Any other benefit to flashing the GPU

PowerMike G5

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Original poster
Oct 22, 2005
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So I have been running a stock PC version of the EVGA Nvidia GTX 980 4GB SC GPU on my 5,1 MacPro with no issues (on the latest 10.10.3 and latest Nvidia webdriver). I've been contemplating getting it flashed by MacVidCards, but after researching and looking at his site, I am unsure. It seems that the sole main benefit at this point is getting the boot screen.

All the other benefits listed are already in play:
• PCIe 2.0 speeds are working fine
• Output ports are working fine
• CUDA is working fine with Adobe CC

Is there anything I am missing here? Is the boot screen the only thing gained from flashing at this point?
 

Zorn

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Feb 14, 2006
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Boot screen is really important to some people, and I believe you can also get into your system easier with a flashed card if the nvidia web driver gets disabled than if you have a stock PC card. It also enables PCIe 2.0 in Boot Camp, which I think is throttled with a PC card.

For me, I keep a MBP on hand for screen sharing, and only go into Boot Camp to play around with Windows 10. It's hard for me to justify the $180 just to see the boot screen, but it definitely makes things a bit more compatible and is a nice thing to have.
 

PowerMike G5

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Original poster
Oct 22, 2005
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Thanks Zorn. Yes, I have a MBP as well, that I use in Screen Sharing mode with my MacPro tower. I tried reverting to native OS X GPU drivers to test out the connection. Of course the screen went black, but I was able to control my MacPro fine via my MBP, so I do have a way to access for troubleshooting purposes if ever the Nvidia web drivers get disabled.

In your opinion, as I don't use BootCamp nor have any other OS partitions, it seems that flashing is not necessary at this point, yes? Just trying to make sure I'm not overseeing some other benefit...
 

Zorn

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Feb 14, 2006
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If you aren't using Boot Camp for gaming, have access to another Mac for screen sharing, then the only remaining benefit I can think of is being able to see the boot screen itself.
 

Moonshot

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May 24, 2015
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For me, I keep a MBP on hand for screen sharing, and only go into Boot Camp to play around with Windows 10. It's hard for me to justify the $180 just to see the boot screen, but it definitely makes things a bit more compatible and is a nice thing to have.
That's allot of money for a running winflash or nvflash. Seems more like allot of smoke and mirrors. Never would have thought that flashing cards is a business.
 

Moonshot

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May 24, 2015
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Someone has to write the ROMs, do all the testing, etc.
I though that the manufacturer of the card wrote the ROM. According to the OP:

All the other benefits listed are already in play:
• PCIe 2.0 speeds are working fine
• Output ports are working fine
• CUDA is working fine with Adobe CC
Everything is working fine from the factory except for seeing a boot screen.

As this other poster stated:

It's hard for me to justify the $180 just to see the boot screen
So I can only conclude that this is some kind of hacking of the original PC firmware of sorts? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
 

omvs

macrumors 6502
May 15, 2011
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Not that you probably care, but you need a bootscreen if you want to use FileVault (full disk encryption). That was my main reason for flashing.
 

ActionableMango

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Sep 21, 2010
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So I can only conclude that this is some kind of hacking of the original PC firmware of sorts? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
MacVidCards creates custom firmware for several PC card models so that they will operate correctly as Mac cards in the cMP. Based on his description of the work involved, and the fact that nobody else seems to be doing this at anywhere near the same level, I believe the work is nontrivial to say the least.

Referring to that work as "running winflash" is not a fair criticism.
 

Thessman

macrumors regular
Dec 8, 2005
153
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GR
Not that you probably care, but you need a bootscreen if you want to use FileVault (full disk encryption). That was my main reason for flashing.
You can always use a cheap GT120 if you own one of the 2009+ pro's for boot screen.
 

Inutopia

macrumors 6502
Apr 8, 2009
273
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South of Heaven
Is it fine to run leave this in the machine along-side a gtx 970? I'd have the display plugged into the 970 and just leave the 120 for when I need a bootscreen.

Will this work in Windows too?

There was a thread about this recently but it was inconclusive.
 

Zorn

macrumors 65816
Feb 14, 2006
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Just want to make clear that my comments were not in any way intended to minimize the efforts of MVC/Netkas when it comes to actually creating an EFI ROM for new cards. Just that for me, with the equipment I have access to, it was hard to justify the price.

It's definitely more than just running Winflash, because there is no ROM floating around that anyone can load. MVC/Netkas wrote the EFI ROM for the GTX 980 themselves, as nVidia hasn't released a Mac 980. I'm glad we have people in the community that care enough about this to take on the project.
 

Synchro3

macrumors 68000
Jan 12, 2014
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I though that the manufacturer of the card wrote the ROM. According to the OP:

Everything is working fine from the factory except for seeing a boot screen.

As this other poster stated:

So I can only conclude that this is some kind of hacking of the original PC firmware of sorts? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
It's a lot more, depending on the GTX model: He changes the ROM chip on many models, because PC Nvidia cards do not have a large enough ROM chip to fit both Mac EFI and PC BIOS.

Also for example he's making GTX 770 and GTX 780 with 8pin connectors compatible to run with the internal 6 pin cables (this is not optional with PC cards), and for the future developing EFI's for eGPU's. Read his blog.
 
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Moonshot

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May 24, 2015
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MacVidCards creates custom firmware for several PC card models so that they will operate correctly as Mac cards in the cMP. Based on his description of the work involved, and the fact that nobody else seems to be doing this at anywhere near the same level, I believe the work is nontrivial to say the least.
I appreciate your reply, but all I wanted to know if this custom firmware is basically a modified version of the PC firmware. I am by no means ignorant to computer hardware, but writing a firmware from nothing is not really possible for regular people because there is not documentation provided by the different hardware vendors. Modifying what already exists makes more sense. I hope that what I am saying makes sense to you. If not, I apologize.

Referring to that work as "running winflash" is not a fair criticism.
I am sorry, but I did not mean to criticize, I just meant that it's very easy to use winflash or nvflash. Anyone could do this.

It's a lot more, depending on the GTX model: He changes the ROM chip on many models, because PC Nvidia cards do not have a large enough ROM chip to fit both Mac EFI and PC BIOS.
A while ago I got a used GTX 680 from a friend who upgraded his gaming PC and following the instructions over here http://www.sugarway.com/blog/evga-gtx680-flashed-for-mac-use/ I flashed it to work on my Mac Pro. I actually flashed the card using my friends PC, so after the required reboot to test it still worked on the PC. It was actually really easy, anyone could do this.

Also for example he's making GTX 770 and GTX 780 with 8pin connectors compatible to run with the internal 6 pin cables (this is not optional with PC cards), and for the future developing EFI's for eGPU's. Read his blog.
Can you please explain this better? What do you mean: "this is not optional with PC cards"?

Thank you.
 

Fl0r!an

macrumors 6502a
Aug 14, 2007
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Mac EFIs are usually made by modifying existing EFIs and combining them with the PC vBIOS. In most cases this is way more than a simple copy&paste job, you have to reverse engineer how the firmware actually works to make the necessary changes.

The GTX 680 is a rare excuse to the rule, because a) there has been a 100% matching "Mac Edition" of that card which could simply be copied and b) has a large enough EEPROM.
 

crjackson2134

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Mar 6, 2013
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That's allot of money for a running winflash or nvflash. Seems more like allot of smoke and mirrors. Never would have thought that flashing cards is a business.
If you think it's that easy, you should help the OP out and do it for him. I assure you the GTX 680 was a special case. Don't think that just because you easily flashed that card, it's the same on all cards. It is not.

When people try (without much knowledge and experience) to flash their PC cards, it usually produces a card that no longer works, or works partially (i.e. broken on 1 or more ports, or some functions not working, graphical glitches, kernel panics, etc...).
 

ActionableMango

macrumors G3
Sep 21, 2010
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Is there anything I am missing here? Is the boot screen the only thing gained from flashing at this point?
Here is a list as far as I am aware of. I just compiled the list now from memory and a little bit of research, so there may be inaccuracies. I welcome any corrections and constructive criticism.
  • Proper listing of card model in OS X system information.
  • Full PCI 2.0 speed in every operating system.
  • The ability to boot into OS X and see the GUI with default Apple drivers loaded. (Although you can get a GUI with Nvidia web drivers, the Apple drivers are reselected any time there is a point release update or a PRAM reset.)
  • Ability to install Windows 8.1 in EFI mode instead of BIOS emulation mode, with related benefits such as fast boot, faster drive access (AHCI mode), and having native GPT partitions instead of that hybrid stuff.
  • Boot screens. People think this is just for selecting boot disk, but it is far more important than that:
    • Ability to see in Safe Boot mode.
    • Ability to see in Single User mode.
    • Ability to see in Verbose mode.
    • Ability to see password prompts at boot time, such as the firmware password or filevault password
    • Ability to boot and see from an OS X installation disc or USB installer. (Sure you can upgrade from an existing OS X assuming your installation is working, but no clean install from scratch.)
    • Booting into the recovery partition so you can restore from a Time Machine backup, reinstall OS X, set a firmware password, or use Disk Utility to repair your drive.
    • Selecting an operation system at boot time as the only alternative when the OS selection made in Startup Disk preferences doesn't stick (this personally happened to me).
Note that a lot of the items in the "boot screens" list will seem unimportant as long as everything is working well. But the moment you have problems, you will find that many normal avenues for troubleshooting and recovery are not available. Also note that most of it can't be worked around with screen sharing, as it occurs before screen sharing is available.​

Personally, I find a lot of value in the above. I would always either use an official Apple card, a flashed card, or at least keep an old EFI card around as a spare in case of emergency.
 
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pastrychef

macrumors 601
Sep 15, 2006
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It's too bad that there isn't more of a collaborative effort among Mac users to help decipher how to properly stitch together EFI with BIOS in video card firmwares. Until that happens, our choices are limited MVC and whatever pops up on Ebay (although, MVC claims that the Ebay sellers are selling stolen work that is done by him.)
 

ActionableMango

macrumors G3
Sep 21, 2010
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A while ago I got a used GTX 680 from a friend who upgraded his gaming PC and following the instructions over here http://www.sugarway.com/blog/evga-gtx680-flashed-for-mac-use/ I flashed it to work on my Mac Pro. I actually flashed the card using my friends PC, so after the required reboot to test it still worked on the PC. It was actually really easy, anyone could do this.
Yes, and MacVidcards (AKA Rominator) encourages people to flash the 680 themselves. I've personally flashed my own 680, and many others on this forum have as well.

But as others have noted, the 680 is a special exception in the long history of PC video cards in Mac Pros. In fact, until the GTX 680, all or nearly all Nvidia cards have required that the 128K EEPROM chip be desoldered and replaced with a 256K chip so that there would be enough room to accommodate everything for both PC and MAC.
 
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pastrychef

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But as others have noted, the 680 is a special exception in the long history of PC video cards in Mac Pros. In fact, until the GTX 680, all or nearly all Nvidia cards have required that the 128K EEPROM chip be desoldered and replaced with a 256K chip so that there would be enough room to accommodate everything for both PC and MAC.
Many of the 8800 GT and 8800 GTS cards had EEPROMs large enough to accommodate firmware with EFI.
 
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Moonshot

macrumors member
May 24, 2015
36
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Mac EFIs are usually made by modifying existing EFIs and combining them with the PC vBIOS. In most cases this is way more than a simple copy&paste job, you have to reverse engineer how the firmware actually works to make the necessary changes.
Thank you for your reply, as this is the most useful reply I have received so far. So it is basically hacking existing firmware. This is interesting. Do you have any documentation, links, and recommendations for tools to get started?

The GTX 680 is a rare excuse to the rule, because a) there has been a 100% matching "Mac Edition" of that card which could simply be copied and b) has a large enough EEPROM.
I think that comparing the Mac Edition BIOS with the PC BIOS for the GTX 680 would be a good starting point.

You try my patience. Because PC Cards GTX 770 and GTX 780 don't work with 6pin cables in cMP.
I am sorry, I was not trying to upset you. I didn't understand what it was all about, and probably I still don't, since both 6 pin and 8 pin cables exist for the Mac Pro. There are also 6 pin to 8 pin adapters.

Many of the 8800 GT and 8800 GTX cards had EEPROMs large enough to accommodate firmware with EFI.
The GTX 680 also has enough room since it is possible to flash to a Mac Edition card pretty easy. I don't think that newer cards have less space than the GTX 680.
 

Inutopia

macrumors 6502
Apr 8, 2009
273
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I don't think that newer cards have less space than the GTX 680.
Not enough room on other cards for the EFI. EPROM needs swapped for a larger one. This has been said before but you seem to be missing it.

You should really do some reading on this forum about this topic. It's all there for you if you just look.
 
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