles its drivers with OS releases, and thus GPU support is tied to OS upgrades. Thus a modern GPU like the 5700 XT requires 10.15 Catalina and is not supported in 10.14 Mojave, nor probably never will be.

    Discussing GPUs is confusing for the Mac Pro, and I've attempted to make this as clear as possible. I highly recommend reading the next section, dividing up the GPU landscape.

    Dividing Up The GPU landscape

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

    • OEM Mac 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 Mac 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 GPUs may not work at all without first installing the Mac-compatible ROM on them. Many of the Flashable cards had Mac versions in some form. One enterprising modder has created custom ROMs for flashed cards but charges a premium for his service. See Custom Flashed Cards sections for more details.
    • Non-EFI Bootscreen Cards: This is the most common upgrade path. They are GPUs 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. With OpenCore installed (see the OpenCore section for details), a pre-boot screen can be displayed now with these cards.

    After that, we have two more sub-classes of GPU based on support for Metal, Apple's replacement for OpenGL, used in 10.14+

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

    We're not done yet. Finally, GPUs can require more power than the factory Mac Pro PCIe power taps. The Mac Pro's forward-thinking design tries to eliminate cable mess by taking the uncommon design of having passthrough PCIe power taps on the motherboard. On a standard PC, these cables would be linked directly to the PSU. The Mac Pro's 980 watt PSU is up to the task of very large GPUs, but it requires bypassing the motherboard power taps. Clever hackers have created solutions like Mac Pro Pixlas Mod (also covered in the Other mods section of this guide) or using external PSUs. Users have successfully powered two GeForce 1080 TIs using the Pixlas mod and (possibly upgraded) internal PSU. GPUs that require additional power, for example, are the GeForce 1080 Ti, AMD Vega 64, AMD Vega FE, Radeon VII, and Radeon 5700 XT.

    • GPUs that do not require any additional power
    • GPUs that require additional power using a power supply modification like Pixlas or external PSU.

    To summarize, a GPU could be OEM EFI compatible (bootscreen), flashable to EFI compatible, or not EFI compatible (no bootscreen, but with OpenCore can still display a bootscreen) but still work under Mac OS, and it may or may not be Mojave/Catalina compatible and may not require PSU modification. Apple implemented EFI, which does not ≠ UEFI, the PC standard, as they embraced EFI early on before the UFI standard. This used an older standard for EFI level graphics drivers, called Universal Graphics Adapter Protocol (UGA). UEFI uses the Graphics Output Protocol (GOP). GPU manufacturers typically have not supported UGA hence why PC GPUs do not support pre-OS boot graphics. Using Opencore, a non-native pre-boot screen can be loaded as it packs in the GOP pre-boot drivers.

    Generally, anyone running a non-EFI-compatible boot screen will want to keep an EFI compatible card around (even if not installed) for OS upgrades or emergencies. OS updates (including security updates) 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 over the decade-plus of owning a Mac Pro.

    A GPU may or may not support Metal, the new graphics API used in 10.14.x and above. The GPU also might draw more power than the motherboard passthrough can handle.

    Summary of the GPU options

    • Very few GPUs can be flashed to support Mac EFI to display options. Most options are very old.
    • Most aftermarket GPUs for the Mac Pro will not support the bootscreen. This is due to Apple's implementation of EFI predating the later PC standard of UEFI. The bootscreen is optional, and GPUs will work fine once the OS has loaded its display drivers. OpenCore now provides users with the ability to enable the bootscreen.
    • Many GPUs (mostly NVidia GPUs and very old AMD GPUs) are not supported in 10.14 because of the transition to the new graphics API, Metal, which replaces the dated OpenGL.
    • Nvidia and Apple are feuding. There are no drivers for newer Nvidia hardware in 10.14 and above. Effectively, the upgrade options are limited to AMD.
    • Apple bundles its drivers with the OS. Thus GPU support is tied to the OS version. The newest GPUs like the 5700 XT only are supported in 10.15 Catalina.
    • Very high-end GPUs like the Vega 64, Radeon VII, or Radeon 5700 XT draw more power than the Mac Pro can deliver via its PCIe power taps; thus, other methods must be used like PSU modification or undervolting.

    OEM EFI Bootable Cards / Aftermarket EFI Bootable

    EFI compatible cards are GPUs that display a native Mac version: These are 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. This list does not include MacVidCards GPUs as those feature custom ROMs that aren't distributed.

    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, 32 Bit EFI 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 32 Bit EFI 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 have a Mac equivalent sold by Apple as OEM or aftermarket Mac version. Users transferred the GPU's ROMs and then distributed them via 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. Still, 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.

    Non-Mac-EFI Compatible GPUs

    The vast majority of the upgrade market is Non-Mac-EFI Compatible GPUs. These GPUs will work in a Mac but do not have the appropriate firmware to display the pre-boot screens on a Mac (video output that happens before Mac OS has loaded). 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 after loading the drivers during the boot process. 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 after loading the drivers during the boot process. See the Mini-Glossary for more info on EFI. However, adding an additional step in the boot process, using OpenCore (see OpenCore section for details), can deliver a boot screen.

    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. The downside is users cannot install new GPUs in old OSes. To use later GPUs, you must be running an OS new enough to include drivers for that specific GPU.

    Apple does not support modern Nvidia GPUs, sadly, in Mac OS. Apple includes support for older NVidia chipsets as these GPUs are shipped once-upon-a-time in various Mac configurations. 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. Previously, only GPUs based on the Kepler architecture could be used with a Mac without the web drivers. 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, the 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 Kepler NVidia GPUs up to macOS 11 Big Sur).

    Aftermarket GPU Breakdown

    The GPU landscape can be confusing. To recap, the above GPUs can be the following:

    • EFI Flashable to show pre-boot screens
    • Require additional drivers (NVidia-only)
    • May not be 10.14+ compatible due to a lack of Metal support (Apple's new API for graphics to replace OpenGL)
    • May require modifying the Power Supply using a technique like Pixlas mod to properly power the GPU.

    Macs today can use off-the-shelf GPUs. I've attempted to list all the GPUs going back to 10.8.x, although this list is growing. Metal support is required for 10.14. A few select GPUs can be flashed to show pre-boot bios, which are listed as Mac EFI compatible. Lastly, some GPUs require more power than the default Mac Pro power taps can provide, requiring an additional Power Supply or a modification known as the Pixlas mod. Please note that this entire list includes many GPUs, broken down into two main categories: AMD GPUs and NVidia GPUs.

    Note: I have excluded cards with custom EFI ROMs from MacVidCards as these aren't user flashable.

    AMD GPUs

    Note: The minimum OS list required may not be correct. Please contact me if incorrect. Please read the supplemental links for confirmations and possible issues provided next to GPUs.

    AMD GPU Min OS Support Supports Metal Mac EFI flashable PSU Mod
    Radeon X1900 XT (Mac) 10.6 - 10.13.x No Yes* No
    Radeon 2600 XT (Mac) 10.6 - 10.13.x No Yes* No
    Radeon 2600 Pro (Mac) 10.6 - 10.13.x No Yes* No
    Radeon HD 3870 10.7 - 10.13.x No Yes No
    Radeon HD 4870 10.7 - 10.13.x No Yes* No
    Radeon HD 4890 10.7 - 10.13.x No Yes** No
    Radeon HD 5770 10.6.8 - 10.13.x No Yes*, ** No
    Radeon HD 5850 10.6.8 - 10.13.x No No No
    Radeon HD 5870 10.6.8 - 10.13.x No Yes* No
    Radeon HD 6850 10.7 - 10.13.x No Yes** No
    Radeon HD 6870 10.7 - 10.13.x No Yes** No
    Radeon HD 69x0 No Support No No No
    Radeon HD 7950 10.8.3 - Curr Yes Yes* No
    Radeon HD 7970 10.8.3 - 10.13.6 or Curr Yes Yes** No
    Radeon HD 7970 (GHz Edition) 10.8.3 - 10.13.6 or Curr Yes Yes** No
    Radeon HD 7990 Buggy No ? No
    R7 250 Requires hack ?? No No
    R7 260X Requires hack ?? No No
    R9 270 Requires Hack No No No
    R9 270X 10.8.3 - 10.13.6 1 No No No
    R9 280X 10.12 - Curr 1 Yes Yes** No
    R9 290X 10.10 - Curr Yes No No
    R9 380 Depends Yes Possible No
    R9 380x Depends Yes Possible No
    R9 390 Requires hack Yes No No
    R9 Nano 10.11 - Curr Yes No No
    R9 Fury 10.12 - Curr, 1 Yes No No
    R9 Fury X 10.12 - Curr ? Yes No No
    Radeon RX 450 10.12 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon RX 455 10.12 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Rx 460 10.12 - Curr 1 Yes No No
    Radeon RX 470 10.12.6 - Curr 1 Yes No No
    Radeon RX 480 10.12.6 - Curr 1 2 Yes No No
    Radeon RX 550 10.12.6 - Curr or None
    (Depends on card)1 (reddit), 2 3
    Yes No No
    Radeon RX 560 10.12.6 - Curr 1 Yes No No
    Radeon RX 560x 10.12.6 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon RX 570 10.12.6 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon RX 570x 10.12.6 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon RX 580 10.12.6 - Curr Yes No *** No
    Radeon RX 580x 10.12.6 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 2100 10.12- Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 3100 10.12- Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 4100 10.12- Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 4130 10.12 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 4150 10.12 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 4170 10.13? - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 5100 10.13? - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 7100 10.13? - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 8100 10.13? - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro WX 9100 10.13? - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon Pro Duo 32GB GDDR5 512-Bit
    too long for Mac Pro, requires removing PCIe fans
    10.13? - Curr Yes No No
    Vega 56 10.13.x - Curr Yes No No ****
    Vega 64 10.13.x - Curr Yes No Yes
    Vega Frontier Edition 10.13 - Curr Yes No Yes
    Radeon VII 10.14.5 - Curr Yes No Yes
    Radeon 5500 XT 10.15.2 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon 5600 XT 10.15.3 - Curr Yes No No
    Radeon 5700 10.15.2 - Curr Yes No ?
    Radeon 5700 XT 10.15.2 - Curr Yes No Yes
    Radeon 6600
    (Not supported without firmware)*🚫
    12.1 - Curr Yes No ?
    Radeon 6600 XT
    (Not supported without firmware)*🚫
    12.1 - Curr Yes Yes? ?
    Radeon 6700 XT None - No ?
    Radeon 6800 11.4 - Curr
    (Not supported without ROM flash)*🚫
    Yes Yes? ?
    Radeon 6800 XT 11.4 - Curr
    (Not supported without ROM flash) *🚫
    Yes Yes? ?
    Radeon 6900 XT 11.4 - Curr
    (Not supported without ROM flash)*🚫
    Yes No ?

    * OEM/Retail ROMs are available for these cards

    ** Modified Netkas or Blacksheep ROMs are available for these cards

    *** Mac Pro 3.1s can display bootscreens with the RX 580. See the Mac Pro 3.1s and AMD GPUs section.

    **** The Vega 56 with the factory firmware does not require a Pixlas mod. However, firmware tuned for gaming or using the Vega 64 firmware does require a Pixlas Mod. See Vega 56 flashing section.

    *🚫 Currently, MacVidCards (EURO) is selling flashed 6600 XT / 6800 and they can be flashed (Without a native boot screen) using Sychretic's ROM

    Radeon R7 260 and R9 390 can be used macOS but require Hackintosh libraries to work. I recommend looking at one of the many other options unless one is comfortable researching hackintosh forums and installing custom kexts and the possibility of the hardware not working.

    The Radeon Navi 21 GPUs (Radeon 6800 - 6900 XT) and the classic Mac Pros


    AMD's Navi 21 GPUs (the 6600, 6600 XT, 6800, 6800 XT, and 6900 XT) are officially supported in macOS 12.1+, but due to a firmware bug, it would interrupt the boot process in the classic Mac Pros. The original speculation was the ROM used AVX calls (see macrumors), but after a deeper look, it was due to poorly written code. After this discovery, MacVidCards (EURO) started selling flashed 6800, and they can be flashed (Without a native boot screen) using Sychretic's ROM

    If you'd like a deeper dive into the state of the Radeon 6000 series GPUs on the classic Mac Pro, I've created an entire article on the subject .

    You can flash the Navi 21 Radeons and use them in your classic Mac Pro, but there is a catch: With the factory ROMs that ship with these GPUs, the classic Mac Pros will refuse to boot. You will need to use a computer that already supports these GPUs to flash them.


    NVidia GPUs

    Note: The minimum OS list required may not be correct because of the lack of info in Web Drivers. Older OSes probably still require web drivers but in later OSes (10.13.x or higher), even for non-web driver Cards. Cards that are Metal compatible will not require web drivers in Mojave or Catalina. This section is very new (and as far as I know, the first attempt that covers all categories), and there are MANY GPU variations. Please contact me if I have listed something incorrectly. Be sure to search forums like MacRumors to confirm compatibility..

    For macOS Monterey, any Metal compatible Nvidia GPU requires using OpenCore Legacy Patcher to inject drivers.

    ❓ = Several NVidia GPUs shipped different chipsets under the same name, this is important as Metal only supports Kepler chipsets, and these GPUs had both Femi/Kepler variants. I recommend avoiding these particular GPUs if you are looking for Metal (10.14.x) support.

    The RTX 2000 series are usable in Windows/Linux with hardware acceleration. The RTX 3000 series will not boot and thus cannot be used in an alternative OS. Multiple card variations have been confirmed as not working, such as the MacRumors thread and MacProUpgrade (Requires membership) groups.

    Please be sure to read the previous sections for explanations of boot screens, EFI, Metal, and power supply modifications.

    Nvidia GPU OS Support Requires Web Drivers Supports Metal Mac EFI flashable PSU Mod
    GT 610 10.9 - Curr No Yes No No
    GT 620 10.9 - Curr No Yes No No
    GT 630 10.9 - 10.13.6 or Curr Depends ❓ Depends Yes(HP) No
    GT 640 10.8 - 10.13.6 or Curr Depends ❓ Depends No No
    GTX 650 10.9 - 10.13.6 or Curr Depends ❓ Yes No No
    GTX 650 Ti 10.9 - 10.13.6 or Curr Depends ❓ Depends No No
    GTX 660 10.9 - 10.13.6 or Curr Depends ❓ Depends No No
    GTX 660 Ti 10.9 -10.13.6 or Curr No Depends No No
    GTX 670 10.9 - Curr No Yes No No
    GTX 670 Ti 10.9 - Curr No Yes No No
    GTX 680 10.8.3 - Curr No Yes Yes No
    GTX 690 10.9 - Curr No Yes No No
    GT 710 10.8 - Curr No Yes No No
    GT 720 10.9 - Curr No Yes No No
    GT 730 10.9 - 10.13.6 or Curr Depends ❓ Depends No No
    GT 740 10.9 - or Curr No Yes No No
    GT 750 10.9 - 10.13.6, or Curr Depends Depnds No No
    GT 750 Ti 10.10 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    GTX 760 10.9 - Curr No Yes No No
    GTX 770 10.9 - Curr No Yes No No
    GTX 780 10.9.2 - Curr No Yes No No
    GTX 780 Ti 10.9.2 - Curr No Yes No No
    GTX 950 10.10.5 - 10.13.6 Yes no No No
    GTX 960 10.10.5 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    GTX 970 10.9.5 - 10.13.6 Yes No No** No
    GTX 980 10.10.5 - 10.13.6 Yes No No** No
    GTX 980 Ti 10.10.5 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    GTX 1030 10.12 - 10.13.6 No No No No
    GTX 1050 10.12 - 10.13.6 No No No No
    GTX 1060 10.12 - 10.13.6 No No No No
    GTX 1070 10.12 - 10.13.6 No No No** No
    GTX 1070 Ti 10.12 - 10.13.6 No No No No
    GTX 1080 10.12 - 10.13.6 No No No Yes
    GTX 1080 Ti 10.12 - 10.13.6 No No No Yes
    GTX 1080 Ti Founder's Edition (11 GB) 10.12 - 10.13.6 No No No Yes
    GTX Titan Black 10.10 - Curr No Yes No Yes
    GTX Titan X 10.10 - 10.13.6 No Yes No Yes
    Titan XP 10.10 - 10.13.6 Yes No No Yes
    RTX 20x0 series* None None No - -
    RTX 30x0 series** Will not boot None No - -

    ** Dumped MacVidCards ROMs for these cards are floating around on the internet, making these particular cards flashable by users, but the modified ROMs only exist due to MVC putting in the effort to hack together Mac EFI compatible ROMs. MVC has yet to give out its modified ROMs for free.

    **Thus far, community members have tested the 3060, 3070, 3080, and the classic Mac Pros will fail to even initiate the boot sequence. They cannot even be used in Windows or Linux.

    *** The NVidia RTX series will output the EFI bootscreen but do not have drivers.

    NVidia Professional GPUs

    The Quadro GPUs are widely supported by the Nvidia web drivers.

    Nvidia GPU OS Support Supports Metal Requires Web Drivers Mac EFI flashable PSU Mod
    Quadro P410 10.8 - 11.x no Yes No ?
    Quadro K600 10.8 - 11.x no Yes No ?
    Quadro K620 10.8 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro K1200 10.11 - 11.x No Yes No ?
    Quadro K2000 10.10 - 11.x No Yes No No
    Quadro K2000D 10.19 - Cu11.xrr No Yes No No
    Quadro K2200 10.10 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro K4000 10.10 - 11.x no Yes No No
    Quadro K4000D 10.10 - 11.x no Yes No No
    Quadro K4200 10.10 - 11.x no Yes No No
    Quadro K5000 10.10 - 11.x no Yes Yes No
    Quadro K5200 10.10 - 11.x no Yes No ?
    Quadro K6000 10.10 - 11.x no Yes No ?
    Quadro M2000 10.9 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro M4000 10.9 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro M5000 10.9 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro M6000 10.9 - 10.13.6 Yes No No ?
    Quadro M6200 10.9 - 10.13.6 Yes No No ?
    Quadro P620 10.11 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro P1000 10.11 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro P2000 10.11 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro P4000 10.11 - 10.13.6 Yes No No No
    Quadro P5000 10.11 - 10.13.6 Yes No No Yes
    Quadro P6000 10.11 - 10.13.6 Yes No No Yes
    RTX 20x0 series None None No - -
    RTX 30x0 series Will not boot any OS None No - -

    This is an on-going project, and information for older OSes is harder to source due to the lack of info in NVidia web driver documentation. Please let me know of any incorrect or missing GPUs. You can reach me by going to my contact page.

    Unsupported by Metal GPUs

    The above list can be summarized by chipsets as Apple distributes its OSes with GPU drivers. The unsupported chipsets by NVidia and AMD are as follows:

    • NVidia Ampere Chipset (RTX 3060, RTX 3070, RTX 3080... etc) These will not boot due to the firmware on the cards
    • NVidia Turning Chipset (RTX cards + Quadro RTX + GTX 1650, GTX 1660, RTX 2060, RTX 2070, RTX 2080... etc)
    • NVidia Pascal Chipset (GTX 10x0 series, Quadro P series, )
    • NVidia Maxwell Chipset (GTX 9x0 series, Quadro M series, Quadro K620, K1200 K220)
    • NVidia Femi Chipset (GeForce GT/GTX 4xx series, GeForce GT/GTX 5xx series)
    • NVidia Tesla Chipset (Nvidia GT120)
    • Pre AMD Radeons - ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT, 1900 XT, ATI Radeon HD 4870, 4890, 5770, 5850, 5870, 6850, 6870

    * Buying older NVidia GPUs can be confusing as there are variants that are unlabeled chipsets. Basically, the GT 610, GT 620, GT 640, and GT 730, GTX 750 have Kepler and Femi chipset variants. If you have a Kepler GPU, you can run Metal, thus Mojave, Catalin and Big Sur. If you are looking for a very cheap GPU for Mojave or to upgrade your firmware, the GTX 650s can be found on the used market for $20-$35 USD. Mojave GPU Buyer's guide is mostly accurate but doesn't note that GTX 750 variants.

    *** 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 LO. aka h9826790).

    MacRumors forum-goers report that the following Radeons are supported in 10.13.4

    AMD Vega loud idling

    Some of the Vega GPUs suffer loud idling speeds under older OSX/ Mac OS versions, 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.

    The loud idling was solved in 10.14, thus making the firmware necessary for 10.13.x

    Vega 56 -> Vega 64 Firmware flash


    The Vega 56s are one of the best value GPUs for the Mac as they can grow with your setup. They 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. If you intend to mod your PSU, you can always flash a Vega 56 to a Vega 64 for a nice speed boost after you modify it.

    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 and above. However, and this is a big one, Netkas has been able to get the RX560 working in a Mac Pro 3.1 by adding 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. More recently, the 3.1s occupy an interesting niche. They can display a bootscreen without flashing. Both Catalina and Mojave are supported.

    NVidia GPU and Mac OS

    As previously mentioned, NVidia GPUs have been largely unsupported by Apple in macOS. The last chipset to appear in any OEM Mac configuration was from the Kepler era. Sadly, the RTX line of GPUs has never been supported in any shape or form in macOS, but the RTX 2000s can be used in Mac Pros in Windows 10.

    The state of NVidia drivers

    NVidia, for years, has written drivers for its unsupported GPUs for Mac OS called NVidia Web Drivers as Apple does not bundle drivers for most NVidia chipsets with its OS. The only chipsets that come bundled with macOS are for the Kepler chipset as it is the last chipset Apple used in its computers. The Web Drivers allow previously unsupported GPUs to be used with OSX/MacOS.

    With the advent of 10.14 Mojave, OpenGL has been deprecated and replaced with Apple's Metal library for GPU acceleration, which dropped support for many GPUs. Apple published an official list but did not list all compatible GPUs for Mojave. Any non-Kepler NVidia GPUs do not work in Mojave and above. Due to a public spat, Apple is blocking NVidia from releasing drivers to support its GPUs in 10.14.

    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. Rumors have ranged between Volta support, eGPUs, and most recently Metal vs. CUDA.

    This is a shame as there is a massive performance gap of certain Adobe products on AMD hardware vs. NVidia hardware. Also, users are reporting that the RTX NVidia cards are displaying bootscreens in macOS but do not have any mac drivers, meaning no hardware acceleration. The RTX has UGA to GOP firmware; thus is a happy accident.

    NVidia Webdriver Manual Installation

    The web drivers are somewhat vague and unclear from NVidia. They do not list which 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

    To avoid headaches of NVidia drivers, Benjamin Dobell wrote a CLI utility to install the appropriate Mac NVidia drivers for your system. He describes it as follows: "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. Initially, when I wrote this section, I hesitated to link directly to their site as several FaceBook (requires membership to MacProUpgrade) / MacRumors posts have been lukewarm. I worried readers might think I was endorsing a service they may not like. The cards do work, but the turn-around times are long, communication infrequent (although since writing that, MacVidcards now boasts improved communication and turn arounds). Is that true? I don't know, FaceBook (requires membership to MacProUpgrade) really runs the gamut. The prices are high, but they are legitimate, with many testimonials floating around message boards from longtime members that they do indeed work as promised. Just be prepared to wait and any issues to be sorted out on a time frame that may not be acceptable. MacVidCards claims to have written custom EFI ROMs for both NVidia and now AMD cards. Rather than 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 to 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 custom GPU cards Mac EFI compatible.

    After seeing my guide (in a much earlier state), after reading the previous statement, Dave of MacVidCards reached out to me to correct 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.

    The era of firmware flashing GPUs for Macs is at an end as 2019 Mac Pro uses modified UEFIl thus, now, off-the-shelf GPUs provide bootscreens, and OpenCore provides a pre-bootscreen for users who require one.

    Which card should I buy?

    There are several issues, as explained repeatedly, and they are as follows:

    1. Mac OS switched from OpenGL to Metal. This means a lot of older cards do not have drivers in 10.14+ Mojave and above.
    2. It's AMD or bust when it comes to aftermarket GPUs. Modern NVidia GPUs do not have Metal drivers, meaning they are not Mojave/Catalina compatible. Only the old Kepler chipsets are supported up to macOS 11 Big Sur, Monterey removes them.
    3. Very few aftermarket GPUs can output a bootscreen. There are multiple ways to deal with this, from utilities to OpenCore.
    4. The highest-end GPUs (Vega 64, VII) require PSU modifications or undervolting to run.

    There isn't a "best card" for any computer, instead of 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 AMD Radeon VII over lesser cards (for example, an AMD Radeon 580). Consider this: A Radeon VII sells for many times more than a Mac Pro 3,1 itself. Commonly, forums and groups will mention "pairs well" or "bottleneck" (see PCIe And You (PCIe overview) PCIe 2.0 vs. 3.0), 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 over investing deeper into a Mac Pro 3,1. 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.

    • 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. Notably, 64-bit EFI-supported cards will not display the boot screen.
    • Mac Pro 3,1 users tend to consider the AMD Radeon 580x a great choice. The AMD cards require a hack that can be enabled by special drivers that enable SSE 4.2 emulation. Also, for the Mac Pro 3.1s only, users have figured out a way to display the boot screen without flashing for the 580x. This only applies to the 3.1s. This isn't as important in the era of OpenCore but is worth mentioning.
    • Mac Pro 5,1 users looking for modern performance should consider the AMD 580x, Vega 56 Vega 64, Vega FE, VII (10.14.6), or 5700 XT (10.15+). 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 the most performant GPUs supported in Mojave. Users who do not care about performance may want to consider the R9 280x as it can be flashed to include EFI support. The performance king is the VII currently for both compute and gaming, although the 5700xt represents a great value for users looking to run Catalina 10.15 or above.

    Overwhelmingly the most popular GPU for Mac Pros is the RX 580 due to its great price-to-performance and long support. However, for most users, I'd recommend looking at a Vega 56 as it's a completely different microarchitecture. It features the 14 nm Vega, much faster VRAM (HMB2 over GDDR5), and "Next Compute Unit," aka NCU, which all result in significant gains over the RX580 and does not require a PSU modification. The Vega line is well suited for professional applications. Also, the Vega 56 can be flashed to the Vega 64 firmware resulting in near Vega 64 performance. Using Vega 64 firmware will require a PSU mod.

    I want a GPU that has a boot screen and is Metal (Mojave 10.14+) compatible...

    I personally would recommend OpenCore, as any Metal compatible GPU will output a basic boot screen or foregoing the bootscreen entirely as you can easily manage dual booting. If you are looking for a frictionless upgrade, you can buy GPUs from MacVidCards (they have RX 580s, Vega 56s, 5700 XTs) or get one of the following:

    Again, you can buy any supported aftermarket GPU with OpenCore and get a bootscreen using OpenCore. Read more about it in the OpenCore section.

    A MacProUpgrade (requires membership) member wrote a post "The Cheapest Metal Supported Card". I recommend reading it but Doug's post for those bargain hunting.

    Installing a GPU

    GPUs are straightforward to install except for 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. For 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.

    For users looking for a tutorial, Every Mac has a video guide on how to install PCIe cards.

    Installing a 2.5x height GPU (such as a Radeon 590x)

    An enterprising MacRumors poster figured out a way to use a taller-than-normal-GPU in his Mac Pro. The secret is simply getting a single card slot mount and replacing the dual height on the card, and using the fourth slot. It's not perfect as it blocks off SATA ports.

    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.

    In modern Mac OS, HDMI should appear as an audio output as well as Display Port. However, if it does not, fear not. There are guides for older OSes.

    Mixing and Matching GPUs

    It's not uncommon for Mac Pro users to keep a secondary GPU installed for EFI bootscreen access. As a general rule, it is okay to mix web driver NVidia GPUs with an old ATI/AMD GPU. If you use a modern AMD GPU with, for example, a GT 120, you may experience erratic behavior in certain applications like Photoshop and Firefox. For whatever reason, these (and various) applications prefer the GT 120 over the AMD GPU and thus perform poorly. When using a modern AMD GPU, you may want to remove the old GPU depending on if you experience slow performance or bizarre behavior in certain applications. This is a case-by-case issue and may or may not be an issue for various users.

    The Most Powerful / Fastest GPU

    The Mac Pros with PCIe 2.0 are not "speed capped", see the PCIe 2.0 vs. 3.0 vs. 4.0, and its impact on GPU performance and bottlenecking section for more details as GPUs currently do not require the bandwidth that even PCIe 3.0 offers.

    This seems to be a burning question that comes a lot in Mac Pro communities, and it can be answered very easily answered with the recently flashable the 6900 XT. Previously before the hacked ROM to enable Navi 21 GPUs, by the benchmarks, the Radeon VII was hands down the most powerful consumer GPU available for macOS. The best place to check GPU performance for macOS is the Geekbench Metal Benchmarks, which is far from perfect.

    The Radeon VII was especially a curiousity as it was a rebranded AMD Radeon Instinct with a minor speed cap on its FP64 performance, as it consisted of cards that failed to make the Instinct cut during testing. It's best to think of the Radeon VII as a compute GPU that happens to play games well and was manufactured as a stop-gap so AMD could recoup some losses on the Instinct line before its next chipset arrived. Thus, it occupies a strange space in the GPU market, only existing for about 9 months and expensive on the used market as Mac Pro 2019 owners discovered it's about as fast as the 4x as expensive Radeon Pro Vega II MPX Module. AnandTech's comparison to the Instinct line shows why the VII was a curious card, existing as a power-hungry. It handily bests the 5700 XT in compute benchmarks (used for non-gaming, video editing, etc.) scores and is fractionally faster in 3D than the 5700 XT in some applications. It bests the 1080 Ti in everything sans CUDA even though the support for the Nvidia card ends at 10.13, and the Radeon VII starts with 10.14. In fact, the Radeon VII ties with the M1 Ultra's GPU in Metal benchmarks.

    The Navi 21 GPUs finally oust the Radeon VII as the 6900 XT tends to be roughly 75% faster overall vs the Radeon VII, and the 6800 XT roughly 50% faster. This is supremely welcome news as so few Radeon VIIs were produced and became particularly sought after by crypto-miners. For a large duration of the GPU shortage, 6900 XT generally sold for less than the Radeon VII thanks to it using HDBM2 instead of GDDR6 memory.

    The 6600 XT opens up the possiblity of reasonably priced GPU performance with the classic Mac Pros as its performance is comparable to the Radeon VII in Metal benchmarks.

    Previously this section contained a line-by-line breakdown of the fastest cards but with the newly supported-by-flashing 6900 XT, 6800 XT and 6800, these are the fastest cards. Previously the Radeon VII and 5700 XT were the two fastest GPUs.

    As GPU prices come back down to earth, price conscience shoppers should look for the 5700 XT (supported in Catalina), the Vega 56 or 64 (supported in Mojave) and of course the RX 580.

    I recommend the article, Barefeats: Benchmarking AMD Radeon VII Gaming GPU with Mojave 10.14.5, as it shows the VII running in different hardware configs against the Vega 64, RX 580, D700s, and RX 560. Also, the 2010 Mac Pro tower with AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT GPU running under macOS 10.15.1 Catalina shows the Radeon VII vs. the 5700 Xt, GeekBench 5 Metal Benchmarks Pugetsystems: DaVinci Resolve GPU Roundup shows the 5700 XT, Vega 64, and VII on Windows.




    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). This isn't a complete list of all possible I/O cards but rather a list of common ones.

    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*see notes

    • 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

    USB 3.1 / USB 3.2 Gen 1 / Gen 2*see notes

    The USB 3.x standard has had a few rebrandings, and the language on devices can often be confusing, as due to the recent rebranding, some devices might be labeled as "USB 3.0" or "USB 3.1 Gen 1" or "USB 3.2 Gen 1" which is entirely the same. Below is a small chart of names for each tier of USB.

    Original Name 2013 Rebrand 2019 Rebrand Bandwidth
    USB 3.0 USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB 3.2 Gen 1 5 Gbps (625 MB/s)
    USB 3.1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB 3.2 Gen 2 10 Gbps (1250 MB/s)
    USB 3.2 - USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20 Gbps (2500 MB/s)

    If the above is confusing, I do not blame you as I find it too.

    USB Cards and Performance

    USB 3.x cards are one of the most common upgrades for a Mac Pro, but its important to understand that there is a great deal of performance difference between cheap USB cards vs. high-end ones (such as Sonnet's Allegro Pro), and this comes down to three factors: How many controllers per port, USB generation and how much bandwidth.

    Generally, inexpensive USB cards will feature one controller and 4-ports, and be listed as USB 3.0 or USB 3.2 Gen 1. This means 625 MB/s is divided roughly 4 by 4 (although not exactly). A user should expect to see only roughly 150-250 MB/s on a singular port regardless of anything else is plugged into a card.

    A USB 3.2 Gen 2 or USB 3.1 card with four ports and two controllers will likely see 625-800 MB/s per port.

    The classic Mac Pros Perform well with USB 3.2 Gen 2. The above video provides benchmarks of the Mac Pro 5,1 vs. a Macbook Pro 2017 and a MacBook Pro M1.

    Any card using the ASMedia ASM3142 should be macOS 10.11.x+ compatible as this controller is supported by macOS as long as it doesn't require external power. One of the most popular ASM3142 import cards (often a black PCIe card with names like Tuneway Usb3.1 Type-C , WEI-LUONG USB 3.1 to Type-C, YISUNF USB 3.1 to Type-C 2 Port, Camisin USB 3.1 to Type-C 2) is not macOS compatible due to the power requirements.

    • MAXPower 4-Port USB 3.1 Gen 1
    • Sonnet Technologies Allegro USB-C
    • StarTech 4-Port USB 3.1 (10Gbps) Card PEXUSB314A2V
    • 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
    • Rosewill RC-20002 USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports
    • FebSmart 1X USB-A & 1X USB-C 10Gbps Ports PCIE USB 3.1 Gen 2 Card
    • FebSmart 2X 10Gbps USB-C Ports PCIE USB 3.1 Gen 2
    • FebSmart USB 3.1 Gen 2 2X 10Gbps USB-A
    • FebSmart 2X USB-C & 3X USB-A 10Gbps Ports PCIE USB 3.2 Gen 2 Card
    • FebSmart 5X 10Gbps USB-A Ports PCIE USB 3.2 Gen 2
    • BEYIMEI PCI-E 4X to USB 3.1 Gen 2
    • LTERIVER PCI Express to 2 USB 3.1 Gen2 Type A 10Gbps Ports Expansion Card
    • LTERIVER PCI Express to 2X USB 3.1 Gen2 Type C 10Gbps
    • Ableconn PEX-UB158 USB 3.1 5-Port PCIe 3.0 Card (1x USB-C & 2X USB-A & 1x 2-Port Internal USB Header
    • Aukey B01AAETL6Y USBc 2-Port (no longer manufactured, review)

    SATA/eSATA*see notes

    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*see notes

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

    Ethernet (10 Gigabit)*see notes

    Useful Links




    Thunderbolt?

    Thunderbolt 3 is possible on the classic Mac Pros, but with caveats:

    1. * Currently the only card that works Gigabyte GC-TITAN RIDGE, although reports have shown that the ASUS Expansion Card for Z170 & X99 Motherboards ThunderboltEX 3 card can produce video passthrough but will stop if the computer is put to sleep.
    2. * Initializing the card either requires custom firmware (and physically modifying the card) or requires Windows 10, to warm boot to Mac OS. This means installing the custom TitanRidge Firmware via Windows 10 or simply booting Windows then rebooting.
    3. * Sleeping can pose problems. For example, the Thunderbolt Display will not wake if the Mac Pro is put to sleep when it is connected to a Thunderbolt Port. (May be fixed modification of the physical card)
    4. * Thunderbolt Devices are not hot-swappable without OpenCore and physically modified card. USB 2.0 is not supported... yet.
    5. * There is a Facebook Group for those dedicated to using custom firmware
    6. * I recommend checking out Mac Sound Solutions's YouTube video: Mac Pro 5,1 Thunderbolt 3 0 Titan Ridge pros and cons for an overview of what the install process and usage looks like.

    A brief history of Thunderbolt on the Mac Pros

    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. Afterward, 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. Months passed, as users toyed with boot methods and firmware versions until unexpectedly on hackintosh-forum.de (German Hackintosh forum), a user claimed success on a modified firmware with some info on the vector. Later, the moderator, DMS2, posted custom firmware on MacRumors despite some members being somewhat less-that-polite. Since then, the community has moved to using OpenCore to unlock more functionality like hot-swapping and Thunderbolt displays, this guide (posted by a GitHub user) is an excellent resource.

    Using a TB3 Card

    The following is not a guide, but a quick overview as I personally do not own a Thunderbolt 3 and thus have not closely followed the progress. The only way currently to use an unmodified Thunderbolt 3 card is to cold-boot to Windows 10. This will initialize the Thunderbolt 3 card with the proper drivers installed. Once Windows 10 is launched, the user can 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, most Thunderbolt 3 devices work, but not all. The most commonly tested Thunderbolt 3 devices are audio interfaces.

    Custom Firmware now exists and is available for download at MacRumors and requires modifying the card. A user created a pictorial guide. This eliminates the need for the warm boot method but does not solve any of the other issues pertaining to sleep (Hot swapping requires particular pin connections). Using OpenCore, devices can become hot-swappable, and the Titan Ridge can support Thunderbolt Displays.

    Thunderbolt support is currently a moving target. 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 on threads like testing TB3 AIC with MP 5,1 and Mac 5,1 Titan Ridge TB3 Custom Firmware Facebook group for the latest and best info.

    I'm always open to corrections to this section (or anywhere in this guide). I've received a few emails requesting more information about Thunderbolt 3 on Mac Pros. Please understand before contacting me, I do not have a Thunderbolt 3 card myself, I probably cannot answer any questions, and thus all I know is documented here.




    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, its 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 older/slower ATA in the optical bay), 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. The design between the SATA ports also allows users to upgrade the ports using a PCIe controller.

    See the 3D Printed Replacement Hard Drive Trays / 2.5-inch Adapters for replacement hard drive sled mounts and adapters for 2.5-inch 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. 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 the ability to undeleted files and resurrects 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.

    Strictly speaking, from a data backup strategy, Time Machine is one of the best methods for backing up due to the data parity and ability to restore from previous backups making it far more effective than RAID or cloning an HDD. You can attach multiple HDDs for multiple Time Machine drives. Each drive is a separate backup with file histories, whereas RAID1 requires double the drives and only works for mechanical failures, not data loss, and cloning loses parity soon as new files are added/modified/deleted and not performed hourly. This isn't to say RAID arrays or clones of HDDs do not provide value, but RAID is not a backup strategy, and drive clones are frozen states but bootable, whereas time machine must be restored.

    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.

    Hard Disk Drives

    Mechanical hard drives still a place in the SSD world thanks to their price-per-gigabyte. The Mac Pro can use any SATA Hard disk drive, including 2.5-inch drives with 2.5-inch to 3.5-inch mounting brackets for the 4 drive bays. This extends to eSATA as well, although an eSATA PCIe card must be present to make use of eSATA drives.

    Not all HDDs are equal, and more goes into HDDs than cache sizes and RPMs. Many of the inexpensive HDDs use Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR), which lowers the cost per gigabyte by allowing more data on a platter but with a performance penalty. It's important to do research, depending on the application.

    Any external HDD should be presumed to be compatible with Mac OS (outside of extreme edge cases), although, without USB 3.0 or 3.1c cards, the performance of newer USB 3.0+ HDDs will be capped when plugged into a USB 2.0 port.

    Soft RAID and post 10.13

    RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) comes in management styles, hardware controllers that handle the RAID volume's setup, and presents the RAID cluster as a single volume to the OS and RAID that relies on OS drivers to manage the RAID cluster. For years, macOS has supported soft raid for those looking to make use of multi-volume drives, supporting both RAID 0 (striping, no data mirror) and RAID 1 (Data mirroring, no parity/striping). The axiom goes, RAID 0 means you'll get zero files back if a drive fails in a RAID 0 cluster. Mac OS also supports RAID 1 + 0 (often incorrectly referred to as RAID10), allowing for the benefit of mirroring the parity/striping drives. RAID 1+0 requires a minimum of 4 drives at the cost of 1/2 the storage of the array.

    However, with the switch to APFS, Apple no longer supports APFS for soft RAID for bootable volumes. Hardware RAID is still supported with APFS as the OS is unaware of the RAID Cluster, NVMe cards like the Western Digital Black AIC will work under macOS despite being a raid array thanks to the hardware controller.

    Making APFS bootable requires first having a bootable drive, then creating an APFS RAID array, then cloning the boot drive to the RAID array. Any updates to the OS will require first updating the boot drive, then copying over to the RAID array as you cannot update the RAID volume's OS. This is usually done using Carbon Copy Cloner but means users will spend a non-trivial amount syncing amount of syncing data as the usual update flow is: sync APFS RAID to single drive APFS, then boot single drive APFS, update, then sync to APFS RAID array, finally booting back to the APFS RAID array.

    Generally, many users opt to boot off a single SSD and use RAID as a storage/scratch disk.

    HDD RAID still has its place for a subset of users, but increasingly the prospect of even cheap SSDs having much much quicker random access and much faster read/write times has lead to less support. That said, it is possible to create SSD Raid arrays for even greater performance.

    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, can be routed up to the optical bay for modders looking for more SATA storage or replace optical bays with SATA variants, see Accessing SATA Ports section. 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.

    Both OWC and Newer Technology make 2.5 -> 3.5 sleds for the drive bays found in Mac Pros. I can attest for two years of not using a sled that they are optional if you rarely move your Mac Pro as 2.5-inch SSDs are extremely light and will stay suspended in place when plugged in.

    • 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 - bootable
    • 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

    The M.2 format and host PCIe cards
    One half of the NVMe puzzle


    M.2 (also known as NGFF, Next Generation Form Factor) is the latest common format for high-speed SSDs. M.2 is the interconnect, and modern motherboards often have M.2 card slots built-in, especially in the laptop market.

    M.2 has two main variants, AHCI and NVMe, which are discussed in the AHCI SSD and NVMe SSD sections.

    Note: Apple is the aberration as the Mac Pro 2013s, 2015s, iMac Pro, and Mac Pro 2013 and 2019 use non-standard slots for NVMe Apple's semi-proprietary NGFF variant, which doesn't have an official name. Fortunately for classic Mac Pro users, users needn't worry about Apple's annoying proprietary format. Also, for owners of computers using Apple's proprietary format, plenty of adapters exist to convert M.2 to Apple's format.

    Using M.2 SSDs requires a host PCIe card as it does not have any M.2 slots. The Mac Pro, being older, doesn't quite have the options that the PC field has for host card options because it does not support bifurcation, the ability to split high-speed PCIe port into two lower speed ports (see the PCIe and You portion of this guide for more info). Instead, the classic Mac Pros must use cards with controller chipsets specifically for computers that do not support bifurcation, hence more expensive. Also, important to note that some M.2 cards' physical sizes can pose problems for certain host cards, so go to the MacRumors thread for more info.

    The Mac Pro also uses PCIe 2.0, in which cheap host controllers do not support additional lane switches. Many NVMe drives are capable of performance beyond a 4x PCIe slot, reducing the peak read/write speeds. The more expensive cards have controller chipsets, mostly the ASMedia ASM2824 and PLX8747 that have a switch for PCIe 2.0 to use more than 4 lanes. This requires putting the card in one of the two 16x slots on the Mac Pro to obtain faster speeds. It will benefit both single drives and multi=drive setups. The daring can search for cards that use the ASM2824 or generic PLX8747 as they are usually macOS compatible. Notably, 8x PCIe cards are capped at sub 4 GB/s (real-world at about 3 GB/s), whereas 16x cards can run at sub 8 GB/s (real-world 6 GB/s). Lastly, these chipsets can run warm, so it's recommended to get cards with heat sinks, although less important for the SSDs themselves. All cards support both AHCI and NVMe unless listed otherwise. The Apple proprietary SSDs can be used with the Sintech NGFF M.2 adapter in a host adapter.

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

    The ASM2824 chipset is currently the most popular NVMe chipset for multiple NVMe drives as its less expensive and able to achieve faster speed caps in single-drive performance although the PLX8747 is the performance crown, used in the Sonnet and Highpoint 16x cards.

    The ASM2812 chipset can address multiple NVMe drives but will be performance capped at 4x, thus 1500 MB/s , unlike the ASM2824. This card is more useful for Mac Pro 2019s as the performance hit is much less. These are generally the least expensive multi-drive cards.

    Most generic single drive M.2 hosts will work with the Mac Pro and will be capped to 1500 MB/s. Due to the sheer number of options and white label importers, chances are a dirt-cheap host will work. My only recommendation is just to make sure the retailer has a nice return policy.

    Multi-drive cards with a single drive can sometimes have issues. I, for instance, had no issues with the Ableconn card running a single drive with 10.14 off an HP EX950, but readers have reported this wasn't the case for them until they installed a second card. Thus far, I'm unaware of the variables that affect bootability. I highly recommend checking Macrumors or other communities.

    Model NVMe M.2 slots Max Speed in Tests
    Kingston HyperX Predator (AHCI only) 1 1200 MB/s 4x PCIe
    NGFF M key M.2
    This is a generic card with multiple variants by various importers
    1 1500 MB/s 4x PCIe
    Lycom DT-120 1 1500 MB/s 4x PCIe
    ULANSEN M.2 to PCIe 1 1500 MB/s 4x PCIe
    Angelbirds Wings PX1 1 1500 MB/s 4x PCIe
    Aqua Computer kryoM.2 1 1500 MB/s 4x PCIe
    Aqua Computer kryoM.2 Evo 1 1500 MB/s 4x PCIe
    Wolftech pulsecard 1 1500 MB/s 4x PCIe
    RIITOP M.2 NVMe/DIEWU TXB122
    (This particular card has multiple variants by various importers)
    2 1500 MB/s 4x PCIe - uses ASM2812 thus limited to 4x speeds per drive. Facebook: MacProUpgrade thread, see Petri's comment, available on Aliexpress
    Syba I/O Crest SI-PEX40129 (ASM2824)

    (This particular card has multiple variants by various importers, (ASM2824)) Warning: Require two drives to work in the card.
    2 2500 MB/s (Single drive) / 3000 MB/s (RAID) 8x PCIe
    Ableconn PEXM2-130 / StarTech PEX8M2E2 / Lycom DT-130 / etc
    (This particular card has multiple variants by various importers, (ASM2824))
    2 2800 MB/s (Single drive) / 3000 MB/s (RAID) 8x PCIe
    Accelsior 4M2 (PLX8747) 4 3000+ MB/s (RAID) 8x PCIe
    Amfeltec Squid series
    Some are PLX8747
    4 5900+ MB/s (RAID) 16x PCIe
    PLX8747 Generic 4 5900+ MB/s (RAID) 16x PCIe
    Highpoint 7101A (PLX8747) 4 5900+ MB/s (RAID) 16x PCIe
    ASM2824 Quad M.2 NVMe SSD
    (aliexpress generic card) confirmed working by MacProUpgrade (requires FaceBook Membership). This is card also available from many no-name white-label vendors: Add On/ADWITS/RIITOP/BGNing etc.
    4 ? (prelim tests show 2500 MB/s single drive)
    Sonnet M.2 4x4 PCIe Card FUS-SSD-4X4-E3: 4 5900+ MB/s (Raid) 16x PCIe MacProUpgrade (requires FaceBook Membership), Barefeats
    Sonnet M.2 4x4 PCIe Card (Silent) 4 5900+ MB/s (Raid) 16x PCIe

    Can I use a card that isn't listed above that hosts multiple NVMe drives?

    Almost 99% of the time, no. Most M.2 hosts rely on bifurcation. The Mac Pro does not support bifurcation. See the bifurcation section for details. Many cards that support bifurcation can be used for a single drive. Popular cards like the ASUS Hyper M.2 x16 Card v2 4 x M.2 Socket 3 will not host multiple drives in a Mac Pro. However, if the card uses the ASM2824 or a PLX8747 chipset, you can use it.

    Untested Cards Might Work

    The card Highpoint SSD7540 controller-based cards should work as they advertise 2019 Mac Pro support like HighPoint Technologies SSD7540 PCIe 4.0 x16 8-Port M.2 NVMe RAID Controller.

    Also untested is the new version of the ADWITS Ultra Speed Quad M.2. The previous version used molex, which caused issues for the Mac Pro.

    M.2 and Heatsinks

    When looking at SSD options, you'll probably notice some hosts include heat sinks, and others do not.

    It's pretty easy to find conflicting info on AHCI and NVMe SSDs and heat sinks. The short answer is that SSDs are intelligent enough to self-throttle if they get too hot. Thus it is extremely unlikely heat will damage them. That said, NVMes run warm, but it takes quite a bit to heat them. The NAND memory itself doesn't require any cooling and generally is supposed to be warm to touch. The controller chipset is the portion of the SSD that heatsinks benefit the most from cooling. There have been debates about whether cooling could be detrimental, but the current consensus is a passive heatsink at worst doesn't do much and likely keeps the SSD running at optimal speeds. Even a cheap generic SSD heat sink in many tests shows a drop of 10-15C (roughly 50 degrees in Fahrenheit).

    For most users, self-included, the heatsink won't change day-to-day operation. Only when you get to cards that can operate four drives, tend to be the general consensus that a heatsink is advisable.

    Aftermarket heatsinks can be bought and attached to SSDs. Still, if you do go this route, some experts recommend removing the label as many labels function as heat distribution/heat dissipation, like those found on the Samsung drives. Multi-drive M.2 cards require a heatsink over the PCIe switch/controller chipset as the popular ASMedia 2824 or the PLX8747 runs warm. Often this is folded into the entire chassis like on the Highpoint and Sonnet designs, which provide a large heatsink that works for both the PCIe card itself and the drives.

    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). Most NVMe adapters also accept AHCI. However, due to the speed limitations, and age, there aren't many models on the market. 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.

    PCIe NVMe

    NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is currently the holy grail of storage due to its extreme performance. NVMe is roughly triple to quadruple the read/writes of SATA (and often nearly double of AHCI M.2 SSDs), clocking in at transfer speeds over 2 GB/s (and nearly as fast writes). 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 to 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). Multi-drive NVMe cards that support the Mac Pro are more expensive as they have a controller that handles the PCIe IC and registers, and some are higher-powerful than others.

    The Mac Pro is limited to 1500 MB/s on a card unless the card uses a PCIe controller 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.

    PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs have hit the market (semi) recently, which thus far have offered marginal speed increases over PCIe 3.0 SSDs. These aren't recommended for the Mac Pro, as preliminary speculation has been they will run in 4x PCIe 1.0. I have not seen anyone try a PCIe 4.0 NVMe in a sled with a controller.

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

    Not all NVMes are Mac OS compatible. Rather than list all that are compatible here's a shortlist of incompatible or ones that need firmware updates 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. Most drives at this point should have the new firmware preinstalled at this point in time, but it should be noted.

    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 their 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 one of the main reasons why HDD performance has steadily 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 cycles, 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.

    Memory density isn't the only factor, the very first SSDs didn't use a controller with a DRAM cache, and thus performance would "stutter. In an effort to harass the power of SSDs, controllers started packing DRAM to store the data map as DRAM is much faster than NAND and alleviating a common choke point in the SSD design. Many inexpensive SSDs are now also switching to DRAMless configurations, which generally result in lesser performance and lesser longevity due to the lack of a buffer to quickly read/write to before going to the SSD. Tomshardware's has an excellent summary of DRAMless SSDs.

    Enabling TRIM

    SSDs write data in data in units known as pages, and (usually) 128 pages form a block. For an SSD to write data to a block, it first must delete the block (reset the cell state) before new data can be written, thus slowing down data writing speeds to previously used blocks. TRIM enables the operating system to tell an SSD what data blocks are no longer in use and can be reset. TRIM speeds up the SSD and also improves the drive longevity. If only some of the pages are changing in a block, TRIM will shuffle current relevant data to a different block, freeing up the entire block to be written, instead of having to re-write the block. I suggest searchstorage.techtarget.com's summary for the curious.

    Unlike Windows, by default Mac OS does not have TRIM enabled for 3rd party drives. You can validate if your SSD has TRIM enabled by going to About This Mac -> System Report -> then locating your Drive under the flag, "TRIM Support".

    In previous iterations of Mac OS, TRIM utilities could be downloaded and installed. In 10.10.x Mac OS switched to Kernel extension signing and thus needed Apple approval locking 3rd party TRIM utilities out unless SIP was disabled. In 10.10.4, Apple made it possible to use its own TRIM utility for 3rd party drives. To enable a drive, open up a Terminal window and use the following command. Almost all newer SSDs are TRIM compatible, but I recommend validating this before enabling it.

    sudo trimforce enable

    You will be prompted for your password and given a warning. TRIM can be disabled at any time by using disable instead of enable.

    The Fastest Boot

    One of the ironies of NVMe on the Mac Pro is that it will not greatly improve your boot speed over a SATA SSD connected to the internal SATA slots. This has to do with the PCIe Bus scan and speed negotiation. In fact, in many cases, the SATA SSD will boot faster.

    That said, once the OS has loaded, the NVMe is the clear winner. If your concern is primarily boot times, go with a SATA SSD connected to the Mac Pro's internal bus.

    NVMe and the Mac Pro 3,1

    The Mac Pro 3,1 has multiple vectors to enable NVMe booting: NVMe EFI driver and BootROM modification. Currently, MacRumors has a work in progress guide.

    Making PCIe drives appear as internal Drives

    OpenCore can fix the mislabeled NVMe/SATA drives as external.

    A MacRumors forum member has written a kext called Innie, which makes PCIe (SATA/NVMe) drives behave and appear as internal, useful for users not running OpenCore. MacRumors: Innie: A fix for PCI drives seen as external that helps solve issues revolving around Boot Camp Assistant and the macOS Installer. This, however, may be optional for many users. As a user for 6+ years of a SATA3 card + SATA SSD, I've never had issues with the misidentification as I installed Windows without Bootcamp assistant and have never had issues with the installer.

    Summary: Getting the most out of your SSD

    As there's quite a bit of info to digest, below is a quick bullet point summary.

    • NVMe SSDs are the fastest, much faster than SATA or AHCI, but speeds differ wildly depending on model/make. (See not All SSDs are created equal).
    • NVMe booting requires the updated firmware for 4,1/5,1s. 3.1s require ROM hacking, which is tricky or can use OpenCore to support NVMe. Mac Pro 3.1s can use AHCI and SATA HDDs without any issues.
    • NVMe speeds with cheap host cards will be capped to a maximum of 1500 MB/s, as the card will address the PCIe bus in 4x PCIe regardless of what port the card is plugged into. Hosts with compatible controller chipsets will address additional lanes when plugged into a 16x Port, unlocking single NVMe speeds of 3 GB/s or nearly 8 GB/s for a RAID setup. However, host cards with controller chipsets cost significantly more, but pretty much all of these cards support multiple NVMe drives, which can be used as multiple volumes or RAID. If you want to get the most out of your NVMe drive, you will want one of these cards. Most Host cards that have multiple slots are not compatible with the Mac Pro, as they require the controller chipset to address multiple NVMe drives. The list of compatible cards is listed above.
    • AHCI PCIe SSDs are fairly uncommon today and thus fairly expensive. They are faster than normal SATA SSDs but not as fast as NVMe. Since SATA uses AHCI, these drives are bootable on Macs without NVMe firmware.
    • RAID isn't supported by APFS but there are work arounds (see below). RAID0 will improve latency as well.
    • SATA SSDs can be plugged into the Mac Pro's SATA ports but will be capped to 300 MB/s thanks to SATA2. Using a SATA3 interface will double the bandwidth to 600 MB/s max. That said, the random read/write times, latency, and other properties are mostly unaffected. Going to SATA3 is mostly noticed when working with large transfers/files.
    • The difference between SATA SSD and NVMe actually generally favors SATA for startup times due to firmware limitations (as the computer must go through PCIe negotation). However, after initially booting, NVMe is much faster.
    • For most users, the perceived speed difference from HDD -> SATA SSD is much greater than SATA SSD -> NVMe.
    • NVMe will not greatly improve boot times as the NVMe drive must perform the PCIe Buss scan and speed negotiation. SATA SSDs generally will boot faster.
    • Heatsinks for NVMe drives isn't required.
    • OpenCore benefits NVMe SSDs by making them appear as internal drives

    Benchmarking SSDs

    The best benchmarking software for SSDs is on Windows as there's a plethora of utilities, whereas the Mac landscape is limited. Previously, users would use utilities like AJA Disk Speed or Blackmagic disk speed which are quite frankly, bad as they only test continuous read/write speeds. The popular Windows utility, CrystalMark now has a Mac clone called AmorphousDiskMark. It tests more aspects of an SSD, such as random read/writes. I've written more about it in a blog post, AmorphousDiskMark is CrystalDiskMark for macOS; lets all stop using BlackMagic Disk Speed Test and AJA Disk Test.




    RAID and APFS and performance

    As previously mentioned, RAID after 10.13.6 is very ugly for booting. The process involves cloning your boot disk to a single disk drive and cloning the updates back to the RAID array. This remains unchanged from 10.14 - 11.x I recommend reading Catalina on RAID with APFS on MacPro 5,1.

    RAID0 though may be "worth it" for users looking for the maximum performance. A 16x NVMe RAID0 can hit 6000+ MB/s read and write speeds but far more important is that it improves the latency, giving a perceptual "snappiness" that is noticable, as demostrated in this old but good article by PCPER.com, Triple M.2 Samsung 950 Pro Z170 PCIe NVMe RAID Tested – Why So Snappy?. Users are more likely to notice this than running an NVMe at 4x rather than with an 8x or 16x M.2 Host PCIe card.

    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 terabyte-sized SSDs are much more attainable.

    Fusion Drives have become en vogue once again thanks to the partial support that earlier versions of MacOS had regarding NVMe and Mac Pro 3.1s lacking firmware updates. 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 for 5.1s. 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 or are willing to pay for. The Mac Pros running 10.9 or later can use resolution scaling akin to Macs that ship with "retina" (high-density pixel-per-inch displays).

    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.

    The current state of 8k

    So far, users have only been able to get macOS to output 8k at 30 Hz regardless of macOS version or GPU, but Windows 10 with a Mac Pro can output 8k@60 Hz. I recommend checking out the following threads: Mac Rumors: 8k (or '8k4k') display support in macOS?, Reddit: My journey for 8K on MacOS, and MacRumors: Dell UP3218K 8K Monitor on Mac Pro 2019?. Most likely a Big Sur update or a later macOS will introduce native 8K support. It is unlikely older macOSes will ever output 8k@60 Hz.

    10-Bit Color / Color Spacing

    10-bit color spacing requires a minimum of 10.12 (although Apple introduced 10 bit in 10.11 for the 5k iMac) and it's support is somewhat hazy as few Apple apps support 10-bit color: (Preview, Photos, Final Cut Pro) and some 3rd party apps. The latest Catalina adds desktop wide HDR color spacing support, whereas Windows has had this feature for years.

    Older NVidia GPUs with the web drivers will not support 10-bit color, but the latest GPUs do. AMD's GPU Drivers lockout 10-bit on its consumer GPUs (sans the VII), but the Pro varients unlock 10-bit color. Unfortunately, Apple's drivers confusingly report 30-bit (aka 10-bit) color even when noncompatible hardware is used. If the GPU can address downsampling 30-bit color spaces to 24-bit, it will report 30-bit color. Many true 10-bit displays will report when they're receiving a 10-bit signal. Under Windows, non-pro AMD GPUs will use 10-bit color in games, whereas 2D operations are still wedged into 8-bit color spaces. 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.

    When buying a display, it's also important to consider color-space coverage. Color spaces for the unfamiliar are standards of color ranges that can be represented by a display, projector, or printer setup. Monitors may brag about its color space profile. Not all color spaces are equal, some representing a lot fewer colors than others. The important thing is that sRGB is a dated standard from the 1990s, based on CRTs rather than any clear standard. It severely suffers in the ability to represent shades of green and some blues. Today, Apple prefers DCI P3 for its monitors, a standard that vastly improves the range of colors available to a display (roughly 45% of the human eye can see as opposed to the 35% of sRGB) and designed for digital cinema. Adobe RGB is also similar to P3. Both represent a much wider gamut than sRGB. Selecting monitors based on color spaces can assist you in finding a display that's more suitable for photo editing, color grading, capable of more range in the expression of color, and feels more "Mac-like". The wider the color gamut, the wider range of colors a display can produce.

    The latest macOS Catalina brings HDR color space support finally to the Mac platform for compatible GPUs and displays.

    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 the 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 pin-outs) 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 active conversion, which often costs 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 use 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 4:4:4 Chroma Subsampled 4k 43 inch display suitable for a PC can be had for as low as $230 USD, 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 a normal desk-distance, 43 inches is appropriate as its Pixels Per Inch (PPI) is approximately 102 PPI. For comparison: Apple's 30-inch Cinema display was roughly 101 PPI, its 27 Inch Cinema Display 109 PPI. Apple's laptops pre-Retina generally were around 110 PPI and its retina laptops at 220 PPI. A 4k 42 inch TV is roughly 105 PPI, making it appropriate as a very large standard definition display. I suggest the PPI calculator for calculating a display's PPI quickly.

    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 in 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 a possibility.

    Control Brightness via keyboard a 3rd Party Display

    Some displays use the DDC/CI spec to control the brightness/volume (as well as other features), a kind MacRumors member wrote a utility to assist for those displays.

    The utility, MonitorControl, can be installed from a dmg or homebrew. Lastly, the MonitorControl FAQ is a bit buried but contains useful info.

    Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt Display
    (and the 27-inch LED Cinema Display)

    Apple made two 27-inch displays, the LED Cinema Display and the Thunderbolt Display. Both look very similar and thus cause a lot of confusion as they are frequently mislabeled. The LED model uses mini DisplayPort and has the model number A1316. It can be connected via an adapter from HDMI to mini-DisplayPort port or DisplayPort to mini-DisplayPort. However, it is less common than its successor.

    The Apple Thunderbolt Display, often incorrectly referred to as the "Thunderbolt Cinema Display" (technically, it is not part of the Cinema display line), is a poor choice for Mac Pros because it does not use mini-DisplayPort but rather uses Thunderbolt (despite the connector looking the same as its predecessor). You cannot use an adapter to make the Thunderbolt display backward compatible with other technologies (HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI).

    On the backside of the display, the Thunderbolt display has multiple ports: three USB 2.0 ports, single Firewire 800 port, and a single Gigabit Ethernet port, whereas the LED Display only has USB 2.0 Ports.

    The Mac Pro, by default, is not equipped with Thunderbolt. 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. Currently, there is progress with Thunderbolt 3 cards.

    Recommended Places to go for Monitor Recommendations

    The wonderful thing about monitors is the large variety, but it can make it daunting to select one. I'm personally a fan of the following sites: Rtings, PCmag, Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, Tomshardware, Digital Trends, as all sites do actual hands-on reviews as opposed to listicles of dubious rapport. I ended up with a BenQ PD3220u as it's a true 10-bit 4k panel that has a wide gamut, supporting 95% of the P3 color profile after trying several lesser displays but also found that a 43 inch 4k Sony X800H TV that I picked up for less than half of the BenQ covers the same P3 space and looks every bit as good as the BenQ which goes to show there's bargains to be had.




    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 the Broadcom 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 go the easier route of using 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 (the 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)

    Mac Pro 5,1 Memory tray

    Pictured: Single CPU tray. The Mac Pro 4,1 and 5,1 use a combined CPU/Memory Tray design. The dual CPU trays contain double the amount of memory slots.

    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 if 1066 MHz Dimms are present. See the RAM (Memory) Upgrades for a list of the CPUs and their bus speeds to determine which CPU supports 1333 MHz RAM. 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 macOS with more than 160 GB of RAM.

    . Using OpenCore, it may be feasible to boot macOS with 192 GB of RAM.

    Dual-Channel vs. Triple-Channel

    As computers advanced, memory controllers have significantly, which in the case of dual-channel memory, allowed for two datapaths for the CPU to access memory per clock cycle, effectively doubling the throughput. Triple-channel memory adds yet another datapath to increase memory performance.

    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. This depends configuration depends on whether the Mac Pro is a single or dual CPU computer, as the dual CPU Macs.

    A dual CPU 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. A single CPU Mac Pro can run triple-channel memory mode with 3 DIMMs installed. Thus the maximum RAM in triple-channel memory mode in a single CPU Mac Pro 48 GB, and a dual CPU is 96 GB. 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 a 3-4% speed increase in limited testing, a much more recent test by a Mac Rumors user showed that Triple channel memory results in notable gains again in synthetic benchmarks and less-so in Valley Unigine. Other applications may see larger differences, as it is a significant bandwidth increase. Also, see "Is Tri Channel functionality maintained when 4th memory stick used?" for further info. Perhaps another enterprising blogger/forum poster will one day test more broadly dual-channel vs. triple-channel modes to show the real-world gains.

    Maximum DIMM size: 32 GB*

    Maximum RAM:

    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 of 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 in certain scenerios. The latest iMac Pros now have larger RAM configurations. Windows can support 192 GB in the Mac Pro. Recently, users running OpenCore have tested the viability of 32 GB DIMMs in the Mac Pro opening the possibility for 192 GB support in macOS. Facebook: OpenCore - on the Mac Pro (requires membership). OpenCore emulates later Mac firmware thus allows macOS to boot with more than 128 GB reliable.

    * So far, Mac OS 10.14 and 10.15 appear to no longer support 32 GB DIMMs (without OpenCore). 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. With OpenCore, users have been able to run more than 128 GB successfully.

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

    DDR3 and Heatsinks

    Unlike DDR2, the DDR3 design means heatsinks are optional. The Mac Pro has a fan set that operates over the memory chamber, there are users with a decade now without any RAM failures. Some vendors, like Samsung with its ECC RAM, come with heatsinks. In the case of the Mac Pro, there's little-to-no real-world benefit.

    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)
    • Unlisted Spec: Single or Dual Rank memory (see rank section)

    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)

    Mac Pro 5,1 Memory CPU

    Pictured: Both the Mac Pro 3,1 and Mac Pro 1,1 using very similar card trays for the RAM upgrades. On the left is a 3,1 tray and on the left is a 1,1 tray

    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. The 3.1can use 667 MHz FB-DIMMs as found in the 1,1/2,1 but with a speed penalty as all installed RAM will run at the 667 MHz speed if a 667 MHz DIMM is present. 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 confirmation that ECC is not required. However, you cannot mix and match ECC with non-EC due to the fully-buffered RAM differences in DDR2.

    MacRumors forum members report Mac Pro 3,1 has a speed penalty when running 64 GB of ram. The workaround is to modify NVRAM the Mac Pro 3,1 to boot with 62 GB of RAM. Other OSes like Windows/Linux can use 64 GB of ram without issues.

     sudo nvram boot-args="maxmem=63488" 

    To explain the code above, this adds a boot flag that sets the maximum RAM to 63488 KB. To arrive at this number 1024K * 62 = 63488. See MacRumors: Mac Pro 3,1 NVMe support + Upgrade Guide + Questions for more info.

    Mac Pro 1,1/2,1 (2006/2007)

    The Mac Pro 1,1/2.1s Mac RAM depends on the firmware, 1,1 Mac Pros are limited to 32 GB, whereas flashing to the 2,1 firmware ensures 64 GB support. See the Firmware Upgrades section for more details. OWC(macsales)/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 as well as LowEndMac.com: Install 64 GB of RAM in Your Mac Pro 1,1 or 2,1.

    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 (Dual CPU): 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. Users report using 800 MHz RAM. However, the 1,1/2,1 will downclock the ram to 667 MHz.

    Useful Links

    CAS latency

    Not all RAM is created equal. Depending on the source of the RAM you buy, the CAS (Column Address Strobe or Signal) latency is the count of how many clock cycles it takes for a RAM module to access a specific set of data. For example, if a stick of PC3-10600E (1333 MHz) RAM has a very low CAS latency of 6, then at 1333 MHz (each full cycle taking 1.5 Nanoseconds), the latency would be 9 Nanoseconds. A high CAS latency of 9 would take 13.5 Nanoseconds.

    Notably, the higher the MHz rating of RAM, the larger the CAS Latency is because of the increasingly smaller cycle length. DDR4 RAM, for example, starts at a CAS latency of 15. Crucial has a break down of the true CAS latencies across memory formats

    The CAS latencies can be mixed, and most users won't notice the difference between memory speeds. When put to the test in real-world benchmarks, the results are pretty minuscule. See HardwareSecrets: Do memory timings affect real-world computer performance? for examples.

    DDR3: Registered vs. Unregistered (unbuffered) RAM (RDIMM vs. UDIMM)

    The Mac Pros 4,1/5,1 can accept both Registered and Unregistered (unbuffered), and users have reported mixing the two successfully, but it is generally not recommended and actively discouraged as it may have negative performance implications.

    UDIMMs and RDIMMs have performance implications: UDIMMs are slightly faster at single-channel modes, whereas RDIMMs perform better than UDIMMs in multichannel modes. I recommend Spiceworks: How to: Difference between RDIMM and UDIMM for anyone looking to dive deeper between the two. Most users elect to buy RDIMMs.

    RAM ranks (1Rx4 vs 2Rx4, vs 4Rx4)

    RAM also has yet another factor to consider, known as "Ranks." You'll see it expressed in a number like 2Rx4. The Mac Pros use ECC Memory, which has 72-bit wide data blocks. A DIMM may have multiple data blocks which are expressed as rank. To determine the Rank, a 1Rx4 would be a 1R or one rank. This would be a single rank, 2R would be dual rank, and 4R is quad rank.

    Then the second portion of this refers to how many data banks are on said module. crucial, a respected manufacturer of RAM has a deeper dive on this topic.

    While there is some conflicting info, Mac Pro Guru tsialex reports that Quad Rank was never officially supported and will downgrade it's clockspeed. Quad Rank RAM is best avoided.

    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). It 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 playback high-resolution media without specialized hardware. Whether via the analog outputs is noticeable is questionable.

    macOS 10.15 Catalina finally added mapping of surround sound hardware in the Audio/Midi Setup. It remains only rudimentary implementation compared to Windows 10.

    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 many 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. Audio can be outputted via the analog outputs, SPDIF, Firewire, USB, HDMI (GPU dependent), DisplayPort (GPU dependent), and Bluetooth out-of-the-box. Other formats can be added via upgrades.

    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, M-Audio, 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 a 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 software 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 of RAM 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.

    There's no real hard-fast rule to determine what audio projects require. It largely depends on how many audio tracks, virtual instruments, and plugins are being run and how efficient each one is. RAM usage generally is determined by how many tracks of audio and how large the sample libraries are. With memory compression introduced in Mavericks 10.9, macOS is pretty efficient.

    Audio over HDMI

    See the GPU section of this guide.

    Audio over Thunderbolt

    Audio interfaces tend to be one of the most desirable applications to use Thunderbolt 3.

    See the Thunderbolt section of this guide.

    Pro-audio Applications and the classic Mac Pro

    The classic Mac Pro remains wildly popular in the audio world as they're fairly quiet and sport PCIe slots and large amounts of RAM, and for many cases, still fast enough, especially the 5,1s outfitted with dual 6-Core CPUs.

    Users reported that Massive X requires AVX which is a CPU instruction set not found on the classic Mac Pro. I haven't encountered any other plugins that aren't cMP compatible personally.




    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 individual 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. However, this only works on unencrypted media. Using VLC to playback Blu-Ray is a bit of an adventure, and iMore.com has a review of the existing options. I had better luck than the reviewer with VLC, but it wasn't pretty. 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 is 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.

    Accessing the hidden SATA ports on a Mac Pro 1,1s/2,1/3,1

    Mac Pro 1,1 - 3,1 hidden SATA ports

    The Mac Pro 1,1 through 3,1s have two unused SATA ports located in the upper left corner of the motherboard, behind the fan assembly under drive bay 1. These later were co-opted for the SATA optical drives on the 4,1 and 5,1s when Apple and Intel removed the ATAPI controller. Accessing them requires taking out the fan assembly, which is relatively easy. Clever hardware hackers have routed the cables into the optical bay.

    First, remove the CPU cover. It has no screws sand only takes reaching to the underside to remove. The fan assembly only has two screws to remove (pictured below). One is located under the fan assembly's lip next to the CPU, and the other is easily accessed where the assembly is connected to the motherboard. After these are removed, they can then can be slid out.

    Removing the fan assembly

    PCIe expansion

    The Mac Pros 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

    Mac Pro 5,1 Pixlas Mod

    Pictured: Mac Pro during the final portion of Pixlas 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. Apple's implementation of the PCIe power taps are non-standard, delivering roughly 130w max per tap, above most PCs of the era but unable to make the full power draw needed for the 250+ watts required for extreme-end GPUs.

    When a GPU draws too much power, it'll trigger an immediate shutdown. This generally happens with GPUs like the Vega 56 running Vega 64 Bios (normal Vega 56s are fine), Vega 64, Radeon VII, 5700 XT, and GeForce 1080/1080 Ti. The auto-shutdown occurs to protect the motherboard leads.

    The modification works by bypassing the high-gauge leads on the motherboard and going directly to sthe PSU. Users have been running this modification safely for years.

    Mac-build specialist Big Little Frank has run 2x GeForce 1080 Ti + NVMe successfully using the Pixlas modification.

    Normally I try to shy away from personal anecdotes in this guide, but I followed House of Moth's guide as it comes with both a blog post and an additional video. The upgrade isn't for the faint of heart, but with the online resources, even someone as a novice with electrical components as myself (I can install a power outlet, but that's as far as I'd go) was able to complete it without destroying my computer. Changing the CPUs is more precarious than the Pixlas mod.

    There are Pixlas kits floating about, but the specialized cable Jay uses in his guide is often hard to acquire/out-of-stock/slow delivery. I used a generic set of T-taps I bought on Amazon.com and an 8-Pin Male to Dual 2X 8 Pin and cut the singular 8 pin end off and stripped the wire (the exact cable I used, but I'd recommend getting one that's a bit longer for a bit more flexibility).

    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 NVRAM, 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.

    3D Printed Replacement Hard Drive Trays / 2.5-inch Adapters

    The 3D printing community has a solution for Mac Pros missing hard drive trays or ones for different screw positions that newer HDDs use. These are free to download and can be printed at home or at various companies that offer 3D printing services.

    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 recommended unless you have a strong desire to tinker. The Mac Pro fans operate at "silent" in low RPMs, making them on par with typical "silent" PC case fans. They are able to move a lot more cubic-feet-per-minute of air (CFM) than many silent fans as they have very large RPM ranges running between 800-5200 RPMs (the PCI chamber fans have a range of 800-4500, PSU/Exhaust/intake fans 800-2800 and the Boost fans 800-5200). Also, in most Mac Pros running modern GPUs, the GPU fans are more likely to be the loudest component as the GPU has the largest power draw. As the maxim goes: watts in = heat out. Thus GPU cooling modifications are likely to return a larger reduction in heat/sound.

    The bigger problem is that the Mac Pros use custom fan RPM controls, and thus the Mac cannot detect the fan RPMs, causing them to run at the maximum speed for the offending set of fans. Thus, the solutions are fairly limited: users can either install custom manual fan controls. There's a MacRumors post detailing a few users' experiences, including using PWM NA-FC1 PWM controller or create a custom PCB, as outlined in MacProUpgrade (requires membership via FaceBook). If absolute silence is the endgame, the most sure-fire way to silence a computer is to build or buy a computer isolation box, which are sometimes found in studios.

    For the same reason as replacing the fans, liquid cooling is extremely uncommon. A user sent me a decade+ old YouTube video Asetek Liquid Cooled & Overclocked Apple Mac Pro. The 2008 Mac Pros had an overlocking utility that somewhat worked, unlike other Mac Pros that worked in 10.6.

    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.

    iPhone as a webcam

    Since many people are virtually these days, webcams are in short supply. This isn't Mac Pro specific, but the iPhone's cameras are higher quality than pretty much all dedicated webcams and have decent audio to boot. I wrote a short guide on How to use Zoom with external web cams, iPhones / Android Phone, and/or Snap Camera on MacOS.

    This isn't the only vector as you can use NDI HX but requires more setup. OBS-NDI also interfaces with professional cameras, so it is possible to use studio cameras in video conferencing too.

    Custom Cases

    To date, I'm not aware of anyone who's successfully transitioned a Mac Pro into a PC case, the Dune PC case comes up often in Mac Pro groups as a source of interest, but the following hurdles would have to be addressed, among other things:

    • Custom Backplane
    • Custom Front plate
    • Non-standard PSU
    • Custom Motherboard Mount
    • Custom PCB for fans or fan custom system to manage fans for cooling
    • Machining a mechanism for the CPU Trays (or RAM Trays depending on model)
    • Antennas for wifi (if using internal miniPCIe slot)

    The immense hurdles have left case replacements almost exclusively to Mac Pro -> Mac Pro. It's an exercise of frivolity and would be a technical feat but void of practical gains sans (possibility) more drive bays. The Mac Pro's case is one of the most loved features of the Mac Pro for its zoned cooling, extremely easy to access bays, and CPU, and RAM.

    Boot Managers

    Due to the nature of the 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. However, boot managers are not required for dual-booting to Windows. I personally recommend using the brigadier method of installing Bootcamp drivers that support APFS rather than using a boot manager or using opencore. See the Windows 10 section for more details. L

    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 Windows 10 on the Mac Pro 5.1s, but that shouldn't stop anyone. I've personally used Windows 10 on both a 3,1 and 5,1 Mac Pro. Running Bootcamp on separate drives will make your life easier. Installing Windows via USB installers is not recommended as it has managed to mess up some people's Mac Pros as it tries to install in UEFI mode which can harm the firmware. Installing off an optical disk runs in legacy mode. Legacy mode is required for Mac Pro compatibility unless running OpenCore.

    By default, the Apple boot camp drivers for the 3,1 - 5,1 do not support APFS boot drives, meaning they cannot be select from the Windows Boot Camp control panel. This can be bypassed, using the brigadier utility, and installing the new Bootcamp drive utility for Windows. Using this method, it's easy to operate your Mac Pro without a boot screen as everything is native. There are two popular methods two are installing Windows 10 via optical drive or Virtualbox, although some users have reported success using utilities like Rufus.

    For the Mac Pro 4,1/5,1s, it's highly recommended to update to the latest firmware to ensure compatibility with later gen GPUs as some users have had issues getting video to output or to get the Bootcamp utility to function properly.

    Windows 10 Install via Optical Drive

    The entire install process is outlined in the following post: MacRumors: How to: Boot Camp without a Boot Screen. The process is: Install Windows 10 in Legacy mode (if not installed already this way), Download brigadier, and use it to install the correct drivers for your Mac Pro 5,1. After it's installed, use brigadier to uninstall the control panel. Then install the iMac Pro's control panel for APFS support so you can reboot to 10.13+ with APFS volumes.

    Windows 10 Install via Virtualbox

    The other recommended method is to use the Install Windows on MacPro 5,1 on physical drive through Virtualbox method, as it will install Windows 10 in legacy mode and does not require shutting down macOS during the install method. This process requires using the free virtualization software, Virtualbox. Afterward, go to MacRumors: How to: Boot Camp without a Boot Screen and follow from step 15 to install the correct version of the Bootcamp startup utility.

    As a bonus, using this method will preconfigure access to Windows 10 with Virtualbox. This means if you are in macOS, you can still launch Windows 10 as a virtual machine and interact with your Windows drive such as performing updates, running Windows-only software like Quickbooks without rebooting, downloading/installing large items like Steam games while still in macOS (and rebooting when updates are done or games installed, etc.)

    Many users like using a boot manager utility, but for users only using Windows and macOS, they are not required with the brigadier method.

    Windows 10 and Mac Pro 1,1 - 2,1s

    You can run Windows 10 x64 on the very old Mac Pros, following Installing Windows 7/10 x64 on Mac Pro 1,1/2,1 or Native Install Windows 10 on mac pro 1,1 / 2,1 without USB or DVD or Bootcamp.

    Currently, it seems feasible, according to scattered forum posts, that you can install Boot Configuration Data on a SATA drive and use an NVMe drive. This also applies to the Mac Pro 3,1.

    Windows 10 and OpenCore

    OpenCore most likely will create issues for Windows 10 installs that were installed using legacy mode but is compatible with modern installations using a USB stick. See MacRumors: Windows 10 install on OpenCore cMP 5,1? and also Joerg's "HowTo": Bootcamp your (OCed) Mac (without using Bootcamp) video. OpenCore is the only reliable way to run Windows 10 via NVMe.

    Users with existing Windows 10 installs can convert their installs. Microsoft offers MBR2GPT.exe as a free to download utility for editing the Master boot Record without modifying/deleting any other data. This can be used to update Windows to legacy (bios) to UEFI, and it includes a video explaining the process. Also, there are youtube vids that cover the same process.

    Another vector is to use the method know as bridge booting for legacy support.

    If you do not want to use the Native method, 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 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.

    Sidecar and the classic Mac Pros (and 2013)

    Sidecar allows an iPad to be used as a secondary display, and the Apple Pencil can be used akin to a Wacom stylus with pressure sensitivity. Sidecar can be enabled on many non-officially supported Macs using various projects/instructions, but thus far, no one has successfully run Sidecar any system without an integrated GPU or a T2 chipset.

    I posed this question in an OpenCore group, a few notables, including OpenCore gurus Martin Lo and John DeGroof had a quick discussion/debate. I seemed unable to really produce or reach a consensus as to why. My personal theory is that Sidecar uses Apple's Video Toolbox framework's VTCompression acceleration (supported in popular applications like Handbrake). Hardware VTCompression allows for hardware acceleration to encode video. It requires a computer with either Intel's QuickSync or Apple's T2 or Apple Silicon (where the T2 is baked into the SOC). This would explain why neither the classic Mac Pro or Mac Pro 2013 cannot run Sidecar, and yet later Xeon systems (the 2019 Mac Pro or the iMac Pro) can, and how older MacBooks and Mac Minis can run Sidecar. Meanwhile, Martin Lo suspects it could be requiring a CPU instruction set or (possibly) DRM.

    The bets way would be to test to see if there's a corrolation to Apple's Video Toolbox acceleration and Sidecar. Video Toolbox does provide a simple function to return a boolean to see if hardware VTcompression is supported, but that'd be just the beginning of a larger project, trying to find what inherently is prohibiting earlier Macs from running Sidecar, before even getting to how to hack in support.

    As many things how many feasible, as AMD hardware can perform acceleration but the amount of hacking may mean the classic Mac Pros support Sidecar

    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 costs 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. When 4,1 is flashed to 5.1, the tray and backplane SMC are not updated and stay at 1.39f5. The 2010-2012 are at version 1.39f11. Trying to use a tray with a different SMC than the backplane confuses the fans, causing them to go into full leaf blower mode.

    You cannot swap CPU trays from 4,1 (2009) Mac Pros with 5,1 (2010-2012).

    Oculus Quest/Quest 2 and the Mac Pro (and other VR headsets)

    Yes, you can use popular VR headsets with the classic Mac Pro, and they will run fine assuming you have Windows, the appropriate software (Oculus Link for the Quest, Steam VR, current drivers for your AMD GPU), a powerful GPU, a USB 3.0 card that delivers high bandwidth, and proper cabling. I've written a mini-guide and made a video on the topic.




    Diagnosing Issues / Troubleshooting

    This section is a work in progress...

    Determining if a problem is a hardware or software issue can be difficult. The best resource for troubleshooting is searching using a search engine like Google and entering in exact error messages or symptoms. Impressively, rarely do Mac Pros have Apple-specific hardware failures, thus if hardware, the most likely culprit is a component: storage, RAM, GPU, etc.

    Your computer needs a firmware update to install to this volume. Choose a Mac OS Extended Journaled volume instead.

    This is a common issue for Catalina and recovery mode on Mac Pros. You'll need to Turn on VMM and turn off SMBIOS spoofing. See MacRumors thread for details.

    Time Machine: An Error Occurred Restoring from Backup

    A common issue (not for Mac Pros but Macs in general) is Time Machine failing to restore from a backup.

    1. Boot off a recovery partition or bootable installer, 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

    Following this process will restore all your applications/documents/preferences and configuration.

    RAM isn't Running at 1333 MHz after a CPU upgrade

    A MacProUpgrade (requires membership) user noted after upgrading his CPUs that it lowered his 1333 MHz ram to 1066. Resetting the NVRAM resolved the issue. (see glossary for more info on the NVRAM).

    OS Installer is Damaged error

    See the OS Installer is Damaged error for more details.

    Can't get to the option-boot EFI screen

    A user of MacRumors discovered that the keyboard he was using was at the core of his issues trying to use boot key commands. The problem was remedied by swapping keyboards.

    Can't put the Mac to sleep

    Occasionally, cued print jobs can interrupt the ability of a Mac Pro to sleep. Other issues can be PCIe cards, notoriously USB cards that require external power will interrupt the Mac's ability to sleep. It can even prevent the Mac Pro from shutting down.

    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 irreplaceable data should do the same. That said, rather than write an entirely new section dedicated to Malware protection. I'm going to recommend 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" 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




    Buyers Guide

    For the most part, in this guide, I strive to be neutral except when there's clearly a correct choice due to hardware limitations (NVMe over AHCI, AMD over NVidia, Mac Pro 3,1/4,1/5,1 over 1,1/2,1). If you are looking for a shorthand for recommended upgrades, then see The Mac Pro Buyers Upgrade mini-guide.

    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 new 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 for 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. 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 or Illustrator. 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.

    Local is almost always cheaper than eBay, check Craigslist and FaceBook market place.

    Users love to point out absurdly bad deals on user groups. This isn't always what it appears to be. Frequently on eBay, hardware will be listed many times more than what it is worth. This is often a strategy for larger vendors to keep the SEO alive (and possibly skirt listing charges) when they are out of stock. It's not uncommon to find a Mac Pro for sale for $10,000. The vendor has no intention to sell said hardware, and if for some reason they get an order, they can then spend the money or effort to acquire said item and resale it.

    • 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 them on the dual CPU tray.
    • 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 haven't been able to run later than OS X 10.11, which limits their longevity or utility. Personally, I would not invest any money into a Mac Pro 1,1/2,1. Consider the Mac Pro 3,1 or a single-cpu 4,1/5,1.
    • The Mac Pro 3,1 can run the latest OS X with minor hacks, making them bargains but are limited in upgrades and performance. 10.12+ will break wifi if the internal chipset isn't replaced or another is added. 10.14+ requires a metal GPU.
    • The best Mac Pro 3,1 is considerably slower than a single CPU 6-Core Mac Pro 4,1/5,1.
    • 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. The Mac Pro 2013 can be a fun hobbyist machine but shouldn't be relied on for professional needs. 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 between the i7 8 core vs. the 12 Core Mac Pro. 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 instead of 2.



    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 have 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 - 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.
    • Reddit.com/r/macpro - not a Redditor myself but another group that is fairly active and has the benefit of not being under the regrettable Facebook umbrella.
    • 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 a good reason.
    • Mac Pro Discord This is an offshoot of the Reddit Mac Pro group.
    • Quinn's Tech Corner This is a small but growing group of retro Mac enthusiasts, not Mac Pro centric but if you're interested in retro PowerPC Mac emulation, this is a good start.
    • 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 semi-frequent Mac Pro related blog posts.



    Other Guides

    I'm hardly the sole source of Mac upgrade guides. In the spirit of the web I used to remember.

    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




    Mac Pro 2019 Upgrade Guide?

    header

    Here we go again, The Defintive Mac Pro 2019 7,1 Upgrade Guide beta is now public, 100% ad-free and open to the world.




    PDF version of this guide

    A few readers have requested PDF versions of this guide. 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 may not reply in a timely manner or possibly at all. I apologize in advance but this blog has zero advertisements or any monetization thus everything is on my own free time. It makes more sense for me to refine this guide so I can assist the most people possible vs 1:1 support. I'd recommend asking the MacRumors forum, Reddit or one of the Facebook upgrade groups first as I'm just one person vs. the collective intelligence of a community.

    05/07/22 - 4 years of updates, Minor correction.

    04/25/22 - OpenCore section clean up, updated the most powerful GPU section to reflect the Navi 21 GPUs.

    04/23/22 - 04/24/22 - Cleaned up 6000 series info section, removed old 6000 video and replaced with new video.

    04/22/22 - Info about the 6000 series flashable

    04/18/22 - More info on RAM Ranks and mentions, added link to more recent test on RAM.

    04/17/22 - 6800 XT firmware notes regarding AVX. General typos and grammar corrections.

    04/16/22 - Added notes about the 6800 XT and MacVidCards.eu and liquid cooling, added links on CPU replacement (finally). Removed out of date text on the Mac Pro 2019 section. Finally added RAM ranks (finally)

    01/27/22 - Delidded single CPU note

    01/23/22 - GPU updates + communties

    01/02/22 - Linked video on Thunderbolt 3.

    12/27/21 - Some minor restructuring started in the OS upgrades section, added 6600 XT info.

    12/19/21 - Added video about Mac Pro versioning. Added MonteRand link to the OS section.

    10/30/21 - Updated OpenCore Monterey Info.

    10/22/21 - Added AMD 6800 - 6900 XT to GPU section

    10/12/21 - Added Nvidia vs Apple video to GPU section

    10/07/21 - Added tip jar section

    10/06/21 - Tweaks to info about OpenCore and linked video showing the 11.6 upgrade process.

    10/03/21 - The Mac Pro Isn't Dead video added to special announcements, added House of Moth's Quick guide to installing OpenCore on a Classic Mac Pro (cMP). I thought I linked it. I hadn't.

    10/01/21 - Bad news, that AMD 6800 you were dreaming about sticking into your classic Mac Pro may never work.

    09/28/21 - More cleanup for SurPlus and the latest OpenCore package with SurPlus.

    09/27/21 - Added references to SurPlus, depreciated LateBloom references.

    09/12/21 - Added more OpenCore notes, including a video by Jeorg for OpenCore the Basic Way: Latebloom.

    09/11/21 - Added notes about macOS 12 Monterey and OpenCore.

    09/10/21 - Added GPU video and R9 Nano to GPU list

    08/06/21 - Added image of 4,1 vs 5,1 CPU trays, thanks to Stuart Secker

    07/19/21 - Added archive.org links to previous updates of macOS

    07/12/21 - Added notes about LateBloom

    07/03/21 - Added link to the 256 GB Max RAM and changed the notes from me speculating OpenCore would enable 256GB bootable macOS to actual confirmation. Pretty impressive that at 12 year old computer could potentially have 256 GBs of RAM as even today that's a very significant amount.

    05/31/21 - Added notes about Sidecar

    05/21/21 - OpenCore can boot with 32 GB Dimms. OpenCore may have solved the 11.3 Big Sur issues. What can't OpenCore do?

    05/10/21 - Correction about ASM2824 and the PLX8747, misindentified the PLX8747 as a part number and not a chipset, oh well, at least I can correct it. Oh hey, this blog post is now 3 years old!

    05/01/21 - Notes about Windows 10 + firmware upgrades.

    04/24/21 - Info about Big Sur 11.3-11.4 and the new AMD GPUs.

    03/28/21 - Added 5,1 Firmware Upgrade Vid. Added note about RX 550s as they seem to be problematic.

    03/25/21 - Added section benchmarking SSDs.

    03/23/21 - Quick error fix thanks to reader where I conradicted myself and added Jay's Firmware update Guide.

    03/21/21 - Added info about 8k.

    03/18/21 - Minor copy edits. Fixed a render glitch caused by Jekyll 4's lower tolerance MD convertor.

    03/17/21 - Added info about RAID0 and latency. Noticed an error about NVMe running at PCIe 4x 1.0 (incorrect), and corrected it.

    03/16/21 - More copy editing, added LTERIVER and Febsmart USB cards to list of compatible cards. Added info about the ASM chipset and macOS

    03/15/21 - More copy editing

    03/14/21 - Another round of copy editing, caught an embarassing amount of typos and grammatical issues.

    03/13/21 - Added GeForce RTX 3000 series information. Much needed copy editing on the M1 Apple silicon section, some more typo corrections.

    03/08/21 - Added VR headset information, minor corrections in the index.

    03/05/21 - Added USB performance section.

    02/13/21 - Broken link fixed thanks to reader feedback.

    02/05/21 - Added USBc 3.2 Gen 2 notes and vid.

    01/23/21 - Added ASM2812 chipset info, fixed table glitch in card listings, added video about Radeon 56 flashing, removed link to Aliexpress memory as the listing had changed.

    01/06/21 - Updated APFS information, added second video, this time about NVMe. Minor edits.

    12/26/20 - NVMe host cards updated to include two more cards and with heatsink info. Windows 10 and Mac Pro 1,1s added.

    12/24/20 - Added the first of YouTube content to storage section.

    12/10/20 - Updates to the M.2 adapters, mis-labeled the OWC card's max speed as it is 8x. Added two cards. Noted problems with the Syba card.

    11/14/20 - Info about 3,1 thermal paste, a bit more on Apple Silicon.

    11/07/20 - Added Accessing hidden SATA Ports section.

    11/06/20 - Added photos of memory tray. Expect to see a a few more visuals to the guide in copy weeks. minor copy edits (typos, phrasing etc). If it seems like I'm obsessed with editing, many users are not native English speakers and us translation software. Clearly and correctly formatted sentences will yeild much better results for them.

    10/31/20 - minor edits (added note about Big Navi, link to opencore vid, etc)

    10/19/20 - Started expanding the contents index... its huge. Still need to present it in a more human way, probably with a nav. Added a bit more unnecessary info about the VII, added note about NVMe + OpenCore in storage and more up-to-date HDMI Audio. Added notes about PCIe 4.0 SSDs. Added link about unidentified apps from devs. Added to troubleshooting "Your computer needs a firmware update to install to this volume. Choose a Mac OS Extended Journaled volume instead." Added link on how to installl PCIe Cards to GPU section. Added link to lowendmac's facebook thread on Mac Pro 1,1 failed firmware updates.

    10/18/20 - Slightly updated OpenCore info, started adding more of the headers to the Contents, Added info about 8x PCIe 4.0 GPUs. Noted the last of SSE4 on Mac Pro 1,1/2,1s as well as introduction point of SSE4.

    10/05/20 - Updated with more Big Sur Data + Mac Pro 1,1 Firmware hacking info. Minor copy editing.

    07/03/20 - Big Sur update, slightly changed the intro.

    06/17/20 - Removed language around Mojave betas. Added info about Apple's NGFF.

    06/12/20 - More GPU corrections around R7/R9 GPUs. Fixed link to USB PCBs. Added custom case section.

    06/11/20 - Added link to Thunderbolt 3 guide. Correction on R7 260X GPU thanks to a reader. Added 3rd party monitor brightness section. Added Bridge boot method link for Win10. Added link to Noctua fan mod. Added link to fixing recovery partition in Catalina. Added latest OpenCore install instructions.

    06/05/20 - Minor copy editing.

    06/03/20 - Added info about MBR2GPT.exe for Windows 10. Windows 10 sections are linked at the top of the blog post. Thanks to MacProUpgrade members Antonio Adams, Adam Stokes for the assist in finding the info. Added 3D printed parts sections.

    06/03/20 - Added info about a successful ATX PSU replacement. Minor copy editing, mostly typos.

    06/02/20 - Mostly based on observing the community frequent issues. Minor udpates to troubleshooting, update bootcamp, minor update to clarification of Pixlas mod, Added clarification about DDR3 and heatsinks, added clarification on NVMe, Added clarification on ATX Power Supplies, added OpenCore to the mini glossary.

    05/25/20 - minor updates about finding firmware version. Minor error corrections thanks to user feedback on GPU section.

    05/11/20 - Minor clarification to 1,1/2,1 max ram. Edited the custom flashed cards section. At this point I might as well link MacVidCards in the interest of making this guide more complete. For some users, the EFI support is worth the premium. For me? Nah.

    05/07/20 - Two year anniversary, a few minor typos from new content. This guide has gone from 7000 -> 37,000 words in that space. Completed the Pixlas mod for my Mac Pro, linked Jay's Pixlas Mod vid.

    05/06/20 - more GPU section cleanup

    05/05/20 - GPU corrections thanks to readers! This section should have been done ages ago but due to the work involved, I put it off. Minor update to CPU trays swapping to be more clear. 10-bit, HDR info updated. Added link to PPI calculator.

    05/04/20 - Almost two years! Reworked the GPU section to now include massive list of GPU compatibility. I'm sure its not 100% correct yet but should be fairly accurate. Removed the old metal section. Incorporated reader feedback include GT 630 with flashing info.

    04/20/20 - Copy editing + correction on Thunderbolt Display being called Thundervolt Cinema Display.

    03/24/20 - Added links to PCIe 4.0 performance vs 2.0 and linked it the topics.

    03/04/20 - added list of GPUs that support Metal with boot screen. Added more to Open Core. Added more to SIP explination. minor editing. Added more to the Thunderbolt Display as users keep trying to pair it with the Mac Pro.

    02/29/20 - Thunderbolt 3 custom firmware has landed, also minor editing and added more info about visually identifying a Mac Pro, thanks to Peter R.M. Fitskie for kindly providing the images, he retains rights to the image.

    02/25/20 - minor editing.

    02/24/20 - Another OpenCore link, correction about Accelsior from a reader, Michel D., noticed the intro needed to be updated as the 2019 Mac Pro has been shipping.

    02/21/20 - Thunderbolt section updated and cleaned up.

    02/12/20 - Added another link to Best GPU section to provide more context. Added more OpenCore referenes in GPU section.

    02/03/20 - Added OpenCore section. Most likely this will become standard path for users running Catalina and later.

    01/23/20 - Minor glossary change.

    01/19/20 - Minor correction on GPU section.

    01/16/20 - PCIe Power clarification, including sources. Added Power Supply Section.

    01/15/20 - Added summary of SSDs.

    01/14/20 - bold glitch fix + very minor editing.

    01/13/20 - Happy 2020. Updated with OpenCore vs DOSdude, another round of copy editing.

    12/27/19 - Added 2019 section and another NVMe host .

    12/17/19 - Added NVRAM/PRAM definition, more unsupported Mojave GPUs, soft RAID info.

    12/16/19 - Added small section on RAID support. Added notes on RDIMMs vs UDIMMs and CAS Latency with RAM. Added more anchor tags and links in the Contents section. Minor edits.

    11/19/19 - Added description of Virtualbox Windows 10 install method, removed special announcement on chrome issue, added kext to glossary, Dosdude1 update warning.

    11/07/19 - Added alternate link for the Mac Pro 4,1 -> 5,1 utility

    11/06/19 - pretty cool, was informed this guide appears in this youtube video. Added Innie link + kekt description. Minor ram notes.

    11/05/19 - 5700 XT is now supported, and listed.

    10/31/19 - Windows 10 native clarification + x5700 link + link to techspot for CPU + OS Installer is Damaged error edit + fixed broken links in Blu-Ray section

    10/29/19 - As much as I want to clean up, more stuff keeps coming in. Info on AVX instruction sets, info Mac Pro 3,1 and NVme, Info on Max RAM issue with 3.1. Added much needed M.2 format info for cleanup and a PCIe m.2 host card table, more consistent use of links opening new windows.

    10/21/19 - In what has to be a first, I removed quite a bit of content. The OS section should be easier to digest. Updated notes in GPU section, removed some redundancy, oh and changed the graphic to Catalina instead of Mojave in OS section.

    10/18/19 - Reworking the GPU section has begun. I'm trying to list the Metal compatible GPUs. Expect this section to change considerably as I try to condesne and clean the information. Added notes to PCIe section about PCIe 2.0 vs 3.0 and GPUs.

    10/15/19 - Mostly copy editing, should be mostly typo-free. Add instructions on how to disable SIP and how to disable Gatekeeper. Switched Know Your Mac Models to tables. Added links to monitor review sites.

    10/12/19 - Added the Mac Pro 3,1 link for enabling a bootscreen with the 580x. Added mixing and matching GPUs. Added table view for firmware upgrades. Added DosDude1 notes.

    10/11/19 - Wrote a mini guide on upgrading Mac Pro 5,1 firmware and added it links to it as not to bog down this page with more images.

    10/07/19 - Added DosDude1 youtube link.

    10/04/19 - Changed language around Catalina as the 5.1s are officially unsupported. Added note about i7 CPU compatibility.

    09/26/19 - Added links for Windows 10 on external drive, 2.5 PCIe height card hack, booting to Recovery Mode with a web driver GPU, and short trouble-shooting firmware upgrades section.

    09/19/19 - Minor copy editing.

    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, 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 (read: confrontational) but informative e-mail (Dont'worry, we're cool, or at least I assume we are. If we aren't, whatever.). 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 as it's not like there's Mac versions of these cards.

    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


    Every OS X (macOS) 10.6 Snow Leopard Nature Desktop - in Glorious 5k Resolution


    Recently, I converted every Abstract Desktop background that shipped with 10.6 Snow Leopard, in Every OS X Snow Leopard Abstract Desktop - in Glorious 5k and 8k Resolution after being inspired by the wonderful 512 Pixel's Every Default macOS Wallpaper – in Glorious 6K Resolution post. I hand touched up the photos besides upscaling, sharpening, smoothing/blurring, retexturing, denoising, graining depending on the photos. Some had weaker sources than others due to focus/compression etc. For a long explination of how I made these, scroll to the bottom.

    The above is an excerpt on a video I'm working on about OS X Snow Leopard, the most beloved OS X/macOS release, but I have other opinions ;) If you are at all curious, you can check out the Apple related vids I've made on the YouTubes.

    All the photos are in their original 16:10, in the 5k (if there's such a resolution) 5120 x 3200 as I wanted users to be able to position the desktops as they see fit. Also adding Light / Dark desktops as I have time.

    The iPhone wallpaper versions are 2000 x 2778 which should give wiggle room to position the backgrounds, see Apple'sChange the wallpaper on your iPhone for instructions on how to set your iPhone wallpaper.

    Aurora

    Aurora

    Download Aurora 5k (6.5 MB)

    Download Aurora (iPhone)



    Aurora Blue

    Aurora Blue

    Download Aurora Blue 5k (8.1 MB)

    Download Aurora Blue (iPhone)



    Cirques

    Cirques

    Download Cirques 5k (20.4 MB)

    Download Cirques (iPhone)



    Clownfish

    ClownFish

    Download Clownfish 5k (14.5 MB)

    Download Clown Fish (iPhone)



    Dew Drop

    Dew Drop

    Download Dew Drop 5k (4.2 MB)

    Download (iPhone)



    Earth

    Earth

    Download Earth 5k (7.5 MB)

    Download Earth (iPhone)



    Earth Horizon

    Earth Horizon

    Download Earth Horizon 5k (8 MB)

    Download Earth Horizon (iPhone)



    Evening Reflections

    Evening Reflections

    Download Evening Reflections 5k (21.3 MB)

    Download Evening Reflections (iPhone)



    Flowing Rock

    Flowing Rock

    Download Flowing Rock 5k (26.1 MB)

    Download Flow Rock (iPhone)



    Gentle Rapids

    Gentle Rapids

    Download Gentle Rapids 5k (7.3 MB)

    Download Gentle Rapids (iPhone)



    Golden Palace

    Golden Palace

    Download Golden Palace 5k (16.4 MB)

    Download Golden Palace (iPhone)



    Horizon

    Horizon

    Download Horizon 5k (4.2 MB)

    Download Horizon (iPhone)



    Iceberg

    iceberg

    Download Iceberg 5k (14.1 MB)

    Download Iceberg (iPhone)



    Ladybug

    ladybug

    Download Ladybug 5k (2.7 MB)

    Download Ladybug (iPhone)



    Leopard Aurora

    Leopard Aurora

    Download Leopard Aurora 5k (4.9 MB)

    Download Leopard Aurora (iPhone)



    Pond Reeds

    Pond Reeds

    Download Pond Reeds 5k (4.2 MB)

    Download Pond Reeds (iPhone)



    Rock Garden

    Rock Garden

    Download Rock Garden 5k (18 MB)

    Download Rock Garden (iPhone)



    Rocks

    Rocks

    Download Rock 5k (11 MB)

    Download Rocks (iPhone)



    Snow Leopard

    Snow Leopard

    Download Snow Leopard 5k (10 MB)

    Download Snow Leopard (iPhone)



    Snow Leopard Prowl

    Snow Leopard Prowl

    Download Snow Leopard Prowl 5k (13.8 MB)

    Download Snow Leopard Prowl (iPhone)



    Snowy Hills

    snowyhills

    Download Snowy Hills 5k (8.1 MB)

    Download Snowy Hills (iPhone)



    Stones

    Stones

    Download Stones 5k (17.2 MB)

    Download Stones (iPhone)



    Tahoe

    Tahoe

    Download Tahoe 5k (17.2 MB)

    Download Tahoe (iPhone)



    Tranquil Surface

    Tranquil Surface

    Download Tranquil Surface 5k (9.4 MB)

    Download Tranquil Surface (iPhone)



    Water

    Water

    Download Water 5k (3.2 MB)

    Download Water (iPhone)



    Zebra

    Zebra

    Download Zebra 5k (11.3 MB)

    Download Zebra (iPhone)



    Bonus

    Pond Reeds (Light / Dark) Dynamic Wall Paper

    Pond Reeds

    Download Pond Reeds Dynamic 5k (5.2 MB)

    Pond Reeds Dark Wall Paper

    Pond Reeds

    Download Pond Reeds Night 5k (4.2 MB)

    Download Pond Reeds Night (iPhone)



    Aurora (Light / Dark) Dynamic Wall Paper

    Pond Reeds

    Aurora Reeds 5k (9.2 MB)

    The Abstract Desktop Series from Snow Leopard


    Check out Every OS X Snow Leopard Abstract Desktop - in Glorious 5k and 8k Resolution for the Abstract backgrounds from OS X 10.6.

    About these images

    I do not own these images and thus am providing these free-of-charge (as I do with everything on my blog). These are images that shipped with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and upscaled for modern computers.

    Mr Orange likes pets

    One of the very frequent tasks computers do is upscaling raster images, aka zooming in or increasing the size of an image. This happens when you zoom in on an image in an application like Preview or Photoshop, or zoom in on a web browser or pinch and zoom on your iPhone. Upscaling has come a long way in the past few years, with machine-learning-assisted upscaling algorithms. These use tricks like taking into account the hue/luminosity (color and its brightness) of surrounding pixels and filling in what it believes the new pixels should be. Before machine-learning, upscaling meant duplicating pixels (nearest neighbor) or duplicating pixels and creating transitions between the hue/luminosity (bilinear). If you have a sharp line, perhaps a sharp mountain silhouette against a sunset (or in my case, a cat whisker against the ground), the machine-learning algorithm will "notice" the sharp contrast between the two areas as it has been "trained" to do so. It will then infer that it should try and keep the sharpness rather than lose the detail, when it creates new pixels to fill the space from upscaling.

    example of different types of upscaling

    While none of these upscales are nearly as good as a high-resolution photo, ML upscaling provides a much better result in a pinch. The ML upscaling is much better at preserving details in the image, such as Mr. Orange's whiskers, his fur, and his pet tag, while providing nice soft results on the areas out of focus. ML (machine learning) upscaling has become popular with modern GPUs. In Windows, AMD and NVidia GPUs can take a videogame rendered at 1440p and upscale it to 4k as it takes less effort for the GPU to upscale the image than it takes to render an image with a lot more pixels, enabling the GPU to churn out higher frame rates and keeping more visual fidelity than using bilinear upscaling. Of course, machine learning isn't limited to uspcaling (or even images).

    Machine learning can also be used to provide other types of "best guesses" like denoising images that have artifacts from compression, like JPEGs which are a "lossy format", meaning to save data, they alter the photos to consume less space. Lossy compression is used extensively for media as you do not need a byte-for-byte accurate representation of the original data. Depending on how much compression and what sort of codec (compression type), it will introduce evidence of the compression. Everyone is familiar with the effects of lossy compression, be it an image of low quality, a video with blocky noise, or an audio file that sounds garbled. Machine learning can undo some of this, but it's highly imperfect as it's trying to guess what the original source was trying to convey.

    I first tried Gigapixel but ended up just using Pixelmator Pro. Each background was individually treated, using the ML upscaling but with a combination of multiple layers with sharpening, blurs, denoising, grain, and old fashion brush tools on layer masks. As a UX Developer, I split my time between graphics applications and good ol' fashioned coding as my job is to take static pixel images and turn them into code for interfaces for web and mobile applications, although I do often do "full-stack," which is a nice way of saying "everything". I've gone away from Adobe products years ago, with Sketch / Figma / Pixelmator Pro / Final Cut Pro partly out of personal preference and following the industry.

    A great example of the power of just a few simple masks is the Ladybug image. First, I nabbed the image from the Snow Leopard Parallels virtual machine on my Mac Pro. Then I imported it into Pixelmator Pro. I converted it to 16-bit, then I created two layers of the exact same image. One I left alone. In the second layer, I used the ML Denoise to get rid of the JPEG artifacting. I used ML upscaling, which upscaled both layers. I masked the non-denoised layer in the Ladybug and used a tiny bit of grain and sharpening, and painted in the hairs on the grass blade. Then I used the blur tool on the larger out-of-focus areas on the denoised image. I went back and lightly burned the Ladybug's antenna. Once I was happy with the result, I downscaled the image from 8k to 5k and left the same color profile same as the original. My goal was to recreate the original as much to the spirit as the original image rather than, say, create an HDR (high dynamic range) version.

    Each image was hand treated, although some images had better sources than others. I'm sure another artist with more time could bring these even better to life as I tried to keep roughly an hour-ish per image (as a UX developer, time budgets are a harsh reality for me). If you create your own versions, please reach out to me, as I'll happily link them.

    I hope you enjoy, and if you're an Apple nerd and like mediocre camera work, and awkward on-camera presence, you can find me on YouTube and this blog.

    If this blog looks familiar to you, you've probably seen, The Definitive Classic Mac Pro (2006-2012) Upgrade Guide or The Definitive Trashcan Mac Pro 6.1 (Late 2013) Upgrade Guide


    Mac MAME Arcade emulation & NeoGeo using OpenEMU and SDLMame for Apple Silicon or Intel Native.

    OpenEMU + Mac

    There are two main routes to get up and running with MAME under macOS, OpenEMU, and SDLMame. OpenEMU is the vector most users will want to use, but it isn't Apple Silicon native (but will still run fine in Rosetta). I've made a video, but if you're like me, you probably prefer the written version.






    OpenEMU and Mame

    OpenEMU is a beautiful core-based emulator (akin to RetroArch) that supports many game consoles. It's designed to be the one-stop-shop for Mac emulation, and it does a fantastic job. It's gorgeous and easy to use..

    Step 1: Download OpenEmu Experimental

    OpenEmu download

    Regular OpenEMU does not support the MAME core, so you need to get the experimental version fromopenemu.org. I'm unclear as to why after years, the MAME version is still experimental. If I had to guess, it's likely because there are a few missing assets (the control menu for MAME doesn't have a skeuomorphic graphic, for instance), and it doesn't filter out BIOS files.

    Step 2: Safelist MAME (Big Sur 11.x and above)

    OpenEmu Open

    OpenEMU is open source but it isn't signed, you'll see an error if you try an execute it.

    OpenEmu Open

    Right-click OpenEMU, and select open to bring up the prompt that will let you run the application.

    Step 3: Install the MAME core

    Launch OpenEmu, open preferences, and select cores. Click the install button next to MAME.

    OpenEmu cores preferences

    Step 3: Install games

    OpenEmu install games!

    Installing games is pretty straightforward. Drag the .zip files into OpenEMU under the Arcade tab. MAME games are file name specific, unlike most other emulators, so do not change the name. Also some games have dependencies.

    OpenEmu Open

    If the game you are trying to play has a dependency, it'll display an error when you try and launch the game, with the name of the missing file. You'll need to install that file by dragging it onto the window. Do not decompress MAME game .zip files.

    Please do not ask me for game files. They exist in a legal grey area. Try a popular search engine or archive site like Archive.org for information about ROMs.

    Step 4: Optional: NeoGeo Emulation

    Emulating NeoGeo games requires one extra step, you'll need to get the NeoGeo BIOS Rom. Drag the Neo Geo zip into OpenEmu. You'll see the NeoGeo ROM in your game list, but ignore it and double-click the games as you normally would. I had some difficulty finding one that worked in more modern distributions of MAME.




    SDLMAME / MESS

    SDLMAME is a macOS port of MAME and MESS that features both native Intel and Apple Silicon support and (previously) has been updated much more frequently than OpenEMU's MAME core. For years, OpenEMU was stuck at MAME version .149.1, from 2013. As of writing this, OpenEMU is currently in lock-step with SDLMAME as both feature version 0.235, but OpenEMU is not Apple Silicon native. SDLMame is a port of MAME by @sdlmame_osx. It also features MESS which emulates many retro consoles as well.

    The downside is that SDL Mame's UI is pretty minimal, and it requires being launched from the command-line but works great.

    Step 1: Download the SDL2 Framework

    Go to libsld.org, and download SLD2 for macOS and decompress it. Next, install the SDL2.framework into (in your root) Library/Frameworks. SLDL2 is a library for cross-platform development designed to provide low-level access to hardware such as I/O and graphics cards. Many Steam ports for macOS are based on this library.

    Step 2: Download SDLMame/Mess

    Go to sdlmame.lngn.net, and download Apple Silicon or Intel version depending on which type of CPU your Mac has. Decompress it into a folder of your choosing.

    Step 3: Safelist SDLMame/Mess

    This is where things get a little strange, as if you try and execute SDLMame, it'll give you the same warning as OpenEMU. Right like the mame unix executable and click open. It'll open the terminal and crash. This is fine. Close this terminal. The application has now been safelisted.

    Step 4: Install ROMs

    Drag your ROMs into the ROMs folder within SDLMame (If it doesn't exist, create one). Just like OpenEMU games may require dependencies. NeoGEO games require the Neo Geo BIOS.

    Step 5: Launch SDLMame using the terminal

    YYou'll need to navigate to the directory that SDLMame is in (or locate it). The easiest way is to use the change directory command then drag the folder onto the terminal. It should look something like:

        $ cd /path/to/sdlmame
        

    Now that we're in the directory, we can check to see if we see the mame executable using list.

        $ ls
        

    If you see mame, you're ready to go. Launch the mame executable.

        $ ./mame
        

    SDLMame's UI might seem a bit rough but it does support the mouse. Be sure to use the configure options with Device Mappings and General Input to configure your game controls.

    Happy Emulating!


    Every OS X Snow Leopard Abstract Desktop - in Glorious 5k and 8k Resolution


    Every macOS comes with some standout desktops, one of the better sets was Abstract series but they're from a bygone pre-retina/4k/5k/8k world. I really loved 512 Pixel's Every Default macOS Wallpaper – in Glorious 6K Resolution post. If you haven't checked it out, you should. I've used them and loved it. Feeling inspired, I decided to do the same to one of my favorite set of Mac desktop backgrounds, the Abstract series from OS X 10.6 - Snow Leopard.

    I upscaled and denoised (originals had some JPEG artifacting) and hand touched up them tediously in 16-bit P3 (dithered down to 8-bit P3 JPEGs). I had to make the tough calls on cropping so rather than live with my choices, I've included the 8k originals in the 16:10 aspect ratio for those with 16:10 displays or looking to crop the desktops as they see fit. There's 8 total desktops and I'll probably do an iPhone update and possibly light/dark updates for a few. For now, enjoy!

    Download Abstract 5k 16:9 Ratio - 26.6 MB

    Download Abstract 8k 16:10 Ratio - 49.1 MB


    Every OS X (macOS) 10.6 Snow Leopard Nature Desktop - in Glorious 6k Resolution

    Oh hey, I also converted all the nature background from 10.6 to 5k too, check it out here!


    The dillution of 1password


    The tides are receding for one of my favorite software, and it seems that the high water mark for 1password was 2021. For years, 1password provided the most elegant solution for password management, largely through the power of a superior UX driven by both browser plugins and native applications. It was at the upper echelon of Mac software, in the same esteemed group as Mac software titans like Pixelmator Pro, BBedit, Audio Hijack, Djay, Omnigraffle, and pretty much anything out of Panic studios. Even Apple considered it among the best, honoring it as a finalist this year for an Apple Design award.

    1password announced its subscription model in 2016. They quietly maintained a non-software subscription version for users a little too-wise. Then the past week or so, we've been hit with a double whammy: 1password 8 is ending it's stand-alone version for a non-native app and to pour salt into the wound, 1password is ending its native Mac application in favor of Electron.

    As a developer, I appreciate the allure. Ideally, code is only written once. It's the holy-grail, writing code that doesn't need any tweaks for platform-specific, be it a particular web browser or OS. Electron delivers this (mostly) but with a decidedly non-native feel and at the cost of bloat. A stark example is BBedit is 54 MB vs. VS Code at 305 MB, and Electron eats more CPU cycles and RAM. I also understand writing for small-market like macOS isn't as enticing as maintaining one (mostly) singular codebase. Electron applications have creeped from Atom to power Slack, VS Code, Discord, and into surprising slots like Skype and the list keeps growing, never quite providing the native experience. The trend is a bit unnerving as the era of native applications for Mac OS feels tenious outside of a handful of apps.

    It's sad to watch one of the most premier applications for the Mac fall prey to two of my least favorite trends. Perhaps there'll be a leaner, scrappier startup in this space to fill the void left by 1password. Or better, 1password is able to shift its course if/when UI Kit is able to fill the void. 1password is still 1password. I trust it's a great product but it feels like a dilluted version of many of the things I love about it. I'm not sure I will switch to version 8.