9 Replies Latest reply: Dec 31, 2012 6:10 AM by The hatter
tlombardi79 Level 1 (0 points)



I have an early 2009 Mac Pro 4,1 with one quad core 2.66ghz Xeon processor and 4x2Gb of RAM. The machine is packed with disks for storage and is running osx 10.6 off a Western digital WDC WD6400AAKS-41H2B0 640Gb 7200rpm drive.


I'm a pro photographer working on weddings commercial stuff and Ive been working with the machine for 3 good years. But s we all know software keeps becoming more hungry and the machine is starting to become cumbersome for my workflows especially ever since i started working with Lightroom 4. I was wondering if it is worth pimping the machine up a bit and get another year or so off it before moving onto a shiny new iMac with lightning fast thunderbolt ports and really expensive storage arrays to go with it.


The Mac Pro has 2x2Tb(Raid1-internal-via OS X) and 2x3Tb (Raid1 via esata) which are both nearing their capacities. So i also have to think about a long term storage investment since I have a full year of weddings to soot next year which I definitely do not have where to fit right now.


Was thinking that if I get 2x8Gb of Ram (~ $160) and keep 2x2Gb of RAM to have a total of 20GB and buy a 240Gb SSD drive (~ $160) to store my OS on, the machine would perform considerably faster. But then again I would have to invest in storage arrays too and I cannot connect any more esata devices to my Mac pro which makes me want an iMac to be able to connect an uber expensive thunderbolt 6-bay storage system which can only come full of disks rather than an enclosure only (which would allow you to buy more disks as you go along).


So what do you guys think? Is it worth upgrading the Mac Pro? If yes, which SSD drives are best for this kind of application? a hybrid drives worth considering? Or should I just ditch it and go for a new 27" iMac when they're out in January?


I really like the Mac Pro cos I think they're incredibly solid systems but then again, the iMac has an awesome screen which makes me want one badly!


Decisions, decisions!

Mac Pro, Mac OS X (10.6.8)
  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 (55,290 points)

    More RAM. for the work you do, at least 2* 8GB.


    A Boot Drive (with only System, Library, Applications, and the hidden unix files including Paging/Swap gives a better overall speedup than just switching to an SSD. This is because the disks are the slowest component (once you get enough memory, and you do not have enough) and anything that moves the drive heads away from long, continuous reading or long continuous writing to the same file slows down your Mac.


    Mirrored RAID is not Backup.  Mirrored RAID helps a drive failure from becoming a Data Disaster. You still need a Backup plan that copies religiously. RAID does not protect against accidental deletion or "crazy software". Think about whether the best use of those drive is a RAID. RAID Backup is particularly questionable -- you are almost always better served by making two separate copies, possibly separated in time.

  • tlombardi79 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi Grant,


    Many thanks for your reply.


    Well the RAM is definitely getting an upgrade then. Do you think this Mac Pro be able to handle 32Gb? As the apple specs state it can handle up to 16gb but I've found information which states it can hold up to 128gb...


    With regards to RAID, I don't use the raid1 drives for backup, I back up my RAW Files to removable drives periodically manually and my Lightroom catalogs are backed up by Lightroom itself, then to time machine.


    As for the system drive, isn't that the way Osx normally installs itself? I mean the Mac Pro comes with one single drive and as far as I know everything is installed there by default including swap space. All my applications are on the system drive already. The other disks are just for data.



  • RatVega™ Level 4 (2,000 points)

    32GB RAM: As we used to say in drag racing, It's your circus and you can have as many clowns as you like... 

    The question is whether your work can use that much.


    Disk Storage: The current generation of hard drives can fail, but the MTBF data basically says it won't happen. IMHO, RAID 1 is probably overkill. Reorganizing as individual drives would allow you to duplicate all the data (if you want to do that in the same box.)


    For a serious (and fast) storage, look into a 5- or 6-spindle external RAID5. They can be built relatively inexpensively.


    System drive organization: The OS X installer assumes that you have hundreds (thousands?) of GB available, so it dumps everything in the same space in a default install. It is possible to limit the what is installed, and then move the User (which holds most all your personal saves) to a different drive. This "streamlines" the operation of the system drive, whether is is rotating or SSD.

  • The hatter Level 9 (60,925 points)

    Pro photographer also and has some tips for serious user upgrades and CS6 and other apps:




    With large arrays and even larger TB size drives, I would not recommend RAID5. 6 maybe.

  • tlombardi79 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi Hatter,


    I have read through macperformanceguide.com as per your suggestion. Thanks for the tip it has proven to be very helpful.


    Well after some serious reading and considerations, I have decided to go for a 24Gb (3x8Gb) upgrade from OWC as per suggestion there. I was not aware that the MP 2009 can address three memory slots more efficiently than 4, however I am still unsure which memory slots I should use as the information is kind of confusing. Anyone know which ones i should use?


    In the meantime, I have moved my system volume (which also contains my lightroom catalogs) which was located the original (slow, after some benchmarks) hard drive which originally came with the MP onto a faster RAID0 array and made modifications to my backup strategy and I have seen some considerable improvement in Lightroom4. I am still considering getting 1 or 2 SSD drives but I am not sure if I should or if the RAM upgrade would be enough.


    If I do get 2 SSD drives, would it be better to leave Mac OS X on a traditional he'd and move my Lightroom catalogs to the SSDs or would it be better to have 2 SSDs in a Raid0 configuration and locate system files and Lightroom catalogs there?

  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 (55,290 points)

    Anyone know which ones i should use? [for 2009 model]

    The lowest numbered slots, which are the ones starting at the front of the shelf on the right (and back of the shelf at the left if 2-chip equipped).




    • Establishing a Boot Drive on ANY Drive has more workflow payback than an SSD with no Boot drive.


    • RAID benefit will not be profound in the small random reads and write from/to the System Drive.


    • RAID benefit will not be as pronounced on SSD as on a rotating drive.


    • Striped RAID needs scrupulous backup because a failure takes out ALL data with no practical chance of recovery of anything.

  • tlombardi79 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for you reply grant.


    So if I understand correctly an SSD  boot drive with apps and Mac OS and a striped raid drive (mechanical) with my Lightroom catalogs and cache ( which are generally large files) should be my best option, right?

  • tlombardi79 Level 1 (0 points)

    Btw my data is all backed up via time machine so raid0 doesn't really scare me...

  • The hatter Level 9 (60,925 points)

    I go for redundancy and would never leave and trust my data just to TimeMachine (though you can setup two such backup sets and have daily, weekly, etc T/M sets), I would include cloning your voume as well. Immedate access, can archive as well, and mountable.