Santa, Bring Me Multi-Processors
December 18, 2009 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Looking for advice on upgrading a dual-OS Mac Pro Tower.

(Apologies in advance for how disjointed this will be)

I have a Mac Pro Tower with 2 dual core 2.66GHz processors and 3 gigs of memory that I bought when I started freelancing in late 2007. Because of my workload since then, I've been mainly using it with a Bootcamp copy of XP. It's started to feel old and slow-- the worst bit is when it starts to grind for a couple of minutes (usually on wake up). I've used a combo of Moo0 System Monitor, Process Explorer and Task Manager in a haphazard attempt to run down the issue(s). Watching Moo0 recently, it seems like the hard drive is most often the burden/ bottleneck. Memory usage is fairly high, running around 65% when I'm in full-on work mode, but that's impossible to relieve under XP since it can only address 2 gigs anyway. Combine all this with the fact the accountant wants me to spend some cash before the end of the year and I'm ready to do something. But what?

I'd like to move to Windows 7 for the Windows side of things. I should be ok with wiping the XP Bootcamp install since all of my data is backed up elsewhere, but I'm wondering if I could buy an SSD drive, install it in the box and put Windows 7 on that. Well, clearly I could, but would I be able to easily boot into that? I use rEFIt now to boot into Windows/ Mac, but I don't know if that would find another OS that wasn't on the main drive. Obviously if I went to Windows 7 I could bump the memory (and I know I should be using even number/ equal pairs of memory, not 3 gigs, for better performance).

In sum: I want to improve this machine and I want to move to Windows 7. What's the best bang for my buck on the hardware and what's the least painful way to move to Windows 7?
posted by yerfatma to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Response by poster: There's plenty more I could throw in if people want more details, but I figured I'd made enough of a mess.
posted by yerfatma at 10:38 AM on December 18, 2009

I find the best test of my backups is a clean re-install. :)

I'd hold off on the SSD, it's a good idea perhaps but premature optimization.

What I would do is backup again, take out the old HD and put in two new HDs, one for OS X 10.6 and one for Windows 7. (You need 10.6 to get the latest Bootcamp drivers). While you're ordering things from newegg go ahead and get 4GB of new memory. You may be able to install this alongside 2GB of the existing memory, or even all 3GB, depending on how your memory is carded. (I'm running 6GB in my Mac Pro).

Install 10.6, then run the bootcamp installer dealie and install Windows 7. Once that is running fine on the 3GB do the new memory install.
posted by tad at 10:51 AM on December 18, 2009

Response by poster: I actually have an almost unused 750 gig drive sitting in the machine (I'd bought it as a storage drive but the external USB drive I have had it's case fried by a power spike (through an APC), so that drive's sitting in there as well. So there's
  • 250 gig main drive
  • 500 gig Western Digital MyBook drive (iTunes library, video, etc)
  • 750 gig lonesome drive
Or did you mean new hard drives to get 10k rpm drives?
posted by yerfatma at 11:08 AM on December 18, 2009

Response by poster: Those are all 7200 rpm drives.
posted by yerfatma at 11:11 AM on December 18, 2009

nah, if you want maximum oomph you should go SSD not 10,000.

10.6 is your first step then. Pull out the main drive and keep it as extra backup, then install 10.6 on the 750GB, use bootcamp to create a Win7 partition on that. After all that's done then you can see if the 3GB is enough for you or not, if not, go ahead and order the RAM.

Make sure you get the 64bit version of Win7, of course.

SSD is great but I don't trust its long-term value proposition yet for some reason.
posted by tad at 11:24 AM on December 18, 2009

Wipe the drive, Install 10.6, Parallels, and XP and Vista and 7 and linux and whatever else you want on parallels. The latest version is far superior than earlier ones. Windows XP actually feels snappy on My Dual Core IMac. Integration is excellent, and really you should be using a Mac as a Mac.
posted by Gungho at 1:02 PM on December 18, 2009

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