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Firmware hack converts 2009 Mac Pro to use faster RAM, CPUs

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
The discovery of how to install new firmware updates on 2009 Mac Pros enables the machines to support dual six-core Westmere Xeon CPUs, faster 1333MHz RAM, and adds audio-out support to the Mini DisplayPort interface, features that were not delivered by Apple until mid 2010.

The discovery, originally discussed on netkas.org forums and detailed by Chris Foresman of Ars Technica, allows users of the earlier Mac Pro models to install an EFI firmware update that essentially converts the machine into the 2010 model, albeit lacking the faster CPUs and RAM that Apple began installing with the new model.

Loading the new firmware results in Mac Pro 4,1 machines (also referred to as "Early 2009") to report they are now Mac Pro 5,1 models ("Mid 2010"). Both machines are similar in that they support Intel's new x58 chipset with QuickPath Interconnect using the Nahalem or Westmere microarchitectures rather than the Core-base Xeon CPUs of 2008 and earlier Mac Pros.



After the update is installed, it's then easy to upgrade to faster new Westmere Xeon CPUs, given that the new chips are socket compatible with the 2009 Mac Pros. Single CPU machines take standard W-series CPUs, while dual CPU models require dual-QPI enabled CPUs to function properly.

Upgrading the firmware also enables Nehalem or Westmere CPUs that can support faster 1333MHz RAM components to do so, enhancing performance above the 1066MHz limit supported by the firmware that 2009 Mac Pro models shipped with. The new firmware also enables Mini DisplayPort to deliver audio signals over HDMI.

Apple doesn't support the firmware upgrade, nor does it consider the CPU a user replaceable part; exchanging either could run the risk of invalidating AppleCare. However, upgrading the firmware is a reversible process (although some refurbished models have a specialized firmware installed that is not publicly available), and users have not yet reported any problems related to upgrading the older model's firmware.
post #2 of 21
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post #3 of 21
I remember a firmware hack on my old eMac that allowed it to do dual displays using the miniVGA port as the second display (instead of mirroring)

Goes to show, not all hacking has bad intent. Awesome job to those who push our machines just a little bit further so we can get that extra little oomph of life from them!
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post #4 of 21
Quote:
adds audio-out support to the Mini DisplayPort interface, features that were not delivered by Apple until mid 2010.

I just bought a new 13 in MacBook Pro with the thunderbolt port and I have had a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI connector for about a year now which as far as know will not send audio out. I've been hooking it up to my TV... any idea on how to get the audio out? Or is that a Mac Pro feature only?
post #5 of 21
Buyer beware. You may think you're buying a used 2010 Mac Pro and you're actually getting a 2009. Check the model number on the back.
post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by imawesome View Post

I just bought a new 13 in MacBook Pro with the thunderbolt port and I have had a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI connector for about a year now which as far as know will not send audio out. I've been hooking it up to my TV... any idea on how to get the audio out? Or is that a Mac Pro feature only?

Macbook Pro with Thunderbolt does support audio over HDMI. Go to System Preferences, Sound, Output and see if you can change the output to HDMI. If that option is not available, then you will need a different adapter. When buying a MIni Displayport to HDMI adapter, check the specs to make sure the adapter supports audio-- some do not.
post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post

I remember a firmware hack on my old eMac that allowed it to do dual displays using the miniVGA port as the second display (instead of mirroring)

Goes to show, not all hacking has bad intent. Awesome job to those who push our machines just a little bit further so we can get that extra little oomph of life from them!

No hacking has bad intent. It is cracking that does.
you only have freedom in choice when you know you have no choice
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you only have freedom in choice when you know you have no choice
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post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

No hacking has bad intent. It is cracking that does.

Why thank you Captain Obvious.
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Mac Pro 5,1: 12 x 2.93GHz / 64 GB / ATI 5870 / 1.5+2+2+2+3TB / ACD 30" + 20"
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post #9 of 21
6% theoretical increase?
post #10 of 21
Now also fully functions as a cheese grater as well.
post #11 of 21
okay, so the older mac pros will support newer CPUs now, can you even interchange them?

back when i was shopping for a mac pro i was told by several sources that the only CPUs that would fit in a mac pro were the ones that came with it. buying a replacement CPU wouldn't work because only the ones shipped inside the mac pros were thin enough to fit under their heat sinks.

did i get bad info?
post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShaolinDave View Post

did i get bad info?

Looks like a yes.

Still, even with this news, it's not like I'm going to go out and buy a 2009 Mac Pro. Prices are still insane, even for used.
post #13 of 21
Yeah, Dave, you got bad info. Heat sinks almost nothing to do with it. http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/ has a lot of users writing about their experience with replacing CPUs and other parts.
post #14 of 21
Awesome, so by the same token, it should be possible to also update the Mid-2009 MacBook Pro FW to enable audio over MDP->HDMI too, right? Here's hoping someone flushes this out...


Sucks that Apple just cuts off the older computers from updates like these, JUST to sell more... So much for "green".
post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post

...


Sucks that Apple just cuts off the older computers from updates like these, JUST to sell more... So much for "green".

Yeah I'd like Apple to do a bit better here. However I understand that there are real concerns about opening one self up to even more lawsuits. Seems excessive to be concerned about such, but how many irrational law suits are in progress right now with Apple?

The other thing is that I'm left with the impression Apple wants everybody on the team looking forward. Institute a culture of supporting every machine you ever built and you end with the bulk of your staff working on legacy issues. I'm actually of the opinion that Apple doesn't care what individuals do with their Macs, they just make sure there is enough effort required to make sure accidental updates don't happen.
post #16 of 21
Unsupported, but the person doing this should already understand that, if they don't then their ignorance is wholly their fault. I'm content with that.

But it always helps to verify the model number is correct before purchasing a computer. That's always been true, this is another illustration that shows why you should be doing that.
post #17 of 21
Is there much of a speed increase from 1033Mhz to 1333Mhz RAM ?

Also new CPU's would cost a fortune, I think.
post #18 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

No hacking has bad intent. It is cracking that does.

Hacking into PSN and steal cc numbers.
or
Cracking the PS3 copy protection so you can use homebrew applications.

Indeed, hacking has no bad intent.
post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by emulator View Post

Hacking into PSN and steal cc numbers.
or
Cracking the PS3 copy protection so you can use homebrew applications.

Indeed, hacking has no bad intent.

The people that want to make the distinction want cracking to be the one with the negative connotation, hacking to be the positive one. However, the people that want to make that hacking/cracking distinction face an uphill battle. It has been over 15 years without any apparent traction. Your example shows one such reason, safe cracking can be negative, few are going to call legit safe cracking safe hacking.
post #20 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by i386 View Post

Is there much of a speed increase from 1033Mhz to 1333Mhz RAM ?

Also new CPU's would cost a fortune, I think.

Absolutely. This is one of those things which is more interesting theoretically than actually.

Let's say you own the previous generation 2.66 GHz Quad Mac Pro and you want to upgrade it to 2.8 GHz Quad to be equivalent to the current generation.

The new model would cost $2499.

The old one could be sold for around $1400-1500 on eBay.
Now, in order to bring it up to the level of the new one, you apply the firmware upgrade (free)
Add a new CPU (model w3530 - seems to be about $350).
You'll need a new video card to match the new model (add another $400).
Your old RAM may not meet the specs once the bus has been upgraded
I believe the new models had more base RAM, as well.

In the end, if you upgrade, you MIGHT be able to get to close to the performance of a new system, but the cost will be within spitting distance of buying a new system and selling the old one - which is probably the better choice for most people.

Although, really, the better choice for MOST people is to not do anything. You're just not going to see the difference between 833 and 1066 MHz RAM and a modest CPU upgrade really isn't going to be very noticeable, either.
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #21 of 21
I have an older Early 2008 MacPro. I wonder if there are any kind of upgrades available for it? I've been debating between trying the ATI 6870 video card and just springing the extra money for the Apple ATI 5770. The performance is about the same from what I've read, but the price is significantly different. I've also read that some users have great luck with the PC 6870 and for others it's hit and miss.

Any firmware updates or anything for the MacPro3,1 that would allow for a processor upgrade and/or possibly an upgrade to faster RAM? Those would be some sweet upgrade options.
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