Upgrade Advice Mac Pro Early 2008

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by tobiasenstrom, Mar 30, 2018.

  1. tobiasenstrom macrumors newbie

    Mar 30, 2018
    Hello everyone,

    I use my Mac desktop for music production (hobby). I'm looking to get some plugins that will unfortunately tax my cpu, the first time in 10 years!!!

    My current specs are:
    2x3Ghz Quard core Intel Xeon
    12gb 800Mhz DDR2 FBDIMM
    ATI Radeon HD2600 XT 256mb
    OSX 10.11.6 (cant upgrade any higher)
    Model Identifier: MacPro3,1
    Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    Processor Speed: 3 GHz
    Number of Processors: 2
    Total Number of Cores: 8
    L2 Cache (per Processor): 12 MB
    Memory: 12 GB
    Bus Speed: 1.6 GHz

    Can I still buy the parts to upgrade the CPU?
    Is it worth doing, as the comp is now 10 years old?
    How much is it likely to cost (uk)?
    What other things do I need to think about before upgrading?

    I am not a technical person with computers so laymen terms only please :)

    Thanks for your help/advice.

  2. Naimfan Suspended


    Jan 15, 2003
    I think you can update the CPU to a 3.2 GHz version, but you're frankly better off getting a 4,1 or 5,1 Mac Pro.

    The 3,1 is something of a dead end as far as upgrading goes.
  3. MacGuyMI macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2017
    I have this setup and upgrading the CPU is a waste of money for the small amount of performance increase.
    Mine is used a media storage box for the most part. Rip CDs and DVDs and download content mostly.

    16gb of RAM (all matching works best)
    16tb of HD - 4/4tb drives
    2nd Superdrive added
    Radeon 5770 card did improve video image greatly

    Hope this helps!

  4. Plutonius macrumors 604


    Feb 22, 2003
    New Hampshire, USA
    I would have to agree.

    I myself wouldn't spend the money upgrading the 3,1 .
  5. tobiasenstrom thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 30, 2018
    Thanks guys.

    Is the 5.1 2012 as reliable as my 3.1 2008?

    MacGuyMI, how many outputs does the Radeon 5770 have?
  6. kohlson, Apr 1, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018

    kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    I recommend looking at the Mac Pro Forum, where there is a lively discussion of cMPs, as well as other models. Many of us have modified our Mac Pros to keep up with more recent computing requirements.

    The Radeon 5770 has 3 outputs - DVI and 2x mini DisplayPort. The mDP will support a 4K screen at 30Hz, though that is beyond what the specs say. Complete specs for Apple Macs can be found at everyman.com.
  7. ach macrumors newbie


    Dec 13, 2012
    If you were to INSIST on throwing money into this, I would consider installing SSDs in it. I installed SSD's in mine and Raided (Striped) to get even higher speed on the older SATA. Then when you scrap the MP, you can use it in some external box for storage. This has stretched the life of mine.
  8. kingtj macrumors 68020

    Oct 23, 2003
    Brunswick, MD
    Definitely upgrade it with an SSD, for at least the boot drive that has OS X itself installed on it. That will make a huge difference in its overall performance, if you haven't done that yet.

    (FWIW, there's a guy on eBay who sells a plastic bracket with screws that allows a regular 2.5" SSD to mate up perfectly in the drive tray of a Mac Pro. Only costs about $8 and is obviously something he prints himself from a 3D printer, but it's an excellent solution.)

  9. Nunyabinez macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2010
    Provo, UT
    I have a 2,1 and a 5,1 and the difference is staggering. I have stopped doing anything to my 2,1 since it is about as fast as a decent mini and stuck at El Cap.

    The 5,1 is still able to run the latest OS and can be made into a beast.

    You can update a few things to make it still feel like a modern computer.

    I have a PCIe card that let's me run an SSD at SATA III speeds, a USB 3.0 card for fast transfer, a USB Bluetooth dangle and a PCIe wireless AC card for continuity.

    The nice thing is that you can find them pretty cheap and upgrade them a little at a time.

    Mine has a single Hex core and it is almost as fast as my retina iMac, which is plenty fast for what I do. I could update it to two quad cores or even two hex cores (I would need new sled, but it can be done).

    Anyway, for a fraction of what a new unit costs, 5,1s (or 4,1s flashed to 5,1) can be very powerful machines with lots of upside potential.
  10. kingtj macrumors 68020

    Oct 23, 2003
    Brunswick, MD
    I actually have both a 2,1 and a 5,1 over here as well. (Obtained both for free when my workplace retired them from use.) I've been working on upgrading both as much as I can, while sticking to a reasonable budget.

    I agree with what you've said here -- although one thing I like about the 2008 2,1 Mac Pro is the fact you can get the type of RAM it takes *very* inexpensively now. (I upgraded this one to 32GB for about $49, and could go to 64GB for another $49 if I wanted to.)

    I already upgraded the original 2.0Ghz Xeon CPU in this one with a pair of 3.0Ghz CPUs, so that made a pretty big performance difference for only another $60 or so, plus some time and effort, and a little heatsink paste.

    For another $100 or so, I could even swap out its internal Bluetooth and Wi-Fi card with a more modern replacement that would give it 802.11ac wireless support and Bluetooth 4.0, making it compatible with things like AirDrop and HandOff in El Capitan. (I chose to pass on that one, though, as I use it with a wired Ethernet connection and I don't see those OS X features as that critical.)

    The 5,1 is great because it can still run High Sierra (with no hacks necessary, either). But my feeling is, if you've got a 2,1 series already or can get one for free, you can put maybe $150-200 into a 512GB SSD and mounting bracket, plus another $110 or so, and have a machine that's as fast as the latest, highest-spec Mac Mini except with more RAM and storage options. $300-ish isn't a bad investment to get it there, vs. it feeling woefully outdated and almost worth trashing. And you can always reuse that SSD in another computer later, when you ARE ready to give it up. Don't forget, you can also reflash a decent PC 3D video card like a Radeon 7950 or 7970 and drop that in, for graphics capabilities WAY better than any Mac Mini.

  11. AppliedVisual macrumors 6502a

    Sep 28, 2006
    Moving to the Mac Pro 5,1 is an option, but not a very cost effective or logical one at this point. They’re still horribly outdated and the CPUs are hardly any more powerful. Biggest bottleneck in the 2008 3,1 is the 800MHz dual channel DDR2 RAM. it’s a complete choke point. Also having only two PCIe v2.0 slots. Moving to a Mac Pro 5,1 gives you 4 x PCIe v2.0 and it will support RAM up to 1333MHz and will operate in triple-channel arrangement with the ideal memory configurations, otherwise it defaults to dual channel as well. But once again, it’s very dated, only has USB 2.0 and 3Gbps SATA, FW800 for onboard I/O unless you soak up one of those PCIe slots. GPU options are severely lacking without going to aftermarket/ third party options. Often still needing flashed/modded EFI firmware to properly work.

    Not sure what the OP’s budget is, but the 2013 Mac Pro 6,1 can be picked up for a steal right now on the used market. Or I would recommend an iMac Pro. Even a regular quad-core iMac will generally outperform those old Mac Pro towers other than in the few situations where the number of cores is more important than all other factors.

    We retired all of our Mac Pro towers some tie ago. The 5,1 towers with dual 3.46GHz 6-core CPUs were the best of the bunch and have been gone from our workflows for about 2 years now.
  12. kingtj macrumors 68020

    Oct 23, 2003
    Brunswick, MD
    Sure ... just as my workplace retired theirs. If you're making real money with your machine and the greater the performance, the greater the profit potential -- then messing around upgrading components in an out of warranty machine makes NO sense. Just buy the new iMac Pro and be done with it! (Micro Center continues to sell the basic version for $1,000 off -- and that's still good enough for most users, with its video card outperforming even the D700 chips in a 2013 Mac Pro.)

    I'm assuming, though, the OP was a guy who got along just fine with a circa 2008 Mac Pro until just now, when he bought some more audio plug-ins that exceeded its capabilities? If he's like a lot of people I know with home recording studios, cost is definitely a factor and laying out even $3,000 for an iMac Pro on sale is overkill for the tasks at hand. (EG. Probably no need for that 5K display to edit audio.)

    A used 2013 Mac Pro cylinder is definitely an option. I just sold mine a couple months ago, and it went for something like $1500, configured with a 512GB SSD, 64GB of RAM and the mid range D500 video inside it. Of course, depending on what audio stuff you do? Those "legacy" ports like FW800 might be more of a benefit on these older Macs! I have a Focusrite box that uses FW800 that I'll hate to have to retire when I can't make it work anymore.

    Ultimately, this ALL comes down to budget. Clearly, if cost isn't an object, you'll get the most machine by buying something newer. My contributions about upgrade options for the older Mac Pro aluminum towers are just ways to extend the life of these machines so they go from "useless" to "usable" again, generally while spending $400 or less to do it.

    (As an aside: There are people who got VMWare ESXi going on these older Mac Pros. The 2008 models can't run the latest ESXi versions, due largely to some of the same limitations that keep it from running Sierra on the OS X side of things. But you can get ESXi 5.1 to work. Considering the amount of drive space you can fit in one, and the fact they'll handle as much as 128GB of RAM? They could live out a really useful life as a host for a number of virtual Windows and/or Linux or BSD servers. Just another thought for "recycling" one.)

  13. ach macrumors newbie


    Dec 13, 2012
    I didn't mentioned this, but in addition to to the Raided SSD due to only having a built-in SATA 2, I also added later the PCIe card with a larger SSD, (it has to be installed in the 16x slot to obtain the speed advantage.) Now I wished I bought a PCIe capable of more than 1 SDD, but at this point, I'm not dumping more money into the 3,1.

    Even with the PCIe SATA 3 SSD, the speeds are lame compared to the new iMacs.
  14. techwhiz macrumors 6502a

    Feb 22, 2010
    Northern Ca.
    The coffee can only works if you don't need the slots.
    I can't use the can since I need slots for ProTools.
    My option is the last tower until Apple makes a real "pro" machine again.

    I'm out looking for something to replace my 2008.
    The newer processors are bout 2x better and I can get up to 12 cores vs the 8.
    It's going to cost me about $1100 but preserves my more expensive investment.
  15. tobiasenstrom thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 30, 2018
    Don't want a trash can due to the lack of customising options once bought. Don't want to have a load of external hard drives plugged into it either.
    Also using a FW based audio interface, a connection the trash can doesn't have.

    a 5.1 seems to be the only option.

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