How much RAM for My Mac Pro?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by pitabox987, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. pitabox987 macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2014
    Armidale, NSW
    Sorry if this is been asked before. I'm currently using an old Oder generation Mac Pro — my usage ranges from graphic design and HD video/audio authoring to gaming with Bootcamp

    Here's a quick overview of my system:

    Mac Pro (Early 2008)

    Processor: 2 x 2.8Ghz quad-cores (64-bit)
    Storage: 4.5TB (500GB, 1TB, 3TB)
    Optical Media: MCE Blu-Ray + DVD+/-RW (upper drive), generic DVD-RAM (lower drive)*
    Memory: 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 800Mhz ECC FB-RAM
    Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 5770 (1GB GDDR5)

    *soon to be upgraded to a second MCE Blu-Ray drive.

    OS: Mac OS X 10.6.8 and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

    My heaviest usage on the machine comes from the installed Adobe software, followed by Apple's Logic Studio and It's associated programs, other program's range in usage but most are negligible.

    Bootcamp usage is tailored to mid to high end gaming, I'm not entirely sure of what is the best memory configuration for Windows 7 though.

    I'm looking at five options for RAM.

    1. 12GB (6x2GB)* for $490.98UD
    2. 16GB (8x2GB) for $651.98AUD
    3. 16GB (4x4GB) for $861.99AUD
    4. 24GB (6x4GB)* for $1294.98AUD
    5. 32GB (8x4GB) for $1723.98AUD

    I believe options 1 and 3 used to be the most efficient configurations, something to do with firmware? But I believe this has been fixed in an update.

    If there's someone who's done this before can I get some feedback on the best choice? Am I missing anything?


  2. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Get more RAM if you need more RAM. If you're having page outs on OS X or high RAM usage on Windows, you need more RAM. I appreciate you've stated what you normally use your computer for but even something like HD video can range from editing a single 30 second scene to editing multiple, hour-long videos in realtime. This means that it's impossible to say how much RAM you 'need'.

    It's an arbitrary question, and the answer is always: buy the highest spec computer/upgrade that you can afford.

    Your Mac Pro supports 32GB RAM natively (source:

    However, if you're spending anywhere near that amount for a RAM upgrade, it's pointless, as you can get much better CPU performance from a modern rMBP, or even an older gen iMac/MBP (source:

    IMHO, you'd be much better off saving your money for an upgrade rather than sinking it on ageing EOL RAM for a vintage system.
  3. rhp2424 macrumors regular


    Jul 23, 2008
    I've always heard that you should do RAM increases in groups of three for your generation of Mac Pro. An Apple Tech and multiple OWC sales and tech assistants have said this.

    "From testing both systems, the always excellent BareFeats reported that three memory modules in the Mac Pro "Quad Core" 2.66 (2009/Nehalem) and six memory modules in the Mac Pro "Eight Core" 2.26 (2009/Nehalem) are faster than the maximum of four and eight modules, respectively. This is because each Nehalem processor has three memory controllers, so it is slower for the processor to access the fourth one."

  4. pitabox987 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2014
    Armidale, NSW
    Ok, I've done a bit more checking on my Mac Pro.

    I recently bought an MCE Internal 14X Blu-ray + DVD±R/RW Drive for the Mac, the drive seems to be running fine, although the first thing I noticed was:

    a. The drive seems to be operating slower than the generic DVD-RAM drive, particularly in the initial read of disks (after this there is no evident lag.)

    b. On shutdown, my cursor would 'freeze' a few times if I was moving the mouse during the shutdown procedure, shutdown was a little slower than before installing the new drive.

    c. Bootcamp was also a little slower regarding the initial read of disks (when compared to the other internal drive), but shutdown was not effected at all.

    After looking at the recommended requirements for the MCE drive I noted that the system should have 'at least 4GB of RAM', this may have some bearing upon the slightly slower drive read time, and shutdown lag — but I'm not sure.


    Quite simply, are you meaning that while the system can use 4 or 8 RAM modules, the processor would require a fourth memory controller for the system to fully utilise the modules in memory banks 7 & 8?
  5. pitabox987 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2014
    Armidale, NSW
    Whilst my question at the moment is not regarding the CPU in my Mac as I have no need for more processing power at the moment, I still plan to keep this Mac for a while, when I have the money I plan on buying either a high-spec iMac or a new Mac Pro to complement my older system.

    At that point I will simply turn my current Mac Pro into a server for the new Mac, but there is currently still a lot of software I use that won't work on Mac OS X 10.7 or above.
  6. rhp2424 macrumors regular


    Jul 23, 2008
    As far as it was explained to me (and by no means does that make me an expert, I was just sharing what I had heard from multiple sources including an Apple Tech and what I had read as confirmation) that banks 1, 2 & 3 + 4, 5 & 6 are the better choice if you can purchase in groups of three over two or four. So if you are doing 24gb, it is better to do three 8 modules as opposed to four 6gb....just as an example. I even understood them to be saying that three 2gb modules would be more productive than two 4gb modules. Again, just sharing what I had heard.
  7. Silencio macrumors 68020


    Jul 18, 2002
    I would be hesitant to spend any more money on that machine. DDR2 FB-DIMMs are absurdly expensive and getting harder to come by.

    I don't know what the market is like for used 2009 Mac Pros in Australia, but selling your 2008 Mac Pro and purchasing a used 2009 Mac pro would be a much smarter play. DDR3 DIMMs are much cheaper. You can move your hard drives, optical drives (assuming they are SATA, not PATA), and video card to your new system, as well. You'll have a much more modern base to continue working on.

    rhp2424, you are talking about the 2009 and later Mac Pros. The 2006-2008 Mac Pros require FB-DIMMs to be installed in matching pairs.
  8. pitabox987 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2014
    Armidale, NSW
    Thanks for detailing it for me.

    I can agree that three 2GB modules would be more productive than two 4GB modules, I've also heard similar, mainly that the 2GB modules give better overall performance than 4GB ones.

    Since I already have two 2GB modules installed, I may just purchase another four of the 2GB modules to place in banks 3 & 4 and 5 & 6

    That would bring my older system up to 12GB — I mean I could fill all banks with 2GB sticks for 16GB, but I'm not entirely sure of the performance compared to 12GB

    Thanks for your advice.
  9. pitabox987 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2014
    Armidale, NSW
    Ok, I'd say I've made my decision.

    8 banks of 2GB for 16GB total RAM, considering I already have 2x2GB, I can purchase the upgrade in three parts of 2x2GB and install the new memory as I receive it.

    Yes, the final 4GB in banks 7 and 8 will not function at 100% capacity due to the absence of a fourth memory controller, but the will still be useful if the initial 12GB is in use.

    The new RAM has both a return policy if I'm not happy, as well as a lifetime warranty. — Hopefully things will roll along smoothly.

    Thanks for the advice. (And YES I would upgrade if I could really afford it, but as I cannot, and my machine still runs really well, I don't have a need.)
  10. thats all folks macrumors 6502a

    thats all folks

    Dec 20, 2013
    Austin (supposedly in Texas)
    As Silencio pointed out. That comment is only valid for the 2009, 2010 Mac Pros. You should go for 8 slots of matched sticks.

    The amount of RAM you need depends on the kind of work you do. I work at a design and video production company where people regularly max out 48GB or RAM (they don't all have the best working practices, but still).

    So yes, at least 16 and maybe check eBay for a deal. Here is 16GB that includes a whole computer.
  11. pitabox987 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2014
    Armidale, NSW
    Thanks for that, yes, since I already have 4GB in a pair of 2GB sticks, I will be most likely going to 16GB, the 32GB option just isn't viable, given that it would cost three and a half times more for that larger upgrade.

    If I were to spend that much, a new machine would be the option.

    My Photoshop work will currently be my heaviest user, so 16GB should be fine for now.

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