Just scored an incredible deal on a 09 Mac Pro, what are my upgrade options? (Details & Spec inside)

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Messy, Mar 24, 2016.

  1. Messy macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    Hey guys,

    So one of my clients was throwing out some old machines, they were going to be recycled but I offered him some money to take them off his hands.

    I picked up the following:
    • Mac Pro 4,1 - 2 x 2.26ghz (8 Core), 6GB Ram, 5 x 1TB HDD's (was set up for RAID), ATI HD 4870.
    • Mac Pro G5 -haven't checked out the spec, I know it's not worth anything.
    • Mac Bluetooth Mouse & Keyboard.
    • 3 x Iomega 320GB Firewire HDD's.
    • Aja Kona LHi -retails at $1500?!
    • Various cables and stuff.
    I bought the whole lot for £100.

    I'm in the process of updating the 4,1 to El Capitan.

    What are my upgrade options?

    I have a GTX 770 spare, will it accept this?

    What is reasonable with regards to RAM within a budget?

    Is it actually worth upgrading the 4,1 and throwing some money at it?

    Would value your opinions, what are some worth upgrades I can do to the 4,1 for a reasonable budget.

    Many thanks in advance! :)
  2. scott.n macrumors 6502

    Dec 17, 2010
    That's a great deal. Definitely worth upgrading.

    Yes, your GTX 770 will work. And since you have the HD 4870, you should have the power cables that you need.

    For RAM, I'd look for second-hand pulls from servers on eBay. 24 GB (6 x 4GB) should be very cheap; 48 GB (6 x 8GB) is also reasonable. Look for 1333 MHz (PC3-10600) in case you ever upgrade to a pair of processors that can work at that speed (cost difference between this and 1066 MHz is negligible).

    Other upgrades would depend on your intended use. You can upgrade processors, add a USB 3 card, install a PCIe SSD, put in a Blu-Ray drive.

    Adding Wifi is a no-brainer if the MP doesn't already have it. A second hand Mac Pro or iMac mini-PCIe Airport card can be had for $10-$15.
  3. Silencio macrumors 68020


    Jul 18, 2002
    That dual processor Mac Pro 4,1 is a nice base to build on. The CPUs can be upgraded, but they must be de-lidded first. You can flash the system to a 5,1 and upgrade to up to 2x 3.46GHz 6-core Xeons.

    The GTX 770 should in theory work if you install and activate the Nvidia web drivers.

    I'd probably go straight for the 6x8GB RAM upgrade, if practical.
  4. scotttnz macrumors 6502a

    Dec 16, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    I'd be a bit carefull with the GTX770. I had one spare when I got my Mac Pro and in the end decided not to risk it. The 770 has one 6 pin and one 8 pin power connector, whereas the Mac Pro only has two 6 pin connectors. There are work arounds and adapters you can use, but in theory the 8 pin could draw twice what the 6 pin is rated for.
  5. Messy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    Ok so I just hooked up the GTX 770, it installed just fine, and worked without having to do anything, literally just plug and play. I checked my packaging for the GTX 770 and it came with two 6 pin to 8 pin adapters, which was super useful!

    Bidding on 32GB of RAM at the moment, so hopefully that'll be upgraded soon.
  6. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a


    Oct 11, 2013
    DMV Area
    Wow, seems like people have answered your questions and given you help, but I just had to comment to say congrats on such a fantastic deal. Really hope you enjoy your new machine, it's always awesome to save good tech from the bin.

  7. spetznatz macrumors regular


    Jan 5, 2006
    Look to put a fusion drive in there... you can put a M-format (?) drive in one of the PCIe slots and use Core Storage from the Terminal to tie it to a larger mechanical HD. I did this with a 2TB HDD and it's wicked fast... there are plenty of YouTube tutorials on how to do it. I'd never really used the Terminal before, but it was easy enough... I also have all the drive bays maxed out and I also have a 4,1 flashed to 5,1 with 2 x 6-core 3.33GHz... very nice for rendering and compares well to the current top-of-the line Mac Pro, but is much more expandable and convenient... and only one plug!
  8. Synchro3, Mar 25, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016

    Synchro3 macrumors 68000


    Jan 12, 2014
    No, the GTX 770 does not need web drivers, works with OS X native drivers. Despite this, I recommend Nvidia web drivers because they are better.

    Yes, and additionally you could send your card to MVC for flashing it to get boot screen and 2 * 6 pin power compatibility: http://www.macvidcards.com/store/p9/Nvidia_GTX_770_2_GB_and_4_GB.html

  9. Steve Expat, Mar 25, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016

    Steve Expat macrumors member

    Steve Expat

    Jan 6, 2016
    Believe it or not you can turn a 2009 4,1 MacPro into the fastest production Mac on the planet for relatively not a whole lot of money (especially considering how cheap you got the machine for).

    You'll get a Geekbench 3 64-bit MP score of about 32000 and flash drive read speeds up to 6000MB/s.

    Here's my secret recipe:

    First, update the 4,1 firmware to 5,1. This will allow your MP to use 5,1 1333MHz RAM and Westmere CPUs.

    1) CPUs - Dual X5690s. Xeon Westmere 12-core at 3.46GHz. The price on these has gone up in recent months due to availability but I bought a pair for $450. They are now almost double that. It's still worth it. Or you could opt for the X5680 X3.33GHz for a couple hundred dollars less if you don't need every once of horsepower. Geekbench score is awesome for multi-core (32000), but less impressive for single-core (2800). My workhorse apps are all MP dependent. So I need this kind of speed.

    2) PCie-based flash storage - Here's one that not a lot of people know about. Buy an Amfeltec Squid PCIe carrier for M.2 drives. Install it in Slot 2 (16x lane). The Squid holds up to four M.2 drives like the Samsung SM951. I currently have three SM951s in RAID0 and am getting read speeds of 4800MB/s. Write speeds are about half of that. I use this setup to read sample libraries so that I can both load samples into RAM and stream from disk. It's completely eliminated all issues related to sample libraries.
    256GB SM951s cost about $180 and the Squid is about $230.

    3) 512GB SM951 on a Lycom PCIe board in Slot 3 or 4. I use this as a boot drive and get read speeds of about 1400MB/s. My home folder is on the SM951, but all apps save to an internal HDD.

    4) RAM - OWC sells 16GB DIMMS. OWC is a little pricey but they have a lifetime warranty and are the only company building 16GB modules. You can install up to 128GBs of RAM in your MP. I see a speed bump when installed in three pairs (triple channel). So, I recommend 96GBs (16GB DIMMs), or 48GBs (8GB DIMMs) for maximum speed.

    4) Graphics card - This is your choice depending on what apps you use. I just needed a slight boost for FCPX so I got an AMD Radeon R9 280X 3072 MB.

    5) Sonnet USB3 PCIe card or Sonnet USB3/eSATA card.

    Total cost for all of my upgrades? Slightly over $2000. But that's for everything on this list (with 48GBs not 96GBs of RAM).

    That may seem like a lot at first. But you may not need all of these upgrades. If you upgrade the CPUs, and install a 2 or 3 SM951s, and less RAM it could be half that with about the same experience in speed. And keep in mind, this SEVEN year old computer is faster in almost every way than any current production Mac.

    The only limitations are: no Thunderbolt, PCIe 2.0 bus (this isn't really an issue), and a 3Gb internal SATA bus. The only item on that list that bothers me in the slightest is the lack of Thunderbolt. But I'm still able to work around that. Still, all considered that's significantly less than a new iMac or MacBook Pro.
  10. scotttnz macrumors 6502a

    Dec 16, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Thanks for posting this, I have been thinking about upgrading to PCIe SSD, but have been having difficulty with the performance/price/capacity equation. I know fusion drive is frowned upon by many around here, but I was a fan of it on my Mac Mini, so I don't know why I didn't consider a smaller SSD in a fusion drive. I'll have a think about that.
  11. Steve Expat macrumors member

    Steve Expat

    Jan 6, 2016
    A Samsung SM951 is only $185 with the PCIe card being $25. That's enough for a boot drive if you store your iTunes library, photos and downloads somewhere else (all configurable from within the apps in question - no need to move your User Folder). Read and write speeds are around 1400MB/s. No reason to get anything else really.
  12. nigelbb macrumors 65816

    Dec 22, 2012

    Adding a WiFi card isn't really an upgrade. It's just adding an inferior network interconnect which is only of use if for some reason you can't run an Ethernet cable to your system or use either of the two Ethernet ports.
  13. Messy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    Well, damn, that's a lot to consider.

    I have managed to get 32GB Ram, so I'll stick that in when it arrives.

    I like the idea of a PCIe card and SSD, I think I'll do this.

    As for the CPU, I can pick up two 2.93ghz 5570 Xeons for £40 all in, I'm thinking this is a worth while upgrade without having to spend out too much money. Thoughts on this?

    Will the 5570's install ok? Do they need to be delidded, or would I use some washers? I'm a little naive to this so could use some advice.

    Thanks for everyones input so far, really helpful. :)
  14. scott.n macrumors 6502

    Dec 17, 2010
    All things considered, I wouldn't buy those X5570. If you're patient you might wait for an already delidded pair to show up; those processors were available in the 2009 Mac Pro so there will be some out there from people who are upgrading, etc.

    Furthermore, if you're willing to pay to have processors delidded, the X5570 would be a bad investment. There are much better options out there. The X5670, X5675, or X5677 seem like the best budget choices right now. (More expensive than the X5570, but far more capable.) See the 'Mac Pro CPU Compatibility List' thread at the top for the forum for other options.

    I would wait until you have your RAM and an SSD installed before considering a processor upgrade though. You might be happy with the performance as-is.
  15. Messy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    Happy to delid them myself, but yeah you're right, if i'm going to the trouble to do that and the additional work involved, why stick to eight cores when I can go for twelve.
  16. Messy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    Ok, so sorted a few bits.

    Installed GTX 770, went in no problems.
    Ordered 32GB Ram.
    Ordered Airport Extreme Card. (Mine came with bluetooth, but no Wifi..!)
    Upgraded to 5,1 -had to disable SIP, install the original ATI card, and then upgrade. Thanks to this forum for the tips, I wouldn't have known to disable SIP.

    Now on the hunt for SSD options and CPU options.
  17. lexR macrumors regular


    Dec 12, 2013
    Extensive write up there, pretty much covers everything, only other thing i would add is the iMac wifi/BT4.0 conversion to get internal clean handoff and continuity support?? but all of the above is good, i have a SM951 and want to RAID0 it with 4 of the modules to get 2TB of flash storage at crazy read/writes
  18. Messy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    Ok so I've been busy upgrading things.

    I've been on a budget so nothing too extreme, but it's a new machine now.

    2 x X5650 Hex Cores @2.6ghz
    32GB Ram
    GTX 770
    Samsung EVO 850
    iMac Airport Extreme Card

    Now has loads of power, and is pretty snappy. I'm happy with how it's turned out!
  19. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    Unless you can max out all cores most of the time, otherwise 2x X5677 should be more useful then 2x X5650.

    For the airport card, you have to decide get the much cheaper Wi-Fi n card, or the more expensive (but gives you more function) Wi-Fi ac card.
  20. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    Looks great! What are you doing with all this newfound power?
  21. Messy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    World domination, the usual. ;)

    I actually run a design agency, I mostly do traditional graphic design and print design however I do have a passion for 3D modelling and animation (C4D), so the extra rendering power will come in handy.
  22. ActionableMango, Apr 5, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016

    ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    Now that you've doubled the speed, I'd like to offer you double the price... £200? :D
  23. Messy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    Hehe, I'd like to think it's worth a fair amount now. Considered selling it, but actually ended up selling off my custom build PC.

    We've got a Macbook, Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPad and now a Mac Pro in the house now, not for any real effort to buy Apple products though, it just kinda worked out that way.
  24. r6mile macrumors 6502

    Feb 3, 2010
    London, UK
    Surely you can sell that audio card for quite a bit? Assuming you don't use it.
  25. Messy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 5, 2010
    The capture card? I already did... went straight onto eBay and the sale of that covered pretty much all of this!

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