9 Replies Latest reply: Feb 15, 2012 4:45 PM by Siderz
Siderz Level 1 (0 points)

Soon I'm going to get a job and try and save up for a Mac Pro. I'm pretty sure by the time I actually have the money, there'll be an updated one.


Anyway, I know this question has been asked a million times from n00bs like me, but I've never really found a good enough answer. So sorry if you feel this is spam.


What kind of stuff is upgradable in a Mac Pro?


I've seen the GPU being replaced, but are you limited to a few, or can you upgrade with almost any GPU?


I've seen the CPU being repalced, but again, are you limited to a few? Is it even built to do this? The video I saw looked a bit risky.


I know the memory and storage is definitely upgradable.


What else am I missing/is upgradable?


Also would it be possible to get an old Mac Pro and just upgrade it? I'd rather one that I can upgrade over the next few years.


Edit: Also, I'll only be saving up for the cheapest and lowest spec model, so can you add more cores? Remember, I'm still a n00b at this.

iMac, Mac OS X (10.6.8), 2010 21.5", 3.06GHz, 8GB RAM, 500GB
  • Deborah Terreson Level 4 (1,000 points)

    Hey Siderz. welcome to the forum.


    You can pretty much upgrade EVERYTHING that you can pull out of the Mac Pro.


    Graphics cards of course, but you should check out if they are compatible with the OS you plan on using - newer cards on the older OSes of course do not have drivers.


    You DO need to get a proper Mac card - the 'flashed' PC versions, while they may fit in the expansion slots can go off horribly flaky if you happen to hit an update that is incompatible. Best to just avoid that alltogether.


    Memory can be maxed out, stick with the proper speed.


    The CPU's can be upgraded but you have to remember that these machines use the Xeon chips so they have a specific socket. You can upgrade a 4-core to an 8-core - I plan on eventually going this route myself once I can save enough to jump -the Xeon's are not cheap.


    FWIW, I'm still sitting *just* fine on my Mac Pro 1,1, which only has a 32-bit bootloader but runs the 64-bit programs without a hitch. I'm curently using Snow Leopard and will be jumping to Lion in another 6 or so months.


    So far for a machine built in 2006, I've gotten fantastic service - never had a hiccup, or a heat problem.


    By all means if you're looking for going the budget route opt for a used Mac Pro, then drop the money on upgrading. Speed, unless you plan on rendering CGI isn't noticeable on the older machines - mine has the 667mhz memory and whatever slowness I may have been having I sidestepped around by simply going the brute force road and adding a whole bunch more memory.


    There are those who claim that because of the slow memory on the older Mac Pros, the CPU upgrade to more cores isn't worth it, but the reports from those who've jumped is that it is a substantial speed increase and is.


    If you manage to lay your hands on a unit that hasn't been abused - you can expect a decade *at least* of useable service.


    I suppose it is all about how much cash you have to play with, but no matter which choice you make - new or used, you'll get your money's worth.





  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 (56,624 points)



    nice summary.


    You can upgrade a 4-core to an 8-core -

    In later models, they stopped providing the second socket, so that you can no longer add a chip and a heatsink and have it work. You would have to replace a one-socket processor card with a two-socket processor card. On the other hand, with the 2010 model, you can swap out the four-core processor and install a six core for (comparatively) cheap money.




    HyperThreading, which came in with the 2009 model, allows each core to pretend to be two. It makes those machines benchmark almost twice as fast at the same number of cores at the same speed.

  • The hatter Level 9 (60,930 points)

    It depends on what you use it for, what you will be running, and of course software tomorrow will push hardware limits.


    But I would not bet on tea leaves and future. Some things are easy and normal "DIY" while others probably not (CPU swap).


    If you can save, great. Do so and buy as much as you can to last as long as possible.


    I only give "HT" about 30% value, like having an extra 'physical' core or two.


    A single socket cpu is easier and cheaper but still $600-1000 for a single processor. Dual processors usually cost $3K for a set, or about what a new computer base model costs.

  • Peter Jason Level 1 (15 points)

    I picked up a couple used Mac Pro 1,1s from Kijiji.ca for family as gifts for around $500 each then purchased the Xeon quad core CPUs from eBay for about $115 per pair. I went from 2x 2.66GHz Dual core to 2x 3.0GHZ Quad core in both machines and the speed difference was amazing. I also picked up a pair of ATI HD 6870s from a local computer shop for around $150 each and 2 SSDs. All together it was around $900 for each system fully upgraded and my family loves them. I am trying to switch them all over to Mac and I must say this is by far the easiest and cheapest way unless you just get a Mac Mini. Changing the CPUs is fairly easy if you follow the online guides and if you go for the Mac Pro 1,1 just upgrade the firmware to the Mac Pro 2,1 Model to support the quad core CPUs (There is a simple utility to do this from netkas.org as well as drivers for many non Apple video cards). I used the ATI HD 6870s because it was a simple plug and play solution with no firmware hax involved.

  • Siderz Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks a lot to everyone! If I remember correctly, this should send a notification to everyone on this thread?


    As for Deb, don't really have any questions for you; you pretty much answered everything. However, what do you mean "Mac Pro 1,1"? I've seen people say these numbers elsewhere. Are they model numbers?


    As for The hatter

    It depends on what you use it for, what you will be running, and of course software tomorrow will push hardware limits.

    I currently edit on my 2010 iMac (Specs listed below original post) and I use Production Premium CS5.5. It runs really well but now I'm beginning to get into VFX and so I could certainly benefit from a faster computer when editing some After Effects comps. Considering the iMac I use right now is bearable, I'm sure that a Mac Pro would last much longer.


    As for Peter Jason

    I also picked up a pair of ATI HD 6870s

    This may seem a bit irrelevant to the original question, but does the higher number mean it's a more recent (And normally) better model? So the 6870s will be better than the default 5770 or optional 5870? I guess I could research this stuff but I'd rather hear it from Mac users.

  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 (56,624 points)

    The Mac Pro 1,1 designation pins down the Hardware fairly precisely. I can be observed by:

    Apple Menu > About this Mac > ( More Info ) ...


    My 2009 produces this:


    Hardware Overview:


      Model Name:          Mac Pro

      Model Identifier:          MacPro4,1

      Processor Name:          Quad-Core Intel Xeon

      Processor Speed:          2.93 GHz

      Number Of Processors:          1

      Total Number Of Cores:          4

      L2 Cache (per core):          256 KB

      L3 Cache:          8 MB

      Memory:          6 GB

      Processor Interconnect Speed:          4.8 GT/s

      Boot ROM Version:          MP41.0081.B07

      SMC Version (system):          1.39f5

      SMC Version (processor tray):          1.39f5

      Serial Number (system):          E**********R

      Serial Number (processor tray):          J*************C    

      Hardware UUID:          *****-***-*****-****-*********


    Mac Pro 1,1 is about 2006

    Mac Pro 2,1 is about 2007

    Mac Pro 3,1 is about 2008

    Mac Pro 4,1 is about 2009

    Mac Pro 5,1 is about 2010


    Details of all models can be found here:



  • Deborah Terreson Level 4 (1,000 points)

    Siderz, yes.


    The 1,1 is the first Mac Pro model they made. (well, if you do not count the mythically rumored Pentium 4 prototype that had a red motherboard)


    You can find the specific identifier for any Mac by going into the 'About This Mac' in the Apple menu then down to the 'More Info' button at the bottom of that popup window. It pulls up the System Profiler and in the Hardware Overview window that opens, you'll get the full monty with a left-hand column list that breaks out all the specs.


    I took Peter's advice earlier today and took a look on ebay - ohhh, it put me in a right twist - could get a pair of quad-core Xeon 5355's for 120 bucks and it's killing me as right now, I need to put a fuel pump and a new rear stub axle on my car!


    D-oH! - I hate vehicles!

  • Paul Veronin Level 1 (145 points)

    Regarding video cards. The 6870 is not quite as fast as  a 5870. It is slightly slower but uses less power.

    The 6970 is quite a bit faster than either one but I don't believe there are any drivers yet to be able to run them on a mac.

  • Siderz Level 1 (0 points)

    So when looking at video cards, what do I need to look out for?


    My current iMac has an ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 256MB of VRAM. How good is this overall? Is it a little outdated? My friend said that it's old and that "They're on the 6000s now!"