GeForce 6800GT flashed to my G4 tower!

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by Lord Blackadder, Jan 30, 2006.

  1. Lord Blackadder, Jan 30, 2006
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2016

    Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    Joined:
    May 7, 2004
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    #1
    PART 1

    Intro

    Well, I've pretty much confirmed the card is stable, so I figured I'd post this for others that might be interested in this upgrade. I have succesfully flashed a PC GeForce 6800GT into my Digital Audio G4! BOTH DVI ports work, and NO SOLDERING was required!

    EDIT 1/25/2016: Card still works!!!

    EDIT 3/30/2011: Just an update to report that after 5 years of sterling service, this card is still running in my G4 without any issues. :)

    The Strangedogs video card flashing community sadly no longer exists, but the cubeowner forum does, even though it is less active than it once was. You can find some flashing advice here, though the focus is on cards that work in the Cube.


    First off I'd like to thank the people at the Strangedogs forum: Arti, Rubytuesday,Gotoh, Azureal and others. They did the R&D that makes this possible and gives Mac users options that Apple doesn't! They also burned up a lot of $$$ cards in the process. I just followed their instructions (and asked dumb questions) over at the Strangedogs forum. I encourage you to join the forum and participate in the continuing R&D going on there. Currently they are working on getting PCI-E cards like the 6600GT, and 7800GT flashed to the G5. Development is in the early stages but the more people there are helping the faster it willl get done. What with Mac 7800GTs being so scarce I think this is a worthy project.

    This post is intended to allow you to gauge whether you think you are up to the attempt or not; as such it isn't a detailed how-to, though I describe every step at least briefly. It is mostly a story showing the risks, costs and benefits involved in flashing a higher-end card. Personally, I think this project would best benefit G5 owners who don't want to spend gobs of money on an Apple 6800GT/Ultra. For those people a couple comments - you DO NOT need to tape pins 3&11 in the G5, in fact it would be a bad idea. Also , I don't think that my dual-DVI card will support a 30" display, though I'm not sure.

    Deciding Which Card to Flash

    A couple weeks back I decided to buy a Radeon 9800 Mac Edition. I was looking at Newegg at some unrelated stuff and wandered into the video card section...I could buy GeForce 6800s and Radeon 9800XT or X800XT cards for LESS than a Radeon 9800 Mac edition! :mad: Now I was keenly aware that there was a sizeable markup on Mac video cards but I just couldn't accept that I'd be paying $250 for a card sold for $150 as a PC card. I'm paying $100 for a Mac rom file?! Nonsense!

    So I decided to seriously consider flashing a 9800. I've done research on this before so I knew that the cubeowner forums and the Strangedogs forums in particular would be the place to go to find out how to do the flash. The 9800 Pro is a pretty straightforward flash as flashes go, especially if you do the plain vanilla 9800 Pro 128MB. It is also historically the best card you can officially get in G4. But research at the Strangedogs forum convinced me that I could play a more dangerous game and go for a bigger, badder card. The GeForce 6800GT/Ultra and Radeon X800XT had been successfully flashed by a few people, but there were still a lot of unknowns in terms of compatiblity, and many of the cards did not have working DVI, which I required. Also the differences between G4 and G5 AGP slots are not totally understood, leading to a few burned cards or failed flashes. Most of these problems may be related to running a flashed 6800 in both a G5 and G4, there are still questions.

    The Radeon X800XT was probably the better card, but the only way that it has been flashed so far with total success is by starting with the $$$ FireGL X3 card and flashing that with a Mac rom to get a working X800XT. An OEM Mac X800XT is cheaper than an X3 so no-go. PC X800XTs have been flashed but had VGA only so I passed there too.

    However Strangedogs, through endless toil, HAS produced a 6800GT rom for Mac that can flash cards so that they have working dual DVI - now that sounds good! Only a few cards had been tested though, and though a few had been working in various G4s some had inexplicably fried. I accepted the risk and ordered an XFX GeForce 6800GS from Newegg. I chose this card for a couple reasons:

    1. It was the same brand as a 6800GT that had already been successfully flashed by others, and proven to be one of the most reliable 6800 cards in a variety of systems.

    2. It had dual DVI and 256MB VRAM.

    3. It was fairly inexpensive.

    You'll notice that this card is NOT a GT or Ultra, but a GS. A GS is basically a GT with 12 pixel pipes instead of 16 and 2 disabled shaders. However they are listed as running at the same clockspeed as a GT...More on this later.

    Card Prep: Taping the Pins

    Once the card arrived, I had to tape pins 3 & 11 as per standard G4 flashing procedure. Taping these pins tells the 8X AGP card to run at 4X, which is the maximum speed a Digital Audio, Quicksilver or MDD Mac's AGP slot can run. The Sawtooth and Gigabit Ethernet G4s are limited to 2X and fall outside the scope of this post. Taping is simple but requires patience: I used a scalpel to carefully cut the scotch tape around the pins and then peel away the excess to leave the two pins effectively masked. This must be done correctly so it behooves you to go slow. With these taped the card is ready to go into the Mac once flashed. (I taped my card before flashing it but you don't necessarily have to if you have a PC with an 8X slot). Check the Strangedogs forum for a great pictoral taping guide.

    Performing the Flash

    Which brings me to an embarrassing revelation - I didn't have PC with an 8X or even 4X slot! My trusty old Dell PIII server had an old-school AGP 1X or maybe 2X slot, and the card wouldn't physically fit in the slot....:mad: A stupid oversight. By this time I was committed to the project and headed up to Microcenter with some cash I'd been saving for something else. I bought the cheapest barebones PC I could find along with the cheapest 2.53GHz Celeron D (20% off sale that day, w00t). The whole rig cost less than the GeForce card and coupled with a copy of Windows XP, hard drive, floppy and DVD-RW I had laying around served as my flashing machine.

    You also should have a second video card in the PC, in case you wish to flash the card back to run diagnostics etc. on the PC. I have a PCI Radeon 7000 that I used (the PC's onboard video wouldn't work if a video card was in the machine, even if it was non-functional with a Mac or corrupted rom). I also practiced flashing the $40 Radeon before trying it with my $220 GeForce.

    In order to flash the card on the PC you must boot into DOS from a boot floppy, on which you have copied the Mac rom file and flashing software. In the case of the Geforce you must use the nvflash software(some cards can be flashed using only a Mac but the 6800 series must be done using a PC). First copy the original rom file out of the card and put in a safe place (or two!). Next flash the Mac rom onto the PC card. The flashing process took several tries and failures, since I was unused to the flashing software. In the end, however, I succesfully flashed the card with the Strangedogs 6800GT rom file using the command "nvflash -4 -5 -6 -j <Mac rom filename>". Putting it in the Mac I was delighted to see it boot happily and the "About This Mac" system summary showed a GeForce 6800GT! :eek: :D

    Riva Tuner and "Pipes"

    Now to return to the 6800 "GS". There is an application called riva tuner that can play with low-level settings on many video cards. Reading their support forum showed me how to use the software. Using this software I was able to "softmod", or unlock, the disabled pixel pipelines and shaders so that my 6800GS became a "true" 6800GT with 16 pipes and 6 shaders. I did this after my first successful Mac flash, so I had to flash to the PC, mod it and then flash back to the Mac. By now I had a handle on the flashing process so it went smoothly the second time 'round. ;)

    A warning though - not ALL cards can be softmodded this way. Sometimes, after opening the pipes, you will get artifacts on the screen when running 3D apps. This means that the pipes are not only disabled but broken; you'll have to go back to riva tuner and turn them back off. But not to worry, on a G4 you probably won't notice the missing pipes. A 12-pipe 6800 is still a monster card. :)

    To be continued...
     
  2. Lord Blackadder, Jan 30, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011

    Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    Joined:
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    #2
    Part 2

    Heat Dissipation

    A word about heat. The 6800 is a hot running card, and the G4 tower is not the best cooled box around, so I was concerned about overheating. Internet research indicated that the GPU will shut down when it gets around 135C. You don't want to get to spend much time in those temp ranges at all. When I first ran the 6800 in the PC straight out of the box, riva tuner showed it running at 398Mhz clock and 1100MHz memory (its stock setting is supposed to be 350/1000MHz). At these speeds it idled at about 86C. running 3D intensive apps throttled the fan up and kept the temp around 54-60C. So far so good.

    After flashing it in the Mac I used the Temperature Monitor app to check the card and got a different story: In the Mac the same card idled at just 61-63C and I have yet to observe it it going over 65C even after running Doom 3 and CoD for hours. I'm not 100% sure what the fan is doing (my loud PSU fan drowns everything else out down there :mad: ) but the card is DEFINITELY cooler to the touch after being run in the Mac so my guess is that the Mac rom runs the card at the "stock" (and thus cooler) speed of 350/1000MHz. Either way these are good temperatures, especially since my case is crowded: a DVD-RW, internal Zip250, 3 Hard drives, SATA card, USB 2.0 card and my OWC CPU (a 1.33GHz factory overclocked to 1.4GHz). If temps are a problem I could concievably put in extra fans but I'm not worried at the moment. One more comment: I tried using the app ThermoGraphX to monitor temps but it gave me ridiculously high readings so in my machine at least it doesn't work.

    EDIT 7/01/07: After running the card for almost a year and a half now, I can tell you that average idle temperature is about 73C. I don't have air conditioning in my house, so when the ambient temperature in the house tops 80F then card can get a little too hot when playing Knights of the Old Republic or Doom 3 - 78C is usual but on hot days the card can get up to 80C+, which is a bit too hot for my liking. Due to the crowded G4 case the card could probably use a better aftermarket heatsink/fan combo or even a water cooling system, though that would be a bit crazy for a G4. G5 owners should expect this card to run cooler in their towers.


    Improvement vs My Previous Card

    Finally, a comparison between my new 6800GT and the OWC-modded Radeon 9600 Pro 64MB that was in there before. The Radeon has the advantage of the excellent ATI Displays control panel, which is a great feature for tweaking games. It is passively cooled and thus silent. It was $120 from OWC (it is cheaper these days). However, it struggles with the newest games and its ADC port is unpowered, meaning you must buy an ADC->DVI adapter to use it for a second display. Overall, I'm an ATI fanboy and this is an excellent card, suitable for the majority of G4 tower owners.

    UPDATE 07/01/07: Some time ago OWC stopped selling the Radeon 9600 Pro (which was an Apple OEM G5 video card modified by OWC to work in the G4 towers), citing compatibility issues. The one I bought has worked perfectly in my Digital Audio tower, but many other G4 tower owners have had bad luck with them apparently. At any rate, this version of the 9600 Pro is easy to find on ebay and elsewhere, and OWC's modification appears to have simply been removing the conductive material from pins 3&11 to make the card run at AGP4X - so you could easily make one yourself.

    The GeForce is hotter and might be louder (again, most G4 owners are used to noise and I honestly can't hear anything new after installing the card). It needs a power connection from the PSU, adding more strain to the PSU. It costs around $220 shipped and takes significant work to get it on the Mac. but it has TWO WORKING DVI ports, 256MB VRAM and is way faster than a $250 9800. On the G4 you will notice the performance jump less as the wimpy 133/167MHz FSB is a real bottleneck but I was able to turn settings up on games without performance loss. Benchmarks were up noticably and iTunes visualizer gained around 20fps after I turned the cap off.

    Final Words

    The Geforce 6800 series and Radeon X8xxXT series are nearly the last new video cards that will be AGP, and thus G4 compatible. There are currently several 7800GS and 6600GT/LE cards available in AGP, which can be flashed - though they require that their EEPROM be replaced with a larger capacity model, which obviously requires soldering. So if the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition isn't good enough for you, you DO have options! :) Just be aware that there is a risk you might fry something, as always when working with electronic components. However, the card I chose seems very happy in the PowerMac, and required NO soldering or hardware mods.

    One final IMPORTANT comment - these cards sometimes behave differently in different Macs, i.e. some work in MDDs but not DAs and QSs, et cetera. Precisely why this is is still unknown, but overall most cards are happy in a G5, and the XFX brand GT and GS cards seem to be more compatible than some other brands (but again very little is known WHY - it may be due to human error on the hackers' part or some other factor outside the card's control).

    I'll post some relevant pics when I get a chance.
     
  3. xyian macrumors 6502

    xyian

    Joined:
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    PDX
    #3
    Good show Blackadder!
    I'm going to attempt a 9800Pro soon.
    I toyed with the idea of doing the 6600
    but I believe there are still a few glitches
    to iron out on the Strangedogs side of things.
    I don't need anything fantastic anyway.
    Cool to hear the pipelines opened up though.
    Are you running AGP?
     
  4. Melkor macrumors 6502

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  5. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #5
    AS you can see in my sig, the guinea pig Mac is a PowerMac G4 "Digital Audio" with a 2X/4X AGP slot.

    According to the most recent posts at strangedogs, the PCI-E cards may require that you solder a new EEPROM to the card in order to flash it, since the Mac rom is over 64k (about 68K) in length and the PC cards all have 64k EEPROM chips. Apple may be making the rom files larger than 64k on purpose in order to thwart flashing. Apple video cards almost always have 128k rom chips. This scenario also applies to the last updated roms for AGP cards released by nVidia. ATI has followed this flasher-thwarting method for some time.

    However AGP cards like my 6800 can be flashed with a Strangedogs rom without hardware mods. Just don't update the rom with a new one from nVidia, as it will render the card non-functional and require a re-flash.
     
  6. xyian macrumors 6502

    xyian

    Joined:
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    #6
    The soldering issue is why I'm going with the 9800. I don't want to pay $150 for a 6600GT and then screw it up by doing a poor solder job. I can get a 9800 for $100 and no soldering. The 9800 is supposed to be easy and quick. Not just that, I can do it all in my Mac. We have an older G3 at work with a 7000 PCI.
    I highly doubt that Nvidia or ATI are making an all out conscious effort to keep flashers at bay. They still make money anyway. Their profit from Mac cards is so small anyway.
    Was this your first hack?
     
  7. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #7
    I agree that video card manufacturers are not going out of their way to prevent flashing, but Apple probably doesn't like the idea of people flashing cards. It is pretty easy to make sure that the rom is just a little too big to fit on a standard PC card. So no, they aren't going out of their way but they still might be doing it on purpose.

    Yes, this was my first flash - bit of a steep learning curve! :D

    I recommend you look at the 9800 buyers guide that strangedogs has posted - some 9800 variants require hardware mods or don't work at all. A couple people posted recently about issues with Sapphire cards. But overall the 9800 is a good card to flash, very compatible.

    A couple pics below. I think I've gotten to the point where my G4 is no longer economical to upgrade...
     

    Attached Files:

  8. ReanimationLP macrumors 68030

    ReanimationLP

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    #8
    Dude. Thats friggin awesome. XD

    How many FPS do you get in Doom3 now?
     
  9. Lord Blackadder, Feb 16, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011

    Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #9
    I haven't actually had a chance to screw around with game benchmarks yet, but I was going to do some benchmarks this weekend...I actually lent the card to a friend this week so he could see how it ran in his G4, just got it back today.

    My guess is that the gain over a 9800 Pro is less than it might be because I'm already straining the G4's 133MHz system bus to the limit. This mod is best for G5 owners that can really push the card. In a G5, the 6800GT can double the frames that a even 9800XT can pump out under the right conditions, if Barefeats is any guide. But I'll fiddle around this weekend and see what I can do.

    Still, even on a G4 it does good things...you can run two 23" DVI LCDs with no problems for instance. Not bad for $223 shipped, especially considering how costly the Mac version still is.
     
  10. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

    Eidorian

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    Indianapolis
    #10
    Seriously, flash me a cheapo card. I don't really want to get a Radeon 9600 for my Mirrored Drive Door. I'll pay for it. Well it depends on what cards you can get. :(
     
  11. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #11
    Unfortunately, the MDD seems to have issues with the 6800 series that the Digital Audio and Quicksilver don't have. The Radeon 9800 Pro/XT are the best cards that work for flashing AFAIK (maybe the X800XT too, not sure).
     
  12. Dreadnought macrumors 68020

    Dreadnought

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    #12
    Lord Blackadder, it's time start your own webstore with flashed Mac cards. If you charge about 50 USD extra on what you buy them for.... Maybe if someone did this, it maybe would bring down the prices of original Mac GPU cards.
     
  13. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

    Eidorian

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    #13
    The 9800 series is fine with me. :D

    Edit: It's still cheaper to get a 9600 for my MDD though. :(

    I second this motion. That or get me a flashed PCI FX 5200. :cool:

    My Power Mac G3 still has 10.4.3 on it.
     
  14. xyian macrumors 6502

    xyian

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    #14
    Not to take anything away from the Lord of the Cards, but you guys should look on strangedogs.com for flashed cards for sale. I've seen 5200s and 9800s(Sirhannick has them) and others for sale.
     
  15. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

    Eidorian

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    #15
    Yeah, I just hopped over there and noticed a small selection.

    Mmm...soldering.
     
  16. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #16
    I was just going to suggest the same thing...that's where I learned how to do the 6800, after literally hours of reading and headscratching. These things are best if DIY, that way there's nobody else to blame when things go FUBAR. :) But the guys and gals at Strangedogs sell a variety of cards, they do a good job and will also help troubleshoot if there are issues.

    Those 9600 Pros from OWC are good cards though - I have one and it performed very well with my G4.

    Whatever you do, DON'T buy anything from this guy. He has a pretty large video card flashing business going on ebay, but he uses Strangedogs rom files and know-how without giving them credit. Plus, he has the gall to troll around the Strangedogs forums attacking the very members who enabled him to make thousands of dollars off their hard-earned R&D. On top of that, the cards he sells are usually returns and refurbs that he gets at rock-bottom prices but have a reasonably high-failure rate, and some of the claims he makes about the capabilities of his cards are simply not true.

    Didn't want to rant about this but I read some threads he posted in and this guy appears to be a real whacko.

    EDIT: Here's a link for one of the guys over at the strangedogs forums that does conversions...he'll do a 9800 for $39+shipping. Not bad considering that Newegg sells 9800 Pro's for around $100.
     
  17. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

    Eidorian

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    #17
    I found this thread too. But I found a 9800 here for $60 in the Marketplace. I'll try that one out first. :D

    Well it's for my machine at work with the 9000 AGP already in it. I'd like Core Image and some more speed though.

    The PCI card is for my good ol' B&W back at home. Sadly, I'm stuck at campus. :(

    I tested it out though on my work machine. Work great even without Quartz Extreme but I'll tamper with it back at home.

    http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/OSX/quartz_extreme_PCI_mod.html

    PCI Extreme 3.1 seems to work with 10.4.3 so I've kept my machine in that pristine and I have my 10.4.0 disc just in case. It's a not vital machine so I can play with it.
     
  18. Dreadnought macrumors 68020

    Dreadnought

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    #18
    I'm just tempted to buy a new videocard. The BTO 9600 pro with 64 MB that came with my G5 is really out of date! :D I don't really need it, but I do some gaming now and then. And am planning to buy the new 23" ACD when they are released. Also put 2GB of ram extra into my G5 a couple of weeks ago and looking for a PCI to usb card that runs on PCI-X. I wonder if I should do it and buy a 6800, or maybe just buy a new PM when they come out with the Intel procs. Upgrade or buy a new system?!?!
     
  19. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #19
    If I were you I'd get a better video card...either an Apple X800XT/6800GT or a flashed card like mine. The G5 really needs a newer video card to take full advantage of its other hardware.
     
  20. Dreadnought macrumors 68020

    Dreadnought

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    #20
    Then flashing it is! Just waiting to get my tax returns! :D
     
  21. mjstew33 macrumors 601

    mjstew33

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    #21
    Holy Mother of Mozart! Was that a long 2 posts there, Lord Blackladder! Interesting.
     
  22. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

    Eidorian

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    #22
    I have found some lurve at work. I just bought a Radeon 7000 PCI off of the Marketplace for my B&W G3 back at home. I'm on campus by the way. I wanted to test it first and it works great.

    [​IMG]

    Does anyone know if you can run PCI Extreme and an AGP card at the same time?
     
  23. Macmadant macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    this sounds great i just don't have the confidence to do it :rolleyes:
     
  24. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #24
    Actually the 6800GS from XFX (the card I used) is a very low-risk flash as flashes go, especially in a G5 since you don't have to tape any pins. It isn't a cheap card though, and that scares many people off.

    Some versions of the Radeon 9800 require resistor mods, and PCI-E cards (as well as many AGP cards) need to have their rom chip swapped for a bigger one, none of which is necessary with the 6800GT I flashed.
     
  25. Dreadnought macrumors 68020

    Dreadnought

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    #25
    Where do you get a system which has PCI-E and AGP slots? That's a bit redundant. But, if there is, I can't see a reason why not.
     

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