Mac Pro as tinker computer

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
1,957
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Tulsa, OK
Since the Mac Pro is one of the most versatile apple computers, I've been very tempted to buy a refurb one as a tinker project just to get inside and learn more about it. Been looking at the lowest model they have in store:
http://store.apple.com/us/product/FB871LL/A

At this time it holds no real use for me as I already have 2011 models of the 13" MBP and Mac mini and they do everything I need so far. But I'm going back into school for computer science and want to know as much about the hardware as I do about the software when I'm done. I've built my own PC gaming towers before so I have a moderate knowledge of hardware repair, but am by no means an expert. I don't do it for a living, but am interested in applying for a genius position at my local store while I attend my last few years of college.

My main reasons I'm looking into this route
1) To be proficient in Mac repair
2) To have a "backup" computer to last me for a while past my mini's life expectancy.
3) Eventually turn into a media back-up for iTunes, FCPX projects, Aperture Library, Sketchbook Pro projects.
4) To own a freakin Mac Pro

I'm soon coming home from my deployment to Afghanistan and will have some extra money to budget for this before school starts. I'm just a very curious individual when it comes to computers and Mac's have actually kind of stiffled my curiousity to open them up and work on them aside from changing hard drives and ram (except for my old mini I used to have, that one was fun to take apart).

Does this sound too irrational? It sounds like overkill for what I want to do, but I'm hoping I will eventually make a good use for it in my home or work.
 

goMac

macrumors 604
Apr 15, 2004
7,179
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I'm not sure why you'd consider it a backup computer. It's much better than either your Mini or MBP. I'd honestly sell your Mini if you bought one, no reason to keep a Mini around.

All the other reasons you've listed are good, but I wouldn't expect to use it to learn Mac repair. A Mac Pro has almost no repair procedures in common with any other Mac, and honestly, working on a Mac Pro is almost 100% like working on a PC.

But it's a great machine, of course.
 

ScottishCaptain

macrumors 6502a
Oct 4, 2008
872
474
1) To be proficient in Mac repair
Unfortunately you will not become proficient in repairing anything other then the Mac Pro if all you have is a Mac Pro. Each and every Macintosh product between series is radically different from it's predecessor and the machines available at the same time.

A Mac Pro shares absolutely nothing in common with a Mac Mini or iMac. For one, the Mac Pro is vastly more user serviceable then either. The iMacs are mostly self contained these days and you have to pop off the display glass with suction cups then remove the LCD panel just to get to the logic board and disk drive.

Also, realize that there is very little point in becoming "proficient" with Mac repair unless you plan on becoming an Apple Certified Macintosh Technician (ACMT)- and getting a job repairing Macintosh computers at an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP).

Macintosh computers are NOT like PC computers in that if you replace something like the processor yourself- you WILL void the machine warranty. You simply cannot run around repairing other people's Macintosh systems as favours or for money because this will void their warranty too. Apple expects that you bring your machine in for service to an AASP, full stop. With the exception of the Mac Pro, every other machine that you can purchase from Apple is 95% non-user serviceable (the 5% making up RAM upgrades and HDD upgrades on the Mac Mini and Macbook Pro only- the iMac only lets you upgrade the RAM yourself and nothing else).

2) To have a "backup" computer to last me for a while past my mini's life expectancy.
Why? The Mac Pro is infinitely more powerful and versatile then the Mac Mini.

3) Eventually turn into a media back-up for iTunes, FCPX projects, Aperture Library, Sketchbook Pro projects.
Turn the Mac Mini into a media back-up system. Have the internal disk drive upgraded and stuff an external disk drive on it for Time Machine backups and you've got yourself an awesome little Mac OS X server for precisely this sort of thing.

4) To own a freakin Mac Pro
The Mac Pro is a pretty serious workstation. If I owned one (which I do), I wouldn't be doing anything to that machine to threaten my Applecare warranty or the health of the machine (and tearing it down to the chassis to try and learn about how to repair it seems like a really risky thing to attempt, given the cost of these machines).

My advice to you is this- hop on the internet, and go track down the latest version of Apple's service manual cache. You can find them in a large package on various torrent websites around the internet.

The Apple service manuals are exactly what the Apple technicians follow when they're repairing this stuff (since you're not expected to memorize the procedures for repairing all the current Apple products). They are extremely detailed and provide pictures and steps that guide you through absolutely everything. There is zero ambiguity in any of them and they are stupendously precise and definitive.

If you want to learn how to repair Macintosh computers, then reading those service manuals is the best way to do it. You'll also need the relevant one for your Mac Pro if you really want to tear it down, because you can't simply take a screwdriver to ANY Macintosh and simply "go at it"- you'll forget something or do something else incorrectly and break the machine.

The service manuals are your best bet for self-education on this topic. They're not exactly legal to distribute, but they're not hard to dig up either. You get access to them if you join Apple's ACMT training program, since they are what technicians are expected to follow down to the letter.

-SC
 

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
1,957
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Tulsa, OK
That's the voice of reason I needed. Once I get an idea in my it's hard to get it out, but this helped a lot. I definitely agree that it won't help me learn about any other mac's. I may try to find one broken one for parts if my interests gets the best of me later. Since all my video and art projects are done for leisure and not business at the moment I'm not worried about quickness in rendering video so my machines now will perform fine. I've already upgraded both of my machines internals and my MBP is almost full from movies and TV shows. I think I'll get over this desire for more storage once I get home and get a proper back up NAS device. I didn't see the point in ordering one for over here. If my work ever takes me to higher levels of processing power then I'll start looking into the work station.

Thanks for all your input.
 

goMac

macrumors 604
Apr 15, 2004
7,179
1,183
That's the voice of reason I needed. Once I get an idea in my it's hard to get it out, but this helped a lot. I definitely agree that it won't help me learn about any other mac's. I may try to find one broken one for parts if my interests gets the best of me later. Since all my video and art projects are done for leisure and not business at the moment I'm not worried about quickness in rendering video so my machines now will perform fine. I've already upgraded both of my machines internals and my MBP is almost full from movies and TV shows. I think I'll get over this desire for more storage once I get home and get a proper back up NAS device. I didn't see the point in ordering one for over here. If my work ever takes me to higher levels of processing power then I'll start looking into the work station.

Thanks for all your input.
I don't know if the Mac Pro is a bad idea for you. It certainly seems like you could use one. But I don't quite get your reasoning of calling it a backup machine. It's a far better machine than your mini, and it sounds like it has a lot of advantages you need, like more hard drive space.
 

ClassObject

macrumors 6502
Mar 1, 2010
272
1
A Mac Pro shares absolutely nothing in common with a Mac Mini or iMac. For The Mac Pro is infinitely more powerful and versatile then the Mac Mini.
It's than not then. It is difficult to take one seriously if the difference between then and than is not known.
 

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
1,957
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Tulsa, OK
I don't know if the Mac Pro is a bad idea for you. It certainly seems like you could use one. But I don't quite get your reasoning of calling it a backup machine. It's a far better machine than your mini, and it sounds like it has a lot of advantages you need, like more hard drive space.
I just don't ever see myself getting into video/photography for business, and I've always heard for most things in the computer science realm for writing code and nothing graphic heavy, I don't need all that much computer. This machine will probably not generate me any money as I assume most of the fields I go into with be Windows/Linux based, at least around my area. I would love to prove myself wrong and eventually need one, but it's more of want right now.

I kept saying back up mostly in terms of I'll have it ready in standby for when I might need it.

Now that I think about it though, I've spent $800 on the mini alone and I plan on probably spending another $700 for a NAS system. That's not a terrible difference from the two low end refurbs that go up to $2140. Crap. I thought I had talked myself out of it.
 

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
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Tulsa, OK
So the 2010 2.8Ghz Quad Core Mac Pro beats my mini by over 2000 points on the geekbench score.

Anyone want to buy a mac mini?
 

ClassObject

macrumors 6502
Mar 1, 2010
272
1
Wow. The grammar police. You guy's hiring? Always such an impressive statement.
Right I'm the grammar police.

Btw - it's not grammar but functional use of English. "Than" has a completely different meaning than "then". Just like poop and pee are different.
 
Last edited:

goMac

macrumors 604
Apr 15, 2004
7,179
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So the 2010 2.8Ghz Quad Core Mac Pro beats my mini by over 2000 points on the geekbench score.

Anyone want to buy a mac mini?
It beats your Mini in a lot more ways than just a CPU benchmark. The hard disks are faster, and so is the graphics card.
 

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
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Tulsa, OK
It beats your Mini in a lot more ways than just a CPU benchmark. The hard disks are faster, and so is the graphics card.
I figured the hard disk would only matter depending on what I put into it. Of course I haven't looked at 3.5" HDD's in quite some time to see if they are generally faster. But I'm not going with Apple's HDD installation choices. Too overpriced in my opinion.

I don't do any 3D rendering or AutoCAD or heavy gaming on my mac, but the graphics card will be welcome for pushing multiple displays.

I think I'm sold on this idea already. Why am I so easily pursuaded? Well when I get home there will probably be a like new Mac mini for sale since it's been sitting at my house unused the entire time I've had it.

I'll likely keep the MBP because I like having the option to take it around with me on trips and still import my pictures and videos while I'm out.
 

goMac

macrumors 604
Apr 15, 2004
7,179
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I figured the hard disk would only matter depending on what I put into it. Of course I haven't looked at 3.5" HDD's in quite some time to see if they are generally faster. But I'm not going with Apple's HDD installation choices. Too overpriced in my opinion.
Hard drives have speed as well. Any hard drive that comes with a Mac Pro (or you buy after the fact) is going to be faster than whats on a Mini. Mac Pros (and desktops) generally come with a 7200 rpm drive, while a Mini has a 5400 rpm drive.
 

JoeG4

macrumors 68030
Jan 11, 2002
2,716
270
Bay Area, Ca.
Sheesh, just go get one and don't look back :) I have had nothing but PowerMacs as my desktops (and I'd love to get a Mac Pro but I keep needing new laptops!)

You don't have to be a video editor to enjoy the benefits of owning a Mac Pro: They have tons of expansion and last a REALLY long time. They also have a huge case that is pretty tinker-friendly, so you can do all sorts of things with them.

If you have the money, then do it :)
 

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
1,957
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Tulsa, OK
Sheesh, just go get one and don't look back :)
Haha. I like the way you think. I'm just waiting until I get home around March to order one when I get moved into my new place. Not much good one would do me right now. I do appreciate everyone's input and ideas. Now feel free to turn this thread into a flame war of your choosing.
 

JoeG4

macrumors 68030
Jan 11, 2002
2,716
270
Bay Area, Ca.
I suggest we turn it into the "how dare the video editors act like they're the only ones that deserve to use mac pros!" flamewar thread. ;)

I still think a lot of Mac Pros are used to edit porn. lol :D Especially those that I see in a home office setting!
 

alphaod

macrumors Core
Feb 9, 2008
22,177
1,231
NYC
I still think a lot of Mac Pros are used to edit porn. lol :D Especially those that I see in a home office setting!
I use my Mac Pro to only watch porn. Why else do I need all that processing power for?

That's why I love the new Apple trackpad… I can finally still use the mouse with my left hand while my right hand is occupied!
 

ActionableMango

macrumors G3
Sep 21, 2010
9,561
6,828
Vastoholic,

It is a particularly bad time to get a MP. The current MP is essentially the same as from 2009 with nothing but CPU and GPU bump in 2010, and even those bumps are getting really old in the tooth. The GPU is two generations behind and the CPU is very close to being the same.

Even worse, because Apple doesn't lower prices over time, the current MP is still the same price for this terribly outdated hardware.

It sounds like the purchase is entirely optional and the MP is not needed within a specific time frame. If that is truly the case, I'd wait for the new MP to release.

Thank you for your service.
 

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
1,957
1
Tulsa, OK
Vastoholic,

It is a particularly bad time to get a MP. The current MP is essentially the same as from 2009 with nothing but CPU and GPU bump in 2010, and even those bumps are getting really old in the tooth. The GPU is two generations behind and the CPU is very close to being the same.

Even worse, because Apple doesn't lower prices over time, the current MP is still the same price for this terribly outdated hardware.

It sounds like the purchase is entirely optional and the MP is not needed within a specific time frame. If that is truly the case, I'd wait for the new MP to release.

Thank you for your service.
The specs aren't too important to me as the storage options are. The GPU and CPU are still way ahead of what I currently have or need. I'm not particularly interested in buying new anyway. I can always upgrade the GPU later. Even the 2 year old refurbs should last me for quite some time.
 

scottsjack

macrumors 68000
Aug 25, 2010
1,900
303
Arizona
The specs aren't too important to me as the storage options are. The GPU and CPU are still way ahead of what I currently have or need. I'm not particularly interested in buying new anyway. I can always upgrade the GPU later. Even the 2 year old refurbs should last me for quite some time.
Definitely get a 2010 refurb. For eighty bucks you get a better video card, a faster processor and a couple of other minor details.
 

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
1,957
1
Tulsa, OK
Definitely get a 2010 refurb. For eighty bucks you get a better video card, a faster processor and a couple of other minor details.
That's the current plan. Looking at the 2.8 QC in the refurb section right now. It's sitting in my cart just waiting for me to check out. Just holding off for a few more months until I get home. Hopefully it's still there.
 

vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 28, 2009
1,957
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Tulsa, OK
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