NVMe for Mac Pro 5,1

Lauwie

macrumors regular
Jun 17, 2011
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Hey guys !

I'm currently working on modifying the Mac Pro's EFI to support booting from NVMe drives.
The actual implementing isn't so hard if I don't run into any surprises. But it will take some as you get massive headaches from reading hex.
I'll return here when I've found a safe way to flash the Mac Pro without bricking it, and I'll release the source code as well.

Hope a lot of people are interested in this project :)
I think it'll increase the Mac Pro's life span even more !
 

mikeboss

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Aug 13, 2009
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very interesting project! I wish you good luck ;)

what about an OS X compatible EFI for PC motherboards? that would be interesting, too...
 

SoyCapitanSoyCapitan

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Jul 4, 2015
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Paris
Hey guys !

I'm currently working on modifying the Mac Pro's EFI to support booting from NVMe drives.
The actual implementing isn't so hard if I don't run into any surprises. But it will take some as you get massive headaches from reading hex.
I'll return here when I've found a safe way to flash the Mac Pro without bricking it, and I'll release the source code as well.

Hope a lot of people are interested in this project :)
I think it'll increase the Mac Pro's life span even more !
Absolutely pointless and won't increase the cMP's lifespan one bit. SATA 2, 3 and PCIE SSD disk speed limits have already been reached in the in the cMP and there is no sign of x8 storage devices on the horizon.

The only devices that are going to increase the lifespan of the cMP from this point forward is GPU upgrades (up to a point) and USB 3.1 if Apple issues a compatible driver.
 

SoyCapitanSoyCapitan

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Jul 4, 2015
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NVMe SSDs have lower latencies. plus, it definitely can't hurt to have more choices, does it?
That latency is sooooo small and only improve certain scenariis. Would it improve anyone's work? This is the question to ask before taking a risk on a newer firmware hack.
 

Draeconis

macrumors 6502a
May 6, 2008
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Hey guys !

I'm currently working on modifying the Mac Pro's EFI to support booting from NVMe drives.
The actual implementing isn't so hard if I don't run into any surprises. But it will take some as you get massive headaches from reading hex.
I'll return here when I've found a safe way to flash the Mac Pro without bricking it, and I'll release the source code as well.

Hope a lot of people are interested in this project :)
I think it'll increase the Mac Pro's life span even more !
Do we know it's a limitation in EFI or a hardware issue?

I guess if motherboard manufacturers can issue firmware updates it should be possible in theory, you're a brave man!

Is there a reliable way to restore firmware versions if the flash doesn't go your way, or will you have bricked it permanently?
 

Lauwie

macrumors regular
Jun 17, 2011
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Do we know it's a limitation in EFI or a hardware issue?

I guess if motherboard manufacturers can issue firmware updates it should be possible in theory, you're a brave man!

Is there a reliable way to restore firmware versions if the flash doesn't go your way, or will you have bricked it permanently?
It's an EFI issue, I have done a lot of reading and brainstorming with fellow students over the problem. We were able to flash the bios of an Asus x58 motherboard to support NVMe.

If the flashing goes bad you'll end up with a bricked Mac unless you know how to (and dare) replace the EFI chips.

You'll definitely notice a speed improvement over AHCI, NVMe's command queuing is massive and 4Kb performance is light years better, it's not only about IOPS and MB/s.

In reading through the EFI firmware files (massive headaches from reading hex) we discovered we could be able to add thunderbolt add in card support, but we're not sure if the EFI ROM is large enough to hold the required code and this would be a lot more work.
So my focus atm will be on adding NVMe support to the EFI and making sure I deliver a safe and fail proof way to flash the EFI :)
 

mikeboss

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AFAIK, adding Thunderbolt is not only a question of the firmware but also depends on the chipset used on the main logic board. if I'm not completely misinformed, it is impossible to add Thunderbolt to our beloved classic Mac Pros because of the X58 chipset.
 
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MacVidCards

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Nov 17, 2008
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Go for it. When I first started posting that I had figured out how to mod EFI for GTX480 to make it boot and run like a real Mac card, nobody believed me.

There are now thousands of our cards around the globe keeping Macs current, despite Apple's best efforts to turn them into obsolete junk before their time.

Some years back I corresponded with someone trying to put EFI64 on the 1,1. He had removed the main EEPROM and put a socket in, thus never any danger of bricking. If you find a socket I can install it for you, Gratis. Would be an honor to help with your efforts.

People who sit on a couch and say a mountain is too tall to climb are the ones who never get there. Good luck, your work could possibly help in other ways too.
 

mikeboss

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Aug 13, 2009
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it should be possible to restore the Mac Pro from an unsuccessful attempt to flash the EFI with the firmware restoration CD provided by Apple -> https://support.apple.com/kb/DL976?locale=en_US

according to the documentation, this CD will restore the EFI of a MacPro4,1. I expect this to work on a MacPro5,1 also, as long as there's a supported CPU on the processor tray. of course I've never tried this. this CD only works if the EFI is damaged. so one would have to abort the flashing process deliberately in order to achieve this...
 
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flehman

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Feb 21, 2015
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People who sit on a couch and say a mountain is too tall to climb are the ones who never get there. Good luck, your work could possibly help in other ways too.
This. Who cares if it will or won't improve performance in scenario X or Y or Z. Sometimes you take on a project for the fun of it, just to see if it can be done. And in the process you might learn something and you might teach us something. Some fascinating scientific discoveries are the result of mistakes, accidents, etc. and were wholly unrelated to the original experiment being conducted. Don't pay attention to someone who just wants to pi$$ all over a project that interests you.
 

Lauwie

macrumors regular
Jun 17, 2011
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Thank you so much for all the support !!
This weekend I won't be able to work on it as much as I have midterms next week.
And MacVidcards thanks for EEPROM tip ;)
 

Lauwie

macrumors regular
Jun 17, 2011
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Do you have a GitHub account?

It might help to get some collaboration to put your stuff up there.
I'm doing this for bonus points at my uni together with a fellow student so I'm afraid I won't be able to let other people collaborate sorry
 

bokkow

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May 3, 2012
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Yep, that is exactly what it would mean. NVMe is the future for SSD's, even though the bandwidth of the PCI-e slots in our Mac Pro's may already be saturated (at least with current PCI-e x4 cards) it could mean that there is still headroom for IOPS :)
 

flowrider

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Nov 23, 2012
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^^^^The Card h9826790 referenced in his post is an 8 lane card PCIe 3.0 card. It's available in unbelievable capacities - 1.6TB, 3.2TB and 4.0 TB. Things are moving very fast in the blade storage category:eek:

And updates like this are the very reason the nMP will be obsolete much quicker than the cMP was. Updates are still available for the old architecture of the cMP but with the tom foolery architecture of the nMP, update opportunities are very limited.

Lou
 
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