How to Breathe New Life into a Dying Mac Pro, On a Budget

As a technical mercenary, I find myself continually needing more computing power and more space, which is one reason I purchased the Mac Pro, to get ahead of the technology curve.

It has worked out beautifully, but more and more I find myself muttering, “if only I can get one more year out of it…”

Sadly, that is what I say about my 1999 F150 pickup truck.  It is now fifteen (15) years old, and keeps running year after year. 

But the idea is the same — pour just enough money into the system to keep it useful, until it absolutely needs to die.  And that is where I’m at with the Mac Pro.  Once I’m done with it, it will become a server relegated to the basement for another five years. 

Here is how I added some relatively simple upgrades to keep the rig running.

Storage

The best upgrade I can suggest is to upgrade to Solid State Disk drives (SSDs), bar none.   You won’t realize the full potential due to the limitations of the SATA controllers, but the speed increase will be dramatic nonetheless.  Also, make sure you are running Mavericks so that TRIM is supported.

If you are strapped for cash, get one SSD that is big enough to hold the operating system.  Also, get one that is at least 50% bigger than you think you will need.  I purchased one for the OS and one to put my user directories.  I’m constantly migrating data to my NAS in order to keep the system running.

Adding USB 3.0

My 2008 Mac Pro came with USB 2.0.  While looking at DAS solutions that might be used by the newer Mac Pro, I settled on USB 3.0. 

Pick up an Inateck PCIe USB 3.0 card.  The chipset is natively supported in OS X Mavericks, so no special drivers.

RAM

This was the first upgrade I did, the first year I purchased the system.  The stock 2008 systems shipped with a meager 2GB of RAM.

Those are the big three upgrades to refresh your Mac Pro.