Mac Pro 2009 upgrade assistance advice.

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by MacPro888, Sep 11, 2014.

  1. MacPro888 macrumors newbie

    Sep 11, 2014
    Hi all, great to be here. I'm hoping I can get some advice from you nice folk.

    In September 2009 I bought a new Mac Pro. Although it's still running fine, I figured I'd give it some love.

    Mac Pro: Early 2009
    Processor 2.66 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    Memory 3 GB 1066 MHz DDR3 ECC
    Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512 MB
    Software OS X 10.9.4

    I'm thinking I'd like to get a better graphics card to handle gaming and to increase the memory.

    Can you advise me if these would be the right upgrades and if so, which card and memory I should get compatible with my Mac Pro. I currently have 1 memory card slot free and the other 3 just have 1GB in each. What would you do?

    Thanks for any help and advice.
  2. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    You can also upgrade the CPU to a 3.33ghz or 3.46ghz Hexacore for more love. For GPU, if you play games, Nvidia 680gtx Mac Edition or a PC flashed card. You may also add a PCIe SSD like the Sonnet Tempo or Apricorn Velocity
  3. fuchsdh macrumors 65816


    Jun 19, 2014
    You could upgrade the processor, but to me that's the least-user friendly option and there's a lot more you can do to speed things up.

    First, is get an SSD. You can either get a 2.5" that you mount in a 3.5" bay using something like Adaptadrive ( or you can go the PCIe route like Macsonics mentions. I went with a Samsung 840 in my 3,1 3.5" bay and the speed is ~250MB/s--you'll get even faster on a 4,1. Personally I haven't found the PCIe speeds worth the extra cost for day-to-day or gaming use.

    For RAM, the Mac Pro 4,1 is triple-channeled meaning you're going to want to dump those 3 1GB modules and replace them with equal-sized modules. You can get 12GB (4GB x 3 modules) for $130 from OWC, and probably can hunt around for other deals. Again, for most use I don't really think you'll be needing much more.

    Finally the graphics card. Most anything will be better than what you had, so it really just comes down to picking a game you want to play and seeing the benchmarks with a chosen card. Even an ATI 5870 can handle its own on many games these days (you can find one for $100 now), or you can go with the more current or expensive Mac edition or flashed cards--check through this forum and you'll find plenty of suggested options.
  4. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    1) Get a SSD. If you want to lower the cost at much as possible, I suggest just plug a 840 Evo into the optical bay. You will be limited by the SATA 2 speed, but it doesn't matter, all you want is the high IOPS. Since there is no motor in SSD, you don't need any dock, just plug the cable and leave it in the optical bay will be fine.

    2) Get more RAM. To fully ulilise the triple channel architecture, 3x4G (total 12G is a good option), quite cheap nowadays, and should have enough RAM to avoid swap under Mavericks. Not necessary go for the more expensive ECC RAM, some normal 1333MHz CL9 DDR3 UDIMM should works well.

    3) Get a new grahpic card. For gaming, better to use GTX card, a flashed card will be a more balanced option between money and compatibility. Of course, the Mac Edition Card is always a good choice, but that will cost a bit more. GTX680 should be a good choice.

    4) Upgrade the CPU. The 2.66 GHz CPU may become the bottleneck at some game, upgrade it to W3690 or the cheaper option X5677. Either will give you 3.46 GHz, for gaming, you need a high clock frequency CPU to match with your new graphic card. And 3.46 is the best you can go. However, before you install the new CPU, you MUST flash your machine to use the 5,1 firmware, otherwise it won't boot at all. I've perform this firmware upgrade / downgrade quite a few times, never had any trouble, very safe to do.
  5. MacPro888 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 11, 2014
    Thanks so much for all your replies. Very kind of you. I'm going to take your advice and upgrade the lot.
  6. scotttnz macrumors 6502a

    Dec 16, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Hey, I just got a Mac Pro with similar specs to yours.

    My first priority is to upgrade the RAM and install an SSD. These will have the most noticeable impact for general use. Fortunately I have 3x8gb DIMMs and a 960gb SSD I will be transferring from my PC before I part out the rest. I have also ordered an Apricorn SATA3 card for the SSD.

    I have also ordered a USB3 card to connect my external hard drives.

    My other plans are a new GPU, but I'm holding off until the AMD R9 285 and Nvidia gtx970 are available because it looks like they will offer better performance than anything currently available that works with 2 6 pin power connectors that the Mac Pro has available.

    I'll keep an eye on the CPU utilization, but I suspect that won't be a bottleneck for my usage for the time being. I will keep my eyes open for a fast 6 core for the right price, and pick one up when the opportunity presents itself.
  7. Cancaro macrumors member


    Oct 21, 2014
    Hi, this topic interesting and even more Mac-Pro 2.66GHz Nehalem 2009 I see on Ebay cheap, in fact often less than a 2008 8-core MacPro !!!
    So I would like to know how this MacPro, I get the impression that it is as powerful as the 8-core version 2008, but I wonder why it costs a lot less?
    perhaps because the 2.66 ghz and a quad core?
    However, confirmed that it is a good MacPro?
    Even without updating?

    : D
  8. Baunkjaer macrumors 6502


    Feb 20, 2009
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    My 2010 scores the same as my former 2008 (8c 3,0GHZ) in geekbench. Memory for 2009-2010 is cheaper, and you get better CPU upgrade options.
  9. Cancaro macrumors member


    Oct 21, 2014

    thus confirming that the 2.66 4-core Nehalem 2009 should take and powerful, a great deal then right?
    thanks friend.
  10. Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    Thats the exact same spec 4,1 I got for a steal last week.

    Monday it got flashed to 5,1 and got the hex W3680 3.33 and 3 sticks of 8Gb DDR3 1333.

    And my existing upgrades from the 3,1 - USB 3.0, Solo X2 Twin 840 SSD, optical extension and GTX 680.

    I have yet to give it a serious multicore comparison over the 8 core with Premiere but it feels significantly quicker all round so far despite 8Gb less ram.
  11. InsertCatchyNic macrumors member

    May 16, 2009
    I see a lot of posts about upgrading the firmware of a 4,1 to get it to be a 5,1. What exactly is upgraded and what isn't?

    I ask because my 3,1 is sort of at the end of the upgrades that I can do with it. The machine itself is fast enough, but not fast enough to play games and it has the fastest GPU that will show any performance improvements, the Nvidia 680 and even the 680 isn't that much faster than the 5870 that went tits up on me.

    Just trying to see if it is worth it to buy a genuine 5,1 or buy a 4,1 and upgrade the firmware on it.
  12. Horselover Fat macrumors regular

    Feb 2, 2012
    The firmware update enables the 4,1 series to work with 6-core CPUs of Intel's 5600 line (as opposed to 4-core models) and 1.333 MHz RAM (as opposed to 1.066 MHz RAM). To my knowledge these were the only differences between a 4,1 and a 5,1. So in terms of hardware they are really the same more or less.
  13. Baunkjaer macrumors 6502


    Feb 20, 2009
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Well, mine came with a W3565 (3,2GHz), but I don´t think the gap is that big. Overall it feels better than the the former.

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