Upgrading the old Mac Pro?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Mobhzman, Dec 13, 2015.

  1. Mobhzman macrumors newbie

    Dec 13, 2015
    Hello everyone!

    So I was browsing eBay and found that the old Mac Pros (the ones before the cylindrical Mac Pro) go for about $300-$500 a piece. And to my surprise, the hardware seems pretty good!

    I've actually been thinking about building a Windows desktop, and was wondering if the Mac Pro would be a good basis to start with.

    I want to do some gaming and photo/video editing as well, so is it possible for me to upgrade the GPU that is inside? I've read that they come with nVidia GPUs', but do they use PCIE?

    Also, is the CPU, RAM and HDD upgradeable?

    I mostly want to do this because not only is the desktop cheap, but it comes with some decent specs, and most importantly, the great design!

    I'm sorry if I sound like an idiot (I know I do!), I'm extremely unfamiliar with Apple products.

    Thank you all! :)
  2. benjaprud, Dec 13, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2015

    benjaprud macrumors member

    Apr 9, 2015
    Well the 4.1 and 5.1 Mac Pros (2009 to 2012) are good machines with nice upgradability, but IMO if you were to start from scratch I'd say you would get better bang for your buck and upgradability with a traditional PC, especially if you don't care about MacOS (the main point of having a Mac is to run MacOS after all). You won't find a case like this elsewhere however. Some of us Mac users like them because they're the last Macs to fit our needs so we like to boost them as much as possible and there is some room to play with, but someday all of us who like to have a traditional tower computer will have to go for a hackintosh or a PC. It is slowly getting old but not yet outdated.

    To get you an idea, these machines can accommodate at best :

    - One or two Xeon X5690 CPUs (6 core 3,46GHz Westmere, more or less equivalent to i7-990x, fastest CPUs of 2011 prior to Sandy Bridge), the 4.1 (2009) dual-cpu Mac Pro uses lidless CPUs. These can still compete today on multi-thread workloads but today's top of the line CPUs can get 50% better single-thread performance.
    - 56 to 128 GB DDR3-1333 ECC on dual or triple channel
    - Almost any recent single GPU nVidia card (including 980ti/Titan X, PSU modding recommended if you want to keep these 250W TDP beasts quiet under load) or R9 280x, will work at PCIe 1.0 16x speeds on Windows (negligible performance hit)
    - Up to six M.2 PCIe 4x SSDs on PCIe adapters (NVMe drives excluded and constrained to PCIe 2.0 speeds so around 1500MB/s per drive, software RAID0 only possible on MacOS)
    - Has five available internal 3,5" SATA-2 slots plus one for the optical drive (PCIe cards exists to fit two SATA-3 SSDs on a PCIe slot)
    - Has two 16x PCIe 2.0 slots (including a two slots wide one) and two 4x (sharing a 4x bandwidth between them)
    - Has a 980W PSU (but only 225W officially available to the graphics card without tinkering, a bit more in practice)

    The case is quiet but not silent (due to the cheesegrater design and five to six fans plus graphics card), it is gorgeous, rock solid and a pleasure to work inside. The Mac Pro is built more like a server or workstation PC, meaning it burns money on parts that offer little to no advantage for a desktop user (Xeon CPUs, 6 cores, triple channel ECC memory) but has CPUs with 40 PCIe lanes which offers some room for expansion.

    Now that makes a fine beast but if you go for all these upgrades you would end up spending a ******** of money for which you could get a faster, more up-to-date, more silent, less power hungry, overclockable PC and more suited for desktop use. You will also have a bit of a learning curve to get used to the limitations and specifics of using a mac (relying on proprietary EFI instead of UEFI or BIOS).
  3. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    It's a good machine, but not that good for gaming. A lower price gaming PC can easily beat the cMP, especially those can OC.

    If you prefer to do your Video / Photo work in OSX, then yes, this is a good balanced choice (with decent upgrade). You can game on it, and work on it. However, since you said that you are unfamiliar with Apple product, I guess you are not familiar with OSX as well. So, if you only want the cMP to run Windows, IMO, it's much better to build a PC to run Windows.
  4. mcnallym macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008
    You want to make sure that are 4,1 or 5,1 i.e. 2009, or 2010 models. It seriously isn't worth investing in a 2006/07/08 models now.

    However if the intention is to build a Windows Desktop computer, then better off looking at a nice Z170/Skylake system, or want a real beast then the X99/Haswell-E platform.

    If you like the Mac Pro case style then look at the Lian-Li PC-V1000L

    Once the next Mac Pro comes out which should add X99 support to OS X in the same way the current nMP added X79 support then real tempted with one of these cases for an X99 Hackintosh.
  5. lowendlinux Contributor


    Sep 24, 2014
    North Country (way upstate NY)
    If you are not tied to Apple SW I wouldn't buy.

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