As ever I’ve been popping in and out of photo and video studio’s across the south, and one thing that has surprised me is the amount of old Mac towers still in use.

The old Mac Pro, often known as the cheese grater, is still powering along, yet the last of these machines was released back in 2012, that’s six, almost seven years ago.

I hadn’t given it a great deal more thought and then a friend asked if I had any ideas on how to give an old 5,1 Mac Pro a power boost, then another asked the same thing in the same week.

This was back in September and it all seemed a bit odd, why now? And then I went to update the software for my Mac Pro 5,1 2010 and it all became apparent.

Apple’s latest iOS Mojave requires a graphics card that supports Metal, I had no idea what this was but thankfully Apple supplied a list of possible upgrade cards.

A quick search, then an email to the NVIDIA and I discovered that the GPU’s suggested by Apple are all end of life.

A bit more of a search and it turns out that most of the suggested cards are also end of life but a few are still on sale. So after more searching, a GPU located and installed, OS updated and all’s good.

Well almost, the card I ended up buying is designed for a PC but aside from a few oddities it seems to work.

But now I have the upgrade bug and I want more. How fast could I get this eight-year-old Mac?

Only one thing to do and that’s to give the thing a full upgrade.

I realise that this is an old Mac, but as I looked through forums, tech sites and Redit posts I realised it wasn’t just a slight power boost I could give my 4-core 5,1 2010 it was a major one. One that would bring my Mac bang up to date.

Weeks on and the project is well underway and I’ll bring you the results soon. The aim is to be able to edit 4K video with ease on the old beast – if I can get the machine to challenge the speed of the latest Mac’s then that would be a bonus.

What I’ll be covering:

GPU (Graphics Card) upgrade
CPU upgrade
USB-C addition
PCIe NVME SSD upgrade

I’ll bring you updates on the project as they go. Any questions, comments or suggestions then please let me know.

Each step of the upgrade process has to be done and checked before proceeding.

Although the following upgrade can be done by anyone, if you’re new to this type of computer work then it’s worth getting someone to help.

The Mac Pro models I’ll be upgrading are old and well out of warranty, but do be in mind that upgrading your Mac is not without risk and while you should end up with a much faster Mac you could equally end up with a Mac Pro shaped side table.

Before starting out on this adventure make sure you back everything up, that’s all data, photos and everything you have stored on the Mac.

Upgrade the CPU

The full tutorial will be available shortly, but here are the basics – this tutorial is based on the Mac Pro 5,1 4-core, but will work on the 4,1 as well.

Here I’ll be swapping out the old Xenon W3530 2.8GHz for an X5690

Before the swap, the CPU returned the following results in GeekBench 4. It’s worth making a note of your speeds so you know how much of a speed upgrade has been achieved with each enhancement.

Single-core Score = 2357
Multi-Core Score = 6168

Compute score = 9914

Changing the CPU

The items I’ve used in this part of the upgrade are:

ArctiClean remover, purifier and paste
Xeon X5690 processor

To swap out the CPU, just release the CPU tray, remove the heatsink, pop out the CPU and place in the new.

Make sure you’ve added some new thermal paste onto the top of the CPU before it’s installed.

Then pop the heatsink back on, pop in the tray and the side back on your Mac Pro, plug everything back in and power on.

Summary
How to turbo charge old Mac Pro's for photographers
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How to turbo charge old Mac Pro's for photographers
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How to turbo charge old Mac Pro's for photographers. Think your old Mac Pro tower is out of date and ready for retirement? Think again...
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Camera Jabber
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