The Mac Pro gets an SSD part 2!

Welp, that didn’t take long. After installing my new SSD I quickly realized I could do better. Upgrading to SATA III from SATA II for less than $60 was a no-brainer.

Installation couldn’t be simpler either: All I had to do was attach the SSD onto the onboard slot and install the PCIe card. After powering on it booted right up, nothing else required.

2009 Mac Pro video card upgrade

After upgrading to Yosemite, I noticed that graphics performance was starting to lag a bit on my 2009 Mac Pro while driving two monitors at fairly low resolutions. At one point I had two GT 120s running separate monitors, but after one replacement and two failures, I was back down to one.

GT 120
GT 120

I decided to look into upgrade options and was happy to see that OS X now supports non-EFI video cards. The only catch: You won’t see anything displayed until OS X loads your drivers. Who cares?

I settled on an EVGA GeForce GTX 660 2GB, which Best Buy happened to sell. I can feel the judgement from the hardcore nerds for buying something at Best Buy. Nevertheless, this was much cheaper than trying to buy another GT 120 to replace my second one and offers WAY more power. I don’t game on my Mac – I just want the OS to feel snappy and fluid.

GeForce GTX 660
GeForce GTX 660

Like many powerful cards, the GTX 660 requires the PCIe 6 pin power connector from the power supply or motherboard. I’ve ordered this, but until it gets here, I’ve rigged up an external power source.

Steps to install:

  1. Attach one of these cables to your Mac Pro motherboard OR rig up an external PSU like I did
  2. Insert the new card and attach the other end of the 6 pin PCIe power cable
  3. Put the card retainer back in place, fasten everything down and reassemble
  4. If running an external PSU, make sure it is powered up before powering up the Mac Pro

Thoughts after installation:

  • Why didn’t I do this sooner
  • OS X is silky smooth
  • The fans will ramp up audibly if doing anything intensive in apps that utilize the GPU, but that’s OK
  • Everything just works – no drivers to install
  • My biggest bottleneck is now my disk – an SSD is nextMac About

Heaven Benchmark results:

Mode: 1680×1050 fullscreen on one monitor

Before:

  • FPS: 5.9
  • Score: 148
  • Min FPS: 3.3
  • Max FPS: 11.8

After:

  • FPS: 52.8
  • Score: 1330
  • Min FPS: 8.3
  • Max FPS: 103.3

New GTX 660
New GTX 660
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External PSU 6 pin power cable running through an open slot.
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External PSU

 

Adjusting a blank to provide room for the external power
Adjusting a blank to provide room for the external power cable

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Temporary setup
Temporary setup with external power supply. A PSU tester is connected to keep the supply running without being attached to a motherboard.
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Final 6-pin PCIe cable installed
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No more rig!