MacPro - Stock Trading Computer?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by rhinocom, Nov 6, 2009.

  1. rhinocom macrumors newbie


    Nov 6, 2009
    SW Missouri, USA
    I am considering purchasing a multi-monitor robust stock trading computer system. The candidates are a MacPro with, at least, multiple video cards, quad core, two hard drives, at least 16GB or RAM, audio card for dedicated use in trading.
    Another alternative would be to purchase a Falcon Windows-based trading system from

    Does anyone here have any experience with using a MacPro as a stock trading computer? Please describe the pros and cons regarding the above alternatives and your thoughts.

    Thank you!
  2. djpic macrumors member

    Feb 24, 2009
    Orlando, Florida
    Personally, I would probably suggest a windows platform just because I am not sure if they make trading software for mac? But what is really involved in stock trading? I mean the software is just pulling the data from the network connection (internet) so why would you need 16GB of RAM. With the monitors, you can just use standard dual port graphic cards, don't need high performance cards just to display graphs and numbers.

    I could be wrong, but that is just how I see it. Those trading computers just seem to be a rip off to me.
  3. rhinocom thread starter macrumors newbie


    Nov 6, 2009
    SW Missouri, USA
    re: MacPro - Stock Trading Computer?

    As far as the software is concerned, there are some programs useful to traders that are Mac OS compatible and there are some direct access trading platforms that are Java-script and will work on Macs. However, yes, there is a limited choice and with a Windows platform there are more choices. I would rather not have to go back to a Windows platform and the MacPro is very user upgradable.

    Re: cost, I think a fairly loaded Windows computer would be less costly than a properly equipped MacPro.

    The computer in this scenario is truly a tool. A computer is a tool really in almost every scenario. I would just like to avoid all the hassles with Windows and viruses, etc.
  4. Bentov macrumors regular

    Jul 22, 2007
    I took a look at the site. I'm not impressed and they are over priced. It seems to me they are just overclocking and making seem like they are doing more. I had to laugh at their line about the 12-13 voltage regulators compared to the consumer level 2 or 3. In the grand scheme of things, I'm pretty sure that the stability of their mother boards will be negated by the fact that you run windows. Before you think I'm a crazy apple zealot, most of my life has been as a windows user; I've only had my mac pro since April of this year. Besides being into photography, I bought it because I wanted unix with a pretty face, something that I could write iphone programs with and I am working on my own stock market trading program

    Really though, your question is easy, if the software you need runs on both platforms, get the mac. It's really as simple as that. The stability and speed of a unix based system will always be better than it's windows equivalent. As far as specs, It's a toss up between the quad or octo core system. I guess it really depends on your funds. I went with the 2.66 quad, and honestly, for another $1400 I could have gone octo. But that is ego talking I don't really need 8 cores at this point. I think you would be fine with 6 or 8 gigs of ram, doubt you need 16. Get two nvidia 120s and you can drive 4 monitors. Get it with 1TB, drive and buy the rest from like tiger direct or from a microcenter or something like that they will be cheaper. Some type of external enclosure for time machine and you are good to go.

    Good Luck.


    Hey, what do you think of the Berkshire splitting their B-shares 50:1 for the BNI deal?
  5. ildondeigiocchi macrumors 6502a


    Dec 30, 2007
    Make sure to buy a spare HDD for backup in Timemachine otherwise in the unlikelihood of a primary hdd failure you might find yourself in a tickle:eek:
  6. rhinocom thread starter macrumors newbie


    Nov 6, 2009
    SW Missouri, USA
    Re: MacPro - Stock Trading Computer?

    Thanks, Bentov and ildon... for the replies.

    Interestingly, I was in the Kansas City Apple store going over the MacPro in detail with the folks there. It is such a wonderfully built unit. Everything is completely accessible as opposed to towers from Dell that I had previously owned. It really is beautifully built. So with all that is said and that I have seen, I am leaning to the MacPro. Particularly IF my ancillary (non-trading platform programs) that are Windows only can be run *reliably* in a virtual machine via either Parallels 5 or Fusion 3.

    Does anyone have any experience in running Windows in either of these virtual machine programs? If so, which one?

    Also, do you recommend setting up a Boot Camp partition and running the Windows virtual machine that way with only one installation of Windows?

    How would doing the above change the configuration of the MacPro in terms of numbers of processors/cores and clock speed of processors? We don't want any beach balls with this!

    Lastly, does anyone know if it is advisable to setup a RAID 0 array (striped) and if that will increase the speed of the MacPro? What RAID array do you recommend?

    This is very interesting. Thanks all!
  7. Winni macrumors 68040


    Oct 15, 2008
    I strongly doubt that your experience with Dell towers includes their Precision workstation series - everything in a Precision is even more accessible than in a Mac Pro.

    I also doubt that this whole Mac thing in your area of work makes any sense at all. You -- need -- something that runs Windows reliably. You do not need OS X, and you most certainly do not need OS X to run a virtualized installation of Windows in which you run your bread and butter applications. Really, what sense is this supposed to make?

    It's true that a Mac Pro is a very reliable work horse for 64-Bit versions of Windows. It's just no longer a Mac, and thus it has to compete a PC workstation in its class - something like a Dell Precision with a similar configuration. And for a Mac Pro, that usually means to first add a workstation class graphics card (which Apple doesn't even really have) and it also means to add a support option that Apple does not even offer. Just try getting 4-hours business level support with on site warranty from Apple. Dell sells that.

    You also don't want to go with a RAID 0 configuration. It's unsafe.

    For your purposes, I recommend a Dell Precision Workstation with Premium Business Support, 64-Bit Windows 7 Professional (or Ultimate), ESET NOD32 Anti-Virus Business Edition (yes, it's also 64-Bit compatible) and a "Command Center". Google it up. You'll love it.

    You would need the same software for the Mac Pro, too. It just escapes me why you would want to bet your professional life on a virtualized solution with absolutely no need for the OS X host platform.
  8. NomadicTy macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2007
    I trade with thinkorswim, and their client is java based, and it works wonderfully with my mac. Never had any problems. Neither have one of my friends who also day trade all day long on his macs.

    I also do not think you need that much memory. Not even that much hard drive space. And you certainly don't need more than that much processor power. You're probably better off using the money you save on a second (back up computer), or maybe a business class broadband connection (or get a second broandband connection - get dsl as backup to cable).

    The only problems I ever had was the connection (good thing I didn't have open positions during that time). I'd certainly look into that before anything else.
  9. caf9128 macrumors member

    Nov 25, 2007
    My wife is the trader in the family. She tried a Mac for awhile, but now is using a Windows based multiple monitor set-up, even though she uses a Macbook for personal use. She says she was too limited on the software side, and all her trading buddies are pretty much Windows based as well. I know she uses Streetsmart Pro, and several other programs that are only for Windows, and it made no sense to always be booting a Mac in Windows. She also seems to like running 4 monitors better from a Windows machine, although I'm not clear why.
  10. tempusfugit macrumors 65816

    May 21, 2009
    you really don't need all of that for trading platforms.... you can run that stuff on netbooks if you really wanted.

    a mac pro for the sole purpose of stock trading? at least 16 GB ram?

    I hope you're a better stock investor than computer investor.
  11. aliskr macrumors newbie

    Nov 9, 2009
    I can understand where you're coming from, as I'm also a trader and quant. developer. There is nothing more annoying and potentially financially costly than a slow pc which freezes while you're holding a large position. However, you're unlikely to need these specs if you're just monitoring couple of hundred tickers and a few charts. Anyway, I have also been interested in using Mac Pro as my main trading workstation, though my reasons are more due to the operating system (Grand Central Dispatch/OpenCL). Couple of points that I hope you'll find useful:
    a) Make sure you investigate how OS X works in a multi-monitor environment, particularly in a trading set up. Not sure about OS X, but in Windows I like UltraMon which makes managing windows including moving them around a breeze. We're moving to Windows 7 and I know couple of small prop traders who already have;
    b) Software package(s) should be Mac compatible; and
    c) Calculate the premium you'll pay when buying from Apple, as there might not be any advantages to paying heaps more for similar hardware performance. This is particularly relevant if you're not deriving your edge from the OS X.

    Your hardware choice is fine, since we use similar set up on our trading floor at a major investment bank. 16GB is an over-kill. We use 8GB and I find the machines are very responsive with multiple windows open, and some analytics running (this is exotics derivatives stuff and you're unlikely to be running these). Btw, we use Dell workstations. Personally, I am currently developing on my macbook pro to see if it provides the edge I'm looking for. If not, then I'll be going with Dell as I can get business support, same/better hardware, etc for a competitive price. Another idea you may wish to explore is using two desktops (i7 based perhaps), one for all your tickers/charts and another for order entry/portfolio management.
  12. Wild-Bill macrumors 68030


    Jan 10, 2007
    For a trading computer running on the Mac platform, if one can wait, I would suggest waiting a bit to see if/when Apple implements the new "Eyefinity" multi-display technology in the ATI cards on the future Mac Pro. ATI will have a PC version of one of their cards out shortly with the ability to output to six monitors. Not sure when that particular card is hitting the streets on the PC side.

    However, you can expect at least a $200-300 markup on the card on the Mac side as "Apple tax".

    Check in the "Display" section. Tons of discussions on the Eyefinity craze.
  13. rhinocom thread starter macrumors newbie


    Nov 6, 2009
    SW Missouri, USA
    re: MacPro - Stock Trading Computer?

    Everyone, thank you for all the interesting posts.

    To those who are supporting the "buy a PC" and run Windows natively posters:
    I get what you are saying. If you get a PC you have unlimited choices regarding software. You also have potential problems of the underlying new version of Windows, security patches, necessity to run virus and spyware scanners (therefore need for more overhead), etc.

    For kicks, I went to to configure an i7 Precision mini-tower and I promise, I didn't load it with garbage, but I did put a three drive RAID array on it with multiple graphics cards and it came to over $9,000!!! So I think, if you are going to get a PC and I am disagreeing with someone above here, I think the Falcon is potentially less expensive and if what they say is true, perhaps better built with better components by a company who does this only for traders. A system it seems is less expensive than from Dell. You can get comprehensive support, but I live in a small town and I don't think I am going to get someone here necessarily in 4 hours no matter who you are with. However, same day is good enough, because I have two MacBook Pros backing me up and one of them has Vista in a BootCamp partition to run natively.

    I am going out on a limb here, but my impression is that if you are a serious full time trader, you are going to want to trade with a direct access broker. Examples would be including but not limited to: thinkorswim and Interactive Brokers. There are others. Both of these have Mac compatible software that is Java-script based. That is your platform and I agree it is critical that that be run natively. It can be run natively on either a Windows or Mac OS computer. As far as charting and analytics are concerned you get limited with the Mac. eSignal, TradeStation, MetaStock and the Worden Bros. programs are all Windows programs. Investools programs run on a Mac via web and Java. But that isn't your trading platform. So is it necessarily bad if you run those in a virtual machine?? It will be bad if your unit can't handle it. Beach balls are not ever allowed!

    If you go with Mac you do have some nice potential performance boosters such as Grand Central Dispatch and Open CL. However, and I may be wrong here, it seems that those technologies are only pertinent if the software developer writes their program to take advantage of them. So I am not sure that ThinkorSwim or Interactive Broker's platform would take advantage of those. However, if they do in the future (whenever that is) you're covered.

    As far as multiple monitor support is concerned... I am not familiar with UltraMon. But what is the big deal for handling multiple monitors? On an old Dell I used to use with two monitors I would drag stuff from one monitor to the other and this was years ago. It worked pretty well. How much could this have been improved? Can't you move windows around freely with mulitple video cards with Snow Leopard and a MacPro?

    By the way, for those who are touting trading on a netbook or smaller hardware. Here is what I know so far. Trading is a competition between you and everyone else in the market. Our weapons for competition include a number of things but one of the main things is speed and technology. Yes, there is knowledge, judgement and other factors involved that are beyond the scope of these postings. For right now it is technology and speed. You want to have the best you can afford without paying for stuff you simply won't or can't use. So I don't think you want a netbook. You want a robust reliable and fast as all get-out system that is built well (not cheapo). Compared to other businesses, the amount of capital investment involved in trading is very small. You may as well, make your main tool, your computer, as good as it can be. Hence, IMO (so far) Falcon on the PC side and MacPro on the Mac side.

    I guess what it comes down to is what programs are you going to run? Your computer is simply a tool that enables you to run software. For example, I am not that familiar with MetaStock, but if you can trade off of MetaStock or if I wanted to make TradeStation your main platform, you would need to get a PC (Falcon IMO).

    If you are going to use ThinkorSwim with Investools and ProphetCharts you can use a Mac.

    Bottomline...Have I made my mind up yet? Nope. Not yet. Still mulling this over and will need to look at eSignal and MetaStock to see if I will need those and if so, do I need them running natively.

    OK. Your turn. Fire away!
  14. SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604


    Jul 4, 2008
    Silicon Valley
    Get a Mac.

    Why? You have more options with a Mac than with a PC. Software wise, you can virtualize Windows on any Intel Mac or natively boot into Windows with Boot Camp. Therefore, you have Windows and Mac. Why spend so much (I'm hearing 4 figures) on a PC when you can get a Mac that runs both OSs?

    Also, some poster talked about the nonexistent Apple tax. Needless to say, there is no Apple tax. My MacBook Pro cost less than a similar Dell notebook configured to a lesser spec. Oh, and that isn't even factoring in the superior design, LCD panel, multi touch trackpad and real 7-hour battery on a MBP, not some big battery protruding out on the back.
  15. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    +1 complete ripoff. You don't need that kind of power to access the internet. It will make no difference what so ever.

    I can understand needing/wanting multiple monitors but all the ram and powerful graphics cards are not necessary.
  16. topgun072003 macrumors 6502


    Sep 11, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    Am I missing something here? I've never seen people comparing benchmarks to check to see if their trading software will compute faster. I feel like you're confusing computer speed with internet speed. (A lot of people do this) I've seen people walk up to spec'd out Mac Pro and say, "This computer is soo slow!" But they're strictly talking about the internet speed based on a bad connection.

    I feel like you think a maxed out computer is the key to trading. I'd be more concerned with internet speed because that's where your information is coming from. The quicker that you have the information, the quicker that you can make decisions. 12GB of RAM is useless to the power of the Bad Internet Monster!
  17. phoobo macrumors regular

    Sep 13, 2008
    Agree - Trading Software requires very little processing power

    Trading graphics are very rudimentary and constitute only a minimal load on a system; just get the multiple monitors -- but processing power and extra ram won't help you much for trading software. It's just a string of numbers -- and for the computer it's a *very short* string of, at the most, a few dozen per second flowing in, even with hundreds of trading vehicles open and running. It's practically zero for the machine.
  18. striatedglutes macrumors 6502

    Feb 22, 2009
    I'm looking into this same issue, but I will most likely be going with a 17" macbook pro (for various reasons) and external monitor (30"?) with my old PC as a backup machine. As far as screen space goes, 1920x1200 + 2560x1600 should be better than/equal to a triple (3840x1024) / quad (2560x2048) head 1280x1024 setup, no?

    Honestly, I think a SSD hard drive will be your biggest/safest "no beachball" insurance. And like your hard drive, latency of your internet connection (not raw speed tests) will be your biggest factor of whether or not something feels "slow" on a regular basis.
  19. jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    IB's software is Java-based, NOT JavaScript. That said, it should still run on the Mac (haven't tried it yet - I run it on a PC.)

    I think you have a few concerns that are moot unless you are doing true high-frequency trading. You aren't, because you don't have a co-located server at one of the exchanges... and, yes, I've done high-frequency development and trading, though it was a few year ago when it was just getting started, so my comments are informed by that experience.

    I wouldn't worry about 8GB vs 16GB of RAM - the former is WAY more than you need. Ditto, RAID 0 - your disk access needs are minimal. You don't have data coming in nearly fast enough to worry about disk speed, or even processor speed for that matter.

    If you are concerned about outages, a couple of suggestions: use a 3-drive rotating clone backup solution. Get two sledless removable SATA docks. Do a weekly clone of your hard drive. BOOT from the latest backup (rotating the original to an on-site fire safe, and the previous to an off-site location) after it is made. Do your backups off-line (with Windows NOT running) from a live CD, small Linux or DOS partition loaded with backup software, etc. If you do have a failure, you are up in < 5 minutes. Use a good UPS. Have a Honda generator handy. Practice emergency recovery to make sure it works. (Funny stuff with Windows drive-letter renaming sometimes when you clone a drive with multiple filesystems/drive letters.)

    You don't need a fancy high-end graphics card, yet you have little choice but to use one. The problem is getting multiple heads on one card - only high-end fancy graphics cards tend to support that. Matrox does have some cards targeted to the financial industry, however. But my cynical view is you'll just pay more for a card with a seriously out-of-date chipset...

    Running Windows 7 in a VM might well be practical. The advantage is a more protected/protectable Windows environment. (e.g. you can easily snapshot/rollback when installing new software or updates).

    A bit off-topic, but somebody else mentioned it - you don't even need particularly high bandwidth, unless you are screening an insane number of stocks. (We used to screen 5000 in real-time.) What you do need, if you are to gain some advantage from "speed" is low latency. And you won't get it without the aforementioned co-located server and direct feeds from the exchanges and ECNs. So fugeddaboutit. If you are a coast or even a half-country away from NY there's nothing you are going to do with your trading computer to make up for the greater latency.
  20. striatedglutes macrumors 6502

    Feb 22, 2009
    And depending on your situation and what kind of trading you do, the difference between 200ms and 10ms may not even matter.
  21. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Jan 6, 2007
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    If it does you are not a home trader. My investment targets are usually a month or longer, so smartphones work just fine for me even though I have big bad setups at home and work.

    I would get the cheapest machine that can handle your desired monitor requirements.
  22. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    If you think you need a system without viruses and MP is within your budget, then get it.
  23. mw12a macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2009
    **Sonofa***** :mad:

    I just spent 15 minutes typing a really long reply, and when I hit submit, I had been auto-logged out, and lost all of it. :mad:

    I'm not doing that again, so here is the short(-ish) version instead. Please note that since you haven't settled on a trading provider, and haven't stated what type of trader you are, then there's only so far that we can go with specific advice.

    I've been trading for a living for several years. Started out with Mac Pro, now have dedicated trading PC. Here are my specs;

    CPU: Q9550 2.83GHz quad-core
    Mem: 2GB
    Graphics: 8600GT dual-DVI
    Monitors: Dual 1920x1200
    Hard Drive: doesn't matter, anything will do.

    Trading on a Mac is just not your best option. Trading in a Virtual Machine is asking for trouble, and limiting yourself to platforms that run natively on the Mac is unnecessarily restrictive.

    They key to my setup is that I use the trading PC only for trading. I don't even run a browser on it. No anti-virus, no email, no IM, no web browser. Just the programs I need to trade. That reduces the chances of another program competing for system resources, and also minimizes the risk of getting a virus. A lean and mean dedicated trading machine.

    I use my Mac Pro for everything else, including market research, etc. Keep it all off your trading PC.

    With this setup, my trading PC can easily handle busy market times - CPU rarely get's above 30%, and my memory usage is a constant 1GB. I run Tradestation, Ninjatrader, and sometimes Interactive Broker's TWS, along with two data feeds. Network bandwidth hits 1-2Mbps during market open and close, but usually only for a minute or so. More importantly, my PC remains responsive at all times.

    So bottom line advice is this - get a quad core PC with 4GB memory and a dual-DVI video card (get a cheap one, you don't need much power, we're not playing video games). Put a clean install of Windows 7 on it, and only install the programs you need for trading. Get two of the biggest (resolution-wise, not size-wise) monitors you can afford. Screen real estate is everything.

    Then get a third monitor and hook it up to one of your mac laptops (or get a mac mini), and use that for all of your non-trading stuff, including market research, excel spreadsheets, etc.

    If you are comfortable building your own PC, you can get all of the parts for around $600. Use the rest of the $$ you were going to blow on a high end box on more monitors instead. Super fast CPUs/memory/hard drives are just not going to make a difference here.

    Let me know if you need more specific recommendations.
  24. striatedglutes macrumors 6502

    Feb 22, 2009
    While I absolutely agree, I'd like to open discussion more about it. Specifically, if anyone has done this and what your experiences were with specific details (which version of which VM, which OS, which trading platform, what kind of system resources did you allocate to the VM, etc). Again, is it a question of 200ms vs. 500ms, or general stability, or what?

    I like the idea of a sole trading computer, but I'd imagine using a VM as just that -- clean windows install with only a single needed trading platform running. I used to have this setup on my hackintosh, but it's been so long that VMs have gotten better since, and I'd hate to base my opinion on the ancient past.

    Personally, I'm interested in a MBP solution for portability "just in case."
  25. mw12a macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2009
    My experience was on a quad-core Mac Pro, with VMWare Fusion v2.x, running Win XP with 2GB and 2 cpus allocated to the VM. I had video glitches with Ninjatrader (horizontal lines through graphs), and pauses in Tradestation during busy market times. I never figured out what the problem was with the hangs, but my hunch was that the VM wasn't keeping up with the data feed when the market got really busy.

    Haven't tried with the latest Fusion v3.x. As I said in the previous post, I just moved to a dedicated trading pc and haven't looked back.

    As a backup, though, and for a trader that is less active than I was at the time, it would probably work OK. Certainly if you are swing trading and placing limit orders/stops, etc, then you would probably be fine. I was scalping, so needed it to be more responsive.

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