Mac Pro 5,1 (Flashed 4,1) in 2024

So I’m trying to get my inherited 5,1 (actually a flashed 4,1, dual CPU quad-core 3.06ghz) up and running. And I’ve run into some issues, though I’m not sure how much of that is OpenCore Legacy Patcher and how much of it is age and how much of it might be worn out components.

My plan was to see if I could use it to replace multiple aging items in my set up so I can start to clear out the e-waste nightmare in my office. In addition to hosting all of my biggest drives (3x3TB drives + the boot SSD) and acting as an NAS, it could act as my main work machine as long as it successfully ran the MS 365 office suite, and if I put in one of those chonky WiFi/BT PCIE cards I was thinking it could even act as my wireless router, right?

I have Monterey installed on it, and sad to say, it wouldn’t work with the GTX 680 (apparently problems with the Kepler family), so I put the GTX 1080 back (both are actually Mac flashed, but the 680 doesn’t do anything), and I’ve noticed graphical oddities on the 1080, particularly in MS Word which is a dealbreaker. Additionally, it won’t pick up non-Apple bluetooth mice (???) and even using plugged in mice, clicks have to be super deliberate to register. These same mice work in Sonoma on my work issued 2020 MacBook Pro, so I have no idea what’s going on there.

I’m going to flat out do a clean install of Ventura, and hope it works. There are a lot of people reporting very good experiences with their 4,1/5,1s on OpenCore, and when I got it, everything was running perfectly in El Capitan (the previous owner hadn’t bothered with any patchers). I’m hoping this isn’t a waste of time–until I get reasonable performance I don’t want to sink much money into it.

EDIT 3: Yup the GTX 1080 being non-metal would normally be bad enough, but for some reason it is worse, because the acceleration doesn’t work either, though it should. So, RX 580 it is then.

EDIT 4: Found a RX 560 which the reviews say is actually Mac flashed and definitely works, and OCLP folks confirmed that’s good enough, so I’ll go with that.

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You definitely need a GPU that supports Metal if you want to run newer MacOS variants. Otherwise all performance basically goes in the bin. The RX560 should be good.
Getting a newer and supported BT / WIFI card can also make a big difference in regard to compatibility and support.
Worth having a read through some of the posts on the Mac Rumors forums. Quite a few people going down a similar path.

Yeah, I have tossed a Fenvi T919 for BT/WiFi (Recommended by the OpenCore folks) and the RX560 in my Amazon cart. I just got a new credit card with a spend bonus, which is supposed to arrive today, so I hope I can order them when I activate it and it arrives.

I’m still using my 2010 Apple TimeCapsule as my router. So…

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I’ve installed Linux Mint 21.3 XFCE and confirmed that the issued with the mice are due to the onboard BT. I have a Linux/Windows compatible BT 5.0 nub, and that immediately picked up the mice, but the onboard BT card showed the same exact problem in Linux. So hopefully the Fenvi t919 will solve that problem.

One thing I was not expecting was for the Mac Pro to perform better under Mint/XFCE than my Octocore Ryzen 7 3.2Ghz system, which has the same amount of RAM (but DDR4 vs DDR3). I’m still hoping to be able to run Monterey, Ventura, or Sonoma on this machine once I get the RX 560 and T919 cards in, but this probably means that I can just sell the Ryzen 7 system components knowing that when OCLP finally fails us, I can move right over to Mint/XFCE and pick up where I left off.

EDIT: Extreme cursing. They tried to deliver my credit card to the next house. The post office never gets it wrong but every single delivery service does. There is something wrong with their maps. And of course now it is too late for them to redeliver. ARGH.

Just as a reference for this thread. While pricey, OSXWIFI offer some pretty complete and supported options for people wanting to upgrade WIFI/BT in older macs.

I got the card, so I just went ahead and ordered the RX 560 and the T919. OpenCore folks know their hacks best, so I’m following what they recommend.

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So much for the “RX 560 just works.” It does not. I just get a black screen after the initial opencore bootpicker and initial Apple loading screen.

I may have to return it, which I do not want to do. I’ve told the OCLP folks what has happened. I’m hoping it can be resolved, because this is profoundly disappointing.

EDIT: Apparently it is more complicated than just “Is Polaris, will work.” Lexa cores are right out. And while Baffin (like my card) should be supported, perhaps not always? But unless you literally know exactly the production run of the exact brand and how closely it adheres to the original design specs, you could be in for trouble. This is getting into Hackintosh levels of absurdity, and I’m just not interested in that.

Unfortunately, with the RX560 being made by multiple AIB partners, there is bound to be variations in the design. From memory, Sapphire models tend to have the highest chance for compatibility. But it can be hit or miss. If you find the right model though, it should be pretty straight forward.

Okay, that was quite a trial, but I finally succeeded after 11.5 hours. The OCLP folks were very helpful in troubleshooting, but they didn’t know whether I’d be successful or not.

For reference my card is the Asrock Phantom Gaming RX 560 with 4GB of VRAM. It is a Baffin core card. Lexa cores don’t work (at least not with without a bunch of spoofing and SSTD stuff I barely understand and want no part of based on the rabbit holes I went down).

In theory all Baffin RX 5XX cards should work. But theory is not real world. And in the real world, production cards deviate from the MSI RX 580 something something that Apple actually included (which is how the support exists in the first place for RX 5XX). Even then, if a card is compatible, it is not just a case of installing drivers, either in natively supported OSes after the fact by root patching.

Compatibility is a spectrum, which takes us to the first step:

Reset the NVRAM of the Mac Pro.

Then, install a natively supported OS on the Mac Pro, to run OCLP. This means El Capitan through Mojave. I chose Mojave. You have to do this part with an NVIDIA card or otherwise supported card. I did it with the GT 120 (now working again, thankfully). It took me several attempts to get a working install of Mojave. But I eventually did.

Download OCLP.

Shutdown, switch to the RX 560. No boot screen, but it should work. This took me several attempts to get stable, and I had to clean out the PCIe slots and I used the second, higher 16x slot for the RX 560.

Now, LEAVE the Mac Pro, go find another Mac, and build the installer on your external media using OCLP BUT DO NOT ADD THE EFI WHEN PROMPTED. If you attempt to build the installer on the Mac Pro, it will just… not. It won’t fail out. It won’t give you a warning. It won’t crash. It will just sit there and mock you with 0.0 Bytes Written. Do not use a thumb drive. You will want to use an actual drive for this, this will become important later. I used a 60GB SSD I had.

Take your successful installer on external media and plug it into the Mac Pro, and then build and apply the EFI from its OCLP to the installer external media you made. It will pick up the Polaris configuration.

Take your OS disk out of the Mac Pro and set it aside. Take the installer SSD in your external out and put it in the first bay of the Mac Pro. Put the OS disk in the external case.

Turn on the Mac Pro. OpenCore Bootpicker should show up, choose the only option (Install Sonoma or I suppose Ventura or Monterey). Then plug in the external (OS) SSD into the Mac Pro.

Proceed through the installation as you would expect.

After the first reboot, once Sonoma Installer shows up on the OS SSD (not Install Sonoma), do not let it proceed to actually boot the installation, rather turn off the Mac Pro, take the OS SSD out of the case, and stick it in another SSD slot in the Mac Pro. THEN power on the Mac Pro and let it proceed to boot the installation. It will take about four total loops to finish.

Success will be obvious once the initial set up loads. Complete it. OpenCore will yell at you to copy the EFI to the OS disk. Do so.

Reboot, and before the chime, remove the installer SSD.

Boot into a fully working copy of macOS Sonoma on your Mac Pro 5,1 with an Asrock Phantom Gaming RX 560 4GB.

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So far everything is working except Bluetooth (expected, hence the T919 card) and Japanese input, and this has been broken on the patchers on Mac Pros since dosdude1’s Catalina patcher. It only affects Mac Pros, but was a considerable issue for me when my 3,1 was basically my primary work machine and I worked in a Japanese workplace. I spoke to dosdude1 about it, and basically, it is such a small use case/user base, that “lol, I’m not going to fix it.” Totally fair. It seems likely the OCLP developers have the same opinion.

It isn’t an issue in this case because I no longer work in a Japanese workplace but an English-based international one.

The hope with this machine is threefold:

  1. NAS. Because of the way I have learned to interface MacOS with Linux, there’s no reason why the drives cannot remain HFS+ drives on the Mac Pro, I have already confirmed that on the most recent Linux Mint I can directly work with HFS+ drives if dual booted, but even better, on OTHER Linux Mint machines, I can just connect to the network shares and set mount points where they almost behave as local disks.

  2. Allow me to use Microsoft Office 365 desktop applications for work while being able to mess around in other apps and browsers to do personal stuff at the same time. Despite work issuing me a 2020 13" MacBook Pro, I don’t like doing personal stuff on it, as it is a managed device, and one of my colleagues does have the power to take control of it or snoop. Do I expect him to do so? No. Does it give me pause on general principle? It does. I’m a remote worker, and while I am 9 to 5 on-call, my terms of reference explicitly talk about deliverables. If I’m getting stuff turned in on time, they’re not supposed to care if at the same time I’m yelling on Twitter, playing Doom, or skydiving.

  3. If possible, replace my router, as the T919 card should (with four antennas, though some reports suggest replacing them with even larger ones for max benefit) allow my Mac Pro to act as a de facto replacement when combined with its storage capacity (currently at 9.25TB) for my 2010 Time Capsule which has been an absolute trooper but deserves its retirement.

Currently in the machine is the RX 560, a Sonnet 4 port USB-3 card, a CalDigit 2 port USB-3 card (this may seem redundant, but it has the pin out required by the T919 card which will go above it), 9TB of spinner storage, and a 240GB Crucial SSD in an Orioco adapter. Never been big time enough to shell out for OWC.

The OCLP folks said they intend to see what they can do to keep the Intel machines running even after Apple drops Intel CPU devices entirely. I am simply not educated enough about the architecture differences to understand how that is possible, but they seem to think it is. I am curious to see if Apple decides that is the point where they really try to introduce something which basically prevents any kind of legacy patching or Hackintoshing and cannot be exploited, emulated, etc.

So what is the future of this machine?

Honestly, as I am more and more a Linux user, I think this only affects Purpose #2. At some point (5 years from now, perhaps?), I’m not going to be able to run the latest Microsoft Office 365 desktop apps and I won’t be able to clear my work’s 365 compliance requirements. When that happens, I’ll have to make a decision about how I conduct myself during active work tasks. Do I give up my freedom to do other stuff on the same device while working? Do I use Windows (extreme gagging)? Do I violate my sustainability principles and buy a Apple Silicon MacBook?

As far as Purposes 1 and 3… Probably doesn’t matter if the macOS is up to date, as I can just use Linux instead. Which I probably will even now after the “work day” is over. And as a personal desktop machine, it will continue to last many years based on the expansion which is still possible (128GBs of RAM!!!). Considering things like the Sonnet McFiver, which adds NVME, USB-C, and modern 10Gb ethernet…

I think I’ll be fine for quite a long time on the personal side. And it turns out past me was smart when I built my Ryzen system too, because it is still compatible with the latest AMD CPUs, has unused RAM slots, all of the PCIe cards in the MacPro will work in it (as will the McFiver), which means I’ll just set it aside until the Mac Pro finally has some kind of critical failure (like the 3,1 did) and then I’ll move everything over to the Ryzen machine and keep going. Yes, I am spending money periodically on parts, but I’m determined to avoid dropping $2k or $3k (Screaming Eagles, that is, not Dollary Doos, which would be even worse) on any one single new machine.

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This is a really cool card. Definitely some handy use cases. Even if it’s just adding a couple USB-C ports along with the 10gb NIC. Probably worth it if you intend to use all the features of the card. If you just want any single function on its own, there are definitely cheaper options.

Oh, I know there is. But the beauty of the McFiver is it all fits into one card, leaving the other slots open for other stuff (such as the T919, second GPU, etc).

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@kionon Thank-you for creating this thread. My Mac Pro 5,1 2.8 quad is sitting in a corner of my son’s bedroom, though he’s since moved over to the Dark Side. I have been trying to decide what to do with it… My move over to a Mac Mini 2012 + USB3 4-drive tower has been “ok” but not brilliant…

I think however I’d probably want to sell my one, and get a high end 5,1 as my starting point.

You don’t need to get an entire new 5,1. If it is a real 5,1 and not a flashed 4,1, then I would advise you to get a dual-CPU tray and just swap out the CPUs for a pair of dual Xeon X-series chips. Mine was upgraded by its previous owner to dual X5667s, but on the 4,1-turned-5,1, the cpus have to be delidded OR you have to be super careful in not breaking things. But on the real 5,1s, they’re just drop in replacements. There’s no sense in selling your chassis just to have to buy a whole new one when you can just replace the parts.

When I was tossing up getting rid of my 5,1 Mac Pro, I looked at getting a dual CPU tray and it was as much or even more than getting a complete system. Both are hard to get here now. I gave up & got an M1 Mac mini and now I’ve just upgraded to an M2 Mac Studio. To be honest, the only reason I would have a 5,1 Mac Pro now is to play old games on…

Yeah, the market differences between Japan and Australia are pretty difficult to predict. When I bought my 2015 MacBook Pro from Jaysee, it was cheaper and easier to import it from Australia and pay the duty (it was about $70) on it than buy one here, but Mac Pros seem to be really easy to get here. I mean, I walked into a used computer store and bought my 3,1, and this 4,1/5,1 was headed to the recycler until I promised to go pick it up from the owner. And now it is my daily work machine, been pretty happy with it since I managed to get it up and running.

I thought that if you had a single CPU tray Mac Pro 5,1, that was it - you couldn’t just pop a 2-CPU tray inside it?

Nope. You can. You just have to have the SMCs match. Which means you cannot just pop a 4,1 CPU tray into a 5,1 (or vice versa). It will work, it will boot, it will run, but there is no way around the error where the fans go full speed, which the vast majority of people consider unusable. But going from a single-CPU tray to a dual-CPU tray with the right SMC is fine. For a real 5,1, any dual tray from 2010-2012 will have the correct SMC.

As I said before, when I was looking it was very expensive to get either but there seemed to be more complete units around than just trays. BTW, the actual processors themselves are very easy to get hold of & reasonably priced.

Obviously, it’s all going to come down to cost/benefit value analysis. @cosmichobo can try to do a couple of things.

He can sell the 5,1 whole, and buy another 5,1 whole.
He can buy another 5,1 whole, compare the two systems’ components, and create a best-of machine, and sell the other 5,1 with the single-CPU tray or part it out to maximise profit and potentially save multiple other machines.
He can buy dual-CPU tray and sell his single-CPU tray.

Each of these has costs: money for the purchase, money for packing and shipping, labor for packing, shipping, swapping components, and time.

If locally acquired, there could be cost for gasoline/wear on vehicle/tolls… (this was my “cost” for even picking my 4,1/5,1, I had to physically drive into rather central Tokyo, via the tollway, to save it from going to recycling. Very much worth it for a machine without an initial purchase price…With the market value of $500-800 Screaming Eagles according to EveryMac absolutely not, I’d have gladly tossed on the cost of scheduling Kuroneko Yamato go and wrap it up and deliver it to my door.).

Not all of these costs are going to be easily defined, but they can be approximated, but it is definitely a case of YMMV (or I guess YKMMV, given Japan vs Australia, which both use KM. Is Kilometerage a word? I guess it is now!) for how you value your labor and time.

By far the tray swap is the simplest: low labor and time and low in shipping, but may be expensive in money for purchase. Also potentially the most sustainable, assuming the tray was pulled out of a chassis that is non functional for whatever reason (like how everything works in my 3,1 except the logic board), if sustainability has value to you (ethical, moral, political, as it does to me).
I’d say sell current machine, buy new machine is second simplest: middle labor and time, higher in shipping, may have the same expense as just the tray.
By far the most difficult is the idea of a best-of machine, where the lower-quality (but still working) machine survives, or where the lower-quality machine can be parted out in hopes it gives its life for others: high labor and time, higher initial shipping but made back perhaps in the selling of lower-quality machine or its parts, potential for lower overall expense in money terms at the very end, particularly if parting out is used to maximise profits, and given the sustainability multiplication if parting out, could be the most sustainable.

Complex and highly up to personal valuation.