My work machine is a Mac Pro 1,1, and it’s obviously getting a bit long in the tooth. I upgraded the video card from an X1900 to a Radeon HD 5770 (which works fine) last year, and just yesterday, I undertook the process of installing two Xeon X5355‘s rather than the stock 5150 processors. The process is pretty simple (I’d call it a medium difficulty), but is easy enough to follow instructions online1 (the hardest part was removing the cowl from the processors). You’ll need a 3mm 9″ hex key (I happened to have one), and some thermal compound (I used Arctic Silver 5).
The processors I used were purchased off ebay for all of $54/each with free shipping. BTW, make sure to buy the SLAEG revision, as this version halves the idle power usage down to about what the stock CPUs use2. Install time was about an hour with pulling everything apart, and doing the thermal compound correctly (clean the CPU/heatsink, prime/tint both surfaces, etc).
The weird part of the process is that the machine does not natively see the processors correctly (it says “unknown” when you get info about the computer. But system profiler sees two quad cores. The best/easiest fix is to run the firmware update that basically turns a 1,1 into a 2,13 found here (you’ll need to sign up for a forum account to see the download link). Update the firmware (following the instructions), and you’re done. The machine sees both the processors, and I’m actually quite happy that between the newer/better thermal paste, and cleaning out the dust from the heatsinks brought my CPU temp down! Handbrake speeds weren’t improved THAT much (first pass is about 75% faster, and second pass is 100% faster). Alas, handbrake is still slower than a coworker’s iMac i7 (Sandy Bridge). SSE4.x makes a pretty big improvement here apparently. I think the shared cache architecture makes a diff as well.
All and all, for $108, this was a worthwhile upgrade, and this machine will make a pretty good VMware host when I upgrade my machine.
- I’ve actually found this to be the best written instructions on getting MOST of the way there [↩]
- The stock 5150’s use 24W idle, and about 65W full power. The X5355 SLAEG use 25W idle, and 120W at full power. Decreased power usage seems to be from the SLAEG supporting Demand Based Switching. [↩]
- These two machines are identical hardware wise, but Apple limited the firmware’s to each model. So this program will install the 2,1 firmware onto a 1,1 machine [↩]