Upgrading the Mac Pro's CPU

Now that Apple has completed the switch to Intel based processors, upgrading your CPU is a much cheaper and more accessible option for Mac users. In the past, upgrading your CPU required visiting an Apple specific vendor and paying quite a bit for a processor since the demand was honestly quite low. Now, with the Mac Pro and any other Intel based Mac that has a socketed processor an upgrade is just as easy as a trip to Newegg.

The Mac Pro we ordered was the slowest 2.0GHz configuration, since we wanted to try and upgrade it to faster parts to see if it was possible. By opting for the slowest CPUs, you can buy a cheaper overall computer and simply throw in faster CPUs once they drop in price - assuming the upgrades work of course.


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By far the biggest problem with upgrading the CPUs in the Mac Pro is gaining access to them. While Apple made it very easy to upgrade memory, storage and PCIe cards in the Mac Pro, getting access to the CPUs is considerably more difficult. The entire process would be made much easier if we were able to remove the memory cage, but as we mentioned in our last article the standoffs that the cage is screwed into would not remain in place while we unscrewed the cage. To make a long story short, we weren't able to remove the memory cage without stripping the screws that held it in place, so we had to come up with an alternative solution; luckily we were able to do just that.


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The first step is to remove the heatsink cover, which has latches along its sides that the fan assembly and part of the memory cage hook up to. With the memory cage in place, your only option is to pull back on the memory cage to unlatch it from the heatsink cover and slowly pull/rotate the cover off. This process is made somewhat easier by removing the two screws that attach the memory cage to the motherboard, since it allows the cage to move a little more freely. Obviously you'll want to remove both memory risers before doing this, but simply pulling the cage back towards the rear of the case and pushing the heatsink cover in the opposite direction should let you unlatch it.


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With the memory side of the heatsink cover unlatched, simply pull it away from the fan assembly being careful not to break the latches. After you've done this, the Xeon heatsinks should be exposed.


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Third Party Memory Modules Upgrading CPUs (continued)
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  • mostlyprudent - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    I have to agree with the first part of your post. I read the article and thought.."Why?". I have always understood the appeal of a Mac to be that you could upack it and get to work. If we start talking about running other OSs on a Mac or hacking software/drivers for better hardware supprt, then why pay the premium for a Mac? Reply
  • michael2k - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    Because a Mac is cheaper than an equivalently configured dual dual-core Xeon workstation from Dell orr HP? Reply
  • greylica - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    I see the rendering results and I Think its really will be a dream machine for 3D Rendering and not a gaming dream machine like allienware ( Now dell ) is, and therefore are a bunch of problems into running XP in this hardware that is not related here, XP is caped to the switch of 3GB and limited to 2GB per app, it´s nearly impossible to compare XP with Mac OS-X, the other downside is that I Didn´t see any review tolding you that you can read XP partition under Mac OS-X or even write to it.
    I Have so many doubts that windows Vista will not be caped in some way after seeing that the switch can really prejudice us to upgrade to another OS that MS is trying to sell.
    I will only switch my opinion about Microsoft when they finnaly release a patch to solve this caped windows in relation to this memory issue under adressing really what the hardware can do. If Mac OS-X haves 16GB of memory, XP only will see 3GB and 2GB per app, PAE ( Page adress extension ) is a nightmare for users and a dream for Microsoft.

    They are saying for all of employees now:
    - Memory Issues ? Push them to Vista !!!

    And it is not all, I discovered that windows 2000 is stronger than XP under heavy loads, and abandoned XP to rendering services, Linux, Mac OS-X and 2K are the best choices if you are a 3D professional and you hve a good workstation.

    Mac-OS-X have its own problems too before 10.3/10.4, it´s limited too to 2GB per app. But right now this is completely solved, giving to you all of your machine.

    I Have certainty to tell that professionals will really benefit from 2- quad core clovertowns under 3D content creation.

    XP was not designed to meet professionals demands, its a S.O. to play games.
    Then, do not polute your Mac, and do not buy a mac to use XP, use a budget computer that deserves XP if you wish to use this.

    If you are a pro, use windows 2000 instead of XP, it´s faster, reliable, secure.
    Windows 2000 helps your productivity. Course... Without the cosmetics...
    Reply
  • Pirks - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    Are there any decent 64-bit rendering apps like Maya/Lightwave/etc that run natively on XP x64? Reply
  • splines - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    After seeing what you've said about wishing for a C2D/DDR2 Mac, I'd be interested in how the new iMac C2D with perhaps the 7600GT option stands up in gaming to a comparable PC. Sure, it's nowhere near as configurable (or as boast-worthy) as a Mac Pro, but it does seemingly offer a solution somewhere in the middle.

    That said, the 24" iMac is the only one currently supporting a 7600GT upgrade, and it does boost the price a bit. On a cost - performace ratio, in GPU-limited applications the Mac still seems to be overpriced compared to a PC.

    For interest's sake, however, it's something I'd read carefully.
    Reply
  • JackPack - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    Just wondering, what's the stepping on the Clovertowns used? Reply
  • Imaginer - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    I am not entirely convinced of the apple craze. I still prefer my own customability of my system and XP is really not a bad OS to work with. That and I am cheap and really dont want to shell out money for the apple package deal they have going. Reply
  • Calin - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    I just want to tell you that the MacPros are workstations - and their price reflect that. You buy one for lots and lots of reasons, the last of them are games.
    Those are used to make money - and in some cases, having twice the horsepower lets the employee that use them work twice as fast.
    I do prefer my own customability of my system (even if I barely used it), and XP is (now) not a bad OS to work with. But MacPros are for me just as much as an SGI Octane would be (very useful for tasks I wouldn't touch with a barge pole)
    Reply
  • tuteja1986 - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    <b>I just want to tell you that the MacPros are workstations - and their price reflect that. You buy one for lots and lots of reasons,</b> the last of them are games.
    Those are used to make money - and in some cases, having twice the horsepower lets the employee that use them work twice as fast.
    I do prefer my own customability of my system (even if I barely used it), and XP is (now) not a bad OS to work with. But MacPros are for me just as much as an SGI Octane would be (very useful for tasks I wouldn't touch with a barge pole)

    What the hell are you talking about :*(

    Windows Workstation with the same spec that cost cheaper could do everything that Mac workstation could do :*( only real real reason i would buy a new Mac pro if i was Video editing.
    Reply
  • Calin - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    Assuming you want a workstation capable of accessing 16GB of RAM (and using two processors), your options are a bit more reduced. There was an article on Anandtech, and the Mac Pro (the most expensive) was just a couple of hundred dollars more expensive than the sum of its components (and operating system I think). Reply

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