Up­grade your Mac Pro

Mac Format - - IMPROVE YOUR MAC -

he pre-2013 Mac Pro – and the Power Mac G5 that shared the same ba­sic chas­sis de­sign – was Ap­ple’s most tra­di­tion­ally up­grade­able Mac. Open one up by flick­ing a catch and re­mov­ing the side panel, and you’ll get ac­cess to its im­pec­ca­bly laid-out guts.

The eas­i­est thing to up­grade here is the hard disk. Well, we say ‘the’ hard disk, but there’s space for four of them. Your boot drive – the drive that came in the Mac Pro when you bought it – takes up slot one, but there are three empty bays just ready and wait­ing for more disks. All you have to do is get a SATA hard disk, pull out the lit­tle num­bered caddy from the Mac’s line of bays and at­tach it to your new disk, and then slot it back into place. Once you start up the Mac again, it’s likely to be that you’ll be prompted to ini­tialise the disk, but even if it mounts suc­cess­fully, it’s worth load­ing Disk Util­ity to check what for­mat and par­ti­tion map it’s us­ing. If it’s any­thing other than a GUID par­ti­tion (for In­tel Macs) with a Mac OS Ex­tended (Jour­naled) for­mat, you should repar­ti­tion and/or re­for­mat now, since any other op­tions will ei­ther be slower or lead to other prob­lems later.

(If you’re for­mat­ting an ex­ter­nal drive, you might want to choose Master Boot Record and MS-DOS so you can share that disk with PCs, but since you’re re­al­is­ti­cally never go­ing to do that with an in­ter­nal drive, us­ing the Mac’s na­tive op­tions is best.)

TThe drive of your life

You can pair up drives, too. For ex­am­ple, you might want to in­stall two drives into spare bays inside a Mac Pro and have them mir­ror each other so that data is writ­ten to both at the same time; that means that even if one disk fails, your data isn’t lost, which is use­ful for mis­sion­crit­i­cal work.

You can also ‘stripe’ the drives for higher per­for­mance, but for re­ally fast speeds you need a ded­i­cated RAID con­troller; hap­pily, you can ac­tu­ally add such a thing in a Mac Pro. The drives you fit in a Mac Pro or G5 should be 3.5-inch SATA drives, but be cau­tious about us­ing very high per­for­mance mod­els; the SATA con­nec­tion in Mac Pros is SATA II – de­cently fast at 3Gb/sec but not the SATA III con­nec­tion (which is twice as fast), and G5s are lan­guish­ing with 1.5Gb/sec SATA I.

An SSD, too?

That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t con­sider fit­ting an SSD. While they won’t be able to hit the kind of sus­tained trans­fer speeds you could ex­pect over a SATA III con­nec­tion – for things such as copying huge files around the sys­tem – SSDs shine in quickly be­ing able to find data from all over their stor­age such as dur­ing startup, and that’s the kind of re­spon­sive­ness boost that can make an old G5 or Mac Pro sud­denly feel like new again. While 3.5-inch SSDs are not un­heard of, they’re pretty rare, so you’re more likely to get a 2.5-inch, lap­top-style SSD and mount it in a caddy to build it up to 3.5 inches so you can fit it eas­ily into a 3.5-inch slot.

The 8 and 12-core pre-2013 Mac Pros support up to twice the RAM – 128GB – as Ap­ple’s op­tions for the new Mac Pro, and it’s triv­ial to add more if you want, so go nuts if you need that much RAM!

Of course, there’s lots more you can add to the Mac Pro. Be­cause it has full-sized PCI slots, you can add cards to give you more ports and more op­tions. The OWC Mer­cury Ac­cel­sior_E2 SSD, for ex­am­ple, slots di­rectly into one of the PCI lanes rather than go­ing through a SATA con­nec­tion, and not only of­fers huge speed, but also adds two 600MB/sec eSATA ports for con­nect­ing high speed eSATA pe­riph­er­als such as RAIDs.

If you don’t need quite that speed but are frus­trated with the FireWire and USB 2.0 speeds you get from your Mac Pro, you could add the Rock­etU Quad USB 3.0 for Mac, which, un­sur­pris­ingly enough, gives you four USB 3.0 ports. Un­like some USB 3.0 cards which are de­signed to work with drives from spe­cific com­pa­nies, this one is more broadly com­pat­i­ble.

Graph­ics card (in the­ory)

You can also up­grade the graph­ics cards in older Mac Pros; of­fi­cial cards are old and ex­pen­sive, but you can use some of­fi­cially un­sup­ported cards. The only ma­jor prob­lem is that you won’t get a boot screen, which could fox some trou­bleshoot­ing steps.

You should (in the­ory) be able to up­grade the graph­ics cards in the new Mac Pro, too – it’s just that no­body’s made any that fit it yet. The good news is that up­grad­ing the SSD in the new Mac Pro is re­ally easy, and OWC has an­nounced new 1TB and 2TB Aura SSD up­grades for it – more than you can con­fig­ure, even with Ap­ple.

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