Optimizing the 2008 2.8 MacPro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by mingus51, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. mingus51 macrumors member

    Jan 16, 2008

    After being punished for my patience by NOT buying the 2.8 2008 MacPro and waiting for the new 2009 models, only to find out (in my opinion) the price/value for music production is no longer in Apple's best interest...I was able to secure a refurb 2.8 Octo MacPro (2008) for a decent price.
    This however, came with some drawbacks.
    320 gig drive
    2 gig ram
    ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB (two dual-link DVI ports)

    I want to defer to you guys to get advice on how to go about upgrading this system, keeping in mind 98% of what I will do with this computer is run Cubase/Ableton and soft synths.

    1. Should I invest in a new Graphics card? If so, what's the best one I can get for this 2008 technology. Am I not able to hop on the new wave of ATI (4890) cards or can I? Should I? I have 2x24" VGA monitors so I'm not real interested in this minidisplay port thing b/c I'm not buying an Apple Monitor in the distant future.

    2. Is 320 GIGs a good enough hard drive if I go with the strategy of only keeping applications on here? Seems big enough but I'm almost stuffed to the gills with the same strategy on my 160gig MBpro. I'm reluctant to replace an OS drive and go through the re-install process, or am I just chicken?

    3. Definitely need more Ram. OWC looks like the store. Anyone using a MacPro as a DAW know what the sweet spot is for RAM? 8 Gig total? More? Less?

    It feels so good to finally have purchased the RIGHT computer vs. stressing out about Apple's future pricing scenarios, upgrade path, and what if any benefit I'd see with Nehalem and SL. I just want to get to making music with a reliable computer that doesn't cost over $5k (once optimized)

    However, I've also been reading almost every topic on this forum and the discussions here have made me less than sure-footed on what I should do with the Video card, etc. given some recent upgrades in technology.

    Thanks everyone for your opinion and suggestions.

  2. -js- macrumors regular


    Jul 30, 2008
    Southern California
    I also just bought a dual quad 2.8GHz 2008 MP, and I upgraded the hard drives to WD6400AAKS drives (2 of them), about $80 from newegg.

    You don't need a better video card, I don't think, but if you really must upgrade, Apple sells the NVidia 8800 here. That's one option, and it is a card that was made for this exact computer.

    As for RAM from OWC, I decided to go with 4GB DIMM's to leave as much option for future RAM increases. I got an extra 8GB for $250 or so from OWC, and 10GB seems to be a good amount of memory for what my wife does with photoshop right now, but I will add another 8GB in 6 months or so. More than 16GB is probably reaching a point of diminishing returns, so 18GB will be good for a while to come, I think.
  3. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    The graphics card you have is fine and very quiet.

    As for drives, you might want to think about putting an SSD in for the boot drive. I have a lot of apps and a 64GB will do me just fine.
  4. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Jan 6, 2007
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    I currently use two 2600s with four monitors, and find them to be just fine. Occasionally spaces drags a tiny bit.

    I use logic in a heavy-handed way that results in a lot of RAM use. These days, I would start with 4GB sticks and maybe upgrade two a time. The difference on OWC between 4x2gb and 2x4gb is only $55.

    I currently use a 6400AAKS as a boot drive, and I am thinking about striping a second or getting a prodrive (velociraptors and ssds are a little light on the space size for me). Whatever you, take advantage of cheap RAM and cheap HDDs and start filling up bays for both... I would wait on the graphics unless you find them unacceptable.
  5. ZunePod macrumors regular

    Apr 1, 2009
    If I were you, I'd either use the 320GB one as a boot drive, and then upgrade on top of that. Or I would buy a small velociraptor as a boot drive, as these spin up real fast (get the 15kRPM one) and you get fast boot times.

    As for graphics, you can use up to 4.
  6. guavadude macrumors newbie

    Mar 12, 2009
    I do music as well and just picked up the octo 2.8 on the end of life deal.
    After tons of research, here's what I have done.

    Ram: you get a speed increase if you fill up all the ram slots with the same size chip. I went with 8x2gb for 16gb total from TransInt.com. You can keep the 2x1gb chips or sell them. I think 8gb is the minimum if you're using lots of VI's and samples. 16gb should be sweet when the software loses it's ram limits.

    I have found that I never have enough drive space and every time I think I do, I outgrow it.
    I also wanted a 32mb cache on all drives since I think this really helps with audio.
    I also have lots of large sound libraries and several of them use Kontakt and streaming.

    I bought 4-1tb WD blacks from Amazon for $103 each. The 640gb drives were $10 less. I already have several 750gb ext drives for bu, so I went with the Terabyte drives to leave some room. Lots of room.

    I read somewhere that "zero-ing out" the drives when formatting takes longer, but is better and if you have a problem with a drive, hopefully it will show up then.
    That's what I did....it takes about 2.5hrs per drive. This is in the security options when using Disk Utility.

    drive 1-startup
    I know lots of people say use a really fast boot up drive, but I've never been bothered by the few extra seconds at startup....gives me time to drink my coffee. I keep iTunes and all other non project audio here also.

    Drive 2-audio projects
    I have never had a problem streaming audio and video from the same drive. Some people recommend splitting this up. But if I haven't had any trouble with an 8mb cache, I think I'll be fine with a 32mb cache.

    Drive 3-sounds
    Sound libraries for streaming and loops. I think it's important to separate the streaming and project audio.

    Drive 4-Internal bu
    I think I'm going to use this as a software mirror raid of Drive 2. That way I never have to worry about backing up the projects. I may also partition this and use as an OS backup clone using Super Duper. Or I'll back up my sys on an external.

    I will not be using Time Machine. It seems really cool and the graphics are groovy, but you can't use it as a startup disk so that rules it out as an OS backup. Also I have never needed to go "back" to anything since I'm always keeping revisions as a separate sequence and my project drive will always be doubled.

    I also have several ext drives that I will use to backup sounds drive, which usually doesn't change very often.

    I'm going to use the stock 320gb as a separate system clone that I keep for emergencies. That way I can just slap it in and go.

    Video: I'm keeping the stock 2600 card which already is an upgrade from the one that was in my Dual G5, and I never had a problem with that.
    If I add another card for a 3rd monitor, I'm going to get the 3870 or another 2600. The 4870 seems like overkill and is noisier. You have to be aware of wattage power draw if you are adding other audio cards.

    Updating the OS:
    There was a problem using software update on the OS. On some updates (10.5.6, Safari 3.2.1 and the latest Security update) it would freeze on "configuring installer". I googled and found that this has happened quite a bit. Start up in "safe boot" mode by holding shift when starting and then do your installs, using installers that you have downloaded yourself from Apples site. I don't think this is necessary for every little update, but I will do it from here on out of system and major app updates. Also if it gets stuck on updating, delete everything from the Library/Updates folder.

    Migration Assistant: Since I moved my world over from Tiger 10.4.11, I used Migration Assistant. I have way too many apps and custom prefs to have to install each one again. I was surprised at how well it worked, be sure to use your old computer in firewire target mode. I read where trying to do it over ethernet would choke. I think MA is much better than it used to be. BE SURE when installing the OS on the new drive to setup a generic admin user. You can't migrate your old user into the new one, you can only move it over as a new user, so you won't want to have two that are the same name same password. This is different than how it used to be!!

    I also had an issue with spotlight getting stuck. I could write a whole book about this. Use the privacy settings in the spotlight sys prefs and have it ignore your user and other drives. After it has scanned your system, which shouldn't take very long, you can get some work done. Then add the other drives and user to the database in downtime. Spotlight would keep getting stuck on my user folder. There's a great post on the apple.com forum where someone gives the terminal commands to fix the permissions. This helped. I'll have to find that link.

    Other than that you should be good to go. I wish I could say it was painless, but it wasn't. The locking up on the "configuring installer" and the spotlight issues shut me down and I spent many long nights trying to make it go away. Only after tons of googling and calling apple tech support was I able to get it sorted out.

    Now it's a thing of beauty. So much more fun to write when the box is smoking right along. The 2.8's cpus are hardly even working so I can't see outgrowing this anytime soon. Hoping that Snow Leopard takes advantage of the cores and opens up the ram and I should be good to go.

    ps. don't do this in the middle of a project with a deadline!!!!

    good luck
  7. -js- macrumors regular


    Jul 30, 2008
    Southern California
    Using migration assistant is asking for bad mojo. I used it at first, and didn't even transfer applications (!), but there was still flakiness and problems with photoshop crashing. So, I started with a clean install of OS X and then ported things over manually, having mirrored the 2nd drive with CCC. It was more work, but not that much more, and everything has worked flawlessly since. Well . . . except for one glitch in iTunes, but that was only once, and now with 8.1.1 I'm betting they fixed the bugginess.

    Anyway, I would suggest NOT using migration assistant. I know it's convenient, but it seems to be asking for trouble. I've read this online in a number of places, too, but I tried it anyway and found out that, yes, it's not the best choice for transfering your stuff from one Mac to another. YMMV, of course.
  8. crazeazn macrumors member

    Mar 20, 2009
    i upgraded the boot drive to a velociraptor and tossed in 8 gigs of ram. that seems to the two areas where everybody attacks in some form or fashion.
  9. tamvly macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2007
    I bought six sticks of 1GB ram from OWC. Regret that I did not go with 2 or 4 GB sticks instead. I can always get more.

    I bought two 500 GB WD RE3 disks and installed as disk 2 and disk 3.

    I moved OS X to disk 2 and boot from it.

    I moved my user home folder to disk 3 as well as the iTunes library (previously separated from home).

    Installed Windows XP on the second half disk of disk 1. Keeping the Mac OS on disk 1 as fail safe until I am sure the new disks are settled in and reliable.

    When Windows 7 comes out I'll install it on the first half of disk 1.

    I wanted reliability, too, so I back everything up to a 500GB firewire drive. DVD backups of home that I send off site. I am ignoring TimeMachine for now as I back up manually using SuperDuper two or three times a week. But there is room for another disk plus the space in the second optical bay.

    Hope this helps.
  10. jons macrumors 6502

    Apr 24, 2008
    1. Don't worry about your video card.

    2. I would worry more about your scratch disk speed, although a really fast boot drive would be nice. Look at the 640GB drives from WD and Seagate, they are two platter designs and are super fast. Alternatively you could grab a WD Velociraptor for your boot drive.

    3. Newegg has 800MHz 4GB kits for like 90 bucks. I have purchased several kits, and they all work great.
  11. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    He's using Live and CuBase... Sure if memory is so cheap then why not but you don't need more then 8GB for those apps. I have some pretty heavy comps and 8GB isn't even used. Now if you're going to have a web browser with 50 tabs, photoshop with a multiple 12megapixel images, and ALSO run live and CuBase all at the same time then you might see some hits with only 8GB.

    Anyway I guess at $100 for 4GM sticks go ahead and go wild... it certainly can't hurt! ;)

    PS: I just purchased memory 2 weeks ago and 2x2GB was available for $90 but 4GB sticks were several times that price.

    Congrats on the new Mac BTW... :)

  12. Genghis Khan macrumors 65816

    Genghis Khan

    Jun 3, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    1. A new graphics card will make things run smoother. But I'm not sure how graphic intensive sound editing is. The 2600 started stuttering for me when i was working with a 200MB Rhino file (3d modelling), so now i'm looking for an upgrade.

    2. 320GB should be fine for applications...but it's not that hard to create a new base drive. However, I think you know you'll need lots of other storage for your files.

    3. The sweet spot for RAM is having all of the ram slots full...and 2GB chips seem to be the smallest you can get, so 16Gb is what you want
  13. robotartfashion macrumors 6502

    Jan 1, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    i have 4 drives installed

    1 - boot drive, i took this and replaced it with a 640 gb caviar black i had laying around

    i used Carbon Copy Cloner for mac which is freeware and excellent at what it does, it will make an exact copy of the drive, then just select it as the drive to boot from, yank the 320, and replace it with something larger

    2 - 1 tb caviar black, this is my photoshop projects drive, (photographer, that's why i got the mac pro

    3 - 2 tb wd green drive, this is backup for all my ripped media for my mini w/plex

    4 - 1 tb wd green drive - time machine

    i then use some external enclosures as well

    congrats and enjoy it!
  14. sboerup macrumors 6502

    Mar 8, 2009
    On any modern computer, your biggest bottleneck is your Hard Disk. Upgrading to atleast a 6400aaks drive should be minimum. Velociraptor isn't worth it IMO, a SSD is.

    You can NEVER have too much RAM. Definitely get atleast 2gb more (4gb total), but filling all of the RAM bays will maximize the speed potential. I mainly do photo and graphics work, using 16GB is very nice, I'll never ever need more than 8gb :)

    Your video card should be the last thing upgraded as you'll see minor improvements, but that all depends on what applications you are running.

    Adding extra PCI cards for: USB, eSATA and other things will help with connectivity and devices if you have a lot.
  15. Pressure macrumors 68040


    May 30, 2006
    As others have said, the two single most important things that will give you a perceivable performance increase are the amount of ram installed and the kind of harddrive used.

    So you are either looking at 8 x 1GB or 8 x 2GB ram to hit the sweet spot and fill up all those ram slots.

    You will want a fast boot drive for Mac OS X and applications and a scratch drive for everything else.

    I can honestly recommend spending the initial high cost of either the Intel X25-M or the OCZ Vertex solid state drives as boot drives. They will give you a whole new perception of how the computing experience should be.

    Mind you, I have only used the Intel X25-M, so I am just relaying information I have read elsewhere about the OCZ Vertex.

    This article is a very good place to start: Anandtech - The SSD Anthology: Understanding SSDs and New Drives from OCZ
  16. -js- macrumors regular


    Jul 30, 2008
    Southern California
    People keep saying that you should have all your RAM slots full, but I've read the opposite. 4 slots full is the best for speed, not 8. Where are people getting this 8-slots-full-is-best info?
  17. lannister80 macrumors 6502


    Apr 7, 2009
  18. dazz macrumors newbie

    Mar 26, 2009
    I got the same MP 2 weeks ago, great machine.
    Filled it up with 8 on top of the 2, maybe later I will add more. I use Logic and VSL, so RAM is important.
    The sales girl adviced me not to go for the 8800, and actually I think I'm fine with the standard card.
    I don't do games or heavy rendering, and it all works fine. I do a bit of FCE too.
    I have a 640 system, and 2 extra 640's WD BC, one for audio/songs, one for samples.
    SSD for system sounds nice, I'm looking into that, but hate the thought of having to re-install all the stuff again.
    Only thing that lacks now is a time machine drive, I'm still looking for the most reliable drive.
    Heard good and bad about Lacie. WD Mybooks don't look too pro for me. Anybody a tip?
  19. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    Probably misinformation from barefeats. Except where specifically specified they take unverified user benchmarks and post them as fact. Lots of misleading info there.

    But I think it's 4 and 8. I think both get the quad-channel access that makes it so fast. 2 or 6 are slower. Is that wrong?

    I'm not sure about the new 2009 macs yet tho. There's something about 1 DIMM being able to do 1333 but 3 DIMMs and maybe 6 too, are optimal it's tri-channel access.

    EDIT: And then I read down and sure enough - someone posts a link to barefeats. LOL
  20. mlankton macrumors newbie


    Mar 30, 2009
    I went with Barefeats measurements that showed highest throughput with all slots filled. I kept the two 1gb sticks and added six Mushkin 2gb sticks for 14 gb total.

    For anyone thinking about a ram upgrade on a 2008, Mushkin fb-dimms have 7 heat sink fins like Transintl and OWC, but Mushkin ram is a premium brand, and all the Mushkin sticks I've seen used either Micron or Elpida modules. I paid roughly the same price for Mushkin as I would have for generic ram from Trans or OWC. My Mushkin sticks run anywhere from 10-12 degrees fahrenheit cooler than the oem Hynix ram. Available direct from Mushkin or on Newegg.

    The 2600 is a good card, a little long in the tooth if you are a game or benchmark freak. The 4870 or 4890 is an upgrade I will make, but later when prices have come down a little.

    The 320gb oem drive in mine is a WD 7200rpm, 8mb cache. I don't know how much difference 16mb or 32mb cache would make, but I will probably go that way just to get a larger drive. My external backup drive is 1tb, and I don't like that idea that my external is bigger than my internal. I would like to run a striped RAID, but 2x the possibility of catastrophic failure is a bit of a deterent, and I don't know that the real world benefits of a 2 disk striped RAID would justify the expense and the increased potential for failure. Velociraptors are, in my experience, too loud for a Mac. At least for my mac.

    I am intensely satisfied with my 2008 octo, and while I will keep this computer for 5 years, it's nice to be somewhere in the neighborhood of the bleeding edge again after 4 1/2 years with my dual 2.0 G5.
  21. ekwipt macrumors 6502a

    Jan 14, 2008
    So starting off I have the same computer but I use Logic Studio:

    I'll compress:

    16Gb of Ram is the optimal setting for the 2008 Macpro (you probably wont notice the difference between 16Gb or 8Gb though)

    OCZ Vertex Mac Edition
    would be the fastest drive you could get as a boot drive for the Macpro, but only if you plan on buying extra drives for your samples and backup

    Seagate 7200.12 1Tb or WD Caviar Black 640 is the best drives you can buy for samples

    If you can afford it get another Seagate or WD for project files

    I doubt a faster video card would make that much of a difference for DAW software but I have a Nvidia 8800GT in my Macpro, the new ATI 4870 is a little bit faster, but i prefer Nvidia products personally
  22. -js- macrumors regular


    Jul 30, 2008
    Southern California
    That sort of contradicts the review on anandtech, though:

    Link: page 2 of FB-DIMM Anandtech discussion

    But, either way, the problem with filling all 8 slots with lower density memory is that in the future when you want to increase the memory, you are paying more, depending on how much the cost changes.

    At this point, I don't imagine FB-DIMM's will be getting much cheaper. We're probably at the low point of the inverted gaussian of memory cost vs. time. So, for myself, I plan on steadily increasing my memory over the next year or so, until I max it out, or possibly I may stop at 26 GB, leaving the two 1GB FB-DIMMs installed.

    A 10 or 15 percent speed increase doesn't much concern me either way.
  23. mingus51 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 16, 2008
    My baby arrived yesterday and she's gorgeous.
    Also, though the website said iLife 08, they actually included the disk for iLife 09, which I thought was a nice touch (and an $80 savings)
    OWC, sent me 3x 1TB drives (Caviar Black) and 6 x 2gig of Ram. So I'll have all eight slots filled totalling 14 gigs of Ram.

    Thanks everyone for your input and comments and if I could maybe stir the pot one last time:

    I'm chomping at the bit to just turn this puppy on and go. Is there any advice or tips on things I should do BEFORE installing software? I heard zero'ing the hard drives. I'll know to update to the most recent OS. Is there a lot to be gained by re-installing the whole OS? (Does Apple put a lot of bloatware on their systems?)
    Should I install hardware first (I'll have a firewire sound card and a ton of USB controllers)
    Anything else I should do first and foremost before I get too deep in loading audio apps and samples, etc.

    Thanks again everyone. Could NOT have done this without ya!
  24. -js- macrumors regular


    Jul 30, 2008
    Southern California
    Right off the bat I'd reformat the main drive and reinstall the OS from the install discs. You could zero the free space if you really wanted, but you will have to wait for a few hours for that process to finish, and I think it's overkill. I do think there is some reason to take the time to reinstall the OS yourself from the install disc, but you won't end up with a different OS--Apple doesn't bloat their OS in any install--although if you wanted you could do a custom install and turn off the language support for all the languages you will never use, and the same for the printer drivers, but given how cheap disc space is these days, I'd say just do the standard install.

    Then I'd say, stay away from migration assistant if you really want the most stable, most pure system. Port stuff over manually. So, first, create a new account on the machine right after the OS installs. And register it using your Apple ID, or create a new Apple ID and register it.

    Then, before doing anything else, just keep running the software update and restarting and etc. until it tells you your software is up to date.

    Then, install all your other software, including iLife '09, and run the updates for the other software, if appropriate (Photoshop and Office both have updater programs, for example).

    Then port over your data. The easiest way to do this is to image your old computers hard drive onto one of your new drives you will install into the MP, and then transfer your stuff over. You'll need to be sure to set the permissions for the entire set of stuff so that you can read and write it, though.

    Then test drive the system to ensure that you have no bugs or problems. If you hold down the "D" key at startup, you will get the Apple Hardware Test program and you can do either a quick, or a long (hour or two) test of the hardware. Just make sure that no extra stuff is attached, like external harddrives or USB peripherals or what not.

    Anyway, once you've verified that everything is working as it should with no problems, start upgrading the hardware. I think its' safe to drop in the RAM and harddrives from the get-go, but I would do wait and do other stuff at this point in the flow.

    Just my two cents. YMMV.
  25. kudukudu macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2007
    I went with 4 x 2 = 8 GB on my machine. When I was researching how much RAM to get I remember coming across these two tidbits:

    1. Only fill 4 slots of the same size modules to minimize memory latency
    2. Fill all 8 slots of the same size modules to maximize memory bandwidth

    If these conclusions are correct then it obviously depends on what you are going to use your machine for.

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