Launch back in 2013 the new style Mac Pro featured impressive spec’s, especially when you looked at the benchmarks. Looking back now and it’s possible to see that much of the hype was down to the new breed of storage.
However, the new style Mac Pro 6,1 has not been a roaring success. An inability to upgrade and an incredible price tag has all meant that five years on the old style Mac Pro towers are still more commonplace.
What’s more with a little tinkering it’s possible for anyone to get their classic Mac Pro respec’d and ready to challenge the speeds of the latest generation of machine, well almost.
This has all been made possible by the new style of SSD hard drive that’s used in the new style Mac Pro, and with the addition of an adapter, it’s possible to fit these into most Mac Pro 5,1 and 4,1.
The latest SSD is known as Nvme M.2. This is the fastest most reliable storage ever made, so an ideal choice to use as a working drive on your Mac Pro.
Just one issue, the old Mac Pro’s don’t have the right type of port to connect one of these superfast drives directly so you’ll also need an adapter.
The adapter that we’ve gone for is the:
Star Tech x4 PCI Express to M.2 PCIe SSD Adapter
This is relatively cheap and enables you to mount the Nvme module directly on.
Once installed the card with SSD simply slots into the top X4 / RAID PCIe slot in the Mac Pro.
The SSD I’ve selected is the WD Black as this has sequential Read speeds of up to 2,050 MB/s.
How to install a Nvme SSD into a Mac Pro
- Make sure your Mac is powered down
- Open the side and check the top PCIe slot is free
- Install the Nvme SSD in to the PCIe card
- In the Mac release the secring bracket and pop in the card
- Reinstall the clamp and the side of the Mac
Prepare the Nvme SSD for Mac use
- Start up the Mac
- Once booted a pop should appear telling you that an unregonised drive has been installed
- Click to open Disk Utility
- On the left select the new drive and then select Delete to reformat
- Select APFS, if not available select Mac OS Journaled
- Once finished you should be able to see the drive on your desktop
That’s it, probably the easiest and fastest upgrade going. Now check out the speed with Black Magic Disk Speed Test.
You should see the Read/Write speeds leap to around 1500MB/s. That’s a huge increase in speed and now means that your machine should be able to handle editing 4K video without too much issue.
How to boot your Mac Pro 5,1 from a Nvme SSD boot
A fast and furious update to the Nvme WD Black SSD in the MacPro 5,1.
To be honest I had been expecting a MacPro update in early 2019 but it shouldn’t have been a surprise when nothing materialised.
There are rumours of the modular MacPro 2019, but as yet nothing.
The issue is now friends who own video and photographic studios have bailed on Mac, the power just isn’t there, and confidence in Apple as a provider of Pro level creative equipment has evaporated.
This is a bad, but also very good thing, as unlike me they don’t have the time to ass around dismantling and experimenting with old machines to see if they can make them faster, something that I just can’t resist.
This means that I’m now the proud owner of two Mac 5,1’s. One single CPU and one dual.
But these machines are now 9 and 10 years old so you’d think they’d be slow and nothing would be nothing better than to turn them into hipster furniture.
That would be defeatist, I’ve loved these machines since they were released and they’re true Mac. They have power the latest Mac’s can only dream of.
But are they really worth saving from the scrap heap, hell yes, they’re as fast as the MacBook Pro i9 I’m typing on? Well almost, this was £3500 and caused more grief than any computer I’ve ever owned or built and I didn’t even have to match a math coprocessor with the CPU.
What I’ve managed to do is to get the important bits to fire as fast as the latest machine, meaning I cna edit 4K video on the 2010 MacPro as well as I can on the latest i9 MacBook Pro.
The old MacPro’s also don’t restart overnight due to overheating, they just plough on and get the job done.
I now have two MacBook Pro’s and i7 and i9 and two Mac Pro’s a single core X5960 and dual core X5960.
Now if you care to check out my GeekBench profile https://browser.geekbench.com/user/149587 you’ll see the hights that I’ve managed to boost the new MacPro.
I’ve also learnt a lot, but here the main issue is the Nvme drive.
Until now I’d tried to install it as the boot drive but with no success, and then due to a MacBook Pro 2018 harddrive cooking itself, I found the answer through a bootable USB.
If you need the full transcription of my conversation with Apple about my 15-inch MacBook Pro wiping itself clean every week then I’m more than willing to share.
Essentially, I got to the stage of carrying around a bootable harddrive so that when my MacBook Pro wiped itself I could continue work even without an internet connection.
I would have lugged around the Mac Pro, but damn is it heavy.
I also had Linux as a backup – £2500 on a MacBook Pro you would have thought warrents reliability.
After a panicked call to apple support they talked me through how to create a boot drive on USB and the rest is history.
Essentially the same technique is all that is needed to boot from Nvme, well there are a few adjustments but it works
That got me thinking, ok, I’m not an IT bod, but surely the same can be used to force any computer with the latest firmware to do the same.
So here it is
How to boot from a Nvme drive on a Mac Pro 5,1
- Make sure the Nvme drive is clean and all contents removed
- Open System Profiler and check the Boot ROM Version is 188.8.131.52.0
- Plugin an empty USB key with at least 10GB of space
- Start Terminal and type in ‘sudo’ then hit space
- Download the installer for Mojave but once downloaded quit the installer.
- Locate you applications folder and find the Mojave installer
- Right click and select ‘Show Package Contents’
- Drag and drop ‘createinstallmedia’ into terminal
- Hit space and then type –volume
- Make sure there’s a space after volume and then drag and drop your USB drive into terminal
- hit enter and then enter yes and your password when prompted
- Shut down your computer and remove your original hard drive leaving the bootable USB
- Restart your computer and the machine will boot to the MacOS Utilities Window
- Go to Disk Utility and reformat the Nvme Drive as APSF
- Once complete go to ‘Reinstall MacOS’ and select the Nvme drive
- Follow the onscreen instructions and the Mac OS will install on the Nvme drive and your Mac will be supercharged