Mac Pro 5,1: USB Boot

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by jasonmvp, Nov 7, 2015.

  1. jasonmvp macrumors newbie

    jasonmvp

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2015
    Location:
    Northern VA
    #1
    Hey folks -

    I have a 5,1-era Mac Pro that I've relegated to server duty. It's currently running CentOS 7, and I'm trying like hell to replace that with FreeBSD 10.2. I'm not looking for help with that specifically; what I'm having a hell of a time with is getting the thing to boot from a USB thumb drive.

    I've got a bootable thumb drive that I created with my 2012 Retina Macbook Pro. When I reboot the Macbook and hold the Option key, the thumb drive is seen as bootable. And it loads right into the FreeBSD installer. However, when I attempt to do the same thing with the 5,1, no bueno. It just sits there for a while, and then finally shows me the existing bootable hard drive. The thumb drive is ignored.

    My gut is telling me it's because the OEM SmartDrive is long gone. And it is. I removed it ages ago and threw it into the trash where it belongs. But I think I've read here and elsewhere that the Mac Pro may be seeing that thumb drive as "Windows", and because the SmartDrive isn't there, it won't boot from it?

    I've reset SMC, I've reset the PRAM, I've removed all of the HDDs from the system... nothing works. I somehow managed to create a bootable thumb drive with CentOS a year or so ago, but I can't remember what I did or how I did it. I can't replicate that w/the FreeBSD installer.

    Any hints or guesses?

    Thanks.
     
  2. scott.n macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2010
    #2
    Where are you plugging in the thumb drive: front USB, back USB, external hub (might not work), PCIe card (definitely won't work)? Have you tried different ports?

    What kind of keyboard are you using with the Mac Pro: wired, Bluetooth, wireless with USB dongle? If USB (wireless or not), what port is it plugged into?
     
  3. jasonmvp thread starter macrumors newbie

    jasonmvp

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2015
    Location:
    Northern VA
    #3
    Front ports (both) and rear ports (all three). That didn't seem to matter.

    As for the keyboard, it's a Unicomp Mac-compatible wired USB. It clearly senses the key presses because the PRAM reset worked fine, and the boot manager does come up with I hold the Option key. It just doesn't recognize the thumb drive.
     
  4. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Location:
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #4
    If you have a drawer full of thumb drives, the way most of us do, could you grab one and make a bootable OS X thumb drive using your Macbook Pro? Then you could at least learn whether you have some kind of USB port problem. I'm guessing that that's not really your problem, but you could take the possibility off the table.
     
  5. jasonmvp thread starter macrumors newbie

    jasonmvp

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2015
    Location:
    Northern VA
    #5
    Done. And it boots from that just fine. So it's a formatting issue with the FreeBSD installer on the thumb drive that appears to be the issue. But it works on the MBPro for some reason...
     
  6. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Location:
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #6
    This is getting weird (as if you didn't know that yourself). Are the 5,1 and the MBP running the same version of OS X?

    If it were me and I were at my wit's end, I guess I'd take that thumb drive that the 5,1 is willing to boot OS X from if asked, and put the FreeBSD boot package on it, and try again. That would at least exclude the possibility that what the 5,1 doesn't like is actually the very thumb drive that you've got the FreeBSD kit on -- that, for some reason, the MBP is OK with that drive and the MP isn't.
     
  7. jasonmvp thread starter macrumors newbie

    jasonmvp

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2015
    Location:
    Northern VA
    #7
    I'm sorry if that wasn't clear; the 5,1 was relegated to server duty a while ago and has been running CentOS 7, not OS X. I've recently decided to move all server OSs to FreeBSD vs Linux, which is what's prompted this.

    I think it's a formatting issue and not a hardware one. The EFI on the older 5,1 Mac Pros just can't deal with the same non-OS X boot thumb drive that the newer laptops can, for whatever reason. I don't know the specifics behind that, but my guess is it's the "Windows" thing.

    When I boot the MBP off that FreeBSD thumb drive, it shows up a "Windows". I'd read somewhere that the older Mac Pros wouldn't boot off a "Windows" device if the SuperDrive wasn't connected (which is a very strange restriction). If that's actually the case, I'm SOL. I don't have the SuperDrive any longer.

    I'm on the cusp of building a new Xeon-based server and just chucking the Mac Pro out. Dealing with Apple's EFI is... frustrating at times.
     
  8. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Location:
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #8
    What a way for you to spend the weekend. I'm out of ways to exclude possibilities, then.

    I googled FreeBSD (because evidently I have no life) and found an array of possible downloads.

    ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/releases/amd64/amd64/ISO-IMAGES/10.2/

    Do you think that there's one in that list that might work, that you haven't tried? Maybe a slightly different installer would work. I realized I was in unknown territory when I read the instructions to use the AMD64 version rather than the i386.

    Well, anyway. On-on, as the Australians say.
     
  9. jasonmvp thread starter macrumors newbie

    jasonmvp

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2015
    Location:
    Northern VA
    #9
    The memstick.img version works on the MBP. I tried the entire DVD ISO (converting it to DMG, dd'ing it to the USB stick after creating a GUID partition table) but that won't boot on the MBP. Neither of them will boot on the Mac Pro.

    Time to start purchasing some expensive hardware. :-(
     

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