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Old Dec 3, 2012, 07:09 PM   #1
ActionableMango
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What is the state of USB 3.0 on Mac Pro?

Thread summary for latest recommendations, updated 5/29/2014.

Note: 5/29/2014 was the last update. I'm not updating this any more. There may be newer information in the thread that is no longer summarized here in the first post.

This thread refers to PCIe cards for adding USB 3.0 to classic Mac Pros. New Mac Pros have USB 3.0 built-in using the Fresco Logic FL1100 chipset.

Inateck (Fresco Logic FL1100 chipset)
(Best for general purposes and compatible with most devices)

Inateck KT4004 (formerly known as KTU3FR-4PA rev B2). 4-port USB. Does not require supplemental power. About $20-$30.
  • The nMP uses the FL1100 chipset.
  • These have native drivers supplied by Apple in Mountain Lion 10.8.2 and newer.
  • Big review here.
  • Unlike some USB 3 solutions which are "storage-only", this card works with a wide variety of USB devices, including hubs.
  • It supports UASP, which is theoretically much faster than normal USB 3.0 when used with the right equipment.
  • Known to be incompatible with "Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader"
  • It does not have a dedicated USB controller for each port, so simultaneous transfers over multiple ports will have to share bandwidth.
  • OS X "ejects" the external drives when the computer goes to sleep, and pops up a warning when you return. Other than this annoying popup message, nobody has reported any actual problems.
  • There are some very similar cards that require supplemental power. If you have one of those, see powering instructions further down in this post.
  • ML 10.8.2 or later is required to use native OS X drivers. Lion 10.7.5 and newer is supported through the open source GenericUSBXHCI driver.
Note: There are older revs of this model, and also model numbers that look very similar with just 1 number or letter difference. Even Inateck's own website shows the wrong model. So be careful when ordering. If you go here to Amazon and then click "4 Ports for Mac Pro", that is the right card. After clicking "4 Ports for Mac Pro", the picture should change to show a card with no power connectors and no cables. After adding to your cart, verify it says something like "New release 4 ports model modified for Mac Pro".

HighPoint (NEC chipset)
(Best for highest performance and USB RAID, but only for storage devices)

RocketU 1144CM. 4-port USB. Does not require supplemental power. About $140.
  • It has a dedicated controller for each port, meaning full speed for connected devices, even when used simultaneously.
  • It specifically supports USB RAID.
  • It does not use native drivers, so you have to install and use Rocket's drivers, and may have to wait for updated drivers when there is a new version of OS X.
  • It only works with storage-based USB devices. Non-storage based devices do not work, including USB hubs.
  • Reportedly won't work with Nikon D800.
  • Slightly faster than the FL-based cards when one device. Substantially faster when using multiple devices simultaneously.

CalDigit (Fresco Logic FL1100 chipset)
(If you want eSATA on the same card)

FASTA-6GU3 Pro. (Be certain to get "pro" model.) 2-port USB + 2 port eSATA. Does not require supplemental power. About $140.
  • This model number with "PRO" at the end is substantially better than the discontinued non-pro model it replaces. The new model works with all USB devices, not just storage devices. It doesn't have the reduced speed problem that the old model had.
  • It supports UASP, which is theoretically much faster than normal USB 3.0 when used with the right equipment.
  • These have native drivers supplied by Apple in Mountain Lion 10.8.2 and newer.
  • It does not have a dedicated USB controller for each port, so simultaneous transfers over multiple ports will have to share bandwidth.

Additional Notes for All Cards:
  • No USB 3.0 add-in card supports booting from a connected drive on the Mac Pro, and I think it is safe to assume that they never will. Put simply, the card's drivers do not load until the OS loads, therefore they are not available at boot time.
  • Transferring large amounts of data over USB 3.0 interferes with bluetooth reception. For most people this does not occur when USB 3.0 is idle, but at least one person reports the problem from merely having a card installed, and some people report not having this problem at all; I suppose "your mileage may vary" is the nature of wireless interference. This problem is not limited to the Mac Pro nor the cards listed here but because Mac Pros already have notoriously spotty bluetooth reception, it is worse for us. Nevertheless, even official built-in solutions such as the Mac Mini's USB 3.0 suffer from this problem. The Intel white paper on the topic suggests that this is widespread problem and is due to inadequate shielding in the cable connections.
  • I don't promise anything here is perfect. This is the best I can do from my memory and from the USB 3.0 threads I've managed to read. If you have any corrections, please PM me.

Powering Cards:

None of the cards in the current list require supplemental power. For people with other cards that do, I've included these instructions. I personally have only hooked up molex cards in a MP5,1 (2010) from optical bay power, so that is what the instructions are for.

Yes, you can still use two drives in the optical bay.

So, for molex-powered cards and Mac Pros with SATA optical drives, buy these two cables:
  1. This Lindy cable splits the SATA combo plug into separate data and multiple power plugs, including molex. It sits in the optical bay.
  2. This 72" molex extension cable runs from inside the optical bay to the card, with a lot of cable left to spare. One person used a 48" molex extension cable and reported it has about 1 inch to spare, so consider 48" to be the minimum length.

This is the difficult bit. You have to temporarily remove one Molex connector from that second cable to thread it into the optical bay. To remove the connector, you'll need a very small tool such as a jeweler's screw driver to press down on the 1-way prongs for each of the four power connectors. There are two prongs on each connector. Obviously you want to keep track of which wire goes in which hole in the connector.

It is much easier if you are willing to buy Molex Pin Extractor, which my local Radio Shack had in stock:
http://www.radioshack.com/product/in...ductId=2062447

Once one end is off, it is small enough that you can thread it into the optical bay using the same route as the default SATA cabling.

Which end to remove? I threaded upward through the optical bay cable hole, so I removed the female plug (the female molex plug has the male power pins in it). You can remove the other end if you prefer to thread downward.

Last edited by ActionableMango; Jun 5, 2014 at 06:37 PM. Reason: Updated Caldigit information
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Old Dec 3, 2012, 07:14 PM   #2
VirtualRain
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Originally Posted by ActionableMango View Post
I am waiting for a solution that doesn't require third party drivers.

Searching around this forum it seems the only solutions are something with hacked drivers, a USB3.0/eSATA card that is slow because of a central controller chip, and a controller that will only work with drives of the same brand. These are not acceptable to me.

With USB 3.0 available on new Macs, there should be native drivers for one of the USB 3.0 controller chips. Are there no PCIe cards using the same chip as the Macs with built-in USB 3.0?
Apple's support for USB 3.0 is limited to the USB ports integrated into Intel's latest chipsets. On the Mac Pro, your only option for USB 3 is on a PCIe card with an NEC chip.

This driver works just fine for any generic NEC based PCIe USB 3 card without any compromises I'm aware of... (see post #6) Almost all PCIe cards that just offer USB 3.0 use the same generic NEC reference design and should work just fine.
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1427373

Here's an example of a card just like the one I have that works with the drivers above...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16815124102
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Last edited by VirtualRain; Dec 3, 2012 at 07:19 PM.
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Old Dec 3, 2012, 11:34 PM   #3
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I do appreciate the response, but this is exactly the sort of thing that bothers me. Hacked drivers from some strange website with the summary "LaCie 1.0.8 driver patched by modbin" and a card with some really horrific reviews, at least on the Windows side.

I'll guess I will keep waiting and hope for improvement.
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Old Dec 4, 2012, 12:10 AM   #4
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I like my CalDigit card. It may be slower than it should be, but it's far faster than USB 2.0 or FW800, and I can boot from the card, too.

I am always being handed USB 3.0 drives these days, and it's a joy to get the data moving so quickly, with no hassles, ever. I'll take 3x or 5x faster any day, even though they said it would be 10x.
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Old Dec 4, 2012, 01:32 AM   #5
VirtualRain
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Originally Posted by ActionableMango View Post
I do appreciate the response, but this is exactly the sort of thing that bothers me. Hacked drivers from some strange website with the summary "LaCie 1.0.8 driver patched by modbin" and a card with some really horrific reviews, at least on the Windows side.

I'll guess I will keep waiting and hope for improvement.
Such is life as a Mac Pro owner... Moded kernel extensions, hacked drivers, flashed graphics cards... Where would we be without all this? ... USB 2.0, SATA2, and GT120s for all
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 07:15 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by VirtualRain View Post
Such is life as a Mac Pro owner... Moded kernel extensions, hacked drivers, flashed graphics cards... Where would we be without all this? ... USB 2.0, SATA2, and GT120s for all
What about IcyBox IB-AC604? It has this controller chip: NEC µPD720200

Would that work with those drivers?
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 11:26 AM   #7
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With ML 10.8.2 running, there is a third-party kext free solution.

See here : http://www.insanelymac.com/forum/top...0#entry1862039

works perfect without any patching here in MP 2010
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 12:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by texem View Post
With ML 10.8.2 running, there is a third-party kext free solution.

See here : http://www.insanelymac.com/forum/top...0#entry1862039

works perfect without any patching here in MP 2010
Awesome, thank you! This is exactly what I was asking for.

I still am running on and prefer Snow Leopard, but it looks like it might be time to switch to ML.
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Old Dec 8, 2012, 06:32 AM   #9
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Good thread. I was wondering about this recently, but am in no hurry to find a solution.
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Old Dec 8, 2012, 06:24 PM   #10
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There's also this product from highpoint which appears to offer USB 3 support for the Mac. Not surprisingly it looks like any generic NEC based USB 3 card like the $20 one I linked to earlier. Perhaps it's driver will work on generic cards as well?

http://www.hptmac.com/product.php?_index=78
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 06:05 AM   #11
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NEVER again HighPoint... I still own their 4 port USB3 adapter but they just stopped support with ML.

I openend a support ticket but that company is absolutely ignorant .. please be warned.

Go for a Fresco chipset based adapter with native support -> ML 10.8.2

Last edited by texem; Dec 9, 2012 at 06:12 AM.
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Old Dec 11, 2012, 08:41 PM   #12
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Do you recommend any specific card with the Fresco chipset?
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 02:25 AM   #13
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ORICO PFU3-2P f.i.

(see thread in other forum I wrote above)
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 02:32 AM   #14
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Since I'm considering a new Mac Pro early next year, I'd be interested if anybody has used the third party card(s) with a Promise unit? I have an R4 connected to my iMac, and the buying decision will come down to what Apple do as far as upgrades go, and the Thunderbolt issue.

My options as I see it will depend on whether or not they do integrate T/Bolt with a new Logic Board...If not, then another maxed out Imac will be the upgrade.

Has anyone here tried running a Pegasus unit with the PCIE card on a Pro? I don't want to lose speed at all, as I can currently work in real-time on the iMac. any degradation in performance would take me away from the Pro, although I do want the extra CPU grunt, it's really only for running X-Plane....My 3.4GHZ iMac with 16GB RAM 2GB VRAM handles all work tasks well.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 02:51 AM   #15
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I'm using a LaCie PCI card for USB 3. I'm using LaCie's drivers for USB 3 as well. Seems to work well enough for me...
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 02:55 AM   #16
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I'm using a LaCie PCI card for USB 3. I'm using LaCie's drivers for USB 3 as well. Seems to work well enough for me...
So at present there is no direct Thunderbolt cable to Thunderbolt connection for the Pro? The USB is going to create a bottleneck for me for sure.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 02:57 AM   #17
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So at present there is no direct Thunderbolt cable to Thunderbolt connection for the Pro? The USB is going to create a bottleneck for me for sure.
Not that I am aware of at the moment.

USB 3 is pretty darn fast though.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 02:59 AM   #18
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Not that I am aware of at the moment.

USB 3 is pretty darn fast though.
Fast, yes, but nowhere near the speeds a RAIDo array can achieve with T/Bolt...Oh well thanks for the info..I guess It's wait and see now.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 03:08 AM   #19
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The PCI slots allow for proper hardware RAID cards, which are faster than Thunderbolt, and as I understand it, TB was designed to be "one cable to rule them all" in regards to display + data at once, not strictly data, thought it works fine for data only.

I think I saw some Thunderbolt-MiniSAS adapters somewhere, so if you *did* end up with a Mac Pro, you could get a RAID card and still use your Promise/Pegasus kit, or sell it and get a bigger RAID box for a whole lot less.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 03:10 AM   #20
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The PCI slots allow for proper hardware RAID cards, which are faster than Thunderbolt, and as I understand it, TB was designed to be "one cable to rule them all" in regards to display + data at once, not strictly data, thought it works fine for data only.

I think I saw some Thunderbolt-MiniSAS adapters somewhere, so if you *did* end up with a Mac Pro, you could get a RAID card and still use your Promise/Pegasus kit, or sell it and get a bigger RAID box for a whole lot less.
Interesting, but still would prefer an "Out Of The Box" T/Bolt port on the Pro. My own guess is that the Pro is all but dead, but I hope I'm wrong...Thanks for the information!
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 03:15 AM   #21
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Are we talking about USB 3.0 here ?
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 03:51 AM   #22
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Our entire workflow switched over to USB 3.0 external drives, docks, and raid arrays. We went through a series of cards before landing on one that actually worked every bit as advertised -- this one:

http://www.amazon.com/HighPoint-Rock...ighpoint+usb+3

All of the other cards we tried had crash bugs and suffered problems like not being able to hot swap a USB 3 connection or remount an ejected drive [without reboot]. Very aggravating trial and error process.

We absolutely love the Buffalo Terrstation raid cans and the Porsche 3 TB external drives. Good luck!
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 04:56 AM   #23
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http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost...7&postcount=11
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 05:04 AM   #24
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I think you've got something else going on. We're using HighPoint cards and that's on 10.8.2 and 10.8.3 ML all around. Best USB 3.0 cards we've tested.

**Clarifying: You don't state which HighPoint card you're now having problems with. We've only tested the one I provided the Amazon link to above. I know HP makes a few different cards so it is possible you're having your compatibility issues with one of those other cards. Best of luck with that and sorry to hear it, but don't think that's across their line. We've got a number of these cards up and running with 10.8.2 and 10.8.3 (plus 10.8.1 before it). All performed extremely well with no errors, crashes, mounting issues, or anything else. Great cards.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 12:05 PM   #25
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So at present there is no direct Thunderbolt cable to Thunderbolt connection for the Pro? The USB is going to create a bottleneck for me for sure.
I honestly don't believe there will ever be a Thunderbolt upgrade card. If you want a Mac Pro with Thunderbolt you'll have to wait till Apple makes a new Mac Pro that includes it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by texem View Post
ORICO PFU3-2P f.i.

(see thread in other forum I wrote above)
I couldn't find any of these for sale in the USA. I did find them on Amazon.co.uk, but the vendor selling them there won't ship to the USA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimT1701 View Post
Do you recommend any specific card with the Fresco chipset?
I picked up a different card with the exact same chipset as the Orico mentioned above. I figure/hope if the built-in drivers in 10.8 work with the Orico, they'll work with any card using the same chipset.

I'm going to try it out later this week and will report back on what happens.
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