CPU (and other) upgrade for MacPro 5,1

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by 1970mgbgt, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. 1970mgbgt macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    Hi all,

    I have a mid-2011 Mac Pro 5,1 (model #MC561LL/A), 2.4 Ghz, 8-core (dual Xeon E5620) "Westmere" processors, ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card.

    I use an older version of Photoshop for art/photography/printmaking, and have had to stay with OS 10.6 because Silverfast no longer supports my film scanner used to scan 8"x10" negatives. (Just recently came across a scanner package called Vuescan that is compatible with Mavericks and beyond, so the OS will be moving ahead with the rest of this endeavor.)

    However, I've been thinking that if I don't do some serious hardware upgrades soon, the world might change and the products I need might cease to exist in this universe. So I was thinking of a CPU upgrade first, and a graphics card to run a better maybe 4K monitor (because my LaCie Electron Blue has basically crapped out).

    There are plenty of Hex core upgrades on Ebay, and it occurred to me that, since I have two four-core CPUs in the machine, I could conceivably replace them with two 3.x Ghz Hex cores and end up with a 12-core machine that would possibly scream. Would need to know what motherboard I have, according to cpu-upgrade.com.

    Is this sound logic, in your opinion? What am I missing?

    As for the graphics card, I'm a bit at sea about it. There are some wizzbang cards out there, but they can run over $1000. There are also some cards, like the ATI Radeon 7970 that are much less. And do they work with this machine, is always the big question.

    And there is the addition of SSDs to speed things along, as well. Samsung SM951 512 Gb come to mind.

    Any advice you may have on either of these matters would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks,

  2. jannikmeissner macrumors newbie


    Dec 17, 2014
    London, UK

    First of all the graphics card:

    the HD7950 is your best bet in my opinion, as Nvidia cards need the Nvidia Web Drivers which can be a pain. Make sure the card works with the Mac Pro's power outputs: you have 2 six pins only. I am soon going to try an AMD R9 270X (the X is important here) but I heard they work fine.
    Best is to look around here in the forum, google a little bit and look at netkas.org for more information on which cards will help you best.

    In terms of SSDs I highly recommend the OWC Accelsior which is a PCI-E card. If you have no PCI-E left, the
    Samsung will be a good option anyways, though not as fast.

    For processors: many people use the 3,46Ghz Xeon and I am sure Google will help you as well to find the steppings. However, be aware that they are not made anymore and you mostly only find them used now (old stock is rare now, at least in the UK) same is said for Graphics cards.

    If $559 is ok for a card that has boot screens and mac compatibility out of the box, OWC still has new HD7950 Mac Edition in stock I think. If you buy a PC card, make sure the Kext contains the device ID and the Card itself has the reference layout.

    I hope that helped.
  3. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    Yes, thanks. That helped very much.

    The AMD R9 270X: should I take the "X" to mean two cards running in tandem? What are its advantages over the Radeon 7950 (beyond two is better than one, if that be the case)?

    I'll look at the OWC Accelsior. I have PCIe slots available, which is where I thought to put the Samsung, as it is just a bare stick.

    When you say, "If you buy a PC card, make sure the Kext contains the device ID and the Card itself has the reference layout," is that in reference to a PC card needing to be "flashed" with something to work on a Mac? The flashing is a term I've run across in my travels about this.

    Thanks again,

  4. agazoo macrumors regular


    May 15, 2015
    Just a remark, bootcamp does not run well with PCIe units, if you care. I have a clone from a different vendor, appears as external drive and is incompatible with current bootcamp.

    As far as video goes, Nvidia web drives are fairly stable atm. Don't update OS X until people confirm / fix issues with new versions, thats all. Running 980 TI atm without issues. Planning to go SLI for gaming under Windows. Been running various non efi cards on 5.1 for awhile.

    You'll get lot more performance for the $ with current Nvidia/AMD non-mac cards.

    Flashing will give you boot screens. In my opinion it is better to have cheap Mac card on hand, for when you need to troubleshoot boot faults.

    And yeah, 4K is awesome
  5. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    There is one Windows-only program I'd really like to add to my arsenal, and that is Apophysis - a fractal flame generator. So Bootcamp, or I guess Parallels, would be nice to have working.

    "As far as video goes, Nvidia web drives are fairly stable atm. Don't update OS X until people confirm / fix issues with new versions, thats all. Running 980 TI atm without issues. Planning to go SLI for gaming under Windows. Been running various non efi cards on 5.1 for awhile."

    I got some of that, but could you say it more slowly?

    I don't really care about boot screens per se. I've never seen the point of them. The machine should just start up and work, not announce itself.

    I get what you say about having a substitute card for emergencies. I'm all about backups and keeping other versions of things.

    I, too, would like to experience the deliciousness of 4K, as inspiration, if nothing else.

    So what is this R9 270X?
  6. SDAVE macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2007
    Bruh max out your CPU with x5690s (Probably $350 by now for 2 of them) for 12 cores. Hit to 32GB for RAM. Pop in a GTX780 or something and you have a solid machine. And also add a PCIe SSD bruh, maybe the one from Intel.

    That's about $1000 worth of upgrades but well worth it.
  7. agazoo, Sep 15, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015

    agazoo macrumors regular


    May 15, 2015
    Parallels will run just fine as any other Virtual Machine. According to OWC info, it seems bootcamp is also supported on Mercury Accelsior E2. It seems, it might be cheaper to get PCIe card + 2.5SSD though. Sonnet or similar.

    R9 270X is pretty close to HD7950 performance wise. I recall some issues with R9 270X. You may want to double check compatibility.

    With Nvidia, Nvidia Web Drivers are required to run some of their cards. You have to download and install Web Drivers before you will be able some cards, with spare Mac compatible card. When new OS X version is published, you may have to wait for compatible and stable driver release from Nvidia or other source, study applicable installation process. That is effectively your "pain". My 980 stopped working at 10.10.3 update. Had to boot using 680 which I had available, fix the driver, and everything was back and running again.
  8. RoastingPig macrumors 68000


    Jul 23, 2012
    buy this stuff

    Attached Files:

  9. SoyCapitanSoyCapitan, Sep 15, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015


    Jul 4, 2015
    X5690 processors are dirt cheap now.

    You don't really need more than a GTX970 for your work. OpenCL only accelerates a couple of minor features in Photoshop and likely doesn't exist in the version you are using, so you won't need a plush Radeon card.

    You won't need an SM951 for your work. I've had these and tested them thoroughly as primary and secondary drives in Photoshop. There was no significant difference over a standard SATA3 SSD and you get much more space with the latter.


    The reason I saw no benefit of using an NGFF/M2 blade in Photoshop was probably because I have 24 GB memory which is plenty for the app. But as you are using 10.6 with an old copy of Photoshop - that version could be limited to 3GB of memory use if it is CS5 or under, or 32bit. In such cases the SM951 would be a good scratch disk to use.

    But if you do ever decide to update your OS and Photoshop to latest versions then scratch disks are no longer needed as the software can make use of as much memory you can install. Please consult the following article for more detail.

  10. SDAVE macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2007
    You still have to get something like the Velo x2 (about $100) to put in an SSD at SATA 6...so better off putting in a 512GB blade.
  11. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    Looks tasty. Thanks.
  12. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    Thanks. Yes, I do intend to upgrade the OS and Photoshop version, as soon as I get all this other stuff installed (including more memory).

    It's really easy to get used to a system of working, and stop paying attention to software and hardware upgrades, until one day you wake up and it's years later and the whole damn thing has changed.

    So PS doesn't require a scratch disk anymore? HERESY!
  13. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    Is that something like this?:


    Lycom DT-120 M.2 PCIe to PCIe 3.0 x4 Adapter (Support M.2 PCIe 2280, 2260, 2242)

    To install something like this?:


    Samsung SM951 512GB AHCI MZHPV512HDGL-00000 M.2 80mm PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD - OEM

    I don't know the right question to ask, really.
  14. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    Thanks for the suggestions. That's around what I was thinking of spending, maybe a little more.
  15. flowrider, Sep 15, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2015

    flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    My machine started off exactly like yours. It now has:

    2 - X5688 3.46MHz Quad Core CPUs
    1 - Gigabyte GTX 780 modified by MVC with Mac EFI (PCIe slot one)
    1 - Apricorn Velocity Dou x2 with 512 GB Samsung 840 Pro and Samsung 500GB 840 Evo (PCIe slot two)
    1 - RocketU 1144C USB 4 port 3.0 Card - (PCIe slot three)
    1 - Samsung 512GB SM951 Blade mounted on a Lycom DT-120 (PCIe slot four)
    1 - WD Black 1TB HDD - SATA Bay one - (This is the stock drive)
    1 - Seagate 1TB SSHD - SATA Bay two
    1 - 500GB Samsung 840 series SSD - SATA Bay three
    1 - 500GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD - SATA Bay four
    1 - LG Blu ray Drive - Optical Drive Bay one
    1 - LG DVD Drive - Optical Bay Drive two
    24GB RAM - 4GB modules mounted in slits 1-3 and 5-7

    IMHO, it's a screamer, and YES, your machine is very upgradeable.

    BTW, I work with Photoshop CS6.

    My Scanner is an old Microtek i800 and I use Microtek's ScanPotter. I also own the Professional Edition of VueScan. I like ScanPotter better, but it works exclusively with Microtek's scanners. I've used VueScan and it's pretty good. The author updates frequently. Believe it or not, ScanPotter does not turn the scanner lights off???? I've told Microtek about that a number of times, and they don't seem to care???? So, I use VueScan to turn my scanner off when I'm done with ScanPotter.

    I have used SilverFast in the past, and was pretty bummed when they stopped supporting Microtek!

  16. SoyCapitanSoyCapitan

    Jul 4, 2015
    No, Photoshop can use all RAM now so a scratch disk is irrelevant. Forget about the XP941/SM951 because unless you have files that are multi gigabyte in size you won't see any performance increases. I even tested three SM951 as a RAID0. In benchmarks it was tremendous but in reality it made no difference because you would have to use the bandwidth regularly that it provides to make it worthwhile. For half the the cost of one blade you can buy a Samsung 850 EVO. But you will need a SATA 3 adapter for that too.
  17. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015

    Thank you, Lou. That's looks like a recipe for blissful speed and storage. It may take me a while to afford it all, but the heart of the matter is the processors and GPU. It's nice to hear it from a scanner person, too. My scanner is an old Umax Powerlook 1100, bought new. When Silverfast gave up on it, I contact printed my 8x10s in platinum for several years, rather than use them to express ideas by manipulation. Then I heard about Vuescan Pro, so my machinery has a lot of catching up to do, as well my skills. I have not heard of ScanPotter, but will check it out now. I'm still gleeful over finding a use for the scanner again. Many things can't be said by straight photography.

    The first few scans since I installed Vue have not been that crisp. In fact they are too soft to use. Somehow over the scanner's dormancy, it has drifted off focus and can no longer take an 8x10 neg directly on the glass. I may have to get some glass to lift the neg off a hair. There is no 8x10 holder for this scanner, afaik. Photography is full of small vexations.

    Of all the drives you have, which is the one where you place your "unlose-ables," those files that cannot be risked?

    Thanks for the reveal.
  18. Fl0r!an macrumors 6502a

    Aug 14, 2007
    As for the GPU, I'd recommend a OOB supported card (=> not Maxwell), since it's just for Photoshop and driving a 4K display without any 3D stuff/rendering/etc involved. A GTX 970 or something will only have disadvantages (price, Web Drivers) over a Kepler-based Nvidia or a HD 7xxx Radeon.

    So, on the Nvidia side you can chose pretty much anything (e.g. GTX 660/670/680/760/770). An the AMD side, HD 7870/7970/7950 or some R9's (R9 270X, 280, 280X) would be possible. The AMD cards can be easily flashed as long as they have the 2xmDP, 1xHDMI, 1xDVI layout, but I guess most of them won't give a 4K bootscreen, so it wouldn't matter much.
  19. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    If you were going to mount 2 850 EVOs, what SATA 3 adapter would you need?
  20. 1970mgbgt thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 15, 2015
    There will be some 3D rendering, fractal landscaping, etc.

    I don't know what OOB, Maxwell, or Kepler are, unfortunately. Sorry, still learning and would like to know what you are driving at.
  21. SoyCapitanSoyCapitan

    Jul 4, 2015
    If you want to mount 2 like I have then the Sonnet Tempo Pro is a good choice because it also has external eSATA connectors for more drives.
  22. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    My 0.2, if you will boot Windows, you better just get a SATA 3 SSD and plug them in one of the SATA 2 bay (e.g. the optical bay). Yes, the speed of the SSD will be limited to SATA 2 speed, however, there is almost no real world difference in normal operation (e.g. boot up, loading apps, etc). Go for PCIe SSD is a great option for speed, if you always have very large files to copy, that will save a lot of time (if you target disk can also write that fast). But it may introduce some problems, e.g. strange performance hit when using slot 2, or can't boot Windows, etc. You have to take the balance here. If you only use OSX, and want something really fast, then PCIe is the way to go. However, if you concern about compatibility, then a normal SATA 3 SSD is the most painless (and cheapest) solution.

    For GPU, again, it depends if you want something really fast, of best compatibility. If you want something fast, then the GTX970 may be a very good option. However, you have to deal with the driver by yourself. If you accidentally upgrade the OS, or as simple as perform a PRAM reset, then all you have may just the black screen. It may be easy to fix by install your 5770 back into the machine and reactivate the web driver, or may require you to recover from backup, depends on what you've done wrong. For best compatibility, Nvidia give you GTX680, and as the others mention, HD7950 on AMD. I personally go for the 7950 (or R9 280, which is exactly the same card). because it has more VRAM (3G) then the normal GTX680 (2G). Anything fully compatible card beyond 7950 usually require a 8 pin input, which is not supported in the Mac Pro (same thing on the Nvidia side). If you choose any of these card, you have few options.

    1) Buy the Mac Edition card, which is way more expensive then the normal PC card. But should be the most painless solution.

    2) Buy a flashed card, which was a PC card but properly flashed to become Mac compatible. I personally will only go for MVC if I want a flashed card. They are still more expensive than a normal PC card, but you will have much more choice (e.g. you can have a GTX970 Mac version which makes your life easier to deal with the drivers, and have boot screen support so you don't really need the stock 5770 anymore).

    3) Buy a normal PC card, flash it by yourself. Basically only 2 options, again, the GTX680 or HD7950. For GTX680, there is another thread about how to flash it. Even the 4G card can be flashed now. For 7950, you may go up to 7970 (R8 280X) if you know how to deal with the 8pin input. Otherwise, better to get a dual 6pin input card.

    4) Buy a normal PC card and don't flash it. You can go all the way up to TitanX, but again, please make sure you know how to power the card and deal with the drivers.

    Option 2 gives you he best performance to cost ratio, but will require more study / work to do.

    For CPU, dual X5690 is the way to go (the dual X5680 is a bit cheaper, and roughly the same real world performance). And you don't need to know anything about your mobo. As long as it's a real 5,1, dual X5690 will be fine.

    TBO, I don't think any of these upgrade will disappear soon (assume you are OK with used product). If that's your main concern, I think there is no need to rush. All these component will only getting cheaper and cheaper.
  23. Fl0r!an macrumors 6502a

    Aug 14, 2007
    Maxwell and Kepler are codenames for Nvidia GPUs, OOB means 'out of the box' (=> supported without any work).

    Kepler-based Nvidia cards (GTX 6xx/7xx except GTX 750) as well as the mentioned AMD Radeons are supported out of the box. You can buy a PC card, install it and it will work fine (without bootscreen).

    Maxwell-based Nvidias (GTX 9xx and GTX 750) will need the Nvidia Web Drivers. You'll have to update them with every OS X update as they are bound to specific build numbers. If you don't do this, the Apple stock drivers will crash at startup and you'll look at a black screen. If you don't need the power of a high-end Maxwell card, I'd avoid this trouble.
  24. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    When I got my blade I replaced one of my Velocity Duo x2s, and moved the two SSDs that were on it to the SATA Bays. My Second Duo is for sale in Marketplace Section, but I don't think you have access to it yet. If you do it's here:


    It will mount two SSDs in one PCIe slot. LMK by PM if your interested.

  25. Lucas Godfrey macrumors 6502

    Lucas Godfrey

    Jul 12, 2010
    Somewhere between Here and There
    GTX 785?

Share This Page