A day or so after Apple announced only a marginal increase of speed for Mac Pros I was in the car listening to Rush Limbaugh blasting Apple. He, like many other Mac Pro owners as well myself, was disappointed that we have to wait until at least the end of 2013 to be able to upgrade significantly.
The demands of the workplace, software needs, and especially processing video require heavy-duty horsepower. Rush spent an hour griping about it on the air. No telling how much griping he did off the air. If you are a Mac Pro owner you probably think you are stuck, but you are not. Here are 3 tips on how you can breathe new life into that Mac Pro, regardless of processor speed or configuration. These tips can be implemented one at a time and you don’t need to do all of them at once.
Of course I am assuming you have already filled up your RAM slots, if you haven’t do that first. Don’t waste your money with Apple, buy your RAM from Crucial. They have an app you download to your Mac which will tell you what to do. Like a fool I used to buy RAM from Apple, until a Apple Genius told me not to waste my money. I was always worried about getting the right RAM for my computer, but the Crucial app makes it easy. BTW if you are having problems with Final Cut Pro X, make sure you have a compatible graphics card. Get this stuff done, then you can think about my 3 tips to speed up your Mac Pro.
Your first and cheapest method to satisfy your need for speed involves doing the same thing that Apple is doing to its MacBook Pro line: move to SSD storage. I know what you are thinking, “Who can afford that?” You can. The price of flash media and along with it SSD storage is less than 1/2 of what it was just one year ago. A great friend of mine, Phil Boyer called it to my attention. I just paid $360 on Amazon for a Crucial 512 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s CT512M4SSD2. The price went up $40 today, but it will come back down. You make that drive your boot drive and you will get a significant boost of speed.
By now you just checked your existing boot drive and found out that you have way more than 512GB on it. Not to worry, most of that is junk in your home directory which you can put somewhere else. Your system fully loaded with lots of apps is a lot less than 512GB, I assure you. Mac Performance Guide has easy-to-follow instructions on how to do this.
Your second step is to build a RAID using the last 3 drive bays. The built-in software RAID utility found in the Mac Disk Utility will do this for you. Three disks run much faster than one if you put them in a striped RAID. The reason why is that the file handling is evenly spread over three disks, so you have three disk motors writing instead of one. Of course if one fails, you lose everything. But who cares? You do have a cheap backup RAID like a Drobo that you back up to every day, don’t you? Drobo has a great new Thunderbolt storage device you might want to look into. (Oops, I forgot. You have a MacPro and it doesn’t support Thunderbolt.) If you don’t have a Drobo or something like it, you are really flying by the seat of your pants. Before you set up your software RAID you’ll want to review my tutorial on how to set the block size of a software RAID, You can of course use hard drives for this purpose, but if you really want to fly, build them with SSD’s!
Now that should do it for you. But, if you are like my friend Randy Noland and you really want to crank it up, you will go to the next step. That is the Mercury Accelsior PCI Express SSD. I didn’t know it, but Randy explained that the PCI bus is twice as fast as the SATA bus. Put your boot drive on one of these and you will have to watch out for Smokeys who will want to ticket you breaking the speed limit. These cards are not cheap, so that is why I put it at number 3. There is no point in you doing this if you haven’t done numbers 0 and 2. One other benefit that could be very helpful, assuming that new Mac Pros in the future can accept the Mercury PCI card: easy migration. Take the card out, put it in a new CPU and you have just transferred your system and home files to a new computer.
Rush, I’m sure you are reading this. Follow these steps and you will be amazed at the speed increase you will gain.