2006 Mac Pro - what should I do with it?
October 18, 2014 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I have a 2006 Mac Pro 1.1 (specs below the fold) which I understand can't be upgraded to current OS versions without a CPU replacement. I'm not sure if I can replace the CPU, or if that would even be sufficient to upgrade to a current Mac OS. How hard would it be to change the CPU, and what is my best option if I can't / won't change it?

Model Name: Mac Pro
Model Identifier: MacPro1,1
Processor Name: Dual-Core Intel Xeon
Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz
Number Of Processors: 2
Total Number Of Cores: 4
L2 Cache (per processor): 4 MB
Memory: 16 GB
Bus Speed: 1.33 GHz
Boot ROM Version: MP11.005D.B00
SMC Version (system): 1.7f10
posted by Joe in Australia to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It's doable and there are discussions on the kind of CPU you should seek out, along with walkthroughs and guides for updating the firmware and adjusting fan speeds.

The problem you face is that you'd be buying the most appropriate CPU upgrade (the Xeon X5355 quad-core) either second-hand or from a no-name reseller. There are probably bargains to be had from resellers of oldish server hardware (example) if you know what to ask for (and get what you ask for) but no real warranty.
posted by holgate at 5:14 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it sacrilegious to suggest staying with the version of OS X that the machine can handle? This is an 8-year old machine. The fact that it is still running is amazing enough.
posted by megatherium at 5:37 PM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's not sacrilegious, but I'm finding more and more software that won't run on it. Stupid stuff, like Apple's own software for administering WiFi points. As for it running after eight years, it's a very well-designed beast. I expect I'll have to replace the fans eventually, but I can't see any other reason it shouldn't work indefinitely.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:03 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Beware that the GPU (graphics card) is even more important for OSX compatibility. If you upgrade only the CPU, you'll be stuck at the same OSX version.

The $599 Mac mini might be a better investment than faster Xeons with old OSX.
posted by flif at 6:13 PM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

IIRC, even with a CPU upgrade you can only go about as far as 10.7.x officially, and maybe 10.8.x unofficially (i.e. with hacks that basically involve mixing and matching bits from pre-release beta versions).

The problem is not so much the CPU - which is upgradable to a 64-bit Xeon - but the EFI, which only supports 32-bit operating systems. And there's been no official 32-bit versions of OS X since 10.7.something.
posted by Pinback at 6:16 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go against the grain and say keep it at 10.6.8 and use it exclusively for running old PowerPC applications. But part of my job depends on doing just that, so I'm a little more sensitive to that sort of thing.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:35 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd agree with that in general - except that there's a wide and growing software gap between what'll run on 10.6.8 vs 10.7.5.

At least so far, most stuff (e.g. the aforementioned Airport Utility) will still run on 10.7.5. But I also expect that to change soon, with 10.8.x or (probably) 10.9.x becoming the new minimum requirement.

But yes, 10.6.8 is the last one that runs Rosetta (though it doesn't come with it), so if you have a need for that you're stuck there.
posted by Pinback at 6:54 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The $599 Mac mini might be a better investment than faster Xeons with old OSX.

Reviews of the new iMacs suggest some models are faster than current (Xeon-based) Mac Pros, even. If you have to budget more than $100-150 for updated processors, skip it and just buy a new Mac mini or iMac. In addition to a modern processor, you'll get a modern OS and more current security updates.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 7:31 PM on October 18, 2014

You can upgrade a MacPro 1,1 to Mavericks and soon Yosemite. It's a 64 bit machine, and it can be upgraded to the latest MacOS using some community-developed magic (boot.efi) to boot the thing with no CPU upgrade. The only hardware upgrade I needed to get mine going was a new video card -- the old Nvidia one didn't cut it.

Start your research here and especially here. The latter allows you to build a USB thumbdrive that pretty much does the full install for you once you have an upgraded video card (I went with the Mac Edition ATI 5770). I haven't upgraded it to Yosemite yet, but the latest blog posts at oemdem state that it is coming soon.

After the upgrade, I was able to install a USB3 card and turn the machine into a really nice media/remote development box. If the hardware holds up, the thing will likely spin over the 10 year odometer for me, which is an unthinkable timeframe for a computer.
posted by hobu at 8:00 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd argue for a Mac Mini and a KVM switch. The Mini could function as a web/Airport Utility machine, while the '06 Pro could be used for archiving.

Traditionally, Miniview KVMs have been great with Macs, with issues occurring only with specialized keyboards, like the Bella editing series with built in jog-shuttle controllers.

While the Apple Support Cycle for desktops typically lasts for 7 years, a good number of obsolete machines running offline have been able to continue on for about 9 to 12 before their owners feel the bootup/application response times are too sluggish to continue worrying over.

Low End Mac had a feature on upgrading the Pro to run Mavericks, though forum users found EFI issues concerning Yosemite compatibility.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:07 PM on October 18, 2014

Use is as a server!
Stuff all 4 drive bays with new big drives, create a raid or redundant drive configuration. Now all the Mac's on the network can use it to Time Machine Back-Up. File sharing, musing / video server etc etc.
posted by Mac-Expert at 8:27 PM on October 18, 2014

Look, I get it. There's a giant piece of aluminum in your office that looks like new. That looks like $3000 or $4000 new, which I'm sure it was, 8 years ago.

But the annals of computer history are littered with computers that are worth less than the value of their cases. Just pop down to the Computer History Museum down in San Jose. Beautiful, historical... and worthless compared with a $300 Windows laptop, if not for historical value and the aesthetic value of its enclosure.

It is time. Use the Mac Pro as a file server, or sell it for a few hundred dollars. Replace it with any of Apple's latest line, even the cheapest of which is far more powerful.

It's OK.
posted by eschatfische at 8:45 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sell it.
posted by dubious_dude at 11:44 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

16gb of ram and that gen of xeon isn't an "outdated" machine, people need to get over themselves. With an SSD it would likely kick the ass of 90% of the machines people use every day.

There are a few limitations, mainly that it doesn't have the latest standard of SATA and a couple other minor things... but really, just upgrade the video card.

Hobu has the right idea. There's an ebay seller that specifically sells reflashed video cards to work with macs, and they have a very good rep. Hollywood effects studios and stuff use their cards.

Get a new GPU, do some minor tweaking, and upgrade to as hobu said, mavericks and then yosemite soon.

If you don't care about GPU performance, there's some very cheap cards that will get the job done. like $50-80. Check here.

Really though, go look at some geekbench scores. Only the newest quad core or better machines exceed it. Its single core score is decent and the multi core scores are still solid. Especially since you have the 8 core version, it's a pretty powerful machine still. There's this weird thing with computer nerds who think anything over 2 years old is ancient, deprecated, and horribly slow now. CPU power hasn't jumped that much since the generation that came out with the first mac pro. That kind of was the big jump that we've just been coasting since. Performance increases have been nearly flat since sandy bridge, which was in 2011. And before that they were fairly flat along the xeons after 06. Would a brand new mac pro, or maxed out imac be faster? Yea, but an average machine like the mac mini? Shit, the mac mini isn't even available with a quad core anymore. This would steamroll it.

Just upgrade the GPU, tweak OSX a bit as mentioned above, and keep on truckin'.
posted by emptythought at 4:03 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Once consideration is the power consumption of this Mac Pro....
posted by Mac-Expert at 8:03 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

It'd run Linux just beautifully, and remain able to do so for at least another decade. Just sayin'.
posted by flabdablet at 8:24 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nobody has mentioned that Apple has abandoned security support for Snow Leopard and is very likely to abandon Lion in the near future. I'd attempt an upgrade or sell, but wouldn't continue using that machine with an insecure OS.
posted by cnc at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I'd probably explore the hackintosh-Macintosh route that hobu talks about.
posted by Good Brain at 9:57 PM on October 19, 2014

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