MP 1,1-5,1 Custom Front USB 3.0 PCB

MaikPfaffenrath

macrumors newbie
Nov 7, 2018
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Germany
After learning a lot from the great people on this forum and upgrading a couple of MacPro 4,1 and 5,1 with new CPUs, Vega video cards, NVMe and a lot more good stuff I just want to participate myself by providing a hopefully interesting upgrade that I have not seen before (at least not without a lot of hot glue ;-) ).

IMAG0797.jpg

I designed a small PCB that stacks on to the MacPros font IO board and replaces the two USB 2.0 ports by USB 3.0 ports and connects to a USB card like a inateck KT4006 via a 19pin cable. The PCB is a 4-layer one with controlled impedance and length matched tracks. You will lose the ability to boot of a USB stick plugs into the front USB since you can't boot of PCIe USB cards.

IMAG0801.jpgIMAG0796.jpg

You need to desolder the original USB ports form the font IO board and cut out a bit of metal and plastic from the CPU cage at the moment. But I think about designing a custom board that completely replaces the font IO board, but there is actually quite a bit of circuitry on the board: a FireWire hub plus voltage regulator and xtal and what seems to be a DAC for the headphone jack. Digikey still hast stock on the FireWire hub IC but it's not cheap, about 15 $ plus tax... Would anybody be interested in this more involved solution that dose't require cutting the CPU cage ?

IMAG0793.jpg IMAG0795.jpg

I attached the eagle schematic- and boardfile, a 3D STEP file and the gerber files I used to oder the PCBs from JLCPCB so you can replicate the project!

The PCB type to use is controlled impedance JLC7628 4-layer 1,6mm thickness. I used HASL-RoHS surface finish to get away without nasty lead and matt black solder mask.

The 19pin USB 3 pinheader can be found on aliexpress if you search for "cltgxdd USB 3.0 19P 19 pin USB3.0 19P male connector 90 degree motherboard chassis front seat expansion connector" (I wasn't able to find them at one of the big component distributors like mouser or farnell)

The USB 3 type A connectors are made by Steward the par number is SS-52000-002. You can buy them for example at mouser.

You need to cut of the small folded over parts ant the very front of the USB connectors with a pair of sidecutters before soldering them in to make them fit, but its under one minute of work...

To space the boards apart you need four 9/16" long male to female spacers with #6-32 threads, also available at mouser for example.

Infos for the next step of designing a completely new board:

Connectors:
44pin connector to the backplane board: Molex 878334420
3pin connector for the power switch: Molex 537800370
USB 3 connector: Steward SS-52000-002
FireWire 800 connector: Aliexpress "IEEE 1394B 9P USB Connector 1394-9P Female Socket SMT 1394 Socket" (just ignore that they called it a USB connector...)
headphone jack: to be determined...

ICs:
FireWire 800 Switch: Texas Instruments TSB81BA3EPFP (not the original chip apple used but better availability)
FireWire protection ICs: to be determined...
voltage regulator: to be determined...
 

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superparati

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Apr 11, 2016
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This project seems very interesting :)

When do you think your new custom board could be a reality.
What are the next steps?
 

MaikPfaffenrath

macrumors newbie
Nov 7, 2018
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Germany
When do you think your new custom board could be a reality.
What are the next steps?
I just did a bit of research: I could not identify the chip near the headphone jack via its part number, but its not a DAC. According to this picture the audio is sent to the board as an analog signal.
Early 2009 Mac Pro Front Panel Layout.JPG
A schematic for the board would be nice, but I could only find macBook, macMini und iMac schematics (but I haven't searched extensively)... Let me know if you happen to have got one.
It also seems to be hard to source FireWire 800 connectors these days. Mouser, Digikey and Farnell don't sell those anymore. There is one type that's available on aliexpress: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1957865429.html but those are mounted flush to the PCB and the Foxconn once used by Apple stand 1,8mm off the board, so you most likely need a second board on top of the primary one to get the hight right... Again if anybody knows about FW 800 connectors that you can buy in small quantities as a normal person, please let me know!
Also it might not be necessary to use the except FW Switch chip apple used, so maybe there is a cheaper alternative. Hopefully the 44pin 2mm pitch connector is available.

For the next step of designing a completely new board I have done some research on suitable parts (see first post). It would still be very nice to know what the IC next to the headphone jack does: maybe it's amplifier or detects whether you plugged something in? If somebody wants to help find out I would really appreciate that, my time is pretty limited at the moment.

Great work!, I don't mind the cutting the CPU cage option, it is well hidden.
Yes it is, you won't be able to see any changes to the cpu cage locking into the MacPro!
And it's certainly much cheaper compared to the hopefully upcoming completely redesigned board solution, especially if you order the PCBs together with a few other people, because of the minimum ordering quantities. I payed under 4 € per board and under 5 € for the connectors when ordering ten boards including shipping.

This would also be great for a hackintosh, using the Mac Pro enclosure.
Yes you can also use it for hackintosh builds. If you use a 2,5" to 3,5" IDE adapter and a few jumper cables you can easily breakout the 44pin connector to attach to standard ATX motherboards.

44pin IDE.png

When I do a completely new board I also thought about doing to versions: One for MacPro upgrade and another one for mackintosh builds that feature standard PC motherboard connectors for the power switch and light, audio and FireWire instead of the 44pin apple one...
 
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handheldgames

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Dankeschön! Thanks for the updated posts. This is a great project and I look forward to seeing it come together.

What about replacing the firewire ports with USB-C connectors? That could place high speed TB3 / TB4 on the front of the mac pro.
 

edgerider

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Apr 30, 2018
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ok...ok...
I double what @handheldgames says.
a full replacement pcb with
usb3 AND usbc would be sweet.
firewire port on the back is plenty enough.
now lets push things forward: support the 70w usb-c charging!
the usb-c connector isnt going away anytime soon and 500mb per second is plenty enough for anything you need to plug in front of the computer...
lets face it ... those macs start to age a little and soon even if we love them, they would have to let them RIP...
 
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RetroDan

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For me, I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE a drop-in replacement board. I'm leery of cutting into my glorious aluminum tower for any reason.
 
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flaubert

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Jun 16, 2015
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A schematic for the board would be nice, but I could only find macBook, macMini und iMac schematics (but I haven't searched extensively)... Let me know if you happen to have got one.
Neat project! I would be curious to know where you found an iMac schematic; I started a thread a while back about replacing the guts of a cMP with a board based on the iMac Pro.
 

zedex

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Oct 21, 2018
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TWO THUMBS UP!! Love a good cMP mod project like this..

I have a definite preference for seeing the FW800 ports repurposed as thunderbolt. It solves (eliminates) your problem with sourcing old connectors and it should be possible to create a precision moulding to hold the USB-C (TB3) connectors.

Would be great to see an integrated solution that includes the Gigabyte TITAN RIDGE PCIe card and custom cabling :)
 

MaikPfaffenrath

macrumors newbie
Nov 7, 2018
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Thanks for all the appreciation guys!

I would be curious to know where you found an iMac schematic
http://laptop-schematics.com claim to sell a couple, but I don't know weather they are legit or not!

I was a bit skeptical at first when it comes to replacing the FireWire ports:
a) because I want to keep a nice appearance especially at the font of the machine
b) because of space concerns on the PCB in terms of space to place internal connectors

Concern a) could be countered with a nice 3D printed white plastic inlay that replaces the original one that guarantees a nice tight fit around the USB-C connector both for strength and for looks like
it should be possible to create a precision moulding to hold the USB-C (TB3) connectors.
suggested. A moulding might be more suitable for a large volume I think lets maybe start with 3D printing. I do al lot of 3D CAD but avoided 3D printing for no particular reason but this seems to be a good time to start ;-)

If you take a look at the PCB and the space around it when it's installed brings us to concern b):
One of the main goals for me with this new PCB approach is to not have to cut away material on the CPU cage and so the only space to put connectors is on the side of the PCB facing the backplane board and maybe the bottom side (I'm away form my MacPro for another week so I can't check this at the moment). The backplane sind is mostly occupied by the big 44pin connector :-/ One 19pin USB3 connector fits next to the 44pin but then this side is pretty much full. So one of them has to be ditched : I want to try to keep the 44pin to avoid making a custom cable to the backplane board. But maybe the 19pin can be replaced by either the new 20pin USB3.1 front panel connector (does anyone knows the proper name?) that continently comes in to varieties: Key A for USB-C (only one pair of USB 2.0 lanes) and Key B for dual USB-A (two pairs of USB 2.0 lanes) This connector is only 14mm wide so quite a lot smaller compared to the 19pin. So on of those could feed the two USB-A connectors and the other one feeds one USB-C.

USB-31-Frontpanel-16-9-aa56600f38ea6860.jpeg USB31-20p-A-B-960-780-a8e20bca70944324.png

But are the cables you an buy that plug into those connectors rated for Thunderbolt ?? I don't think so, since I have never seen any front panel Thunderbolt ports apart form the xMP... but please proof me wrong!

The second option would be to use regular "external" USB-C connectors for the internal wiring, why not?
Those are only 8.34mm wide (the plug is a little wider).

USB.jpg

The one feeding the USB-C connector on the front can be connected straight through, easy. The other one that feeds the two USB-A connectors on the front lacks one pair of USB 2.0 lanes but as far as I know form seeing adapters like this https://www.scan.co.uk/products/akasa-usb-31-gen2-internal-to-usb-31-gen1-19-pin-adaptor-cable you can just grab any old pair of USB 2.0 lanes and use them for the second USB-A.

2981381-xl-a.jpg
And how convenient is it that there are two now unused pairs of USB 2.0 lanes on the 44pin connector that have been used for the old USB 2.0 Type A connectors on the front !!

But with this arrangement we only have one USB-C at the font. But maybe that's not a bug it's a feature:
What about replacing one of the FireWire ports with a USB-C port and keep the other one, that way we don't need a FireWire switch IC (I hope at least. We have to test weather you can directly attach a FireWire connector to the corresponding pins on the 44pin connector), don't need more place for internal connectors and (if we install the USB-C instead of the bottom FireWire port, the FireWire logo right above the top FireWire port is still correct a my sense for static aesthetics is still pleased ;-)
On top of that the other unused pair of USB 2.0 lanes on the 44pin connector can be connected to a header for a Apple Remote IR sensor (for example the one form the 2011 iMac) that can be discreetly mounter inside the machine...

Okay enough rambling. What do you think ?
 
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reukiodo

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I like the idea of keeping one firewire (they can chain anyway) and replacing the second with a USB-C port (or two). I'd prioritize my desires as:
1. Not modify case or logic board connections
2. Still include a USB 2.0 for front booting
3. Still include a Firewire 800
4. Include a USB 3 A
5. Include a USB C
6. clean internal cabling
7. full power provided to USB C
8. additional (two total) USB C

I think it should be possible to physically fit 2 USB C ports within one of the Firewire 800 portholes, right?
 

handheldgames

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I like the idea of keeping one firewire (they can chain anyway) and replacing the second with a USB-C port (or two). I'd prioritize my desires as:
1. Not modify case or logic board connections
2. Still include a USB 2.0 for front booting
3. Still include a Firewire 800
4. Include a USB 3 A
5. Include a USB C
6. clean internal cabling
7. full power provided to USB C
8. additional (two total) USB C

I think it should be possible to physically fit 2 USB C ports within one of the Firewire 800 portholes, right?
I hear ya, but... For most, firewire is obsolete and its available on the back of the mac pro. USB ports are scarce, adding two 3.1 and two usb-c on the front makes for a great upgrade to supports peripherals from 2019, not 2009.
 

MaikPfaffenrath

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Nov 7, 2018
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Not modify case or logic board connections
That's definitely the goal for the drop-in-replacement project!
Still include a USB 2.0 for front booting
If we use as described in my last post one of the original pairs of USB 2.0 lanes from the 44pin connector for one of the USB-As a USB 2.0 stick should still be bootable. Maybe that's a compromise?
full power provided to USB C
that's up to the PCIe card you use, should not depend on the PCB... the titan ridge TB card can provide full power but the connector is external so you either need a slot cover with a USB-C female to female and a USB-C cable on the back or you could mount the card inside with a PCIe extension. (if you want full TB 3 speed you need to wire the card form a card with a PLX switch chip instead of a MacPro PCIe slot anyway to get PCIe 3.0)
I think it should be possible to physically fit 2 USB C ports within one of the Firewire 800 portholes, right?
Two connectors might fit next to each other (they are pretty small) but I don't think two plugs will fit so close together or at least I wouldn't be comfortable.
KUSBX-SL-CS1N14-B_opt.jpg
And I think space for internal connectors might be the limiting factor for adding more high speed USB... I'm not around my MacPro at the moment, if someone could have a look whether there is any other space to put internal connectors (and their cables!) on the PCB apart form the space markt in the following picture, that would be nice!
IMAG0793.jpg
Right angle connectors on the inside might interfere with the CPU cage so we have to use flat ones two next to each other hopefully fit between the two mounting holes but if not I see no problem skipping the middle mounting hole for the new PCB, the threaded stud underneath the PCB will not interfere with components on the top and four screws are enough to keep the board in place.
51GyjnemRYL._SX425_.jpg

two usb-c on the front makes for a great upgrade to supports peripherals from 2019, not 2009
maybe I am a little biased when it comes to keeping one FW port, because I don't own a single USB-C device but a few FW audio interfaces ;-) okay, they are FW400 but still :-D
 

edgerider

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Apr 30, 2018
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yeah FW can be chained and you have 2 on the back.

to me the vital port in front of the machine is 2 usb 3.1 , 2 usbc with at least one capable of full 70w power. headphone jack.

truth is i know thunderbolt 3 pcie card can work on those macpro via hot boot, but can not be fully integrated.

the very perfect solution would be to have 2 true thunderbolt 3 port in place of firewire 800....
therefore, for me the pcb should be with evry things ready for t3 trace wise, and on the back provisions to get the full chabang but were there is alredy usb-c.

basically we are “just talking” about moving the usb-c port of a pcie card to the front of the machine : desoldering the connector from the card, weld the connector to the front pcb and run wires from the pcie pcb to the front pcb...
to me it look very hard to do unless a company do a pcie gen 2 x4 card that has everything (usb-c/power from pcie slot + sata/usb3.0 controler) with a xx pin connector, then a matching cable, then a front board that alow all connexions....
 

yurc

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Aug 12, 2016
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Quickly subscribed this thread.

I was starting same project back then 2015-2016 when building my hackintosh. My hackintosh is put inside my 2010 cheese grater dead machine. Instead of replacing damaged boards I’m initiated to transform something different.

My design is bit different, but fundamentally same.

27632388.jpg


Mounted :

付け据えた.jpg


Regarding FireWire 800 ports, on my front board is just for cosmetics setup only. It have no wiring since firewire connectivity on my hackintosh supplied from PCIe FireWire cards.

内部.jpg

Re purposing with USB type C ports would be nice, but required me to adding some additional housing, light grey ABS plastics would be good.
 

yurc

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Aug 12, 2016
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Neat project! I would be curious to know where you found an iMac schematic; I started a thread a while back about replacing the guts of a cMP with a board based on the iMac Pro.
I was thinking to replace cMP with cylinder 2013 guts at that time, but end up in making custom boards instead and used for hackintosh.

20160318.png



20160318_2.png


Rest of CPU socket and DIMM slots sourced from ATX motherboards because I cannot produce full boards containing CPU sockets and DIMM slot and other I/O.

I might bit out of topic because talking hackintosh mod, but in other side it still related with cMP mods for adding additional modern features which only found on newer Macs.

Dreaming aside, if we have some talented benefactor hardware engineer who can created custom boards based on iMac Pro schematics it would good to be true, but unlikely happen.
 

MaikPfaffenrath

macrumors newbie
Nov 7, 2018
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I was starting same project back then 2015-2016 when building my hackintosh. My hackintosh is put inside my 2010 cheese grater dead machine. Instead of replacing damaged boards I’m initiated to transform something different.
Oh wow yurc, that's just amazing, I am very impressed! Have you published this stuff anywhere on the internet, I was pretty sure to have done an intensive search before designing my board...

I'd love to lean more about the second big PCB you posted like what functions it's got in detail...

And what Firewire 800 connectors have you used in the first one ? I'm not able to find those in small quantities for distributors other than aliexpress and of corse they don't provide drawings or a 3D CAD file. If yours aren't available anymore I will oder a few of aliexpress and design the 3D model and PCB footprint myself. No big deal but if there is a shortcut I'm always happy to take it ^^

Your idea of mounting the FireWire and the headphone port on small right angle riser boars seems like the way to got! This way it's much easier to get the hight right. And FireWire 800 connectors with Pins on the short side seem to be non existent anyway...
I would like to mount the USB-As and the USB-C directly to the PCB instead of using riser boars because I don't think routing the USB 3 lanes through pinheads is a good idea especially when we are talk about compatibility with USB 3.2 / TB 3 / USB 4... I want to keep those traces on the same PCB layer and as short as possible. To get the hight reaction between the USB-As and the USB-4 right I think I will end up with two PCBs with different thicknesses stacks on top of each other, but that's fine.

My plan is still to keep the upper WireWire 800 port in place, and replace the bottom one with a USB-C.
I am still a big fan of the idea of using two USB-C connectors on the inside right next to the 44pin. They fit the space perfectly and there are a lot of neat cable available to connect them to USB PCIe cards.

truth is i know thunderbolt 3 pcie card can work on those macpro via hot boot, but can not be fully integrated.
Thats absolutely true! I totally forgot to point that out. You still need to boot Win10 to initialize Thunderbolt devices and than warm boot to macOS. Thats pretty much the opposite to hot plug! So for me TB3 on the front doesn't make much sense at the moment. But if someone really need it, it shroud be possible with the new drop-in PCB we are talking about. And maybe this will change in the future. Maybe a USB+TB3 expansion card out of the upcoming xMP will work? Maybe USB 4 cards (Intel is going to set the TB3 standard free to become USB4) will work without talking to a specific motherboard header? You'll never know...

I will design a block diagram and a 3D model for the drop-in PCB within the next days.

If the USB-C port on the front is directly connected 1:1 to one of the internal USB-Cs there should be no limitation to what standard you can use. In the end it's up to the user to choose his or her poison:

If you are fine with USB 3.0 (5 GBit/s) without power delivery you can use two USB-C to 19pin cables and a PCIe Card that provides two 19pin connectors on the inside and four times USB-A on the back. This solution uses only one PCIe 2.0 x4 Slot and and the wiring will be petty neat:
2xBildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 08.59.34.png Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 09.39.09.png

If you want to use USB 3.1 (10 GBit/s) without power delivery you can use two USB-C to 20pin Key A cables and a PCIe card that provides two 20pin connectors on the inside. But you need a second PCIe Card with USB on the back. Wiring will still be petty neat:
2xBildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 08.59.10.png Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 09.31.49.png

If you want USB 3.1 (10 GBit/s) with power delivery you will have to use a properly rated(!) USB-C to USB-C cable and mount USB 3.1 PD card with a PCIe extension cable inside your MacPro because there are no PCIe cards with internal headers and PD at the moment (I'm not sure whether the 20pin connector is even rated for that). Pixlas mod is also required. And another PCIe card for the two USB-As plus external USB... starts to get a little messy but still doable.
Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 11.22.57.png Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 09.32.50.png
Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 11.18.26.png

If you want Thunderbolt 3 (40 GBit/s) with power delivery and you want the most speed possible you will need a Gigabyte Titan Ridge card connected via a M.2 -> PCIe x4 adapter to a PCIe card with a PCIe switch chip (plugged into slot 2 of your cMP) that converts PCIe 2.0 x8 to PCIe 3.0 x4 and a TB3 and PD capable USB-C to USB-C cable. And another PCIe card for the two USB-As plus external USB. Pixlas mod is also required. Now it's getting really messy ;-) And remember at the moment you still have to warm boot Win10 to initialize TB3 devices!
Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 11.22.57.png Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 11.34.11.png Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 11.36.31.png Bildschirmfoto 2019-09-16 um 11.35.12.png