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2011 iMac Graphics Card Upgrade

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

protocold

macrumors newbie
Jul 10, 2019
26
14
Yes, I experienced the exact same issue last week (I'm still on High Sierra right now), when I was on Catalina. This was before I got OpenCore to work, so I don't think it's related. I was thinking it had to do with Legacy Video Card support tweak within the Catalina Patcher, but I couldn't figure out how to tweak/troubleshoot that. You probably also see some of your video boarders turn black? I don't think it's a "no acceleration" problem, as that would be much worse. It's almost like a broken driver?



I just tried that, but it did not make any difference.
You are correct. I re-created the catalina usb and uncheck the auto patcher, then re-install and acceleration works fine, it must be the legacy video card (although I replaced the modded plist file which obviously didnt work).

I did get the black screen, i fixed it by replacing the AGC kext.

I am now using OC 0.6.0 and brightness control works for both completely darkness to maximum. I have also copied the OC content into the EFI partition to get rid of the extra USB drive.
 
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BeatCrazy

macrumors 68020
Jul 20, 2011
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You are correct. I re-created the catalina usb and uncheck the auto patcher, then re-install and acceleration works fine, it must be the legacy video card (although I replaced the modded plist file which obviously didnt work).

I did get the black screen, i fixed it by replacing the AGC kext.

I am now using OC 0.6.0 and brightness control works for both completely darkness to maximum. I have also copied the OC content into the EFI partition to get rid of the extra USB drive.

Can you provide instructions on how to do that?
 
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protocold

macrumors newbie
Jul 10, 2019
26
14
Can you provide instructions on how to do that?

The instruction were written for Mac Pro but it works for our scenario and purpose here...See Part I, under "Install Opencore"... Copy the files to the EFI volume of Disk A (You need to figure out what is A in your case).. you need to follow it until you finish with "Bless the EFI volume of Disk A and reboot"

Basically, adapt this instruction but just copy what you had in the usb onto that EFI volume.
 
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BeatCrazy

macrumors 68020
Jul 20, 2011
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One thing I noticed about this iMac when I got it a few weeks ago was a high-pitched "whine" at maybe 7kHz frequency. After swapping out the GPU for a K2100M, I didn't hear it, but actually forgot about it, and since I had been ripping the machine apart so often, I didn't know what was causing it.

Yesterday when I swapped back in the original HD4850 in order to update my BootROM, I immediately heard the whine come back! And of course it went away when the K2100M was re-installed.

So there must be something about the coils on the original card that caused the noise. That noise alone was annoying to me, and was in itself enough motivation to update the card :)
 
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fhturner

macrumors 6502a
Nov 7, 2007
602
377
Birmingham, AL & Atlanta, GA
Hey Everyone—

I'm jumping back into this thread after doing a couple of GTX 765m upgrades several months ago. I'd like to try to get their firmware flashed to enable a boot screen and subsequently dosdude1's Catalina patcher. I've been at this for a few hours now, and I'm finding it a little challenging to keep up w/ certain assumptions and conditions w/ the various methods being talked about. I feel like I'm chasing my tail a little bit. First, the setup I'm working on:
  • iMac 27" 2011 i7 3.4GHz
  • Nvidia GTX 765m, which works just fine, albeit w/ no boot screen
  • macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra, SIP disabled, BootROM 87.0.0.0.0 (latest)
I seem to be getting stuck w/ the Linux and Windows methods for flashing because I either have no way to force the alternate boot (Linux SSH) or get nothing after rebooting (Windows). I've tried @jowaju's package installer, and the installation succeeded:

I'll write up a detailed post later on in the week, but in the meantime I used the Winclone idea posted here earlier by FlorisVN to make a package installer Windows 7 Bootcamp so there is no need to install Winclone or do any other trickery. It requires 10.12 Sierra to begin, and it simply adds the bootcamp image to your internal hard drive on a 15GB partition it creates. Teamviewer has been installed, and the NVtools folder is on the desktop with the flash rom files ready to go.

I can choose the Bootcamp partition and reboot, presumably into Windows, but I get a black screen. I cannot seem to understand exactly how TeamViewer fits in. Are those using it booting into Windows and configuring it BEFORE swapping the GPU? Since I had a dead AMD GPU and have had the GTX 765m installed for a while now, I obviously could not configure TeamViewer ahead of time. So what am I do to? Or what am I missing?

@jowaju, did you ever get around to that "detailed post"? I have looked but haven't found. I'm trying to avoid having go back into the machine to unplug drives or temporarily revert GPUs (and don't have any working stock ones anyway). Is there any path to success here, or can you simply not do these processes w/o setup on a pre-GPU swap config first?

Thx,
Fred
 
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Ausdauersportler

macrumors 68000
Nov 25, 2019
1,597
1,500
Hey Everyone—

I seem to be getting stuck w/ the Linux and Windows methods for flashing because I either have no way to force the alternate boot (Linux SSH) or get nothing after rebooting (Windows). I've tried @jowaju's package installer, and the installation succeeded:
You have to open the iMac, disconnect the internal disk and plug in the USB flash utility. This has been exactly described. Unless you have a BIOS offering the boot selection this is the only way to force the Linux flash utility to boot. If you leave the internal LCD connected you might even be able to flash using the connected keyboard, your 765 seems to have a BIOS working still with MacOS.
 
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protocold

macrumors newbie
Jul 10, 2019
26
14
Yesterday when I swapped back in the original HD4850 in order to update my BootROM, I immediately heard the whine come back! And of course it went away when the K2100M was re-installed.
You shouldnt need to put back the original GPU for bootrom update. Mine was updated today when it had High Sierra in there and the update just happen when the K610M was in it.
 
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BeatCrazy

macrumors 68020
Jul 20, 2011
2,444
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You shouldnt need to put back the original GPU for bootrom update. Mine was updated today when it had High Sierra in there and the update just happen when the K610M was in it.
Possibly something related to my specific card (or VBIOS) was blocking the update.

I nearly lost my mind over the course of 4 days. Swapping SSDs, HDDs, re-installing 10.11.x, 10.13.x, you name it. Nothing would allow me to update. Until I dropped the original card back in, and the BootROM update immediately worked.
 
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goshNMedia

macrumors newbie
Oct 20, 2020
7
9
New Catalina Loader based on OpenCore 0.6.2

Latest version of OpenCore and latest version of the Lilu and Whatevergreen extensions already configured. We have for each card type a special preconfigured config. Just pick yours from the list below and rename it to config.plist

0.6.0 config.AMD.plist (WX4130, WX4150, WX4170)
0.6.0 config.NVIDIA.plist (All Nvidia cards still needing OpenCore)
0.6.0 config.NVIDIA.iMacPro.plist (experimental, here we use the iMacPro board-id, please ignore for now)

config.WX7100.plistconfig.plist (the one used, currently a copy the the AMD version)
config.AMD.MAX.plist (WX4130, WX4150, WX4170 using the PolarisBoostMAX)

0.6.2 config.WX7100.plist, config.WX4130.plist, config.WX4150.plist
0.6.2 config.NVIDIA-27.plist - 27" model
0.6.2 config.NVIDIA-215.plist - 21.5" model

You will find the config files on the image in the EFI/OC folder. Please check my previous post for more a documentation and more detailed info.

Installation on an SD card or USB flash drive is simple: Use the app balena etcher as before or use the disk utility to restore the card/drive from the image you downloaded and unpacked before.

Benefits:

The performance problems with the AMD cards before and after sleep are gone and AMD performance is by far better with Geekbench5 and Valley when using the PolarisBoostMAX. Additionally the power draw with higher clocks goes only from 5 to 15W idle instead of 40W. Please observe this in case you use a 4130/4150/4170.

Many thanks to @Nick [D]vB, @highvoltage12v, @jborko, and @Pascal Baillargeau for creating the contents.

Disclaimer:

I tried this my own on two machines, only. It should work! You made a Hackintosh out of your iMac. There are some risks related to this method. You take all this risks on your own!

EDIT:
08/13/2020: Added config.AMD.MAX.plist and changed image.
08/20/2020: The Lilu and Whatevergreen versions available on GitHub may change over time. Please check yourself if more recent versions are available.
08/23/2020: Upgraded all config.plist version with "run-efi-updater" "No" in the NVRAM section to avoid firmware updates. added back the older version of the GPU_Monitor_ORIG script to watch the temp data for AMD cards.
08/24/2020: attached former version AppleBacklightFixup.kext more suitable for K1100M, K2100M, K610M ?

10/08/2020: uploaded OC 0.6.2 image, possibly Nvidia users should replace AppleBacklightFixup on the image with the separate attached one, changed csr-active-config in the light of upcoming Big Sur, latest Whatevergreen and Lilu, SystemAudioVolume=25, different files for different AMD cards, added display ID F10T9cde to AppleBacklightFixup on image
10/09/2020: uploaded compressed image to fit on 1GB USB drives or SD cards, added display ID F10T9cde to attached separate file AppleBacklightFixup
10/29/2010: Uploaded new image 0.6.2 containing just new plist files. Check it out an report back. You can edit the plist files yourself using the Open Core Configurator.

Hi again,
So everything was going great on my 21.5 2010 iMac.
1. I have updated the firmware to 99.00.00.00
2. Updated the vBios on the K2100M using the Xanderson Linux method.
3. Installed Catalina, Applied Patches (unchecked Legacy Bios). and completed setup.
4. Made Opencore 0.6.2 BootDisk with Balena Etcher (GUID) and set it up as start disk, changing the Nvidia_215.config.plist to config.plist.
5. On reboot, the openCore Bootloader works, lets me select my disk with Catalina and then I get a "not found" symbol.

Assuming this is a quick fix but can anyone steer me to the right set of commands in terminal to get this working? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Ausdauersportler

macrumors 68000
Nov 25, 2019
1,597
1,500
Hi again,
So everything was going great on my 21.5 2010 iMac.
1. I have updated the firmware to 99.00.00.00
2. Updated the vBios on the K2100M using the Xanderson Linux method.
3. Installed Catalina, Applied Patches (unchecked Legacy Bios). and completed setup.
4. Made Opencore 0.6.2 BootDisk with Balena Etcher (GUID) and set it up as start disk, changing the Nvidia_215.config.plist to config.plist.
5. On reboot, the openCore Bootloader works, lets me select my disk with Catalina and then I get a "not found" symbol.

Assuming this is a quick fix but can anyone steer me to the right set of commands in terminal to get this working? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Try the latest upload (just a few minutes old) and please use the new/stock NVIDIA.plist - this 21.5 and 27 versions are for 2011 models, only.

If you would like to spend some time in searching the thread or try at least to read some of the last two pages before posting you would have seen similar questions and the answer.

Version 0.6.0 works, too! You do not need the latest with the 2010.
 
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BeatCrazy

macrumors 68020
Jul 20, 2011
2,444
1,157
Try the latest upload (just a few minutes old) and please use the new/stock NVIDIA.plist - this 21.5 and 27 versions are for 2011 models, only.

If you would like to spend some time in searching the thread or try at least to read some of the last two pages before posting you would have seen similar questions and the answer.

Version 0.6.0 works, too! You do not need the latest with the 2010.

So you would not recommend I try your new version NVIDIA.plist for my 27" 2009? The "limited brightness" situation I have with 0.6.0 is not terrible, but I'm willing to experiment to help others :)
 
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goshNMedia

macrumors newbie
Oct 20, 2020
7
9
Try the latest upload (just a few minutes old) and please use the new/stock NVIDIA.plist - this 21.5 and 27 versions are for 2011 models, only.

If you would like to spend some time in searching the thread or try at least to read some of the last two pages before posting you would have seen similar questions and the answer.

Version 0.6.0 works, too! You do not need the latest with the 2010.
Reporting back. Just tried that latest update and it did the trick. I had been reading but just missed this being an issue as of late but looks like we are on the right track.

I am in Catalina now. For some reason, I was under the impression that I would have Metal support with the k2100M. I was also under the impression that my Brightness would work with my keyboard with the use of OpenCore but neither is working. On the homestretch I think. I have read much of the info and I have searched but still coming up short. Again, thanks for all the help.
 
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Ausdauersportler

macrumors 68000
Nov 25, 2019
1,597
1,500
Reporting back. Just tried that latest update and it did the trick. I had been reading but just missed this being an issue as of late but looks like we are on the right track.

I am in Catalina now. For some reason, I was under the impression that I would have Metal support with the k2100M. I was also under the impression that my Brightness would work with my keyboard with the use of OpenCore but neither is working. On the homestretch I think. I have read much of the info and I have searched but still coming up short. Again, thanks for all the help.
You are welcome!

If you first boot into the SD card with the Catalina Loader and from there directly into Catalina/High Sierra/Mojave you should have the brightness control back.

You have metal with the K2100M in any case. Just check the GeekBench5 metal test. Or start Fotos and search the "all photos tab", if it is there, your GPU delivers native metal support.

Otherwise check 0.6.0 - there is no need to use 0.6.2. ( I checked my 2010 21.5/K610M/0.6.2 some hours ago, everything was fine then )
 
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Dent_

macrumors newbie
Oct 29, 2020
2
1
I've been reading this thread for a while now and I need some help.

I have a 2011 iMac 27". I've installed a K1100M and put everything back together, but I only get a black screen.
Initially it would chime, wait 5 seconds and chime again in a loop. Resetting the PRAM helped.

At the moment, it boots the point where the nic comes up (it pulls a DHCP address, I can ping it) and then it reboot. Screen is blank the whole time.

I haven't been able to flash the K1100M because I can't seem to get Windows or Linux to boot (by blindly trying to select the right boot option).

Any suggestions?
 
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BeatCrazy

macrumors 68020
Jul 20, 2011
2,444
1,157
I've been reading this thread for a while now and I need some help.

I have a 2011 iMac 27". I've installed a K1100M and put everything back together, but I only get a black screen.
Initially it would chime, wait 5 seconds and chime again in a loop. Resetting the PRAM helped.

At the moment, it boots the point where the nic comes up (it pulls a DHCP address, I can ping it) and then it reboot. Screen is blank the whole time.

I haven't been able to flash the K1100M because I can't seem to get Windows or Linux to boot (by blindly trying to select the right boot option).

Any suggestions?
So you cannot get it to stay booted, at all?

If you can, I’d highly recommend this method: https://forums.macrumors.com/thread....1596614/page-175?post=28184981#post-28184981
 
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Ausdauersportler

macrumors 68000
Nov 25, 2019
1,597
1,500
I've been reading this thread for a while now and I need some help.

I have a 2011 iMac 27". I've installed a K1100M and put everything back together, but I only get a black screen.
Initially it would chime, wait 5 seconds and chime again in a loop. Resetting the PRAM helped.

At the moment, it boots the point where the nic comes up (it pulls a DHCP address, I can ping it) and then it reboot. Screen is blank the whole time.

I haven't been able to flash the K1100M because I can't seem to get Windows or Linux to boot (by blindly trying to select the right boot option).

Any suggestions?
Reread the instructions made on the post of the Linux flash utility!!
 
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BeatCrazy

macrumors 68020
Jul 20, 2011
2,444
1,157
Try the latest upload (just a few minutes old) and please use the new/stock NVIDIA.plist - this 21.5 and 27 versions are for 2011 models, only.

If you would like to spend some time in searching the thread or try at least to read some of the last two pages before posting you would have seen similar questions and the answer.

Version 0.6.0 works, too! You do not need the latest with the 2010.

I did try your new 0.6.2 with my K2100M. Renamed the NVIDIA.plist. Instead of getting hung (after the OC boot picker option) with a circle/slash, I get hung after this verbose output is displayed.


So, I will stick with 0.6.0. Thank you for your continued work.
 
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Klineex

macrumors newbie
Oct 29, 2020
1
6
Preamble (Last Updated 10/25/2020 - late 2009 Nvidia black screen issue, flash, temperatures )
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. You will find websites that encourage "baking" the card. Without getting into the technicalities, it will work but this does not repair the graphics card. In fact, it only delays the problem. We have great news for you! You can install another graphics card that does not require much more effort. In addition, this will allow you to install more recent versions of MacOS. This thread has over 300 pages of useful information BUT the good news is all of that information has been summarized in this first post. It is HIGHLY recommended that you read through this post before asking questions. Then, reread the information. You will appreciate that the more experienced users cannot spoon-feed all new users. This distracts them from working on the files and tools that make all of this possible.

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!

Choosing the Right Card
This is the most important part of this process. The following information will help guide you in choosing your card. We have included the issues (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.

Important Notes Before You Begin
  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 (late 2009). Only Nvidia Kepler cards or AMD Polaris cards will work in these iMacs. No other GPU variant has MacOS driver support.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 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".
  6. The perf column reflects the OpenGL performance relatively to the original HD6790M (Unigine Valley)
Table of Working Graphics Cards (A PDF document of this information is available at the end of this post.)
CardBIOS linkBoot ScreenBrightness Control21.5/27/MXMHeat Sink Modperf
Quadro K610M +ROMyes (natively)yes (OpenCore)yes/yes/Ano35%
Quadro K1100M +ROMyes (natively)yes (OpenCore)yes/yes/Ano65%
Quadro K2100M +ROMyes (natively)yes (OpenCore)yes/yes/Ano100%
Quadro K1000M *ROMyes (natively)noyes/yes/Ano35%
Quadro K2000M *ROMyes (natively)noyes/yes/Ano65%
Quadro K3000M **ROMnonono/yes/Byes, 2 pipe?
Quadro K3100M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe130%
Quadro K4100M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe200%
Quadro K5000M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe?
Quadro K5100M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe200%
GTX 765M *ROMyes (natively)nono/yes/Byes, 3 pipe110%
GTX 770M *ROMyes (natively)nono/yes/Byes, 3 pipe160%
GTX 780M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe200%
GTX 880M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe150%
GTX 860M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe130%
GTX 870M ++ROMyes (natively)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes, 3 pipe?
AMD WX4130 +++ROMyes (OpenCore)yes (natively)yes/yes/Aspecial install130%
AMD WX4150 +++ROMyes (OpenCore)yes (natively)yes/yes/Aspecial install130%
AMD WX4170 +++ROMyes (OpenCore)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes or no?, 2 pipe130%
AMD WX7100 +++ROMyes (OpenCore)yes (natively)no/yes/Byes or no?, 3 pipe230%

* 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. The K3000M has been used with High Sierra by @Roman78. 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.

++ 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 card will run in a late 2009 system, but face (only there) another issue. After a PRAM reset the LCD remains black.

+++ These AMD Polaris cards are much more modern, but are difficult to source. Check the online offers carefully (the differences are explained below). With custom BIOS and OpenCore, these are very compatible and offer native brightness control, boot screens, UEFI Windows 10, and much more modern capabilities and future-proofing than the NVIDIA cards. They also allow for Sidecar, 4K H.264, and huge 4K HEVC decode/encode gains in production. There are still some problems to solve.

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
Questions and Answers

Q1: Is this easy? I need a quick fix for my iMac!

A: Not necessarily. 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.

Q2
: My system boots up, but I don't have internal display, any display, or my GPU is not recognized correctly. What do I do?

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.

Q3: Flash VBIOS? How do I do that?

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. THIS POST helps describe the flashing process. Others have found THIS POST useful. You can also use the flashrom software directly from the MacOS terminal following this installation guide.

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.

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.

Do a PRAM reset after flashing if you cannot boot into a known to work MacOS version!

Q4: OK, so I need to use the NVIDIA web drivers, right?

A: No - all cards outlined in this guide use the included NVIDIA drivers in macOS. No additional GPU drivers are needed.

Q5: Why aren’t you using Maxwell or Pascal cards in the iMac?

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.

Q6: Can I use a 4K display with these cards? The original card doesn't support 4K.

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.

Q7: What paste is recommended to cover the VRAM/Components on the MXM card like Apple’s design?

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.


Q7: What kind of performance can I expect after installing one of these cards?

A: We are still aggregating GPU benchmarks. You can help by running UNIGINE VALLEY on your iMac at 1080P MEDIUM and submitting the OpenGL results. You can also view the results! Since the new GPU ofter native metal hardware support it is worth to measure this running the free GeekBench5 (metal), uploading, or reading the results.

Q8: Are there any internal modifications needed for an MXM-A swap?

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 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!

Q9: Are there any additional internal modifications needed for an MXM-B swap?

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. Take a look at the attached pictures of this post!
Some cards may work with the bigger MXM-B heat sinks with 2 copper pipes from the 2009 and 2010 models due to limited power draw. The WX4170 with a TPD of 50W is, the K3000M and K3100M may be such a candidate. The HD 5850M is listed with 40W-60W power draw.
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. You can get these on eBay.

Q10: After GPU change my system does not boot at all, what is wrong?

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!

Q11: I want to help and experiment, what can I do?

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 :)

Installing OpenCore and MacOS on your upgraded iMac

With the addition of our newer GPU, Metal is natively supported allowing for installation of macOS Mojave and Catalina with full graphics acceleration. But you need to make sure in advance you have already installed 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.

The firmware upgrade is part of the OS upgrade. First install High Sierra (to a new APFS container?) and then install the latest security update, available. This update will install a file called "Firmware.scap" to the (invisible) EFI partition of your internal iMac drive and during the next reboot(s) (of this disk) this EFI update will be applied. This takes some time in the dark (if your GPU BIOS has no working EFI boot screen to show the progress bar) , a loud beep may be heard and another reboot is coming.

OpenCore / Catalina Loader:

Before starting this use the RomTool and backup your iMac EFI firmware and save it to an external storage device.

This software is only needed for Nvidia K610M, K1100M and K2100M to get native brightness control and for all AMD cards using the GOP or EFI BIOS getting a boot screen emulation and enabling 4k HEVC and 4K H.264 GPU acceleration.

When we use the phrase Catalina Loader and OpenCore at the same time it is because the Catalina Loader is a piece of software based on OpenCore. To use this software to get brightness control or a boot picker just download the latest image based on OC version 0.6.2, copy it to an USB memory or SD card, boot from it and that it is! You will find a short documentation attached to the post. There is no more need for a manual configuration. You just need to rename the config.plist file in the EFI/OC folder on the SD card according to your GPU. Follow this docs attached at the post linked above.

If you want to know what happens behind the curtain please read the original OpenCore post for more info. @herrdude provided an additional guide, another longer one by @Ausdauersportler and others named "Using Catalina Loader on an iMac" focussing on the special needs of 2011 models and special settings for AMD cards. All guides are worth reading before starting the installation.
More details about OpenCore on Legacy Apple hardware is available on this thread. The MacPro users basically explored the same things about Activate AMD hardware acceleration. Finally you may also study the OpenCore docs.

Using older MacOS versions

Currently we have no recent reports of users having a Kepler based Nvidia card installed with an older macOS versions than Sierra. According to this list the Nvidia drivers are part of macOS since 10.8.3. You might check this out on your own.

Installing MacOS Sierra
Supported MacOS version can be installed using the original Apple installer.

Installing MacOS High Sierra
Supported MacOS version can be installed using the original Apple installer.

Installing MacOS Mojave
Since you will have a Mojave compatible GPU, you could run the newest macOS without any serious issues. The recommended method is to have High Sierra as your primary OS and install Mojave alongside on a separate partition. So if anything goes wrong, you can still boot back into High Sierra to fix issues. 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).
Mojave 10.14.6 (2020-003) shows the black screen issue solved by this patched extension.

Installing MacOS Catalina
The process for Catalina is similar to Mojave as mentioned above. Similarly to Mojave, you could preinstall Mojave before changing your GPU. Use dosdude1's Catalina patcher to do the install:
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.

Alternative:
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).
See next section to manually fix this issue if you have accidentally install this patch.

Installing MacOS Big Sur (Beta 10)
Currently there are major and unsolved problems with the 2009 and 2010 iMac systems. Therefore an installation is not possible.

On the other hand the iMac 2011 systems with an upgraded GPU (and possibly an upgraded WIFI/BT card) are fully compatible with the latest Big Sur Beta 9 and Beta 10. You may use the latest @Barry K. Nathan micro patcher to test it. Please keep in mind that the development is ongoing and the developers on the thread cannot really support you with installation issues right now. You need MacOS and UNIX experience with the Terminal app and the command line to accomplish this task.
Note: The stock WiFi and BT works properly patched, too. No HandOff and no Continuity, of course.

AMD based systems offer 4K H.264 and 4K HEVC with Beta 10, again. Nvidia based systems lack currently still of iGPU based H.264 acceleration.


Common MacOS problems

After every MacOS update you will have to do the patching explaining in the next section to avoid common problems. 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).

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.

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.

A short plan of the GPU exchange

Why do I find the plan at the very end of this post? Because the steps listed are described in more detail in the former sections. This plan is not complete and because we have five different iMac systems with different architectures, three different 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)
  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)
  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. check the basic functionality with the latest supported OS which is High Sierra (highly recommended)
  10. install Macs Fan Control to and control the ODD fan according to the GPU heat sink temp sensor (mandatory)
  11. apply basic patches like the AGC if you experience a black screen (see above)
  12. optional: use the Catalina Loader (if needed by the card)
  13. make load test (UNIGINE valley and Geekbench5 metal) and submit results (see above)
  14. get used to the tools and patches, especially with OpenCore and Macs Fan Control
  15. move on to Mojave or Catalina using the @dosdude1 patcher (details see above)
  16. optional: apply sleep patches if using the 2011 iMac (Mojave and Catalina, only. see above)
  17. 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.

Issues with an Unsupported PC MXM Card (seven problems):

Using a non Apple Card within an iMac creates these problems. Some have been solved with the published custom BIOS versions, others not. Especially the problem 7 has not been solved and needs a software solution.
  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);
  6. The loss of running the built-in Apple Hardware Test (AHT);
  7. The loss of temperature sensors on the new GPU.
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.

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. A modified version of FakeSMC and GPUSensors is included with the OpenCore bundle to allow monitoring of GPU temps. But you still have to use some third party tool to control the fans. The GPU die temperature is not available and (probably for that reason) the Apple SMC still not running properly. Check the PDF attached to this post for details.

~~~~~~~~~~

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.

hey just wanted to say the problem with late 2009 and 2010 systems with Big Sur was fixed with an opencore patch so it can be patched now like the 2011
 

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Ausdauersportler

macrumors 68000
Nov 25, 2019
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Big Sur on iMac 11,x

Everybody with an iMac 11,x and a new metal graphics card interested in trying Big Sur on an iMac with a metal graphics card please read this thread and particular this post to get an idea which OpenCore version and how to patch...
 
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Ausdauersportler

macrumors 68000
Nov 25, 2019
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1,500
Does anyone know how this works? :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:
This is a Maxwell card and if I am not completely mistaken there are no Maxwell drivers in MacOS. I do not know how to get this card working.

This offer is a more like a hoax...
 
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