Mac Pro 5,1 (mid 2010) - SSD Upgrade?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by iRabbit, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. iRabbit macrumors 6502

    Jul 10, 2007
    Like the title says, I have a mid-2010 MacPro 5,1. I recently added more ram (now at 52) and replaced all the hard drives a little over a year ago. It's a great machine, but I do feel like maybe there's a little room for speed improvement.

    I'm a professional photographer and mostly use photoshop. Occasionally iMovie and Audacity for customer testimonials. I sometimes use photoshop for making vine-type Instagram promos.

    I was wondering how many people have done the SSD upgrade to the boot drive -- and did you notice a big improvement in performance? I was looking at the kits from OWC and am considering it, but I don't want to spend the money if it's only going to be a nominal difference.


  2. MSastre macrumors 6502


    Aug 18, 2014
    I put several SSDs in my 2010 5,1 and it definitely speeds performance. OWC is good.
  3. Yahooligan macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2011
    Once you go SSD you'll never go back to a spinning drive for your OS/Apps. Yes, it makes that much difference (Unless you have a RAID, then it won't be as big of a change but still a decent increase in speed).
  4. JeffPerrin macrumors 6502


    Jul 21, 2014
    I did the same for my 2012 5,1. An SSD boot drive, along with a RAM upgrade (I got 24GB from OWC) really made a big difference in performance here!

  5. PieTunes Contributor


    May 6, 2016
    San Diego, CA
    I wholeheartedly concur with the previous statements. I popped in a Samsung 850 Pro SSD attached to a SATA III card. It is noticeably faster. The system boots in mere seconds and apps load practically instantly. The upgrade is definitely money well spent!
  6. CapnDavey macrumors 6502


    Apr 11, 2015
    I have one on a apricorn velocity card its much faster then the 2 tb hard drive's I'm running
  7. iRabbit thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 10, 2007
    Awesome, thanks so much everyone! Great to hear!

    Any recommendations on which one specifically? 500GB is probably fine since I don't store anything but apps on my boot drive...

    Would be great to update them all, but that'll take more time (because: expensive!)... my other three drives are all 2TB.
  8. Yahooligan macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2011
    I've been happy with my Samsung 850 EVO, I also have an 840 Pro and 840 EVO that have been problem-free for years.
  9. BillyBobBongo macrumors 68020


    Jun 21, 2007
    On The Interweb Thingy!
    I've always been partial to Angelbird SSDs.
  10. JMacHack macrumors 6502

    Mar 16, 2017
    One of the first things I did was put an SSD into the spare 5.25 optical drive, the performance improvement is massive. I still use the 1TB HDD for mass storage, but given infinite funds I'd be on an all-SSD system by now.
  11. iRabbit thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 10, 2007
    Good to know! I may have to start saving my pennies!

    Wow now that's very affordable...
  12. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    You can get a very nice speed-up even by replacing spinners with SSD in the drive bays. The SSD will run at SATA II speed, so there's no point in spending for a top-of-the-line SSD. I happened to pick Mushkin but there are any number of good brands. If you decide you need faster you can install a SATA III card, or go to a PCIe drive, for increasingly larger amounts of money.
  13. BillyBobBongo macrumors 68020


    Jun 21, 2007
    On The Interweb Thingy!
    Their support team is damn good too. I ordered a drive and got an apology email the next day because it hadn't been put in the post. I'm a sucker for that sort of thing.
  14. h9826790 macrumors G5


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    SSD is very good for loading multiple SMALL files. Which means extremely suitable for photos work.

    You should get a SSD and put your current project's photos onto it. Not just OS and Apps. Assuming you only boot once a day (or even wake the computer up from sleep), and the apps only need to be load once a day. The time saving is almost nothing for the entire workflow. However, by using SSD, the computer may save you few seconds on every single photo, which can be a lot in total. You can clearly feel the difference because all thumbnails will be loaded much much faster. If you leave the photos in a HDD, you won't be able to utilise the low latency of the SSD. Which totally defeat the purpose of upgrading to SSD.

    Anyway, really no need to go for any extreme high speed SSD. Those are for dealing with LARGE files like videos. Buying those expensive SSD is just wasting your money. And OWC is one of the well known overpriced brand.

    Get your self a 850Evo, or any cheap SATA SSD, plug that into the empty optical bay, then you are good to go. Those relative expensive SATA III card do able to improve the SSD's sequential read / write performance, however, again, that's for LARGE files, not for multiple SMALL files. The cost is high, extra performance gain is low, therefore not recommended.

    If you only put the OS and apps on SSD, then you don't really need a SSD. SSHD can do the job well, with much lower cost, and larger capacity.
  15. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    The SSD will make the whole system feel peppier. Bootup will be faster, apps and files will load faster, etc. That is where the "big improvement in performance" will be.

    It will NOT make any compute functions in Photoshop any faster. So if you are waiting a long time while crunching a blur filter or something like that, an SSD will not help.
  16. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Jan 17, 2012
    Samsung 850 EVO, throw it in the second optical bay, install your system and apps, and be amazed.

    If you have room for your photos there, too, go for it.

    If you decide you want a really inexpensive SATA3 card, look for something like this:

    Cards with ASM1061 chip are macOS bootable. Speed might be a tad shy of the best SATA3 card, but performance is good and price is unbeatable.
  17. Thessman macrumors regular

    Dec 8, 2005
    I have 2 sm951's and a sm 840, plus 5 HD's for the heavy stuff, and backups.
  18. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
  19. mattspace macrumors 65816


    Jun 5, 2013
    What's your definition of small files? In my case, the camera produces RAWs that are 30-50mb, and I really don't want to mess around with managing storage. I've been thinking over the idea of setting up my photo drive as a fusion drive, with a 128gb m2 on a lycom card or similar, given the photos I'm working on are almost always going to be the most recent ones imported, so they're afaik going to be on the ssd portion.

    Weighing that against what I do if the machine dies, and I need to access the photos on a machine without a PCI slot. I can drop the spinning drive into an external case or similar, can you put the pcie m2 sticks in an external case, or only the sata ones?
  20. TheTruth101 Suspended

    Mar 15, 2017
    I got the OWC kit with 1TB ssd for my 2008 Mac Pro... wow! I mean... WOW!!!! I have all my audio software with libraries. The finder starts up in 2 to 3 seconds. That is how fast is in my computer. I have 32 GB of ram. The kit I got is to place the SSD in the second optical drive space, so I still have 4 hard drives inside.

    The other hard drives are for storage and music (iTunes). But yes... get the SSD and you will be laughing in how fast the thing is. I believe you need to get the 6Giga bit drive speed.

    But you will end up with a brand new computer, the difference is super noticeable. I mean, is like changing your rotary phone for an iPhone.
  21. h9826790, Apr 21, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017

    h9826790 macrumors G5


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    For really small file, we usually talking about 4kB in size. Of course no photos will be that small nowadays. However, in my definition, most photos related job are dealing with small files (unless you are dealing with single multi hundred MB size photo).

    I can put it like this.

    30MB photo.

    On a SSD that only with SATA II connection, loading time is <0.2s.

    On a SSD that with 1500MB/s read performance, the loading time is <0.1s.

    So, for human, there is practically no difference. Most of time spend on moving the mouse, click the correct file, etc. And we will feel that the file pop up straight away.

    To make the difference, we need a GB file. e.g. 1GB file

    For SATA II limiting SSD, loading time is 4s

    For 1500MB/s PCIe SSD, loading time is <0.7s

    For humans, there is significant difference, which is feeling like "have to wait" or "no need to wait".

    So, in order to make us fell different, we need a file that clearly larger than 100MB.

    Also, when dealing with photos, we usually dealing with hundreds or even thousands of photos. Even though the total size is large. However, most of the time we are just browsing through the thumbnails, but not really open / load all of them at once.

    When we are dealing with the thumbnails, those are much smaller files (e.g. Some pre created icons in the apps). This is where SSD significantly better than HDD.

    When the apps try to load 100 photos icons for you to preview. The latency required between file loading will x100.

    On a traditional HDD. This latency can easily roll up to >10 seconds in total. That's what you usually experience with a HDD. e.g. After fresh boot, the desktop icon slowly appear one by one. Of when browsing through a photo library, the photo slowly appear one by one.

    For a SSD, the total latency can be 30-100 times smaller. Which means a 15s latency on a HDD can be reduced to 0.5s or even less. For photos work, you will see almost all photos preview / icons appear within a second (may be you can still see them appear one by one, but with very high speed).

    The whole idea of using SSD is to reduce latency, the more small files you deal with, the more you can benefit from SSD. For someone who deal with super large files (e.g. 100GB videos), then a PCIe SSD is preferable, because it can offer super high sequential read / write speed as well. But that usually not required for photos work.

    Even though you often copy multi GB files around. A single PCIe SSD wouldn't help. Because when you copy to / from this super fast SSD, the other side will become the bottleneck in a second (e.g. Your HDD). So, you can hardly utilise the top speed. (Copying inside the SDD do able to utilise the speed, however, I don't think it's a normal ops for most people).

    50MB RAW may be considerd as a large file in photos. But sure not considered large for SSD. Also, when you dealing with photos. e.g. Loading their metadata, these ops are also only dealing with some small size data. Again, what you are looking for is low latency, which means almost any cheap SSD can do the job well. You can search and compare "4k random read performance" for a particular SSD, that's the pointer of how low latency of that SSD. Then you will realise there is not much difference from the cheapest SATA SSD to the most expensive PCIe AHCI SSD.

    I personally will avoid fusion drive. FD will store the data that have high access rate to the SSD part. That also means, when you first time deal with the photos (the 1st time you access it), you may receive zero benefit from FD. That's a bit meaningless for the upgrade (I don't think you are dealing / editing the same photo everyday). Again, if you only want faster boot / apps loading time. SSHD can do the job well.
  22. mattspace macrumors 65816


    Jun 5, 2013
    OK, so how would you recommend arranging storage for this case:

    Current spinning drives:
    1. Boot / User
    2. Photos
    3. Scratch / temp files
    4. Time Machine
    I've got a free optical bay, 3 free pci slots (2 if I get a non-flashed GPU and keep the gt-120 installed for emergencies).

    System boot and application launch times don't really bug me - this machine runs for days, if not weeks, sleeping at night, so I'm rarely actually launching apps - they open once and stay open. I've got 48gb of ram, so I'm not hitting system swap.

    What I spend time waiting on:
    • Opening and progress saving 200-900mb photoshop files stored on the Boot / User drive.
    • Waiting for Aperture to render full resolution once an image on Photos has been opened / zoomed.
    • Saving out 30GB of temp image files from Photos to Scratch, then loading those files into panoramic imaging software (which has its own swap system / temp files that can be wherever I want)
    I had been thinking something along the lines of:
    1. Boot (Optical bay ssd)
    2. User (Fusion Drive with a PCI card solution so my large photoshop files stay on ssd while working on them)
    3. Photos (Potentially a Fusion drive?)
    4. Scratch (Fusion Drive with PCI card ssd)
    5. Time Machine
    Is there a way to have 4 SSDs, and 4 spinning drives, while only using 2 pci slots in a 4,1/5,1? Is there a SATA card that can drive multiple SSDs in the optical bay, for example? Or a PCIe card for 2 blades that isn't insanely expensive?
  23. h9826790 macrumors G5


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    Yes, there is a quad mini SATA SSD PCIe card. So that you can fit 4x mini SATA SSD in a single PCIe slot.

    There is also some eSATA card avail, so that you can put 4x SATA SSD in the optical with some cables to connect them back to the card.

    However, what I suggest is a much simpler method. Get a 1TB 850 Evo. Which serve you as boot drive, and store apps. You can leave on the HDD if you rarely reboot / restart your apps, however, since OS and Apps do have lots of small read write to the hard drive when you using them. Put them on SSD still preferable.

    All your photos stay on the HDD, and only copy the current project to the SSD and all works form on the SSD. So, apart from your proper backup, the HDD copy also serve as an extra immediately avail backup of the original files. (Or the other way around. All photos now import to the SSD first. So that you can start working straight away. And let the system copy the photos back to HDD as backup when you are already photoshopping)

    I really do not recommend FD in your case, especially FD can cause more trouble then benefit in MacOS. The idea of fusion drive is good, but not a good match with HFS+. Also, you have NO control of which file stay on the SSD. You want your large photoshop file stay there? The computer may do exactly the opposite for you. You have no control on it.

    If you have budget to buy the OWC SSD. A single 850Evo should serve you better (higher performance to cost ratio). Just buy the biggest option that within your budget, and try to utilise it as much as possible.

    From your discription, it seems a 500GB 850Evo actually enough for your workflow.

    Total 500GB
    100GB (20% reserved free space) as general rule for SSD
    100GB for OS and apps
    30GB temp image files

    So, still plenty of space for your user profiles, serve as scratch disk, or occasionally larger project.

    But if budget OK, a single 1TB should be the simplest solution. If you really want to separate the scratch drive, then you may consider to buy 2 smaller SSD. However, in this case, you have to spend more money on PCIe card etc. Which start to make things complicated, and you should have little benefit from it.

    My single 840Evo do all the heavy duty for me (including serve as scratch drive), zero issue so far. Since there is no mechanical movement inside the SSD, I really can't see why you need another seperate drive for scratch now. Yes, seperate may provide better performance, but importance is not that high if compare to the mechanical HDD. It won't corrupt your system file, it won't cause any pre-mature failure, it won't greatly slow down the OS operation.

    So, my suggestion will be like this.

    0) A single SSD in optical drive - serve as boot drive m, including apps storage, library storage, current project storage, and scratch.

    1) backup boot drive - a clone (NOT RAID 1) of your primary boot SSD. e.g. Use CCC to clone on regular basis. You should have no need to touch this drive. The clone is automatically completed in the background. You only need it when the SSD fail, then you can boot from this HDD, and continue your work in no time.

    2) photos - storage only. All photos stored here, but never work on this HDD. All photos required for your current project will have an extra copy on the SSD, and all work done on the SSD.

    3) backup scratch drive - practically no use now. Set it as a lower priority scratch drive. And use it as temporary storage when you need some extra space.

    4) time Machine - no difference then your current setup.

    This should gives you good performance boost in handling the files. And reasonably good backup. However, not very sure if Aperture full size photo rendering is bottlenecked by HDD I/O or CPU. Aperture is not very good at utilising the GPU power, and still very CPU single thread limiting. But I can tell Aperture is difinitely able to benefit from SSD when your are browsing through the photos on it.
  24. mattspace macrumors 65816


    Jun 5, 2013
    Some interesting ideas, thanks for taking the time. Is there a penalty for having multiple operations accessing a single SSD at the same time, vs having multiple (smaller) SSDs?

    That's the specific thing I'm trying to avoid - I don't want to do any manual management of files and space, which is what I was hoping Fusion Drives would do - keep active files, ie anything new, opened or saved, in the ssd portion, while keeping my volumes simple.

    I suppose I can start with a 240gb ssd for OS and apps, leave my user directory on the spinner, and see how that goes.
  25. Yahooligan macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2011
    I have my wife's cMP set up with a Fusion drive; 480GB SSD + 1TB HDD. No problems whatsoever, works like a charm.

    Keep in mind that it is tiered storage and CoreStorage will demote to HDD/promote to SSD on its own based on file activity. If you access/edit your photos frequently then they shouldn't be demoted to the HDD. A larger SSD will keep more files on the SSD before demoting to HDD, so if this is a concern then go for the largest SSD within your budget.

    Also, be sure to keep backups of your Fusion drive. If either drive in the Fusion drive fail then all data on both drives will be lost. I actually have my wife's cMP set up as follows...

    Primary: 480GB SSD + 1TB HDD Fusion drive
    TimeMachine: 2x1.5TB HDD RAID1
    Bootcamp: 1TB HDD

    Runs without a hitch and she doesn't have to manually manage anything.

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39 April 20, 2017