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z970

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Jun 2, 2017
3,583
4,469
So I figured I would take a brief break from reFlash, Sorbet Leopard, and the rest of life to share with everyone how to easily upgrade their PCIe G5's graphics to one of the best cards available (and not for $100+; applemacanix I'm looking at you), since this was something I did regularly earlier this year for eBay. Also, I don't think this process is documented enough, and certainly not many have taken advantage of it.

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0. If the G5 is on Tiger, install the official drivers provided by ATI in advance. If it is running (Sorbet) Leopard, no action is required. Ensure that a Mac-specific 6-pin PCIe power cable is available for use (if not, one can be found here).

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1. Buy this ATI Radeon X1900 GT on eBay for $25 (not my listing, and they ship internationally). In the event it is ever sold out or taken offline, several others can usually be had for similar prices.

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2. While waiting for the card to arrive, use balenaEtcher to restore an image of FreeDOS onto a spare USB thumb drive at least 1 GB in size (I recommend choosing the 'FullUSB' download).

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3. Download ATIFlash 4.07 from TechPowerUp (you will need to click the 'Show older versions' button to see it). Now download the X1900 GT Mac Edition firmware from The Mac Elite (available at the bottom of the 'Original ATI PPC ROMs' list).

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4. Move 'atiflash.exe' to the root directory on your prepared FreeDOS thumb drive. Rename 'Radeon X1900 GT rev 109.rom' to 'x1900.rom', and move that to the same place.

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5. Install the aforementioned purchased card into a PCIe-enabled x86 PC. The X1900 GT itself can provide the video output from here on; using an additional PCI graphics card is not necessary. If the PC's power supply does not have a 6-pin PCIe power cable available, use this SATA to 6-pin PCIe power adapter instead.

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6. Plug the FreeDOS thumb drive in, and boot from it. Once it initializes, select your language, and choose 'Exit to DOS'.

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7. Enter the 'dir' command to see the contents of the current directory. You should see 'X1900.ROM' and 'ATIFLASH.EXE' listed.

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8. Enter 'atiflash -i' to see the adapter number of the installed X1900 GT, which is identifiable by the 'R580+' tag in the middle column. Usually, the adapter number to the far left of the 'R580+' will read '0', provided the card was installed to the PC's first (or only) PCIe x16 slot.

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9. Almost done now. If you want to backup the X1900's original ROM to the current directory, enter 'atiflash -s backup.rom'. Otherwise, enter the command 'atiflash -p -f 0 x1900.rom' (-p tells atiflash to program the card's ROM, -f tells it to force the program, 0 tells it which adapter to program, and x1900.rom is the ROM it should use to program the card with). Your screen may flicker for a couple of seconds. Afterward, it should tell you that the flash was successful, at which point use the 'shutdown' command to exit DOS and power down the machine.

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10. Remove the newly-flashed X1900 GT from the PC, and install it into the G5. Upon powering up, the card's fan should be much louder than it was before; this is normal behavior. If all went well, the Apple logo should come up, and you should now be in Mac OS X. Verify the GPU information via Graphics / Displays in System Profiler, and rejoice! You have successfully flashed a graphics card completely on your own, and now possess a Radeon X1900 GT Mac Edition for just a small fraction of what most people pay. :)

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In honor of this occasion, here is a 1600 x 1200 wallpaper to celebrate:

ati-radeon-x1900-series_1.jpg


Boot up a game (or a 3D modelling / 2D graphics suite of your choice), and enjoy. :cool:
 
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Nikolaosth

macrumors newbie
Oct 7, 2020
23
17
After booting with the flashed card does the fan slow down to normal ?
* edit
Can you use this flashed card with two 30 inch monitors at 2560*1600 each ?
 

r34per

macrumors member
Aug 31, 2020
92
117
After booting with the flashed card does the fan slow down to normal ?
* edit
Can you use this flashed card with two 30 inch monitors at 2560*1600 each ?
On mine i don't think it does, it sounds like the fans are on full blast all the time.I'd love to know if there's a way to spin down the fans. And you can use it with one on dvi, but vga has a lower max resolution- DVI: 2560 x 1600 / VGA: 2048 x 1536
 

Nikolaosth

macrumors newbie
Oct 7, 2020
23
17
there must be a way to slow down the fan so as not to spin at max all the time . Its not just noise thats the issue but the lifespan of the fan will be shortened . Noctua had these small cables , i think , to make fans silent by lowering the rpms of the fans .
 

z970

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Jun 2, 2017
3,583
4,469
@Nikolaosth No, the fan remains on full blast all the time. Still, there may be a way to lower the RPM if the ROM file was edited, although I have never heard of an X1900's fan dying due to overuse. In the extremely unlikely event this occurs though, replacement X1900 GT fans can also be found on eBay for a reasonable price.

If I remember correctly, it sounds rather comparable to how the GeForce 8800 GT sounded in an '08 Mac Pro. In any case, the massive improvement in graphical performance makes up for the noise, in my opinion.

As it is a 2 x dual-link DVI card, this card will indeed pull two 30" displays at 2560 x 1600 simultaneously. And I believe there is also an S-Video port present, as well.
 
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r34per

macrumors member
Aug 31, 2020
92
117
@Nikolaosth No, the fan remains on full blast all the time. Still, there may be a way to lower the RPM if the ROM file was edited, although I have never heard of an X1900's fan dying due to overuse. In the extremely unlikely event this occurs though, replacement X1900 GT fans can also be found on eBay for a reasonable price.

If I remember correctly, it sounds rather comparable to how the GeForce 8800 GT sounded in an '08 Mac Pro. In any case, the massive improvement in graphical performance makes up for the noise, in my opinion.

As it is a 2 x dual-link DVI card, this card will indeed pull two 30" displays at 2560 x 1600 simultaneously. And I believe there is also an S-Video port present, as well.

If you really want to reduce the speed, you could stick a resistor on the fan to bump the voltage down from 12v to 9v or lower. But yea, fans are generally pretty robust and as long as they run within their parameters can live a long life.
 
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Tratkazir_the_1st

macrumors 6502a
Feb 11, 2020
546
296
Russia, Moscow region
Got such card & reflashed it. Fans came to reasonable speed only after Mac OS loaded. (When booting Linux - fans at full power all the time. But Radeon support in PPC64 Linux is not good so replaced it with flashed 7800GT.)
 

Amethyst1

macrumors 604
Oct 28, 2015
7,360
8,420
OK apologies for dumb Q but isnt an HD 4850 a better bet... its supported by 10.5.8 ??
Not on PowerPC Macs… because OS X’s drivers for HD 2000-series and newer AMD GPUs are Intel only.
Same goes for NVIDIA 8000-series and newer GPUs.

You can use newer GPUs in Linux on PPC Macs though.
 
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sos_nz

macrumors member
Feb 11, 2022
36
29
Looking forward to giving this a go as soon as my x1900GT arrives (purchased from the link above).

Should be a nice boost (hopefully not too loud) in my restored Powermac G5 (A1177).
 

sos_nz

macrumors member
Feb 11, 2022
36
29
Nope...jut could not get this to work.

Purchased the exact same x1900GT off ebay. Problem is it powers up (fans running, lights on), but no video signal outputs from my PC (using a DVI to HDMI cable, since my monitor doesn't have DVI input).

If I use my usual video card, with the ATI in PCI-e slot 3, it's detected in the BIOS, but atiflash -i doesn't do anything - the cursor just hangs, blinking, but I never get a list of any ati cards.

I've tried Freedos as above, but can't find / get MS DOS 6.22 running on a USB
I've tried multiple versions of atiflash.exe from 3.15, up to 4.07 - no luck at all

My motherboard is an ASUS x470 PRIME, AMD 3700x CPU.

TLDR; I never even get to the stage of being able to flash the card, and the same thing happened with another x1900GT which came "thrown in" with the G5 from the last owner as a project they never got around to.

Something to do with my motherboard or BIOS? DVI to HDMI? FreeDOS instead of MSDOS? Hmmmm.....
 

sos_nz

macrumors member
Feb 11, 2022
36
29
Success!

Having failed with my current x470/3700x/UEFI PC, I tried an old 2009-era BIOS-based PC. It didn't work either initially, not posting. I thought the x1900GT itself may be bad, but swapping out a RAM stick and taking out a PCI-based wifi PCI card allowed the PC to boot with DVI output working from the x1900GT. It's good to have old gear lying around!

I then booted with a "Universal Boot CD", since for some reason the FreeDOS USB wouldn't boot. From there, I used ATIFlash v315 to identify the card and successfully flash it...wooohooo! The flashing process itself was so quick I was nervous - especially since it said "reboot to confirm flash", then the machine wouldn't post with the flashed card in situ.

So - I transferred the card to the G5, hooked up the 6-pin power cable, hooked up the DVI cable and....BINGO.

V. Happy.

In summary, my new ASUS motherboard wouldn't work. Either it's a problem with FreeDOS and/or atiflash wouldn't work on UEFI and/or for whatever reasons atiflash just couldn't see the card to flash it. To anyone else having a problem, you may need an older, circa. mid-2000's era PC to get this done i.e. BIOS based, not UEFI.
 

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mustagcoupe

macrumors regular
Jun 6, 2020
114
109
Good to hear you got it to work. I would guess some of the incompatibility is based on bios vs uefi. I think i remember reading somewhere that amd stripped out some backwards compatability stuff for either space or speed reasons. I recently flashed my own card and used a 2008ish motherboard and had no problems.

I found that i could not stand the fan on the card running full speed all the time, it made me not want to use the computer. I picked up one of those cheap generic fan controllers on ebay. The wires on the x1900 fan have the red and black reversed from normal, if you de-pin them from the connector and swap them you can use that fan with normal 3 pin fan controllers. The pitch of the fan conector is slighty finer than a standard 3 pin header but you can just pinch the 2 outer pins in a bit or bend them so they fit and it works fine. I chose to power mine using a molex splitter to 3 pin fan header off the optical drive. The fan controller i used can either temperature or manually control the speed of one fan. I chose the manual mode and hot glued the controller to the plastic shroud of the card so i can easily reach the button to change the speed and it wont short out on anything, you could also use one of the ones that goes in a pci slot with a knob to adjust the speed. This is the fan controller i used, it seems like a generic item you can get from a bunch of sellers. I hope this information helps someone.
Screenshot 2022-02-17 002644.jpg
 

sos_nz

macrumors member
Feb 11, 2022
36
29
For me, the fan isn't too loud. The G5 has quite good sound proofing and baffling. I don't use the G5 so much, and not for serious work or gaming. It's a working piece of Mac history for me, as one of the most powerful "classic" macs ever created. Of course that hasn't stopped me tricking it out with 16GB of RAM, an SSD, and now an x1900XT :)
 

sos_nz

macrumors member
Feb 11, 2022
36
29
Another question: what are you guys using to get from the dual link DVI of the x1900XT to a modern monitor without DVI-D input? My monitor only has 2 x HDMI 2.0 and 1 x DP 1.4, and is 144Hz/1440p capable.

My current cable (DVI-D to HDMI) has a maximum output of 1080p i.e. 1920x1080 resolution. If I set the display to 2560x1440 in OSX, the image becomes blurry and slightly garbled, suggesting a lack of dual link bandwidth.

EDIT: According the Blue Jeans cables, I might be out of luck:
 
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Amethyst1

macrumors 604
Oct 28, 2015
7,360
8,420
what are you guys using to get from the dual link DVI of the x1900XT to a modern monitor without DVI-D input?
Atlona AT-DP400
Dr. Bott Digital Video Link DL (clone of the Atlona AT-DP400)
Gefen GTV-DVIDL-2-MDP

My current cable (DVI-D to HDMI) has a maximum output of 1080p i.e. 1920x1080 resolution. If I set the display to 2560x1440 in OSX, the image becomes blurry and slightly garbled, suggesting a lack of dual link bandwidth.
What happens is "the world's most advanced operating system" happily tries outputting a dual-link mode over a single-link connection. You can try creating a custom 2560×1440 41 Hz mode using the CVT-RB timing formula in SwitchResX to stay under the 165 MHz pixel clock limit of single-link DVI and see if your monitor accepts that.
 
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sos_nz

macrumors member
Feb 11, 2022
36
29
Atlone - $350 NZD - ouch! Maybe I can live with 1080p after all :)

Will give that hack a go now...

EDIT: son of a gun, it worked! Thanks!!
 
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