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macstatic

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Oct 21, 2005
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I'm wondering what I can do to make the most out of my Mac Pro 5,1 (mid-2010), preferrably without spending too much money. Here are my current specs:

- Mac Pro 5,1 (mid-2020), Quad-core 2.8 GHz
- MacOS 10.11.6 El Capitan (will probably upgrade to 10.12.6 Sierra, but not beyond because of 32-bit legacy software I need which won't work with 10.13 or beyond)
- 24 GB RAM (1066 MHz DDR3 ECC) 3 memory slots out of 4 for best performance
- ATI Radeon HD-5870, 1024 MB graphic card
- Silicon Image SIL-3132 SATA RAID PCIe card
- Samsung 830 SSD (128 GB) for OSX and apps (TRIM enabled)
- Seagate ST3000DM001 (3TB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB cache, SATA 6 Gb/s) for User files
- Western Digital WDC WD30EZRX (3TB, ??? RPM, 64 MB cache, SATA 6 Gb/s) for Time-machine backups
- Western Digital WDC WD30EZRX (3TB, ??? RPM, 64 MB cache, SATA 6 Gb/s) for Chronosync bootable backups

My immediate plans are:
- replace 3 TB main HDD (file storage) with a 6 TB of some sort
- replace 3 TB backup (Time Machine) HDD with a 8 TB of some sort
- replace 3 TB bootable backup HDD with 8 TB of some sort, or use an external 8 TB HDD instead, for weekly backups (instead of several times a day as now)
- add a USB 3.1 PCIe card (probably a 10 GB/s Sonnet Allegro USB-C (USB3C-2PM-E) or a 5 GB/s Sonnet Allegro (USB3-4PM-E) for external backup, high-speed memory card reader etc.

I can't remember what's connected to the SATA PCIe card, but the previous owner put it there (probably because he had a 5th drive) and I think I might actually have it attached to my 2nd SSDs residing underneath the DVD-drive.
(the 2nd SSD is also a Samsung 830 (128 GB) SSD which I've used as a Photoshop cache drive (but it didn't make any noticeable difference in performance IMHO) so for the time being has been used as a clone-copy for the previous MacOS/OSX version in case I'd change my mind when upgrading to a newer OS).
I've read (in the Mac Pro upgrade guide) that adding a SATA-3 card basically doesn't make much difference if you don't handle large files, which with my SSDs I don't -it's just for MacOS and my apps). Do you agree with this, or not?

SATA SSDs can be plugged into the Mac Pro's SATA ports but will be capped to 300 MB/s thanks to SATA2. Using a SATA3 interface will double the bandwidth to 600 MB/s max. That said, the random read/write times, latency, and other properties mostly are unaffected. Going to SATA3 is mostly noticed when working with large transfers/files.

PS: I'm not sure if my SIL-3132 card can handle SATA-3 but I'm guessing it just does SATA-2, essentially just adding two SATA ports identical to that of the 4 drive bays.


Apart from everyday stuff (web, mail etc.) I'll be using it for music recording (DAW software) and possibly some light video editing. All for hobby/home use, not professional.
So if there's a bottleneck -where is it?
 

startergo

macrumors 601
Sep 20, 2018
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MacOS 10.11.6 El Capitan (will probably upgrade to 10.12.6 Sierra, but not beyond because of 32-bit legacy software I need which won't work with 10.13 or beyond)
10.13.3 Is the last OS with full 32 bit support according to Aplle. Adding no32exec=0 boot argument should let you run 10.13.6 with 32 bit Apps.
 

macstatic

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 21, 2005
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I'm not sure what you mean by adding a boot argument. Please elaborate.
Do you know if Lightroom 6 and Photoshop CS4 will work with this method?
 

startergo

macrumors 601
Sep 20, 2018
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I'm not sure what you mean by adding a boot argument. Please elaborate.
Do you know if Lightroom 6 and Photoshop CS4 will work with this method?
Please take a look at:
 
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kohlson

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Apr 23, 2010
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You've got an "interesting" system. Potentially, there's lots to do here, so I suspect you're looking for a prioritized B4B (bang for buck) list.

I would get a 250 or 500 GB SSD (about $60-70) and create a boot/home volume on this. No telling how old the 128GB you have is. And things have gotten much better. The performance improvements will be dramatic.

Beyond that, I think you have some more research to do. Like are there drivers for the SIL card?

I run CS6 on 10.14. No issues at all - stock install.
- Note that 10.14 requires a newer graphics card.

In my experience, slower HDDs (5400 RPM, 64MB cache) do about 80-ish MBps. About the same performance for a cheap USB-3 PCIe card connected to an 8TB Seagate. Faster HDDs (7200/256MB) do about 200+. YMMV in how this relates to your workflow.
 
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macstatic

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 21, 2005
2,020
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Norway
Thanks for your comments.
The Samsung 830 SSDs I have are SATA-III (6 Gbps) and my boot/app partition still has 77 GB free. For my home folders I would need a very large SSD (my 3 TB drive is getting full and I'm considering getting a 6 TB replacement), so that would be very expensive for an SSD.

Yes, the SIL card has a driver and works fine, but I found out it's only SATA-II (3 Gbps). But if I've read correctly my understanding is that even 7200 RPM HDDs are slower than what SATA-II and the rest of the Mac Pro is capable of handling, so if that's correct it won't make a difference if I replace my SIL-32 with a SATA-III capable card, will it? It would probably let my SSD run faster, but then again that would just affect the time it takes to boot and open up apps, and I'm fine with that, so perhaps a SATA-III card will just be a waste of money.

Your speed comparison between slow and fast HDDs gave me a thought: I'm looking for a suitable 6 TB 7200 RPM drive, but perhaps I should consider a fast Time Machine drive as well, because whenever I back up it seems to slow down the computer (and especially if the Chronosync backup runs at the same time). I suppose that's because the main drive reads the files, puts it in RAM, and the backup drive(s) take it from RAM and writes the file, and if the backup drives are slow the process takes forever. Does this make sense?
I don't know if there's any software that does this, but it would be nice to set up backups not to run when certain perfomance critical apps (video editing, audio recording etc) run.

Can you recommend specific 6 TB and 8 TB drives which are fast, reliable and don't make too much noise?

Cool to hear that you can run CS6 apps within MacOS 10.14. I was under the impression you had to tweak things or install in a special way.
But CS4 is even older, and from the research I've done so far it won't run beyond 10.12, but I may be wrong.
I know having the latest OS is the big thing, but really, what is the advantage if you're not reliant on software which demands that specific OS? Would I actually get a performance boost on my machine with 10.14? I'd be forced to buy a new graphic card as well, and if that didn't make any difference in performance I'd consider it a waste of money.
With Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 6 in mind, would a new (Metal capable) graphic card make them snappier (as well as any grapphic related task on the computer), or does that depend on the app in question supporting them or not? With the card being newer than the app I assume that any direct support would be out of the question.
 

kohlson

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Apr 23, 2010
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I don't have any suggestions on which HDDs to buy. My cMP has a couple of SSDs (NVMe and SATA) for active workspace, faster HDDs for near line storage, and big/slow/cheap for back up. I don't notice any video timeline performance degradation when copying to/from disks. IIRC the architecture of cMP requires little if any CPU why disk-to-disk copying.
SSDs offer performance boosts because they have essentially no latency and much higher IOPS compared to HDDs. That's snappiness in OS/app start up, and app interactivity. Most workflows benefit from SSD, even those connected at SATA 2. Bulk transfers, similar to what may be happening in a backup, may see better performance with SATA 3. But maybe not.
10.13 offered several performance boosts, and offers the latest security updates. Whether it will work for you is something that is best tested before proceeding. I don't think you'll need a new GPU for this.
It's my understanding that Adobe apps, especially older ones, would be unlikely to see any performance improvements with a new (metal) gpu. But a faster CPU with more cores might.
 

tsialex

Contributor
Jun 13, 2016
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Thanks for your comments.
The Samsung 830 SSDs I have are SATA-III (6 Gbps) and my boot/app partition still has 77 GB free. For my home folders I would need a very large SSD (my 3 TB drive is getting full and I'm considering getting a 6 TB replacement), so that would be very expensive for an SSD.

Yes, the SIL card has a driver and works fine, but I found out it's only SATA-II (3 Gbps). But if I've read correctly my understanding is that even 7200 RPM HDDs are slower than what SATA-II and the rest of the Mac Pro is capable of handling, so if that's correct it won't make a difference if I replace my SIL-32 with a SATA-III capable card, will it? It would probably let my SSD run faster, but then again that would just affect the time it takes to boot and open up apps, and I'm fine with that, so perhaps a SATA-III card will just be a waste of money.

Your speed comparison between slow and fast HDDs gave me a thought: I'm looking for a suitable 6 TB 7200 RPM drive, but perhaps I should consider a fast Time Machine drive as well, because whenever I back up it seems to slow down the computer (and especially if the Chronosync backup runs at the same time). I suppose that's because the main drive reads the files, puts it in RAM, and the backup drive(s) take it from RAM and writes the file, and if the backup drives are slow the process takes forever. Does this make sense?
I don't know if there's any software that does this, but it would be nice to set up backups not to run when certain perfomance critical apps (video editing, audio recording etc) run.

Can you recommend specific 6 TB and 8 TB drives which are fast, reliable and don't make too much noise?

Cool to hear that you can run CS6 apps within MacOS 10.14. I was under the impression you had to tweak things or install in a special way.
But CS4 is even older, and from the research I've done so far it won't run beyond 10.12, but I may be wrong.
I know having the latest OS is the big thing, but really, what is the advantage if you're not reliant on software which demands that specific OS? Would I actually get a performance boost on my machine with 10.14? I'd be forced to buy a new graphic card as well, and if that didn't make any difference in performance I'd consider it a waste of money.
With Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 6 in mind, would a new (Metal capable) graphic card make them snappier (as well as any grapphic related task on the computer), or does that depend on the app in question supporting them or not? With the card being newer than the app I assume that any direct support would be out of the question.
Just don't buy a SMR HDD.

Random write is seriously problematic with SMR, re-write is even worse. Only use SMR drives for archival. Desktop drives should be CMR/PMR.

Block&Files are covering manufacturers selling SMR HDDs without warning customers, read more there:

 

tommy chen

macrumors 6502a
Oct 1, 2018
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adobe software before CC2020 has no metal acceleration APIs
and very old ones like CS6, and also CC2020 are most CPU related
 

Manzana

macrumors 6502a
Jul 19, 2004
612
13
Orange County, CA
I'm wondering what I can do to make the most out of my Mac Pro 5,1 (mid-2010), preferrably without spending too much money.

first thing I did was max out cpu and ram. seems you can go to 3.33 6-core pretty cheaply and then you can run 3x16 1333MHz at a good price point as well. This will for sure make a notable difference.

Doesn't seem like you're willing to go to Mojave. If you did then your machine can run NVMe as boot drive (+ add metal cpu) and that is the way to go.

By the way, you are using a firmware upgraded 4,1 to 5,1 right?
 

macstatic

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 21, 2005
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Norway
Just don't buy a SMR HDD.

Random write is seriously problematic with SMR, re-write is even worse. Only use SMR drives for archival. Desktop drives should be CMR/PMR.

Block&Files are covering manufacturers selling SMR HDDs without warning customers, read more there:


Thanks for letting me know! Prior to your reply I hadn't even heard about them.
And from what I now read it's not always obvious which drives use which technology. Tricky stuff this, choosing a new drive!
[automerge]1587418323[/automerge]
first thing I did was max out cpu and ram. seems you can go to 3.33 6-core pretty cheaply and then you can run 3x16 1333MHz at a good price point as well. This will for sure make a notable difference.

Yes, I've been considering this, but wasn't sure it would make much of a difference in everyday use. Good to get this confirmed.
That CPU is an Intel Xeon 5680, right? There's a thread entitled Mac Pro CPU compatibility list, but I find it confusing though extensive. And the CPUs seem mostly for sale used (eBay etc.) from questionable sources -are they still available new from reputable dealers?

Doesn't seem like you're willing to go to Mojave. If you did then your machine can run NVMe as boot drive (+ add metal cpu) and that is the way to go.

It's more a question of losing the ability to run some legacy software I have, plus having to pay for a new graphic card without (as far as I understand) gaining anything at all.
I didn't know about NVMe cards until recently -superfast "blade" SSD cards on a PCIe card, right? So you can only use those with Mojave or higher?


By the way, you are using a firmware upgraded 4,1 to 5,1 right?

No, this is a 5,1 from the start. I've never done anything with the firmware.
 
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macstatic

macrumors 68020
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Oct 21, 2005
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adobe software before CC2020 has no metal acceleration APIs
and very old ones like CS6, and also CC2020 are most CPU related

So only software (Photoshop and Lightroom in my case) which was designed for accessing the GPU on certain processor-cards will make a difference?
And current graphic cards (which I assume are super-powerful compared to those available back in 2008-2010 or so) don't make an overall speed increase to the machine?

The obvious question then is if there are newer graphic cards than my ATI HD 5870 which Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 6 actually can take advantage of, and the computer in general as well?
 

kohlson

macrumors 68020
Apr 23, 2010
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I think at one level, you're not interested in "squeezing the most" out of your 5,1. You do seem interested in any improvements for a legacy app environment. I think it boils down to 2 things. An SSD of any type for OS/Apps is the biggest bang for the money. My hypothesis is that if your entire workflow is on SSD, a cache/scratch disk won't do much for you - but I haven't tested that. But if your PS work files are on an HDD, I believe an SSD scratch will help. IIRC, Puget Systems did some work on this.

The second thing that may help is a faster CPU. If you're handy enough taking things apart and successfully putting them back together, this is a straightforward task. A first-timer should be able to do the whole thing in an hour or so for $50-60, including buying the right Allen wrench. I strongly recommend getting the Mac Pro Technician Guide and watching some videos. Virtually everyone I know (including me) buys these things used. They are built like tanks. Most reputable sellers test them, and will offer a warranty.

I should point out that this forums sticky threads are full of robust discussions on maximizing the cMP in ways Apple never dreamed of.
 
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macstatic

macrumors 68020
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Oct 21, 2005
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Thanks for your suggestions. I'll look through those stickies.
Well, the thing is that while I do want to squeeze the most I can out of it I have to take into consideration support for my legacy apps, so there's a compromise.

US$ 50-60 for a CPU upgrade? I must have been looking in all the wrong places because upgrades I've seen are much more expensive. I'll give it another go.
 

kohlson

macrumors 68020
Apr 23, 2010
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US$ 50-60 for a CPU upgrade?

Yes, Ebay has them for under $50. The Allen wrench, thermal paste, and solvent should add another $10. I recommend again the Mac Pro Technician Guide - very clear. You can watch YT vids to get some different views on how to do this, but I've followed the Guide for 3 different systems.

If you want to squeeze 7% more CPU power, get a x5690. If you want to squeeze more throughput, upgrade your RAM to 1333.

If you proceed with this, be prepared to give the innards a good clean out (if you haven't already). I used a lot of dry q-tips to catch the accumulated dust between the on-board components.
 

macstatic

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 21, 2005
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Yes, Ebay has them for under $50. The Allen wrench, thermal paste, and solvent should add another $10. I recommend again the Mac Pro Technician Guide - very clear. You can watch YT vids to get some different views on how to do this, but I've followed the Guide for 3 different systems.

Ah yes, I see what you mean -like this 3.33 GHz X5680 (US$ 40) or 3.46 GHz X5690 (around US$ 70), but I've been warned against buying stuff like this from China because of possible fakes. Maybe this 3.46 GHz X5690 Mac kit with everything included from a German seller for around 100 Euros would be a safer bet.

Are you referring to the Mac Pro service manual? If that's it I managed to get hold of it several years ago but can't remember where. Good to have.

If you want to squeeze 7% more CPU power, get a x5690. If you want to squeeze more throughput, upgrade your RAM to 1333.

7% more than my current 2.80 GHz processor (not sure which one they used in the mid-2010) or compared to the 3.33 GHz 5680 (IIRC it's the upgrade most people refer to for this particular Mac)?
In hindsight I should have bought 1333 speed RAM instead of the 1066 I opted for. Silly mistake. Will there be a noticeable difference between those two RAM speeds?


If you proceed with this, be prepared to give the innards a good clean out (if you haven't already). I used a lot of dry q-tips to catch the accumulated dust between the on-board components.

Too true! And good suggestion.
I had a look inside to prepare for installing a USB-3 card I just bought and there's lots of dust there. Compressed air should help a lot with what the Q-tips can't.
 

kohlson

macrumors 68020
Apr 23, 2010
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Are you referring to the Mac Pro service manual
This is the Technician Guide.
I was referring to the clock difference between the 5680 and the 5690. But I misspoke. The x5690 is a little less than 4% faster than the x5680, at least in terms of cycles. More/faster cores should speed things up, depending on how the apps are designed.

Faster memory will speed things up between the CPU and memory. How this affects your workflow is hard to tell. My guess would be in single-digit percentage.
 

macstatic

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 21, 2005
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Thanks -it's the same service manual I already had so I should be good to go -at least after some Youtube videos on the subject.

Good news! I found the receipt for my RAM (Kingston 24GB kit) and it turns out I did get the faster ones after all:

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 10.48.58.png



I suppose it says 1066 MHz in the Mac system report because that's the speed they're running at now. I suppose there's no reason to go for the 3.33 GHz X5680 when I can go for the 3.46 GHz X5690 -are there any downsides to choosing the latter?

Where did you get those numbers from (speed increase)? I'd like to check how many percent increase I can expect if I do the CPU upgrade and take advantage of having 1333 RAM compared to my current system. According to the Mac Pro CPU compatibility list thread my mid-2010 2.8 GHz quad-core is either a Nehalem W3530 or an i7 930. My Mac system report just says "2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon".

But my biggest (and very noticeable) bottleneck right now is that the main HDD (3 TB) only has around 13 GB free space, so once I find out which drive to go for a 6 TB replacement will be ordered.
 

tsialex

Contributor
Jun 13, 2016
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All Mac Pros quad-core, mid-2010 or mid-2012, came from Apple with old Nehalem Xeon W35xx. Apple never used i7-9xx Xeons with Mac Pros.

Even getting the same clock speed/cores but a Westmere instead (W36xx, L56xx, X56xx), you will have serious performance gains with some applications, any crypto will have triple performance gains with AES-NI, and around 15% everywhere from the bigger cache and faster QPI. Changing from Nehalem to Westmere have several benefits, like AES-NI, more cache, 1GB huge page support, 6.4 QPI and etc.

Btw, Westmere supports Apple Hypervisor and can run Docker and OpenCore VMM, Nehalem don't.
 

macstatic

macrumors 68020
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I don't know what crypto, AES-NI, QPI, Apple Hypervisor, Docker or OpenCore VMM means, but understand that the upgrade is worthwhile.

I just realized (from the CPU compatibility list) that there's a 6-core Xeon W3680/W3690 and a 6-core dual Xeon X5680/X5690. I assume the first ones are for upgrading my single processor machine, but then I read:
Installing a single "Dual Xeon" processor into a single-processor Mac Pro works fine, and actually increases its maximum RAM from 56 to 64GB.

.... so I suppose (if the price difference isn't that much) I should go for the dual processor.
 

tsialex

Contributor
Jun 13, 2016
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I don't know what crypto, AES-NI, QPI, Apple Hypervisor, Docker or OpenCore VMM means, but understand that the upgrade is worthwhile.

I just realized (from the CPU compatibility list) that there's a 6-core Xeon W3680/W3690 and a 6-core dual Xeon X5680/X5690. I assume the first ones are for upgrading my single processor machine, but then I read:


.... so I suppose (if the price difference isn't that much) I should go for the dual processor.
Dual QPI Xeons, Xeons made for dual socket systems, are much more common than single socket since there are lots of datacenter servers being decommissioned. A W3680 or W3690 is more expensive nowadays than the more or less equivalent X5680 or X5690.

X5680 and X5690 Xeons support more RAM when installed in a single CPU tray, are better binned than W36xx, tolerate higher temperatures and are cheaper than a W3680 or W3690.
 

macstatic

macrumors 68020
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Ah! I hadn't thought about older servers using these processors -which is why there are so many used processors for sale.
So the ultimate CPU upgrade for machine would be a 3.46 GHz quad-core dual X5690 ?
 

tsialex

Contributor
Jun 13, 2016
13,226
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Ah! I hadn't thought about older servers using these processors -which is why there are so many used processors for sale.
So the ultimate CPU upgrade for machine would be a 3.46 GHz quad-core dual X5690 ?
X5690 is an hexa-core Xeon and the fastest Xeon supported by a Mac Pro 5,1. A dual CPU tray upgraded with two X5690 will be a 12-core Mac Pro.
 

macstatic

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 21, 2005
2,020
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Norway
Maybe I've misunderstood. So I can't upgrade my 4-core to a 6-core, but need to get a faster, but still quad-core? I'm sure I've read that I can use a 6-core CPU, but it might all have been references to dual processor machines or CPU tray exchanges.

In that case, the ultimate and fastest CPU upgrade will be a 4-core 3.33 GHz X5680, right?
 
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