I'm a retoucher. Should I buy a 2006 Mac Pro? Can I modernize it?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Retoucher, Jun 10, 2013.

  1. Retoucher, Jun 10, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2013

    Retoucher macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2013
    Hi everyone! I'm a Fashion Photographer and Retoucher and I need a machine that is upgradable and that will last me a long time. I currently own a 2011 Mac Mini (2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7, 8GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM, AMD Radeon HD 6630M) and I have an opportunity to buy a 2006 Mac Pro in perfect condition (hairline scratches) with the HD3870, Xeon 2x2GHz for about 700 euros.

    When I read the article about the new Mac Pro that is coming out which does not seem upgradeable and is made of plastic I was so shocked and outraged that my only option seems to be to rush for an old Mac Pro before they become unavailable.

    Ideally I want a machine that will run Photoshop CS6 and Adobe 4 fast and very smoothly. I'd like to enable hardware RAID 1 somehow (not sure if this is possible?) and eventually upgrade other components over time. Is this a good idea? I need RAID 1 because of Adobe discontinuing the Creative Suite which means they will eventually shut down the product activation servers, therefore once CS6 and LR are installed on the computer I need them to stay there as is even if my hard drives die without needing to reactivate which will then become impossible.

    TLDR Version:

    - I need a Mac to last me decades, future hardware requirements, standards and so on are not an issue, the software I have now is as complete as it will get for my needs.
    - RAID 1
    - Mac Pro 2006 | Yes/No | Can I "modernize" it?

    What should I do?
    Awaiting your input. Thanks guys!
  2. Omnius macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2012
    decades? I'm unaware of anything lasting anyone decades in terms of real viability.
  3. Retoucher thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2013
    Okay, maybe not decades as in 50 years or something like that but with Adobe going the Creative Cloud way I don't see myself upgrading my software if I can't own it and the tools that I have at my disposal right now through CS6 and LR4 are pretty much complete, I have nothing more to wish for.

    Thus my thinking is this: Get the Mac Pro and pimp it up as much as possible (if possible?), add bluetooth etc and then use it for a really really long time, only repairing it and replacing parts as necessary. Going this way I can see myself with the same Mac running Snow Leopard in say 10 years or so.

    The real questions is: Is this possible?
  4. DisMyMac macrumors 65816


    Sep 30, 2009
  5. Jesla macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2013
    Tennessee USA
    It's not plastic, it's impact extruded aluminum. Says so right on Apples site.

    "Refined impact extrusion technologies are more material-efficient and give the polished aluminum enclosure its incredible shape and finish."
  6. noodle654 macrumors 68020


    Jun 2, 2005
    Never Ender
    I would no, not at that price. I picked up my Mac Pro 1,1 for $400, but it came with 2 graphics card, 2 x 1TB Caviar Blacks, and 10GB of RAM. The RAM for this thing is really expensive, and is kind of a turn off. I upgraded the processors to an 8 core machine. While it is much faster than before, it definitely will not last the next 5 years. I plan on selling it off actually soon, I am eyeing the new Mac Pro (MAYBE) or maybe a refurb old Mac Pro once the prices drop significantly.
  7. Retoucher thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2013
    I'm not joking. What's the point of buying a new Mac every three years if you just want the tools you already have to keep working on and on?

    I didn't know. But in any case with this particular design it seems difficult if not impossible to replace parts, right? Unless PCI Express flash storage as they call it has an infinite life unlike SSDs which stop being writable after a while.
  8. DisMyMac macrumors 65816


    Sep 30, 2009
    Yes, do that. Run Snow Leopard for 10 years, it's a great idea.
  9. chrfr macrumors 604

    Jul 11, 2009
    If you feel you must get a Mac Pro, get at least a 2008; anything older is already at a dead end in operating systems. Also consider that your 2011 Mini is a faster computer than a 2x2GHz Mac Pro and natively has faster I/O via the Thunderbolt port.
    You don't (necessarily) need RAID 1, you need backup. They are not synonymous concepts. Mirroring drives offers you no protection against accidental data deletion, file system corruption, or fire or other catastrophic losses.


    You certainly don't need to buy a new computer every 3 years if nothing in your workflow changes, but you do need to be prepared to upgrade things in the event of failure, and it's a bad business plan to keep using obsolete equipment indefinitely. What do you do when your equipment or operating system fails and you can't get compatible parts anymore?
  10. Retoucher thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2013
    Why are you mocking me? CS6 and LR4 run great on Snow Leopard, why would I want to upgrade? The only other thing I do on my mac is surf the internet and use iTunes.
  11. spunkgarLEWII macrumors regular

    Jun 1, 2013
    I second that... a 2008 or greater would be a great idea since 2008 is EFI64. I suppose that no longer matters with the new iCan Mac Pro, but if you want to at least keep up with OS X, I would skip 2006-2007 and go for 2008.. or better yet, get a 4,1 2009 and flash firmware to make it a 5,1. The w series processors by Intel are being discontinued by September of this year, so you can get a 6-core for pretty cheap.

    That will keep you going for a long time.

  12. Retoucher thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2013
    So your advice would be to stick with the trusty Mini and make sure it is backed up properly? Would you recommend replacing the HDD with an SSD? Is there a way to backup my CS6 and LR4 activations in case the activation servers are shut down? What's a good backup routine that is easy and does not overcrowd my desk? My current setup is like this: Programs on the Mac Mini HDD and all my files, photos, documents and client stuff on a G-Speed Q drive set up in RAID 5 mode as I was advised to do by my mentor who taught me retouching five years ago.

    I'm sorry if my thread seemed strange or "trollish", I am just not very knowledgeable outside of my own field and trying to figure out the best solution in my case. Thanks to all those who are trying to help, it is really appreciated! :)
  13. DisMyMac macrumors 65816


    Sep 30, 2009
    You'll be able to do that on an iPad in 3 years or less.
  14. chrfr macrumors 604

    Jul 11, 2009
    You're asking a lot of questions that aren't really related and are clouding things up. OS X has Time Machine, a backup system, built in. It's not a perfect backup system but it's far, far better than no backup at all, which is what you have now.
    The easiest solution is to buy an external disk larger than the capacity you're using now, and just plug it in. The Mac will prompt whether you want to use it for backup, but there are a lot of other solutions. Search in the forums to find out more.
    SSDs are faster than spinning disks but don't change anything with regard to data reliability or security.

    Adobe has only recently discontinued activating CS2, at 8 years old, and for licensed users provided a new serial number and installer that doesn't require activation. You're worrying about something that just isn't a concern. Incidentally, Lightroom does not activate online with Adobe, but you'll need to upgrade to new versions of Lightroom anyway to maintain support for modern cameras.
  15. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    I do a lot of retouching and processing on a MacPro 1,1 (2006) and it can certainly handle it. I'm doing it for a hobby tho. I guess I process and retouch about three or four thousand images a year - and have for the past 3 years. If I were doing it professionally where time is money and knowing that customers appreciate a fast turn-around I would not select the MP1,1 (2006) - not even if it were only $50. I would hunt around for deals on a MP4,1 and also think about upgrading the CPUs to faster ones by applying the MP5,1 upgrade hacks.

    There are a lot of things you can do to modernize a MP1,1 but you can't increase the processor speeds (beyond 3HGz) and the buss and RAM speeds will also remain slow in comparison. And when retouching photographs it's CPU and RAM speeds that count most. So if that's what you're doing all day get something that's fast at those two things. ;)
  16. aliasfox macrumors member

    Jun 16, 2004
    I bought a Mac Pro 1,1 last year. While I don't regret the purchase, in retrospect I could have done significantly better for not too much more cash. I purchased the computer for $660 and dropped in a Radeon 5870 for another $230. Airport and bluetooth cards tallied another $50, but the bluetooth card doesn't seem to work (might be the original antenna issue, but not too big a worry as I just use my BT dongle anyway). About a month after I bought my machine, I saw a refurbed MP 3,1 go for $1k. Sure, more money, but RAM is much cheaper and I would've had the option to do Mountain Lion - I'm on Snow Leopard now and will only ever be able to do Lion if I so choose.

    If you really want a Mac Pro, go for at least a 3,1 - standard RAM means it costs less than half the price to upgrade, and Nehalem/Sandy Bridge chips are significantly faster than the Core 2 Duo chips that the 1,1 or 2,1 shipped with. The slowest quad core Nehalem based MP is nearly as fast as the fastest 8-core Core 2 Duo, and probably uses less power and puts out less heat.

    Alternatively, why not get a Pegasus Thunderbolt external enclosure? They're very fast for external storage, can be set up as a RAID, and have room to grow. Put everything on that, then just upgrade your Mac Mini every few years - remember, this year's Mac Mini can already put up a good fight against an early Mac Pro, even with double the core count - a Mac Mini three years from now might be significantly faster, and would only cost $600 or so. Or would this be problematic when it comes to Adobe CS licensing?
  17. chrfr macrumors 604

    Jul 11, 2009
    The 3,1 is the 2008, and still uses the same expensive RAM of the 2006-2007, and all Mac Pros use Xeon CPUs.
  18. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    No drive has an infinite life. It might be replaceable though. Let's see if it's proprietary again.

    You know depending on IO requirements, the next mini may not be a bad move. It should support the latest OpenCL. It has been a while since I dealt with that stuff, but I've dealt with comp files that reached GB in size. There's no way to back up activations. That is silly. With CS2 adobe simply unlocked them when they took away activation support. Raid 5 on a G raid is a very bad idea, and you still need a backup. Look in the mirror and repeat this 5 times.

    A RAID is not a backup.

    You basically need something with a quad cpu, as much ram as possible, a good display, storage, and backup. Again refer to prior statement regarding Raid. Parity striping is not a simple process. SSDs are good for scratch disks if you can't hold everything in ram. The other good option is something like a 2009 to 2010 mac pro. I would not buy a 2006, and it's not even officially supported on CS6 in OSX. I don't know whether you can make it work anyway. It will work under Windows.

    Also I did that kind of work for a very long time. I'm glad to be mostly rid of it. If I had a choice, I would make oil paintings of zombies all day.
  19. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    Hi Retoucher. If you can stretched your budget go for a 2009 4,1 Mac Pro like the quad 2.66ghz or 2.93ghz Ram is cheaper.
  20. spunkgarLEWII macrumors regular

    Jun 1, 2013
    Flash 4,1 to 5,1 and you will be set.. 6-core goodness.

  21. aliasfox macrumors member

    Jun 16, 2004
    I must have meant the 4,1 model - the one that transitioned onto the Nehalem architecture.

    I'm aware that Mac Pros use Xeons, but in most use scenarios, a Xeon = a non-Xeon of the same generation, but with multiprocessor support. It's easier to reference a Xeon by which generation core it has (Core 2 based, Nehalem based, Sandy Bridge based, etc) rather than relying on even more esoteric model numbers.
  22. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I forgot to write a couple things before. I'm not sure how you're dealing with any raw files, but I suspect you have to deal with some amount of raw workflow. At some point in time if you're sticking with completely static software, you will have problems with files from newer cameras. When I upgrade dslrs, the software support has to be there. You can probably stretch it out to 3 years or so, but there's no way to avoid software upgrades forever. That is entirely nonsensical. Plan for those costs within your billing rates. There are other problems. At some point you will need a new display because they all shift. You will buy a new printer when yours breaks down and now the new version of GMG (if you're on your own more likely EFI or Colorburst due to the cost of GMG) or whatever RIP no longer supports the version of OSX you're stuck to. What do you do then? Unless you plan to just take in cmyk files and export pdfs, your decisions will not last.
  23. prvt.donut macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2008
    Carbon Copy Clone your drive to an external drive.

    If you ever need to reinstall, just swap the drives between the mini and the external and you will be instantly back up and running.
  24. Sean Dempsey macrumors 68000

    Sean Dempsey

    Aug 7, 2006

    I have a Mac Pro 1,1

    It is not worth it. My 11" Mid 2012 Macbook Air has higher geenbench scores and the SAME photoshop speedtest scores.
  25. tdbmoss macrumors 6502


    Dec 4, 2011
    I would say that the 1,1 offers great performance for what they cost these days (€700 sounds a bit expensive, especially for the slowest 2x2 GHz - I purchased a 2x2.66 GHz for a relative for about £400 in the UK last year and the 2x2 GHz tends to go for a bit less).

    Used newer/faster Pros are a lot more expensive, and to get even a new Mac Mini with an SSD (I don't view the 5,400 RPM hard disks that Apple continues to ship as standard in its machines as being acceptable these days) costs twice the cost of a used 1,1 plus a decent SSD which is easy to install. The original disk from the 1,1 can then be used as an internal Time Machine backup disk for backing up the SSD - no need to have external hard drives, DVD drives etc cluttering up your desk.

    The smaller (512 MB and 1 GB) memory modules compatible with the 2006-2008 Pros aren't too pricey, and as they have 8 memory slots you can get a decent amount of memory even using these sizes - even using all 512 MB modules which cost very little, you get the same amount of memory (4 GB) as that expensive new Mini.

    The one I purchased was for use as just a desktop Mac as opposed to actual high-end "pro" workloads, as it is such a cheap way to get a quad-core Intel Mac with a decent amount (4-8 GB, or more if you can afford the larger modules) of memory and an SSD boot drive, and the only way to get an Intel-based Mac that you can actually upgrade and replace components on yourself. For general tasks the performance is great, it boots up in seconds, all applications load instantly, complex web pages load straight away, etc - just didn't see the need to spend more on something that you can't even upgrade/replace components on. They are also amazingly quiet considering the dual processors, you can barely hear the machine when in the same room - much quieter than many normal single-processor PCs or even an old single-processor G4. Obviously whether the performance is adequate for you will depend on what you are using it for though - the budget was low here so we chose a 1,1 and it offers all the performance that we needed, but if you can afford and need a newer/faster Pro then go for that. The 2,1 with the pair of quad-core Clovertown processors shouldn't be too expensive either as it also can't run ML, while the 3,1 and newer seem to cost a fair bit more.

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