Revive my 2009 Mac pro?
Hi. I hope this is the right forum for this. I’m trying to get some advice on whether it is worth putting money into upgrading my 8-core 2009 mac pro. I see now that there are usb-c pcie cards now and those can also use adapters to connect to thunderbolt if i understand correctly. So that’s my first question- is that actually a possibility now?
And To get the computer at a decent spec I think I’d upgrade to ssd, add the usb-c card, add much more memory (currently at 12gb), and maybe I’d need a better graphics card. I am a film editor. I would just like to know if there’s some road block I’m not aware of that is going to make it not worth doing. Or is this possibly something that could be a great computer for a few years more?
[Amy Wilson] "I would just like to know if there’s some road block I’m not aware of that is going to make it not worth doing. "That depends on what version of Mac operating system you want to use. The last version that supported the 2009 Mac Pro is OS X 10.11 El Capitan. The next two versions: macOS 10.12 Sierra and macOS 10.13 High Sierra, require the 2010 Mac Pro as minimum and the "soon to be released" macOS 10.14 Mojave lists the 2013 Mac Pro or 2010 Mac Pro with Metal capable graphics card as the minimum requirement. It is anyone's guess if you can hack it to install on a 2009 Mac Pro. Out of the box, El Capitan is the last version of OS X that installs by default.
[Amy Wilson] "Or is this possibly something that could be a great computer for a few years more?"Without knowing what editing software you use it's hard to say if upgrading a 2009 Mac Pro will last "years" running on El Capitan. As long as you don't mind being a few years behind on OS updates. My 2008 Mac Pro 8-Core is stuck on El Capitan. I can't upgrade it past that. My son uses it for photo editing but not video anymore because it can't run the latest Final Cut Pro X. My 2010 Mac Pro is stuck on Sierra because High Sierra broke support for DVD Studio Pro which I need to make DVD's. Backward compatibility doesn't seem to be a word in Apple's dictionary. ☹
Here are the upgrades I made to my 2010 Mac Pro 12-Core w/24GB memory:
Added a PCIe USB3 card with 3 ports
Added a PCIe SSD OWC Accelsior E2
Added an ATI Radeon HD7950 Apple Edition
The PCIe SSD card is the single best upgrade for increased speed. It gave me 6GB transfer rate instead of the 3GB I would have if I placed it in an existing drive bay. It also gave me an external eSATA port for my external RAID array. The next big speed update was the USB 3.0 ports. They are 10x faster than USB 2.0 and I can actually edit HD video in FCP X directly off of external USB 3 drives.
This is the problem with these old machines... they use older PCIe technology so it doesn't matter what new parts you buy, they are limited by the old buss that they plug into. My ATI Radeon HD7950 supports PCI Express 3.0 but the 2010 Mac Pro motherboard only supports PCI Express 2.0 so the card cannot run as fast as it was designed.
You will be limited by the OS that you can use and whether your software supports that OS or whether (like me) so stick with an older macOS version. SSD's are cheap. I would start by adding once and seeing what you think. It gives an amazing boost in performance. I have not tried the USB-C PCIe cards so I can't say how well they work (if at all). I'm guessing that they are only USB protocol. If you want Thunderbolt you might need to specifically buy a PCIe Thunderbolt card. I don't have any Thunderbolt devices but I have tons of USB 3 and eSATA devices so that's why I added those cards. Having an SSD and USB3 really breathed new life into my 2010 Mac Pro. There is probably plenty of life left in your 2009 depending on what software you plan to use.
Hope that helps,