Shooting for maximum performance on a Mac Pro
I have an early 2009 Mac Pro with eight cores and 20GB of memory, running Mavericks. It also has 2TB and 750GB hard drives, in addition to the original 640GB hard drive, and it backs up to an external 4TB drive using Time Machine. It’s used mainly for post-processing still images using Photoshop, Lightroom, Perfect Photo Suite and so forth.
I’m wondering if I should fit an SSD into the last bay to boost performance. Are there other hardware upgrades that I should consider as well? David Cooper
You won’t see the full performance benefit if you put the SSD in the fourth drive bay, because it’ll just be used for overspill data. The drive doing the most work is the one with OS X and your apps on it – probably the original one.
A better plan is to swap that for a hybrid drive, such as the 2TB Seagate Desktop SSHD (£80 from dabs.com). Install OS X on it and restore your apps and data from Time Machine. The solid-state part of the drive will cache frequently used data, and if you use the same few apps most of the time, this can be almost as fast as a pure SSD, but with more capacity for the price.
For further improvement, upgrade the graphics card. Macupgrades.co.uk has some refurbished Radeon 5770 cards that were originally for Windows PCs and have been reflashed with Mac firmware. For £144, one of these will give you roughly four times the graphics processing power.
A Fusion Drive is a great and affordable way to inject extra performance into your Mac.