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2011 iMac Graphics Card Upgrade

Status
The first post of this thread is a WikiPost and can be edited by anyone with the appropiate permissions. Your edits will be public.

MichaelDT

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 18, 2012
204
191
Preamble (Last Updated 02/16/2021)

This is not a plug and play solution! You need extended macOS / Unix system administration knowledge, the ability to run programs from the Terminal app and some manual skills to assemble you iMac again. If you never did this before get some local help in advance and make a complete plan and make notes while reading through this page and thread! This is mainly a hardware modification leading you possibly into serious hardware problems only to be solved by yourself. There is no remote diagnosis tool available.

You have probably found this thread because your iMac late 2009 to mid 2011 is having problems caused by the graphics card. It is well known that these graphic cards are problematic/defective.

It is HIGHLY recommended that you read through this post before asking questions. Then, reread the information.

Before you post a question you may consider to add a signature to your account settings reflecting your machine type, graphics card, and possible even the problem you have. This signature sticks with every post you make and helps other to keep track and understand what is going on.

Enjoy!

This is the most important part of this process. The following information will help guide you in choosing your card. We have included the seven issues (see below: loss of brightness control, loss of boot screen, loss of target display mode, etc.) to overcome when installing a non-stock card into a 2009-2011 iMac.

When choosing your replacement graphics card, you must take under consideration: your budget, your comfort level with doing modifications, your ability to live with unresolved issues, your computing needs, etc.

Unfortunately, this thread cannot help you source cards as there are two many variables involved.

Read through this information carefully in order to choose the best card for your needs.
  1. The modified (video) BIOS version made by @Nick [D]vB, @nikey22 and @internetzel require an Intel i3 CPU or better. There is currently no way to make the features of these VBIOS working on Core 2 Duo systems (27" Late 2009). The cards may work with the stock BIOS showing all the seven problems...
  2. Only Nvidia Kepler cards or AMD Ellesmere/Polaris cards will work in these iMacs with macOS. No other GPU variant has MacOS driver support. Both get full graphics acceleration with all current MacOS versions including Big Sur.
  3. Please do not harass the BIOS developers to go faster, release a particular BIOS, etc. Please do not clog up the thread with useless posts asking if your specific card will get a new BIOS. Ask not what this thread can do for you, but what you can do for this thread. It takes several months of reverse engineering and testing before getting a new BIOS working. It took only six years for the first really working card here on this thread! If you would like to use a different card, consider yourself in unknown territory. Of course, let us know if it works! Chances are that Kepler based cards will run using the right (most likely Dell) BIOS but will exhibit the seven problems listed below.
  4. There are two type and sizes of cards: Smaller MXM-A cards and bigger MXM-B cards running stable only in the 27" models. While all cards will function in a 21.5" model, they are unstable due to their high power draw. @highvoltage12v tested a 770M here and had frequent Kernel Panics in macOS and BSoD's in Windows. Do not try it!
  5. For all Nvidia MXM B cards and the WX7100 you need the MXM-B heat sink from the 27" mid 2011 model. This is the only sink with three heat pipes capable to get the generated heat by using 75W out of the system unter load.

Known problems:
  1. Getting a 7-8 year old used Nvidia card may cause some new problems. These card may be already (half) dead after years. Do not jump into the first cheap deal, try to get unused spare parts. Most complaints on this thread (hundreds of posts) were caused by cheap old dead cards and endless trials to "repair" these by installing software. This will not work! Some Far East sellers offer new cards with new BIOS chips soldered on. Ignore those offers. We have seen also cards with unexpected small BIOS chips not capable of storing the new developed BIOS firmware versions available here.
  2. Some NVIDIA cards (K3000M, K610M, K1100M, K2100M, and K3100M) have new Hynix BFR or Elpida memory chips (late production) and the BIOS published here does not work properly in any case, you may get white screen on boot or later under load. The K3000M BIOS has been pulled back, still too many issues to solve. Take a look at the links within the tables to find your fitting BIOS. For some cards - although listed below - we may not have the correct memory versions prepared. K1100M (Elpida), K610M (Hynix) are such candidates, others may exist, too. Do bot blame the BIOS developer when getting a wrong card.
  3. Very often after installation the internal LCD remains black, only three status LED light up. You are likely hut by the black screen issue. Read the common problems and macOS installation section how to patch the problem.
  4. Check out below at the seven problems section for further information.
  5. ++ cards have a color depth problem only after boot - just sent the system once to sleep or change resolution. Alle this will cure the problem.


CardBIOS linksBoot ScreenBrightness Control21.5/27/MXMHeat Sink ModOGL
Quadro K610M +ROMyes (natively)yes (OpenCore)yes/yes/Aspecial install505
Quadro K1100M +ROMyes (natively)yes (OpenCore)yes/yes/Ano907
Quadro K2100M +ROM1ROM2yes (natively)yes (OpenCore)yes/yes/Ano1229
Quadro K1000M *ROMyes (natively)noyes/yes/Ano903
Quadro K2000M *ROMyes (natively)noyes/yes/Ano797
Quadro K3000M **nononono/yes/Byes, 2 pipe-
Quadro K4000M**nononono/yes/Byes, 3 pipe-
Quadro K3100M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe1779
Quadro K4100M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe2465
Quadro K5000M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe2038
Quadro K5100M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe2404
GTX 765M *ROMyes (natively)nono/yes/Byes, 3 pipe1428
GTX 770M *ROMyes (natively)nono/yes/Byes, 3 pipe2140
GTX 780M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe2642
GTX 880M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe2700
GTX 860M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe1616
GTX 870M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe2326

The OGL column reflects the OpenGL performance based on the Unigine Valley score from this table.
The MET column reflects the Metal performance based on MetalBench score from the table.
Please check below the About graphics card performance section for more details.

*
BIOS by @Nick [D]vB that currently enable boot screens on your iMac, better performance, and BootCamp support.

**
Only Nvidia Kepler based cards work in iMacs. Using OpenCore all these cards can have a limited boot screen functionality, now.

+
BIOS by @Nick [D]vB, and the Wizzard @nikey22 that currently enable boot screens on your iMac. Using OpenCore with these cards offers right now native brightness control, target display mode, UEFI Windows 10, and more! To enable backlight in UEFI Windows 10, see this post by @internetzel.
These cards can be flashed using a clip or via software.

++
BIOS by Wizzard @nikey22, and @stephle for the K5000M that currently enable boot screens and native brightness control on your iMac. To enable brightness controls in UEFI Windows 10, see this post and this more recent post. Only the audio support with UEFI Windows 10 would make OpenCore necessary.

These cards will run in a Late 2009 system, but all face (only there) another issue. After a PRAM reset the LCD gets and remains black. To solve this a kernel extension needs to be patched at best in advance. Only after booting into this patched macOS the screen will come back. Use this package installer to achieve this with all ++ cards on all systems up to macOS Catalina. Do not use this package on Big Sur. You may also use and install our iMac OpenCore packages natively into the EFI partitions of your iMac. Doing this will default boot into the EFI partition of your single disk, start OpenCore and initialise the internal screen using WhateverGreen/Lilu.

Most if not all of these cards have a WSON type BIOS chip which cannot be programmed using a clip. You need nvflash with Windows or Linux. Take a look at the FAQ about flashing cards.

Known problems:
  1. Most HP AMD cards will not do the POST (Power On Self Test) in the Mid 2011 models - these cards will not work!
  2. AMD WX7100 (recognized as Radeon RX 580 in macOS)
    It is important to identify the card. This card has been unpredictable. @Nick [D]vB has obviously a working card with number 109-C95847-00C_02. @Pascal Baillargeau has a card working with number 109-C95847-00D_02. However, other users have not been successful with the same exact models. For example, @Vego17 recently got the same card as @Nick [D]vB. But his card did not work in his iMac 2011 while it does run normally in a Dell Precision 7710 laptop.
  3. AMD WX4170 (recognized as Radeon RX 560 in macOS)
    Some come with a blank EEPROM and are missing a resistor. Working models with EEPROM are scarce. User @jborko did a write up HERE on his experience installing a WX4170. You can use the 4GB version of the latest WX4150 rom too (refer to the table at the beginning).
  4. AMD WX4130/WX4150 (recognized as Radeon RX 460 or RX560 depending on used BIOS in macOS) - currently 09/10 Only
    This card needs to have an EEPROM chip on board too. There are multiple versions of this card - only the "Dell" branded versions currently work. These WX 4130/4150 are not detected in every case by the 2011 iMacs for unknown reason, and therefore are currently not fully compatible. Even worse, some models are not detected in any iMac model from late 2009 to mid 2011. A few Dell versions will be recognized and run in 2011 models. There is currently no rule available to figure out in advance which model will run. Same situations as with the WX7100.
  5. Check out below at the seven problems section for further information.

CardBIOS linkBoot ScreenBrightness Control21.5/27/MXMHeat Sink ModOGLMET
AMD WX4130 +++ROMyes (OpenCore)yes (natively)yes/yes/Aspecial install180553
AMD WX4150 +++ROMyes (OpenCore)yes (natively)yes/yes/Aspecial install180562
AMD WX4170 +++ROMyes (OpenCore)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes or no?, 3 pipe215673
AMD WX7100 +++ROMyes (OpenCore)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes or no?, 3 pipe2949160

The OGL column reflects the OpenGL performance based on the Unigine Valley score from this table.
The MET column reflects the Metal performance based on MetalBench score from the table.
Please check below the About graphics card performance section for more details.

+++ These AMD Polaris cards are much more modern, but are difficult to source. Check the online offers carefully (the differences are explained below). Features are 4K H.264, 4K HEVC decode/encode gains in video production. There are still some problems to solve. SideCar will not work with these modern cards. These cards are be supported with Sierra and later. Latest known working macOS version is currently Big Sur.

Using the GOP BIOS (links within the table above) you will have native brightness and and get an emulated boot selection only with OpenCore. OpenCore enables 4K H.264, and huge 4K HEVC decode/encode by using the iMacPro1,1 ID. This hack makes your iMac look alike a new machine and gives you similar features.

Using the EG BIOS version you will get a native Apple boot picker with an iMac firmware modification on an additional external display, only. These BIOS versions offer native brightness control, too. Without OpenCore you can have 4K H.264 with a modified AppleGVA.framework but no 4k HEVC. You can also use the same OpenCore setup as with the GOP BIOS versions and combine the best from both worlds. Here you will find new EG BIOS versions for the WX4xxxx line. Both solutions have their own advantages.

Can be flashed using a clip or amdvbflash with Linux or Windows or EFI. Take a look at the FAQ about flashing cards.

A: Not necessarily. This is not a plug and play solution! This "fix" is more of a "mod" to revive our iMacs. Depending on your scenario, it will require a full iMac disassembly, knowledge of BIOS flashing, dremel tools, heatsink modification, careful handling of logic board components, system administration at a higher level and some Unix or terminal command line awareness. With the used/grey market for many of these cards, other issues may pop up as well. Please inform yourself before undertaking this process.
A: Your MXM card is likely running an incompatible BIOS and will need to be flashed with the correct one. This can be done from within Windows or Linux using NVFlash, or with a CH341a programmer. Some HP cards do not contain any BIOS and will not show up in the system until flashed (sometimes only possible with a CH341A clip!)
A: BIOS can be flashed in one of two ways: Either directly with a CH341a clip programmer or with the NVFLASH or AMDVBFLASH software in Windows or Linux. Only most AMD cards and K610M, K1000M and K2100M cards can be used with the clip. All other NVIDIA cards have so called WSON BIOS packages. Experienced users may solder a different BIOS chip onto those cards to be used with a clip, too. You can use the flashrom software with the clip directly from the MacOS terminal following this installation guide.

AMD flash software and NVIDIA flash software is only available on Windows and Linux.

User @xanderon created a pre-made USB that can flash Nvidia cards in the iMac with Linux over SSH. Many have found this the easiest method. There is an add-on to flash AMD cards using this method, too. SSH clients are available for iPad, iPhone and other tablet devices, too.

Additionally, user @jowaju created a simple Installer package that can be run on macOS Sierra (10.12) and higher that creates a 15GB Windows 7 Bootcamp partition with all the needed tools.

THIS external POST helps describes the flashing process. Others have found THIS POST useful.

Do a PRAM reset after flashing if you cannot boot into a known to work MacOS version!
A: No - all cards outlined in this guide use the included NVIDIA drivers in macOS. No additional GPU drivers are needed.
A: A lot of people here have tested Maxwell cards with their 2011 iMacs, and have had various issues from no internal display, no backlight on internal display and the card not hitting boost. Additionally, macOS Mojave (10.14) deprecated support for the NVIDIA Web Drivers which allowed the use of Maxwell and Pascal cards. For now, Kepler GPUs and the experimental Radeon cards seem to be our path forward.
A: Yes! So far, the K1100M & GTX 770M have been tested firsthand and successfully provide 4K@60Hz output via mDP to DP adapter on a 4K display. Others should work just as well.
A: For the GPU Die any thermal Paste like Thermal Grizzly’s Kryonaut paste is good for the Die. For onboard components, many recommend using K5 Pro Viscous paste instead of thermal pads, due to the unevenness of the heatsink, it’s also similar to Apple’s original Design. You can get it from the Bay or from the Book Store, too. How to apply the paste, watch this video!
A: We are still aggregating GPU benchmarks. There is a special section on this page and we added to the GPU tables a relative (to the old flagship HD6970) performance column only based on the the OpenGL benchmark.
A: For an MXM-A swap (the shorter/less power draw cards) there are no modifications that are needed for the heatsink on both the 21.5" and 27" model iMacs. The new X-clamp still needs be removed from the back of the card and have the screw posts drilled or tapped out in order to fit the heatsink's screws. Separate the X-Clamp using a hair dryer before drilling or tapping - it is just glued to the board. Skipping this step can fry or damage your card. If you've cleaned your heatsink, be sure to re-apply thermal pads around the GPU VRAM to prevent contact with the bare metal of the heatsink. Use electrical tape to isolate card components from the sink! Watch closely after installing the card. Take a look at the attached pictures of this post! In case you had a ATI card using a small Apple X-bracket (all MXM-A cards, 4850 and 5850) just reuse this bracket!! It fit's perfectly with all MXM-A replacement cards!
A: The MXM-B cards only work on the 27" models due to power restrictions. There is one additional mod needed to make the MXM-B card fit. First you must grind down your heatsink in the area where one or two large coils sit, this way the card will sit flush with the heatsink. You must prepare the the X-clamp in the same way as described with MXM-A cards above. In case you had a ATI card using a small Apple X-bracket (all MXM-A cards, 4850 and 5850) just reuse this bracket!! It fit's perfectly with all replacement cards except the RX480 and WX7100!
If you have a 2 pipe heatsink that came with the lower end GPUs on these iMacs and want to use an MXM-B Card, you'll have to buy a 3 pipe heatsink to cool cards properly.
A: Most likely the installation of card on the heat sink caused a short, or the card is simply faulty, or the card has not been reseated in the slot properly, check all this out first. Any hardware issue has to be solved by yourself!
A: We all know that none of the modifies BIOS versions for the Metal GPUs listed in the table above is able to provide the internal GPU temperature back correctly to by used by the iMacs internal Apple SMC software to control the (ODD) fan according to the GPU internal temperature. To address this issue we recommended strongly to use a free software called Macs Fan Control. But you can also try to solve this problem by using the ODD temp sensor.
A: The first term simply describes the fact that you can use GUI related operations like moving, resizing, closing an application or Finder window fast and smooth. This has been a serious issue with all patched installations of macOS versions on unsupported hardware. All "metal" cards listed above offer full graphics acceleration. Especially with Big Sur this has become more important since only "metal" enabled cards offer now the full graphics acceleration. The term video acceleration describes the hardware abilities of the GPU supported by the macOS. Only the new AMD GPUs offer 4K HEVC and 4K H.264 if installed in an iMac. If you want to know more about the possibilities AMD cards offer watch some of the videos collected here.
A: This issue has been described by the author of the BIOS on every publishing post. So it is a BIOS issue which can be solved by just sending your iMac once to sleep and on wake up the graphics driver will re-initialise and the color mapping will be correct or you simply use this little app made by @passatgt and follow his instructions.
A: Take a look at this post...this is not a plug and play task.
A: This feature is only supported until High Sierra on the iMac. To use it you need a working High Sierra partition/container on your boot disk. Apple dropped TDM support for M1 systems. You will not be able to use an iMac as an external display for these new 2020+ machines. For older Intel based systems until 2019 you will need the Apple Thunderbolt 2 (Mini DisplayPort female plug type) to Thunderbolt 3 converter cable (USB-C plug type).
A: First, read the full thread. Staying on top of the progress here is key! Currently we have released a series of BIOS versions for Nvidia GPU which do not need any hardware modifications, only some patched software. But there have been backlight mods created to be used with AMD and Nvidia BIOS versions which do not offer native backlight control. And of course every user may help sharing his knowledge to new users - but please stay on topic. This is not the thread of everything related to these old iMacs

This software became a main part of this development, ignoring or denying does not help. You will not get the features described above without using OpenCore.

Benefits!

  1. Brightness control with K610M, K1100M and K2100M cards
  2. AMD Video acceleration 4K HEVC and 4K H.264 (by spoofing iMacPro1,1 ID)
  3. Emulated boot picker for all systems using AMD cards!
  4. Big Sur for 27" Late 2009 and 21.5" and 27" Mid 2010 iMac models
  5. WINDOWS 10 UEFI installations on Mid 2011 sound patch included
  6. optional OTA upgrades with Big Sur (0.6.6 and later, not enabled by default)
  7. AMD DRM (HW support) for Netflix (not in Safari), AppleTV, Amazon Prime etc. streaming

Need to be done in advance?

  1. Install the lastest Apple firmware for your iMac. This can be done by doing a fresh High Sierra including all published Apple updates first on an internal disk before you can use the Catalina Loader or Mojave or Catalina or Big Sur. Another option may be using this package @dosdude1 linked in on his own site in the macOS Catalina Patcher section in the Important Information tab - please read first there and download later.
  2. Before starting this use the RomTool and it's password (rom) from this site and backup your upgraded iMac EFI firmware and save it to an external storage device. Using OC and Apple OTA upgrade can brick your iMac by overwriting your firmware. Having a backup will spare you a lot of trouble. SIP has to be disabled on your iMac to use this software. Move this app to the applications folder in case it does not load the DirectHW.kext. Using Big Sur you have to enable the loading of this extension in the security pane in systems preferences.
What is OpenCore / Catalina Loader?

When we use the phrase Catalina Loader and OpenCore at the same time it is because the Catalina Loader is a piece of software using OpenCore.

So why putting OC on this vehicle Catalina Loader? Storing it in the internal EFI partition as usual on the single SSD/HDD can cause major headaches for users of AMD GPU offering no native boot screen. If the configuration fails you end up without a non booting disk and to force a boot of an external UBS device to reinstall you have to change the boot selection - which cannot be done without an EFI Boot picker acting on alt/option on boot. You will have to pull the disk out of the iMac to force boot of an external device. All this can be avoided by having the OC on the CL on an SD card or USB thumb drive which can be pulled out of the system. The iMac is no MacPro or PC where you can easily open the case and disconnect a drive.

Where to get it and how to use?


Download of Catalina Loader image and OC versions

More Information:

Post: The original OpenCore post on this thread
Guide by @Herrdude,
Guide: Using Catalina Loader on an iMac


Thread: OpenCore on Legacy Apple Hardware (focusing on MacPro, but also a lot of general instructions)
Thread: Activate AMD hardware acceleration
Videos about how to maintain OpenCore.
Full original Documentation: Dortania OpenCore.

Follow this link to install Windows using the UEFI method or search the net for more ways to achieve this. You will need OpenCore to enable the sound on 2011 systems using this method!

According to this list the (Kepler) Nvidia drivers are part of macOS since 10.8.3. You might check this out on your own. At least on recent successful upgrade of an iMac 12,2 with macOS 10.10 can be reported here.
According to this GPU buyers guide the new AMD will be supported with macOS Sierra and later.

Supported MacOS version can be installed using the original Apple installer. To avoid the black screen issue install this package.

Supported MacOS version can be installed using the original Apple installer. To avoid the black screen issue install this package.

Installing this last supported macOS version brings in the latest firmware. There will be unlikely ever new firmware versions since High Sierra went out of Apple support these days.

If you are using High Sierra with an AMD GPU using OpenCore as explained above on an iMac 2011 you need to install the iMacPro1,1 version of the AppleIntelSNBGraphicsFB.kext, too. Otherwise your system will not be able to sleep and panic on wake! You will find the extension and a guide here. Simply install this single file on High Sierra.
Another option is to disable the spoofing within the config.list file.

The recommended method is to have High Sierra as your primary OS and install Mojave alongside on a separate partitions or APFS container partition. So if anything goes wrong, you can still boot back into High Sierra to fix issues. High Sierra offers a working recovery partition, too.

This is a two step installation. First you will use the @dosdude1 patcher and later install a package needed to address the hardware changes you made by changing the GPU.

1. You could preinstall Mojave before changing your GPU. Use dosdude1's Mojave patcher to do the install.

Important: While running the Post Install tool, make sure you deselect the Legacy Video Card patch option (since you will using a new, compatible metal graphics card).

2. GPU and machine related patches: (see next section common macOS problems)

Late 2009, Mid 2010: To avoid the black screen issue install this package or follow instructions this post.
Mid 2011: Install this package to avoid sleep problems, black screen etc. or follow this post.

The recommended method is to have High Sierra as your primary OS and install Catalina alongside on a separate partition. So if anything goes wrong, you can still boot back into High Sierra to fix issues.

This is a two step installation. First you will use the @dosdude1 patcher and later install a package needed to address the hardware changes you made by changing the GPU.

Important: Post-install patching has changed since Mojave.
Patching is now automated if your SMBIOS is detected to be an unsupported machine. Currently, only the 2011 iMacs have the "Legacy Video Card Patch" disabled by default. You will avoid this patch (since you will use a new, compatible metal graphics card) and will need to modify a plist file if you are using a 2009/2010 iMac with a Metal compatible video card or more easily while building the patcher, you can go to the "Options" menu and de-select "Auto-Apply Post-Install Patches" to avoid this.

Important: While running the Post Install tool, make sure you deselect the Legacy Video Card patch option (since you will using a new, compatible metal graphics card).

1a. The process for Catalina is similar to Mojave as mentioned above. Use dosdude1's Catalina patcher to do the installation.

1b. Getting the latest Catalina installer is broken with the latest @dosdude1 patcher. You need the gibMacOS utility to download the latest version and construct it from the several download files. Follow the instructions coming with the tool. Then in can be installed using the latest @dosdude1 patcher. This method works for all recent macOS versions!

2. GPU and machine related patches:
Late 2009, Mid 2010: To avoid the black screen issue install this package or follow instructions this post.
Mid 2011: Install this package to avoid sleep problems, black screen etc. or follow this post.

See next section to manually fix this issue if you have accidentally installed this patch. Best option is reinstalling Catalina from the scratch!!

Status 12/27/2020:

  • (using a new AMD GPU) DRM is known to work and you can watch Apple TV and Netflix on your iMac
  • use gibMacOS (download code on green button and read the online docs) to download the latest and last full Catalina installer (19H05). Installation to disk works not fully, you have at the very end to boot into a USB installer and call "post install patches". My complete recipe has been published here...
  • (using NVIDIA GPU) H.264 iGPU acceleration is still working on the 2011 models
  • (having a 2011 system) installing @dosdude1 and later sleep patches found on post #1
  • (having a 2009 and 2010 system) disable auto install patches in advance otherwise the legacy video patch make the fresh installation unusable
  • security upgrades using the @jackluke OTAfix trick (latest Beta security upgrade is 19H505)

The recommended method is to have High Sierra as your primary OS and install Big Sur alongside on a separate partition. So if anything goes wrong, you can still boot back into High Sierra to fix issues.

Having a Metal GPU makes your iMac Late 2009, Mid 2010, Mid 2011 Big Sur compatible. To make the package perfect and nearly fully compatible you could have installed an WiFi/BT upgrade, but it is not necessary to install and run Big Sur. The stock old Atheros WiFi card will be supported.

You have several patcher options based all on integration work of @Ausdauersportler:

To avoid a kernel panic on boot of the Big Sur installer all users of the 2009 and 2010 iMac systems will have to use a special OpenCore based solution, which has been included to all of the above patches versions. Option 1 is a terminal command based version, option 2 offers a GUI above option 1, option 3 ist terminal based, again! But it is the only option that will offer upgrades via Apple Software Upgrade on the long run.

Notes:
  1. The stock WiFi and BT works properly patched, too. No HandOff and no Continuity, of course.
  2. AMD based systems offer 4K H.264 and 4K HEVC with Big Sur, again. DRM is is working with OC 0.6.5 DRM and later and so Apple TV will show movies online, Netflix (currently not in Safari), Amazon Prime and others should work, too.
  3. Nvidia based systems lack currently still of iGPU based H.264 acceleration. HW DRM has never worked.
  4. Since all iMac 11,x models will need an OpenCore (OC) solution with Big Sur we have now only a few systems remaining working without OC, the iMac 12,2 using NVIDIA cards marked with a ++ in the table above. Due to this fact all systems using OC will have to use the Catalina Loader (CL) and the attached 0.6.5 (or later) EFI folders. These are preconfigured to inject all other extensions needed like Lilu, WhateverGreen, AppleBacklightFixup, PolarisBoost etc. and have some other security features enabled by default.
Important download links:

Still having questions? Check out this thread - it is close :)

After every MacOS update you will have to do the patching explained here to avoid common problems, again. Installing kernel extensions to the system is not an easy task. A complete installation guide to do this has been published (see link below with Q2). You can do this using the provided installer packages, using some tools or using the terminal and command line.

Q1: I get a black or blank screen on boot, how to fix?

A: Sierra and later has been causing "black screen" issues for many folks. This is caused by a lack of kext initialization due to a lacking board-id in the AppleGraphicsControl.kext (short AGC). A patched AGC kext and a further explanation can be found HERE, thanks to @highvoltage12v. Please look and the next question and link to get the installation guide, needed. Using some Nvidia cards in late 2009 iMac causes extra pain. The internal LCD will come up only after installing the patched AGC and booting into the newly patched MacOS. The BIOS versions will need a fix to come around this additional problem.

Q2: Sleep is broken and QuickSync is not working on my iMac 2011 in Mojave and Catalina, how do I fix this?

A
: Solution for Mojave and Catalina, the SandyBridge kexts are missing. Installing them fixes sleep, but causes extended boot times. @highvoltage12v has provided the needed patches containing the SandyBridge kexts in THIS POST which can be installed. You can also simply install this Catalina package or this Mojave package.

Q3: After installing Catalina on my Late 2009/2010 iMac my animations are broken/choppy, the Dock is grey and the menu bar isn't translucent. How do I fix this?

A: The dosude1 installer unfortunately automatically executes the "Legacy Video Card Patch" leaving Late 09/2010 MXM swapped users with broken/choppy animations. If you did install Catalina and would like to manually reinstall the stock Kexts and Frameworks, a guide has been written by @highvoltage12v to manually overwrite the patched files with stock files. Another fix is the reinstallation of Catalina with auto-patching disabled. It turns out to be the less error prone solution.

You may face all kind of hardware problems after assembling your iMac again. There is an incomplete list of common (hardware) problems including the links to the original Apple iMac Technician Guides to trouble shoot such problems.

Some other possible modifications as USB3 or WiFi/BT 4.x replacements may interfere with a new GPU.

Please understand that we cannot remotely repair or identify broken hardware. And there is no proof possible that hardware is broken. Do not ask for one. You may likely buy a dead used card. Check it before! This is not the "repair my iMac help desk thread".

This plan is not complete and because we have five different iMac systems with different architectures, three different (unsupported) MacOS versions, nearly 20 graphics cards in mainly 5 flavours, we cannot make a simple single plan:
  1. choose a GPU, get the card (we do not comment on sellers). Take a photo of both sides of the card and save them for later trouble shooting.
  2. optional: get an SD card / USB this drive and prepare it with the Catalina Loader in advance if needed by the GPU
  3. upgrade your iMac boot rom firmware to the latest version (mandatory) by installing High Sierra on an internal disk including all recent Apple upgrades!
  4. using RomTool (password rom) dump your iMac firmware and store it externally (highly recommended)
  5. optional: get a CH341A clip programmer and install flashrom using brew on another Mac
  6. optional: apply the EG mod to your iMac firmware and restore the modified image using a CH341A clip
  7. optional: get an SD card / USB this drive and prepare it with the Linux flash utility, grab the most recent BIOS of your card of choice and copy it directly to the folder named flash on that drive
  8. get the most recent BIOS version following the links in the table above, flash the card using a clip programmer in advance or install the card and use the flash software tools (mandatory)
  9. relocate the ODD temperature sensor and install the card
  10. check the basic functionality with the latest supported OS which is High Sierra (highly recommended)
  11. install Macs Fan Control to and control the ODD fan according to the GPU heat sink temp sensor (mandatory)
  12. apply basic patches like the AGC if you experience a black screen (see above)
  13. optional: use the Catalina Loader (if needed by the card)
  14. make load test (UNIGINE valley and Geekbench5 metal) and submit results (see above)
  15. get used to the tools and patches, especially with OpenCore and Macs Fan Control
  16. move on to Mojave or Catalina using the @dosdude1 patcher (details see above)
  17. optional: apply sleep patches if using the 2011 iMac (Mojave and Catalina, only. see above)
  18. optional: install iGPU framework if using the 2011 iMac (Mojave and Catalina, only. see above)
Whenever you have problems come back to this post and read the guides. There have been hundreds of successful installations during the last year. If you experience hardware problems you have to solve these on your own.

This is a wide open field.

1. OpenGL

Historically MacOS used and supported and still supports with Big Sur OpenGL. To measure the performance of an GPU we currently use the free Unigine Valley benchmark suite. To use it please use the following settings standard resolution of 1920x1080, quality Medium, stereo 3D disabled, Anti-aliasing Off otherwise results cannot be compared. The software will run on any macOS version since Sierra and on Windows, but there it is using the Microsoft DirectX implementation and results cannot be compared, again.

2. Metal

Metal is the new sugar for GPU addicts, it has been introduced in 2012 hardware (HD4000 and NVidia GPU) in Apple hardware. During the last months we used GeekBench5 Metal. Lately we discovered a new more stable and hopefully more meaningful MetalBench software, which will run only on Catalina and later.

Table of Benchmark Software and upload and result forms


This is a Tour de Horizon ... most - if not all - of these problems have been solved with the published BIOS versions.

Using a non Apple video card within an iMac will create these problems. Especially the problem 7 has not really been solved and needs a software solution or the relocation and reuse of the ODD temp sensor (see below).
  1. The loss of EFI boot screen;
  2. The loss of backlight control;
  3. You can only connect one external monitor to 27" iMacs;
  4. The loss of Target Disk Mode;
  5. The loss of Target Display Mode (TDM); (works only with High Sierra and before)
  6. The loss of running the built-in Apple Hardware Test (AHT);
  7. The loss of temperature sensors on the new GPU. But there is a hardware solution!
1. Boot Screens are now available on all listed cards using custom VBIOS and/or OpenCore

You may use the OpenCore booter to add a boot screen feature to every card - even the Nvidia and AMD cards not listed here or known to have no BIOS support to show the original apple boot picker. There is a small delay between the chime (POST) and the initialization of the actual boot screen on the current NVIDIA modded BIOS. Most of the time (such as a quick reboot in macOS) the system boots too quickly for the EFI portion of the BIOS to initialize, making it appear that you may not have a "boot screen." All is working as intended if you can hold the "Option" key at startup and get a boot picker.

2. Native Brightness control is available for cards marked with + or ++ using a combination of custom BIOS and OpenCore.

For other cards, brightness control may be added in the future. Be aware that without brightness control, the iMac display runs at full brightness by default. For higher powered cards and 27" models, this can generate a lot of heat.

If you would like to "dim" your display using color dimming, many have used the app Brightness Slider, which is available on the App Store for free.

You can also use this app, which works better than most apps in the App Store, because it will dim the colors on the whole screen and it will display the built-in OSD, just like native brightness control.

Additionally, hardware level modifications using a DyingLight module or a Raspberry Pi have been used for brightness control. This software written by @passatgt can be run on a Pi for backlight control. Another hardware solution can be found here.

Nvidia cards marked with ++ with native brightness control may notice their displays are not hitting maximum brightness control Potential. A kext modified by @highvoltage12v can be found here to fix this issue. It has been added to all installer packages and the Bit Sur patcher.

Last, but not least: User @Lottosmp came up with a solution based on the former engineering.

3. Despite having 2 miniDisplayPort outputs, the 27" 2011 iMac will only output to one external display. There is currently no fix or workaround for this.

4. Target Disk Mode is available on all cards marked with a + or ++!

5. Target Display Mode (TDM) is available on for cards marked with + when using both custom BIOS and OpenCore. Target Display Mode is *only* stable under High Sierra and should not be used in later OS's.

6. Apple Hardware Test (AHT): There is currently no fix for running the internal service diagnostics. You may search the net for the ASD (Apple Service Diagnostic) package instead. For each system there is a different package. Download and install the package onto a SD card or a DVD, which will give you full functionality. A working download link may be hard to find. It is not open source.

7. GPU Temperature Monitoring is available on cards marked with a + or ++when using both custom VBIOS and OpenCore. This shows the temps, but does not control the fans!
Use Macs Fan Control to control the ODD fans. Check the PDF attached to this post for details. The best solution as of today is to relocate the ODD sensor as described in this solution! The ODD sensor will drive the fan up using the Apple SMC software.

This is a short list of enhancements worth to be realised IMHO:
  • add (Atheros and BCM94xxx) WiFi drivers to Linux Flash utility
  • repackage Linux Flash utility to contain the amdvbflash and all recent BIOS versions
  • modify iMac Late 2009 i-series firmware to avoid total eclipse (black screen)
  • modify iMac Late 2009 core2duo firmware to get better GPU support
For those about to code, we salute you!

Here the most frustrating (hardware) problems:
  • why do so many AMD MXM cards not POST in the 2011 systems (only the fans spin up for a split second and the nothing happens)
  • how to solder a BIOS chip on the WX4170 cards without those.

~~~~~~~~~~

Original Post from @MichaelDT June 14th, 2013.

I will be attempting to upgrade the MXM card in my 2011 21.5 iMac from the factory 6770m 512mb to a NVidia 675m 2GB. I choose this card because the chipset already has support from 10.8.3 onwards and affordability for an experiment. I am hoping that it will work without flashing like many of the other non MXM modern graphics cards (UEFI support) do in 64bit EFI Mac Pros ( I may loose the initial boot screen). But if all else fails I will attempt a flash. I will report back my findings when the card arrives (from Hong Kong). Wish me luck hopefully this will give those of us with the last modular iMac a path forward.
app
 

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SpeedFleX

macrumors 6502
Apr 22, 2009
301
1
Interwebz
I will be attempting to upgrade the MXM card in my 2011 21.5 iMac from the factory 6770m 512mb to a NVidia 675m 2GB. I choose this card because the chipset already has support from 10.8.3 onwards and affordability for an experiment. I am hoping that it will work without flashing like many of the other non MXM modern graphics cards (UEFI support) do in 64bit EFI Mac Pros ( I may loose the initial boot screen). But if all else fails I will attempt a flash. I will report back my findings when the card arrives (from Hong Kong). Wish me luck hopefully this will give those of us with the last modular iMac a path forward.

Good luck brave sir!
 
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cmanderson

macrumors regular
May 20, 2013
161
0
I will be attempting to upgrade the MXM card in my 2011 21.5 iMac from the factory 6770m 512mb to a NVidia 675m 2GB. I choose this card because the chipset already has support from 10.8.3 onwards and affordability for an experiment. I am hoping that it will work without flashing like many of the other non MXM modern graphics cards (UEFI support) do in 64bit EFI Mac Pros ( I may loose the initial boot screen). But if all else fails I will attempt a flash. I will report back my findings when the card arrives (from Hong Kong). Wish me luck hopefully this will give those of us with the last modular iMac a path forward.

Let us know how it goes, and if it works for you, what sacrifices you've had to make, if any. Also, links or contact info to your resource in HK.
 
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MichaelDT

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 18, 2012
204
191
Excellent news it is exactly as I suspected, you simply need an mxm a/b card that supports UEFI. I did loose my initial boot screen but once OSX loads the screen powers up. So initially I ordered the 675m but when I received that card it had BIOS only drivers...so I ordered a DELL/Alienware 680M off ebay. Only Trouble so far is it isn't recognizing my second display, but I'll tinker and we shall see if I can fix that.:)

Edit: So looking at my console logs it senses the second display then drops it, I'm thinking it is the driver.
 

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MichaelDT

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 18, 2012
204
191
More details: If you use an MXM-B card it will be larger than the MXM-A card that the ATI is; so it will hang over the HDD. It doesn't cause any issues though, no modifications needed. During the install the heatsink from the ATI 6770M is a just a tiny bit too small, half of one of the ram chips will be uncovered. This doesn't seem to be a big deal as it is the chip positioned closest to HDD fan and I have been monitoring the heat sensors and they don't seem an higher that with the ATI card even playing graphics intensive games.
 
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MichaelDT

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 18, 2012
204
191
Any photos for this upgrade?

No, I will take it apart tomorrow after I get home from work and take some photos to show what the install looks like vs. stock for those that are curious.
 
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MichaelDT

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 18, 2012
204
191
Well I have got my second display working, the Nvidia 680M card does not like the Minidisplay to HDMI adaptor I was using, I switched to a VGA and it powered up.
 
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QCassidy352

macrumors G4
Mar 20, 2003
11,509
4,679
Bay Area
Well done sir!! Very nice. Wish I had the guts to do this to my 2011 21.5". You'll have to give us some performance numbers when you get a chance to play around with it. :)
 
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MichaelDT

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 18, 2012
204
191
Some photos, comparing the stock MXM-A card to an MXM-B card and pictures of the MXM-B card installed.
 

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kgian

macrumors regular
Jul 17, 2011
186
8
Congratulations!
How can you boot to windows bootcamp if you lost the bootscreen?

Also, can you post a link to the mxm board you baught?
 
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MichaelDT

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 18, 2012
204
191
Concerning bootcamp etc see this thread The concept is just the same, only instead of standard PCI iMacs use NVidias MXM 3.0 protocol which really is just PCIe anyways.
 
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goodcore

macrumors newbie
Jun 24, 2013
15
3
Putinville
Hello MichaelDT!
Thank's for your research
I also trought with replacing graphic card in my iMac 27 over my factory 6970M. But i want install 7970M. Keep in touch.

Vasily
 
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StevieRay

macrumors newbie
Jun 24, 2013
7
3
This may be a dumb question, but can you swap the video card on a 15" MBP (non retina) like this, or is it soldered to the MB?
 
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mikeylam

macrumors newbie
Jul 12, 2013
7
0
Hi Michael, I am a bit confused by the below. What do you mean by "So initially I ordered the 675m but when I received that card it had BIOS only drivers...so I ordered a DELL/Alienware 680M off ebay."?? I would think if you install the 675M into the system, OSX should just load the driver automatically? Why would the card come with OSX drivers as they are PC cards anyway?

Excellent news it is exactly as I suspected, you simply need an mxm a/b card that supports UEFI. I did loose my initial boot screen but once OSX loads the screen powers up. So initially I ordered the 675m but when I received that card it had BIOS only drivers...so I ordered a DELL/Alienware 680M off ebay. Only Trouble so far is it isn't recognizing my second display, but I'll tinker and we shall see if I can fix that.:)

Edit: So looking at my console logs it senses the second display then drops it, I'm thinking it is the driver.
 
Comment

Commy1

macrumors 6502a
Feb 25, 2013
726
69
That's an impressive upgrade, I'm impressed. Are there any heat issue? or even noticeable higher temps? The 680 is a beast card, I wouldn't be comfortable putting it inside such a confined space, but if it works, why the heck not.
 
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omvs

macrumors 6502
May 15, 2011
481
11
Is there any way to get the boot-screen? I was excited and ordered a 680M, though now I'm wondering if this means I won't be able to boot with File Vault enabled....

I did see some posts about updating the firmware to get EFI for win8, but it sounds like your card has the EFI firmware update and still gives no boot screen?
 
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pastrychef

macrumors 601
Sep 15, 2006
4,520
1,031
New York City, NY
Nice job! It may be possible to get back boot screen image if someone with an iMac that came with a GTX 675MX gives you an image of the ROM.

You mentioned that the stock heatsink is too small and leaves some of the VRAM exposed. I don't know if theres, enough room, but you can try some of these:
 

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jezzy

Suspended
Jan 12, 2012
85
1
Montreal, Quebec
Very brave. Thanks for sharing! I'm personally looking at upgrading my iMac mid 2010 27" 5750 1gb to a 2011 6750 card.. But can't swallow a 600$ price tag!
 
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