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Thread: Modding 2008 Mac Pro / El Capitan for smoothest use

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    Default Modding 2008 Mac Pro / El Capitan for smoothest use

    Computer: 3,1 Mac Pro 2008 dual quad 2.8. 18 GB RAM. GT120 512MB graphics card. 4 internal hard drives.

    I'm wanting to get a little more life out of my Mac Pro which still gives me very good power with what I do, and is in excellent condition. I have it on El Cap but not with a clean install, and I do get beach balls on occasion, Safari runs fine sometimes, is slow sometimes, (text input), and sometimes an occasional GUI starts out black before they fill in. I am attributing this to either the graphics card, El Cap, or the fact that the upgrade brought along other crap from previous OS's. Don't know, but would like to know.

    I may have to do a (dreaded) clean install.

    On the beach ball: as an example, Just clicking the blue checkbox to subscribe to this thread before posting it caused the beach ball for a couple seconds. But some days everything works fine. In any case, it's not horrible and unusable, but there are more than in previous OS's.

    I read the comment here on the hard drive page that a 3,1 2008 Mac Pro is really not equipped to handle more than 4 drives. I had been thinking of getting a PCI-e SSD to be my boot drive. (My original idea was to install an HD in the optical slot and put the SSD in sled one, but it seems I'd have to dismantle the fan and everything to get the HD plugged into the board). I already have 4 drives in the sleds, and still need them all: 3GB, 3GB, 2GB, 1GB. They are pretty specific so taking the 1GB to larger and partitioning it in lieu of expanding with an SSD isn't an option, for example).

    My other thing was replacing the 512MB GeForce GT120 with a used Radeon 5770 or higher. Some say it will work on a 2008, other info says only for 2010 and up.

    1) Does it sound like this larger card may help, or will it draw too much power particularly since my GT120 does not require additional power cable. Is it OK in a 2008?

    1a) Or is there even a better card that still will be OK without taxing the Mac Pro?

    2) PCI-e SSD? Too much?

    I welcome any other comments regarding El Cap and it working well on an older machine. Thank you very much.
    Last edited by macmac; 08-19-2016 at 07:56 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    on the landline, Mr. Smith


    Howdy -

    I would go SSD for sure, HD is the slowest part of any machine. Ideas:

    1. In the past, I have dropped an SSD in one of the optical bays with no issue. Been years, perhaps it was model/year specific.
    2. Replace one or more of your HDs, and consolidate data. You could replace both the 1 and 2 TB with a single 4TB (or bigger), and end up with more space, less drives, less heat, less power draw, and more usable space. Any drive more than 3 years old is a reasonable candidate for upgrading.

    I would get boot OS on SSD first, before worrying about GPU.

    A clean OS install would be smart to test, even if you migrate your existing User directory over, to see if there in fact GPU issues too.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    I agree 100%! I've got a 2011 iMac w/ SSD and I have never said to myself "I sure wish this were faster", which is the first time ever, my not having computer lust. I don't know if there is something to the evolution of the Mac OS, but I've also had maybe 3-4 crashes since using SSD as my main drive. Could there be fewer corruptions of data? Runs 24/7.

    I like the optical bay idea as it seems the least capitol outlay. But, one could get one of these and then get one of these and you've got an extra bay and still have your optical drive.

    One option before doing a clean install would be this:

    (spoken with a creaky voice) Why back in my day we had to write all the code out by hand first, and then rewrite it, backwards, with wool mittens on.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006


    Thank you both for your help! You guys are really special and why I love this site.

    This brings up a few things. I do have a single bay Burly running from an eSata PCI-e card, but I use it only for backups, not using it as an extra drive running all the time. I guess I could use it permanently as a way to have a 5th drive...I hadn't thought of that. Hmm. It couldn't be for the boot though or any one that is going to be backed up, since I'd need a 2-bay Burly as you indicated.

    As for the number of internals that my computer can handle well, I was going by what I read here under the Hard Drives and Optical tab:

    where it said the 3,1 really isn't equipped for more than 4 drives.

    Question: Is this still the case?

    That is why I veered from my original idea of removing Drive 1 from sled 1 and putting it in the spare optical slot, and a boot SSD in sled 1. Do a whole lot of things had to be temporarily removed to be able to plug it [optial bay] into the mother board? Although I'm capable of that, maybe it would be better to leave the drives where they are and put a PCI-e SSD in my 16x slot (although that is where my eSata Burly is, so that is the downside). That way everything stays as it is and I get a faster boot drive. But then there is the heat and power consumption issue that unclemac brought up, which is a valid point.

    Question: Do the 4+ TB drives require more power / have more heat than 3 or 2TBs? and when one sled is empty, that will decrease?
    Second question: Can my machine 3,1 handle a drive larger than 3?

    Then after reading Uncle's post about consolidating: That addresses the heat, etc. but has some caveats in my case:

    Drive #1 is 3TB and contains 3 partitions: El Capitan boot, Mavericks, and Snow Leopard. I still need them. (with an SSD the EC boot will be there, but I still need partitions for the other OS's on a 7200 RPM drive)
    Drive #2 is 3TB for data, documents, iTunes, stuff I work on, storage.
    Drive #3 is 2TB to house the streaming audio sample libraries that I own (I do audio as well as graphics).
    Drive #4 is 1TB for recording the audio.

    So if I used an SSD as El Cap boot drive, any consolidation would have to be combining my Drive 2 and 3 (putting all docs, samples, etc. together) and it would have to be a hefty drive if I were to leave a sled empty for heat sake. Drive 4 (recording) has to be a separate drive from a sample or boot drive.

    Underlying all this has been my thought that perhaps El Capitan shouldn't have been intended for a 3,1 Mac, but I do know from past experiences that clean installs are always the way to go. The last couple upgrades I just didn't have the time to install and reauthorize all my stuff from scratch. Some people seem to get along well with it, others I've read have had to go back to Yosemite.

    I would like to make El Cap work, and for the most part it does...except for more frequent beach balls and typing lag (Safari is a lot worse in EC here than in Yosemite). The computer still gives me a lot of power (I could identify with what you said, Yeungfeng) and I don't feel I have need right now for a new machine) and even with the 7200 boot drive it's really pretty good speed-wise. I don't find myself cursing at the machine, in other words.

    Question: Is it true that EL Cap has new graphics requirements, and the fact that when booting my menubar is first black then fills in white with the text, is that a graphic card issue (not enough RAM on it) or just a bad El Cap install? This does happen with some GUI windows but not all the time. Those are the sort of little lags I have with El Cap, plus occasional text typing lag but not all the time. I'm trying to remedy this.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2001
    1hr N/W of LA LA Land


    Gurus page says the same about drives for my 2010 MacPro 5,1 Quad core.

    That said I have 4 4TB drives in the stock bays, and a SSD in the lower optical bay which is my boot drive. Things are running fine so far, and my room is a bit on the warm side.

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