Any other benefit to flashing the GPU

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by PowerMike G5, Jun 17, 2015.

  1. PowerMike G5 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    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?
     
  2. Zorn macrumors 6502a

    Zorn

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    #2
    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.
     
  3. PowerMike G5 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3
    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...
     
  4. Zorn macrumors 6502a

    Zorn

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    #4
    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.
     
  5. PowerMike G5 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #5
    That's what I concluded as well. Thank you for your insight!
     
  6. Moonshot macrumors member

    Moonshot

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    #6
    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.
     
  7. Demigod Mac macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    Someone has to write the ROMs, do all the testing, etc.
     
  8. Moonshot macrumors member

    Moonshot

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    #8
    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.
     
  9. omvs macrumors 6502

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    #9
    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.
     
  10. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #10
    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.
     
  11. lowendlinux Contributor

    lowendlinux

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    #11
    Why don't you ask hem when he gets back?
     
  12. Thessman macrumors regular

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    #12
    You can always use a cheap GT120 if you own one of the 2009+ pro's for boot screen.
     
  13. Inutopia macrumors 6502

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    #13
    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.
     
  14. Zorn macrumors 6502a

    Zorn

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    #14
    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.
     
  15. Synchro3, Jun 18, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2015

    Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

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    #15
    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.
     
  16. Moonshot macrumors member

    Moonshot

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    #16
    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.

    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.

    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.

    Can you please explain this better? What do you mean: "this is not optional with PC cards"?

    Thank you.
     
  17. Fl0r!an macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    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.
     
  18. crjackson2134 macrumors 68020

    crjackson2134

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    #18
    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...).
     
  19. ActionableMango, Jun 18, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2015

    ActionableMango macrumors 604

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    #19
    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.
     
  20. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #20
    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.)
     
  21. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #21
    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.
     
  22. Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

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    #22
    You try my patience. Because PC Cards GTX 770 and GTX 780 don't work with 6pin cables in cMP.
     
  23. pastrychef, Jun 18, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2015

    pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #23
    Many of the 8800 GT and 8800 GTS cards had EEPROMs large enough to accommodate firmware with EFI.
     
  24. Moonshot macrumors member

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    #24
    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?

    I think that comparing the Mac Edition BIOS with the PC BIOS for the GTX 680 would be a good starting point.

    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.

    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.
     
  25. Inutopia macrumors 6502

    Inutopia

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    #25
    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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