3,1 "bang for your buck" upgrades

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by VinnyVincent, Mar 14, 2016.

  1. VinnyVincent macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016
    HI guys;)

    I just got a mac pro 3,1 here are the specs.
    Earky 2008
    quad core 2.8ghz
    4GB memory(4X1)
    500GB SATA
    ATI radeon HD 2600XT
    El Capitan
    DVD RW dual layer

    This is my first mac in about 12 years. I mainly use my computer for media. Music, Movies and maybe a small amount of light video editing.(multimedia)
    I'm obviously not putting much stress on the computer so I am not looking for the absolute best possible upgrades, just the most cost effective that will yield a snappy machine for every day use.

    At first I was thinking about upgrading RAM, but after doing some research I am wondering if it would make since to add an SSD first, since I will be storing and downloading/accessing lots of files.
    Does that make sense?

    As far as RAM goes, I currently have the 800mhz DDR2 4X1 with four open slots. I was reading somewhere that you can pick up used 667mhz ram from Xeon servers for pretty cheap.
    Can you just drop the 667 ram into the slot or does something else need to be done?
    Can you run the 667 with the existing 800 or do they all need to match.

    For the SSD does anyone know of a nice cost effective upgrade? I don't need tons of storage. I'm thinking 160GB will be plenty and I can move any large stuff over to the 500 gig SATA.

    What about the processor? I have an open slot. Could I add a 2.8GHZ, or even a 3.2 into the empty slot, or would I need to purchase them as a pair?
    --- Post Merged, Mar 14, 2016 ---
    I am looking at this ram:


    32 gigs for 59 dollars seems like a steal. I know I don't need that much but for so little money, why not?
    I'm am just confused about the whole 667 vs 800 thing.
  2. Fuchal macrumors 68020

    Sep 30, 2003
    1. Add SSD. Go for the cheapest one because you won't get the full speed of the SSD anyway. I got a 512GB and 1TB on Amazon pretty cheap.
    2. 667 RAM. On eBay you can get 16gb for almost nothing. Easiest is search for "2006 mac pro ram". If you can, get a full set of 8 sticks for best performance and best price. You can get 16gb x 8

    I think you'll be impressed the difference those upgrades make.

    If you want more, add a new GPU. It's probably the most expensive upgrade if you don't want to deal with 3rd party drivers and keep a boot screen. But you can definitely get really good graphics performance in your 3,1 if you need it.
  3. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    For your usage, I can't see what good a second CPU would do. Of any ideas, I think the least of this one.

    SSD would likely be the most noticeable/best bang for your buck.

    According to OWC, that model's RAM must be upgraded in matched pairs. I certainly wouldn't mix-and-match RAM speeds - either replace all four of those modules, or match the speed of what you already have. I don't know if slower RAM will run in that model.
  4. VinnyVincent thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016
    Thanks guys great info.

    @ApfelKuchen From what I am reading the model I have will run the 667 slower ram with a 4% reduction in speed. I can live with that, especially if I put in 32mb of it.

    @Fuchal So for the ram does this look like a pretty solid deal? Definately more than "nothing" but not bad at all lol http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/321535194916?lpid=82&chn=ps&ul_noapp=true

    First things first though I am going to upgrade to an SSD first per your suggestions. I'm having a harder time finding a good price on the SSD. I found this one http://www.amazon.com/Super-Talent-...UTF8&qid=1457977103&sr=1-2&keywords=ssd+256mb

    It is significantly cheaper than anything else I have found. Will this work or am I missing something?
  5. r6mile macrumors 6502

    Feb 3, 2010
    London, UK
    Having just been through this exact process, here are my recommendations:

    -You have the single-CPU model, so buy another matching 2.8Ghz CPU (you cannot mix and match CPUs, though tbh the difference between 3.2 and 2.8 is negligible anyway). You can get them very cheap on eBay and will make quite a difference for multi-threaded applications.
    -RAM. Get 32GB of 667Mhz RAM - I got mine for £39 on eBay. PC2-5300F RAM is a steal compared to PC2-6400F (800Mhz).
    -GPU. I got an EVGA GTX680 2GB, this is a killer card whose main advantage is that you can flash it for EFI boot very easily. So you can even get rid of your old 2600XT and recoup some of the cost. Otherwise, you can just get another normal PC card though you will not have a boot screen - have a look at the cards that people have got in the forums here.
    -SSD. Absolutely get an SSD, SATA will be cheap: get a Crucial BX200 or similar drive (Crucial are having a sale on their website at the moment), or something like the Samsung 850 EVO which is a great value drive. You'll need a 3.5 to 2.5 SATA adapter like the Newertech Adaptadrive, but it's one of the best upgrades you can make.
  6. austinpike macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2008
    I would disagree with every point here....

    A second CPU will make absolutely zero difference for the OP's use. Most software is not going to use even 4 cores, let alone 8. It may help for movie editing/encoding but the OP indicated this is only a "small amount." Adding a CPU and heat sink to this model is not a trivial upgrade for a novice; it isn't like popping in RAM.
    32GB is absolutely overkill. Again, for casual use it will make no difference. The only place it would matter is for huge Photoshop files or serious video editing.

    Again, irrelevant for OP's use. Flashing the card or dealing with no boot screen is, again, not something to be recommended to a novice.

    The BX200 is, to put it bluntly, a crap drive. Especially for copying large (i.e., video) files. Google reviews on it. (Most other Crucial drives are great, but they fell flat on this one.)


    The thing to understand about RAM is that once you have "enough," more does absolutely nothing for you. As long as your system isn't starved for RAM it doesn't make your machine any faster. 8GB is plenty for typical use; even 4GB is probably fine. 32GB is way overkill for your needs. The only possible use would be for caching previews in your video editor, but it doesn't sound like that is a high priority for you.

    Get this on eBay for $16, add it to your existing 4GB, and you'll be set. Put the additional $40+ toward a bigger SSD.
    Wrong interface. That is an M.2 drive which is not what your Mac Pro uses. It works in certain laptops or PCIe cards. (though it does appear to be a good price.) You need a standard SATA SSD. Generally you want MLC (more reliable) rather than TLC (cheaper) memory (which isn't always easy to determine.) The Sandisk SSD Plus I linked in the "I just bought..." thread is a well-priced MLC drive.
  7. Machines, Mar 14, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016

    Machines macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    How comfortable do you feel about servicing your Mac ? She's 8 years old and needs some tender loving care by now . I would buy a couple tools , grab the service source , learn to tear down your System , upgrade the processors to dual 3 GHz (you'll need another heatsink) and re-thermal paste both processors and the northbridge and southbridge heatsinks . This will keep your Mac alive for some time . While you're at it , I'd blast all the dust out with a compressor (60 PSI at 6 inches) . Especially the PSU from both sides .

    There isn't much performance difference between 667 and 800 MHz memory - this is not a modern workstation used for commercial editing . 667 is dirt cheap .

    A 250 GB SSD 850 EVO makes a rock solid and fast drive for your OS X and apps . Get a fat 1 TB+ HDD just for media storage .

    Your Mac can have a Blu-Ray Burner installed for movie playback and archival disk storage , even if Apple never supported this . Some users like Blu-Ray since it has higher quality output than many streaming services .

    An AMD 7950 video card is a solid choice for medium level gaming and occasional still image and video editing . About two years ago , a friend of mine who is a leading illustrator for the AD+D franchise was still using a humble Mac Pro 1,1 with a ATI 5770 professionally . A 7950 is more powerful a card . You might need to install this card in PCIe slot 2 .

    For the other PCIe REV 2 slot, I would install an USB 3.0 card . El Cap does not seem to like 3.1 Gen 2 cards so far , so best to down grade for compatibility .
  8. VinnyVincent thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016
    Just finished installing the SSD you recommended. Huge difference and for just 65 dollars. can't beat that. I've already ordered that extra 4GB of RAM you linked...this computer is starting to seem like a steal and I actually enjoy working on it. I was surprised how easily accessible everything inside was. Really well designed...

    Well I already installed a SSD card(240GB sandisk, Thanks again AustinPike!)
    I really liked researching everything and installing it! I'm looking forward to making more upgrades in time. I still need to get to an air compressor to clean out the dust.

    Hmmm...There doesn't seem to be any type of CD drive installed currently, in spite of it being advertised in the AD. Not sure how I missed that...Oh well, I'll look into the blue wave RW drive.

    This is definitely something I may consider in the future(like my birthday in August lol)
    I'm using a PS4 right now, but it would be nice to play some games on the mac too.

    The one it has now doesn't seem very good. It's an ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256 MB.

    Good thing I am reading this now. I just got done installing it on the new SSD. I'm thinking I will change it now while it's not a big deal. Which do you recommend? Mavericks?
  9. RC Mike macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2015
    Having switched from a 3,1 to a 5,1... stop tossing money at a 3,1. Careful, patient shopping can land you a 4,1/5,1 for not much more than you could unload the 3,1 for.
  10. nigelbb macrumors 65816

    Dec 22, 2012

    This is simply not true. Many applications as simple as zip/compressing files will use all the cores that you give them. Multiple CPUs also allow the user to multitask more effectively so flipping between different applications & when using multiple applications at once you don't see the performance hit that a single 4-core CPU would suffer.
  11. VinnyVincent thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016
    I'm just going to be researching the graphics card and BW drive. I doubt I'll pull the trigger on those. I just want to educate myself.
    So far I've purchased the SSD drive last night for 65 dollars and I also ordered an additional 4X1GB ram for 16 dollars. That brings it up to 426 including tax. Not bad considering I was initially thinking of getting a mini mac 1.4GHZ dual, with 4GB ram(not upgrade able) and a 500G HD for 499+ tax. I ended up with a 2.8GHZ quad, 8MB of ram and a total of 740GB hard drive split into two bootable drives.

    I'm going to leave it setup like that for a while to see how it works for me. So far performance seems overkill for my needs with just the SSD installed. It really made a huge difference and I haven't even moved any programs over to that drive yet. Just the OS.
  12. Machines macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    I was recommending an USB 3.0 Card, instead of something more modern . El Cap is not in its final version yet - still getting updates which might affect component compatibility (like with 3.1 Gen 2 cards) . Yosemite 10.10.5 is a solid OS and a final version , too, except for some security updates .
  13. r6mile macrumors 6502

    Feb 3, 2010
    London, UK
  14. VinnyVincent thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016
    Ah okay. I think I will hang on to el capitan for now then. It doesn't seem bad. Plus I like the name better:cool:

    Yeah I was looking at that. Found another for fifteen bucks! It's just the whole operation of installing it seems a little more advanced. I don't even know what a heat sink is or what's involved, or anything @Machines was saying about thermal paste. I'd have to research it and see if I'm up for the job. There's also cost of installation to consider. What's involved with the thermal paste and adding heat sinks? Any special tools needed?
    I know I probably won't notice much difference with the 8 core, but it seems like a fun thing to learn how to do plus it seems like Machines was eluding to the fact that putting new thermal paste in the old processor would add to the longevity.
    I'm curious; If I have it setup with two processors, let's say one goes out on me...will it run with the secondary processor I added?
  15. Machines macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    You need to grab a copy of the Service Source for this model .

    If you progress to the level of thermal pasting south and northbridges, please PM me . The manual does not discuss it as Apple techs probably never maintained these .

    Mac Pro 1,1 - 3,1 will work if the primary CPU still functions , even if the Secondary CPU fails . I think if this happens with the Nehalem Macs, the booster fans won't rotate properly .
  16. JoSch macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2013
    I changed my both 2,8GHz CPUs to two 3,2GHz CPUs (use case is heavy video encoding) last week.
    That's really easy to do, if you have a long enough tool to fixate the heatsink. And don't forget to buy the second heatsink.
  17. VinnyVincent thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016
    Will do thanks! Like I said I will probably run it with the SSD card I put in and the additional 4GB RAM I have on the way for a while. If I get bored and want something to tinker with I will do the processor. For now I am just having fun researching though.
    It seems dirt cheap(not sure the cost of silver paste or heat sink yet), so just the learning experience seems worth it.

    Where did you get your heat sink? I am trying to price this out and when I type in "3,1 mac pro 2008 heat sink" quite a few different products pop up.
    I did check out a how to guide that AustinPike sent me and it looks fairly straightforward considering I'm already somewhat familiar with the internals.
  18. Fuchal macrumors 68020

    Sep 30, 2003
    Looks like a good deal, but depends on what you want to spend. I do some hefty work with 16GB and never hit the upper limits.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 15, 2016 ---
    In terms of USB 3.0, I use this cheap card in my Mac Pro and have no issues in OS X. No drivers needed.

  19. VinnyVincent thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016
    Yeah that ended up not being the right kind of RAM. AustinPike pointed me in the right direction and I will be upgrading it to 8GB for just 16 dollars.
    Should be enough for my needs for the life of this system.

    What would be the key benefits of USB 3.0 VS 2.0? I really don't use the USB ports all that much.
  20. JoSch macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2013
    Both heat sinks came with the computer ;-), so I can't help you with the price.
  21. Machines, Mar 15, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016

    Machines macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    You want to use ARCTIC MX-4 paste on all of the CPU , GPU and NB + SB controller chips in your Mac Pro . Anything that has a heatsink . It's electrically non-conductive, so if you make a mistake it should not short anything . Thermal conductive properties are excellent . Of course, you shouldn't be messy anyways :) I don't want to start a major league forum fight on the proper method of applying thermal paste , but make it thin and evenly spread .


    For a Mac Pro 3,1 (2008) , you should obtain one of those tall 6 heat pipe heatsinks . Notice the additional pipe terminations on top of the heatsink . The 2008 Heatsinks look like this :


    Here's an inexpensive one for sale . Hope that's an actual listing picture ! :


    While the 2006 and 2007 heatsinks have just two heat pipes each , with two terminations on the top . They will work , even with quad processors , but you may need to ramp up the case fan speeds with a utility for proper cooling . They are also less secure when you ship a 3,1 system , so I would avoid them if possible in your Mac . The 2006-07 heatsinks look like this :

  22. VinnyVincent thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016

    Well I think it goes without saying that you've created a monster with this info because now I'm starting to become obsessed with upgrades lol...I forgot how much I actually enjoy this kind of stuff. For some reason I just never got into it when I owned windows computers. Probably because I could never get any of them to last.

    So it looks like I could get this job done for easily less than 50 dollars, but I'm thinking...lets just say I end up using this system for a long time into the future...Right now it's already overkill for my needs and I have the latest OS installed, so it should last me a good while I'm thinking.
    Is it correct to assume that the xeon processors/heat sinks will become even more "obsolete" within a few years and subsequently become even lower in price?
    I'm thinking later down the line I could pick up a pair of 3.2ghz for next to nothing and replace them both while I'm in there...
  23. r6mile macrumors 6502

    Feb 3, 2010
    London, UK
    Having upgraded a 3,1 just a month ago or so, I can confirm it is indeed quite a fun process. I think the 3,1 has a lot of juice left in it, especially for more normal uses.

    As for the CPU, I would forget about the 3,2 for your use - at the moment, they are about £40 in the UK (and you would need two of them), whereas the 2,8 is only £13. I doubt this will change significantly in the near future. You are very unlikely to notice the difference between the 2,8 and 3,2 unless you are doing things like video encoding IMO. It also looks like heatsinks are not that expensive - I am seeing one on £10 on eBay at the moment.
  24. AtariMac, Mar 15, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016

    AtariMac macrumors regular


    Mar 10, 2004
    Southeastern, PA
    I upgraded my 3,1 a few years back and it is still a very usable machine. Took the ram to 16GB, replaced the video card with a Radeon 7950, and added a second CPU.

    My son has a 2013 MacPro Quad Core with Dual D300 FirePros and my 2008 keeps up with that machine pretty well. In fact, the 2008 smokes his 2013 whilst using Handbrake.

    Great machine and I don't feel the need to buy anything new at this point.

    Enjoy it!
  25. VinnyVincent thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2016
    On the topic of bang for buck processors/RAM;
    How does the X5460(3.16Ghz 667Mhz ram $22 on ebay) compare to the E5472(3.0Ghz 800Mhz ram, $22 on ebay)?
    Seems like if later on down the line programs start using more cores and my mac pro seems to be starting to lag, I could upgrade to a dual 3.16 X5460 with 16MB 667 RAM at today's prices(I'm sure I can get it cheaper later down the line) for under 96 dollars. That's VS 140 dollars for the 3.0 E542 with 16GB 800Mhz RAM.

    I realize they are close in cost, but which combo would perform better? Would there really be anything other than a negligible difference?

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