Time to upgrade the Mac Pro 4,1 2009 with a GTX 770 PC card

It’s been a long time since I originally wrote this article, and for a while now, I’ve been noticing this is one of my most popular blog entries. I’d love to hear how this has or hasn’t helped you. Happy Upgrading! 😀

Update 2021 July

In December I bought a refurbished Intel i7 MacMini 3.2GHZ 2TB drive with 16GB RAM, and then upgraded it to 64GB of RAM. It’s since been great to use and is incredibly fast. Seemingly faster much than the 4,1.

I sold my MacPro4,1->5,1 to a young fella who was stoked to use it.

As such, I won’t really be doing any more updates to this post.

I got rid of the cMP because (without having to use hacks) I found that it wasn’t going run the latest MacOS, which I need for app development. That, and the power consumption also dropped considerably.

I did however manage to pick up a BackMagic eGPU RX580 and that works great, where now I don’t have playback skips in DaVinci Resolve, as was the case without it.

Update 2020/05/25

I now have an RX580 card with Mojave. Here’s the latest result for Premier Pro CS 5.5 GPUSniffer.

Texture memory: 0
Vendor string: ATI Technologies Inc.
Renderer string: ATI Radeon RX 580 OpenGL Engine
Version string: 2.1 ATI-2.11.21

OpenGL version as determined by Extensionator...
OpenGL Version 2.0
Supports shaders!
Supports BGRA -> BGRA Shader
Supports VUYA Shader -> BGRA
Supports UYVY/YUYV ->BGRA Shader
Supports YUV 4:2:0 -> BGRA Shader
Testing for CUDA support...

This card works fine with DaVinci Resolve.

Update 2020/05/12

I have recently upgraded the computer to Mojave. I knew there was a reason I was holding off doing this, however it’s done now and it’s too late to go back.

I now do not have access to the CUDA cores now for this graphics card.

Here is the result of the Adobe GPUSniffer.

$ ./GPUSniffer
Texture memory: 0
Vendor string: NVIDIA Corporation
Renderer string: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 OpenGL Engine
Version string: 2.1 NVIDIA-12.0.24 355.

OpenGL version as determined by Extensionator...
OpenGL Version 2.0
Supports shaders!
Supports BGRA -> BGRA Shader
Supports VUYA Shader -> BGRA
Supports UYVY/YUYV ->BGRA Shader
Supports YUV 4:2:0 -> BGRA Shader
Testing for CUDA support...
Didn't find any devices that support CUDA.
Completed shader test!
Internal return value: 7

If you want to run your Adobe applications, don’t upgrade to Mojave, and stay on High Sierra, or have a different graphics card. The gains are negligible for the loss of the graphics card.

Pretty disappointing.

Update 2020/03/30

For when the time comes to upgrade to Mojave, this card supports Metal.

Metal: Supported, feature set macOS GPUFamily1 v3

So it should be a straight-forward upgrade.

UPDATE: Feb 2018

High Sierra will need to have a new set of CUDA Drivers

Grab this file, and you should be good.


Update: 2015/09/24
I’ve been getting a lot of hits to this post. If it helps you, or you have questions, please write below. I’m sure everyone can benefit.

Update January 2015:

I bought a PC recently with the intention of having a ‘silent’ computer. It is. It’s great, but I thought I’d give Premiere Pro a crack on it… and this Mac Pro still kicks the pants off it for rendering. I thought that maybe the R7 GPU inclusion may have done a little, but nope. It didn’t. Long live the Mac! 😀

The geek stats: AMD A8 7600 (Base:3.1GHz, Turbo:3.8GHz / 4MB / FM2+ / Quad Core / AMD Radeon R7 Graphics, 65watt)
ASRock FM2A88M EXTREME4+ MB, A88X, 4x DDR3, 1x PCI-E3.0 x16, 1x PCI-E2.0 x16, 8x SATAIII, 4x USB3.0, VGA, DVI, HDMI, Micro ATX, CrossFireX, X-Boost
Corsair 550W RM550 Gold Power Supply, 80 PLUS Gold, 135mm Fan, 1x ATX, 1x EPS, 2x PCI-E, 4x Molex, 6x SATA, Fully Modular, Zero RPM Technology
Fractal Design Define R5 Black ATX Case, No PSU, 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, Audio In/Out, 8x 3.5″ HDD Trays, 2x 5.25″ Bays, 2x140mm Fans
G.Skill 8GB (2X4GB), PC3-12800 (1600MHz) DDR3
Seagate 1TB Barracuda, SATA III, 7200RPM, 64MB, NCQ
TP-LINK TL-WN722N 150Mbps High Gain Wireless USB Adapter, Atheros, 1T1R, 2.4GHz, 802.11n/g/b, 1 detachable antenna
Windows 8.1 Pro.

Update Dec 2014:

I’ve been using the setup now for about 7-8 months without any problem. The computer on occasions gets a little warm and the fans kick in, but nothing crazy. Top temperature usually peaks at about 60C before a fan steps up slightly.

Experimenting with this at first and not knowing if it would work, I’m glad I gave it a go. It was worth the upgrade.

Original post date: 2014 March 27.

For a while now I’ve been investigating purchasing a new graphics card for a while for my ‘ageing’ 2009 Mac Pro 4,1. (Mac Pro Quad Core 2.66 (2009/Nehalem))  Now, when I say ageing, let’s be honest… They aren’t a bad machine at all – in fact they are very good, but they just are not the newest or the fastest around, but they still come close.

I’d already updated my RAM so I’m sitting on 20Gig, and since that time it’s been a bit of a dream run, with minimal slow-downs. I’ve tried to fill it up constantly with things from Adobe, and yes… I can use 20G with some video renders – it is possible. I have Mavericks running on an SSD, and it’s quick.

This is the graphics card I went for. The Asus branded GTX 770. You can read more here: http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/GTX770DC2OC2GD5/

So, why update the GFX card? Well for a few reasons. I’ve basically got the computer to it’s limits in terms of upgrades – RAM and storage space are pretty much at capacity. I’m never going to upgrade the CPU, although I’ve heard of people doing it. You can update the 4,1 to the 5,1 just via firmware hack, but I don’t want to risk that though in case it goes bad.

My only choice is the graphics card, and I’m doing it the difficult way. I could get a custom mac only card with a flashed BIOS, but I’m tight and don’t want to shell out the extra dollars. I like to be a pioneer… kind of.

The card that came with my computer as a GT 120 Mac edition. Have a look at the comparison. http://gpuboss.com/gpus/GeForce-GTX-770-vs-GeForce-GT-120-Mac

I’ve done lots of research on this, and I think I’ve got the best bang for my buck.

There are basically 2 camps. ATI or Nvidia. In the past I’ve been down both paths in the PC work and when you just want to run games… they all seem fairly the same – well, at least in the old days. This time I went with an Nvidia card over the latest Radeon (ATI) card for 3 reasons.

  1. I want to use the best technology available to me now, with the current software I have. (Adobe CS 5.5)   (Update Dec 2014: I’m currently using CC without any problems)
  2. It has to be fast
  3. It has to future proof me for a long time.

Let’s break that down a little…

1. At the moment there is OpenGL, OpenCL, CUDA etc and lots of technologies around. Apple’s new MacPro 2013 model is a beast and I can’t afford one and I don’t have a need to, because I would have to spend a lot of money to get me back where I am right now, with extra peripherals and connections and things to utilise the power full – eg, thunderbolt drives etc. So really, this is not an option. The other option left is to get a graphics card with powerful GPU processing abilities and maximise those instead. While the CUDA technology is a proprietary format, I’m ok with that. The GTX 770 also has support for the other technologies too, which is why I’m not worried about this. To me, it’s a benefit.  Adobe stated they were building their software to harnesses the GPU power available, which at the time they chose to partner with Nvidia. Since those initial releases, they’ve been branching out and going to the more OpenXX versions of GPU processing, and that’s a good thing. I don’t have software that uses those extra technologies yet, so right now, this card will do me just fine and utilitise what I have right now.

2. Price. Yes, the big killer. I just paid $450 for a GFX card. What was I thinking??? It seemed better for this card than other ones in terms of price and power.

3. As mentioned in point 1, this should last me a very long time. It has a total of 4 simultaneous video outputs, So this is a big plus. I looked the options of RAM with 4G, vs the 2G, and I concluded that I couldn’t get the 4G, because of power consumption issues, and the gains appeared to be minimal.

It’s packaged very nicely, and the presentation is everything here, and the card is massive. I’d seen a few video installs on this card, and it seemed fairly simple, like any install…

So, like most geeks do… I plugged it in and switched it on… Nothing.

Gotta love it how every attachment that you need comes in the box right? Well, all that came in the box was a power cable – for a PC connection. Rookie error. My situation is a little different, so it was off to eBay to get the extra bits.

I bought these 2 items on ebay.

These cables can be available for up to 29 English pounds. Yikes!
Never fear, I bought them for only a few bucks each though.

According to the GTX 770 install manual it needs both the 8 and 6 pins installed, and as it turns out, the manual was correct.

Click to access GTX_770_User_Guide.pdf

I had also installed the current nVidia graphics drivers (CUDA) too before running this upgrade.

So, after the cables came, one at a time, I first tried the card with only the 6 to 8 plugs. The computer fired up, but did nothing, the same as it did with no power cables in it. Each time you plug a cable in, the lights on the card light up. When both cables had arrived, I plugged them in, and started the computer.


Chime… Yes!

Like I was expecting, the computer had not Apple startup logo, but it fired in to life and the desktop appeared.

Once in, I was able to test out some video editing in Adobe Premiere and she works well. I now have a GPU Mercury Playback engine working.
I had a little bit of message about to get this working, but you can find the instructions at the bottom of this page:

Instructions for Mac Users.

NOTE:  We have NOT tested the unlock on the Mac system.  We have had a couple of users tell us this is how they unlocked there video card on their Mac systems. If you find something incorrect with the Mac instructions, please drop us an email with the correct information.

Please understand, I do not have access to a Mac, so I can’t help you if you have a problem.  I am sorry about that.

1) Install Premiere CS5 first.

2) Install the latest CUDA drivers

2) Once installed, go to System Preferences / CUDA and accept the update, IF THERE IS ONE.

3) Install the latest Nvidia Drivers.

4 ) Find out the Name of your video card from Premiere

5) Open a terminal emulator (NOTE: you may need Root Access)

5A) Go to the spotlight, type TERMINAL, press enter.

Most of the time, for standard installations, the following should work.

5B) Now on the terminal type:

/Applications/Adobe\ Premiere\ Pro\ CS5/Adobe\ Premiere\ Pro\ CS5.app/Contents/GPUSniffer.app/Contents/MacOS/GPUSniffer

The “uppercased” words might be different for your installation of CS5, find out yours, do not just simply copy and paste.

My Results Are this:

Texture memory: 0
Vendor string: NVIDIA Corporation
Renderer string: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 OpenGL Engine
Version string: 2.1 NVIDIA-10.29.10 387.

OpenGL version as determined by Extensionator...
OpenGL Version 2.0
Supports shaders!
Supports BGRA -> BGRA Shader
Supports VUYA Shader -> BGRA
Supports UYVY/YUYV ->BGRA Shader
Supports YUV 4:2:0 -> BGRA Shader
Testing for CUDA support...
 Found 1 devices supporting CUDA.
 CUDA Device # 0 properties - 
 CUDA device details:
 Name: GeForce GTX 770
 Compute capability: 3.0
 Total Video Memory: 2047MB
 CUDA driver version: 9010
CUDA Device # 0 supported.
Completed shader test!
Internal return value: 7

If you need to look for the actual place where premiere was installed, type:

/Applications/FOLDER\ FOR\ PREMIERE/PRO\ INSTALLATION\ Pro\ HERE/SOMETHING\ Premiere\ Pro\ CS5.app/Contents/GPUSniffer.app/Contents/MacOS/GPUSniffer

6) You get an output similar to Step 5 under the Windows section.

If it says somewhere that CUDA devices have been found you are lucky and you can use this capability.

7) Look for the name of the video card as you would in step 5 under the Windows section.


9) Now let’s add your card to the list of supported cards.

10) On the terminal type:

sudo nano /Applications/Adobe\ Master\ Collection/Adobe\ Premiere\ Pro\ CS5/Adobe\ Premiere\ Pro\ CS5.app/Contents/cuda_supported_cards.txt

A new window appears, here, simply type in the name of the video card that you got from following step 7 just above.

As per this example:

GeForce GTX 770
GeForce GTX 285
GeForce GTX 470
GeForce GTX 570
GeForce GTX 580
Quadro CX
Quadro FX 3700M
Quadro FX 3800
Quadro FX 3800M
Quadro FX 4800
Quadro FX 5800
Quadro 2000
Quadro 2000D
Quadro 2000M
Quadro 3000M
Quadro 4000
Quadro 4000M
Quadro 5000
Quadro 5000M
Quadro 5010M
Quadro 6000
Tesla C2075

11) Now Press CTRL + X
ANSWER “Y” (stands for YES, I want to save the file)
Press enter until you get out of the editor.

12) Now start follow steps 28 through 30 under the Windows section.

The latest GPU drivers are confirmed to work and it is a recommended update.

Update: Dec 2014

I am currently using CC, and you don’ need to do this. Support is pretty already built in. It will just give you a warning and tell you that it’s not tested or supported.

So, now after running some tests, I trialled a timeline, which using software rendering, was going to take 1 hour. With the Mercury Playback engine using GPU, it brought it down to 10 minutes.

The Mac runs rather warm now. I think I may have to have the side off… This should be great for Winter. 😀

Here’s some great links I used in my research.

Great place with information: http://forum.netkas.org/index.php/board,6.0.html
Database of gtx770 cards: http://www.techpowerup.com/gpudb/1856/geforce-gtx-770.html
Key information at the bottom: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1694224 Power supply is:

2014 April 8

Update:  Audio over HDMI

When I initially connected this system up, I had the intention to push audio directly to the tv in the future, and today I decided to try it. Out of the box, it will not work. However this can easily be solved.


I’ve decided to upload this file just incase it goes walkabout.

Download HDMI File Fix

Those of you running Mac OS 10.8 or later with non-Apple NVidia or AMD Graphics Cards can now take advantage of HDMI audio output.
You will need to install a supplemental HDMIAudio kernel extension I’ve put together. This does not require replacing any existing system components.
For those of you that have never installed a kernel extension before, I’ve bundled a simple install script. Download links are at the bottom of this post.

(ℹ) If you’ve previously installed the NVidia-only NVAudio extension, you can safely run the installation script forHDMIAudio and it will automatically remove the former.

To install HDMIAudio:

  1. Double click on the DMG to mount it.
  2. Open Terminal, located in the Utilities folder.
  3. Enter this command, then press the Return or Enter key:
    cd /Volumes/HDMIAudio
  4. Enter this command, then press the Return or Enter key:
  5. When prompted, enter your administrator password, then press the Return or Enter key.
  6. You may receive a warning about an Unidentified Developer on Mavericks. This is safe to ignore.
  7. Reboot after installation.

To remove the extension:

  1. Boot into Safe Mode, if necessary.
  2. Open Terminal, located in the Utilities folder.
  3. Enter this command, then press the Return or Enter key:
    sudo rm -fr /System/Library/Extensions/HDMIAudio.kext
  4. When prompted, enter your administrator password, then press the Return or Enter key.
  5. Enter this command, then press the Return or Enter key:
    sudo kextcache -system-prelinked-kernel
  6. Enter this command, then press the Return or Enter key:
    sudo kextcache -system-caches
  7. Restart your machine.

22 thoughts on “Time to upgrade the Mac Pro 4,1 2009 with a GTX 770 PC card

Add yours

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the mention and what a great write up! Im glad you managed to get the card working, i do have to recommend that you don’t run the Mac Pro with the service door off as this will disrupt airflow 😉

    Thanks again,

    1. No dramas mate, I appreciated the extra content for getting it working. I’ve put the side back on, so I’ll see how she goes… Usual operating CPU temperature is about 43C, so I’ll see how I go. 😀 I’ll just wait for the big fans to spin up.

  2. hello; I have a question because I’m a newbe. Can I use this card to do the GPU stuff… and simply use my stock GT120 for the “boot screen” stuff? Also… I have a lot of stuff in 10.6.8 that I access… and would just love it if I could utilize the GPU stuff while I’m in that long lost operating system! 😉

    1. Hi Jay, I’ll have to give it a go in a few days when I get some free time. But I think it will work.
      As for using the GPU though, im not sure if you are aware, but your apps need to be compiled and programmed to use the GPU. The GPU doesn’t just pick up where CPU left off. Snow Leopard is still a great OS. I skipped 2 versions of OSX before moving to Mavericks, and did so with minimal disruption to work flows.

  3. Hi there,
    Great post ! I love it, clear and simple and it will probably push me to do the same.
    I was just curious about the ” had also installed the current nVidia graphics drivers too before running this upgrade.”

    Can I get more info about that. I didn’t know that there is a OSX driver available for that model.

    1. Hi Gerry,
      Thanks for your kinds words. Yes, You’ll probably need to install the CUDA drivers for the card to fully work properly. From what I understand Apple include the graphics card drivers in the latest OS of Mavericks, but anything less, such as Snow Leopard, you may need to actually install them yourself.
      The latest CUDA Drivers can probably be found here:

      1. Hey there… just an update: I had also queried this idea on the Apple boards… and it was suggested there that I use a GeForce GTX 480.
        Well… I purchased a “re-flashed” GTX480 card off of Ebay from MacVidCards… and except for the extra heat (compared to the stock GT120)… it is e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t!!!!
        At first I was a bit worried about installing the NVIDIA drivers (for the Quadro 4000)… because I was wondering “Will installing the new drivers before I install the GTX480 ruin the functionality of my present/stock GT120 card?” … but the answer was no: installing new drivers doesn’t “stomp all over” any old drivers or functionality you have; everything worked without a hitch!
        If you google the “mac gtx480″ topic… you’ll see that besides the NVIDIA (Quadro & CUDA) drivers… you’ll also need to update some TEXT files for CS5.5 and CS6 to make them work with the GTX480…. BUT…. THANK HEAVENS…. after following all that advice …. ***LIFE IS SWEET***
        The GTX480 is perhaps an older/less-efficient way to do what this GREAT blog offers…. it’s working for BOTH my 10.6.8 -AND- my 10.9.2 Mavericks … WITH BOTH CS 5.5 and CS6!!!!
        THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BLOGS SUCH AS THIS… I’d be forever LOST without them! Keep up the great work…. because I’m certain we can get to a newer card with less heat generation!!!
        Respectfully Yours, Jay Jones

      2. Hi Jay, so glad it works for you. This is why I posted – to help people like yourself and anyone else willing to give it a crack. I looked at the 480 too, but for the sake of a boot logo and price I experimented. Next upgrade will be pcie SSD. Maybe. .. $$$

      3. Stephen Monro: YOU’RE THE MAN! I’m SOOOOO glad you posted this blog… and will probably follow your efforts … once my feet are wetter!
        I’ve had a SSD Hard-Disk Replacement (240GB) for over 2 years now (I put my 10.6.8 and BootCamp on it)… and IT’S HEAVEN as well! I put all my software on another disk sled inside my 4,1 … so that every OS that I install (whether on the SSD or not) … will look for the software without duplicating it! I was perhaps a bit silly… but I purchased/installed both 10.7.x and 10.8.x onto another disk-sled…. but found that I can happily, simply, boot either 10.6.8 or 10.9.2 and have my boot-camp and all my CS Master Collections work just fine! Also… my Cinema 4D and Swift 3D all see the CUDA of the GTX480. (don’t get me wrong here: I’m a 55yo man that doesn’t know how to use all this technology…. but has a longgggg ALDUS FREEHAND heritage that demands bringing graphics from way back in 1980′s and 1990′s and 2000′s into the present… and I’m SOOOOO pleased that people like YOU do the same things like I used to do: experiment and help EVERYONE!). Okay, okay… enough brotherly love… cheers!
        GET that SSD…. you’ll NEVER regret it (and SuperDuper makes conversion sooo easy).

      4. haha. Yeah, we’ll stop with the man crush now hey! haha!! But seriously, glad it’s working. I’ve had PremPro running well, but as for the PCIe SSDs… yes. It’ll happen one day. I currently am running my OS on Mavericks on an SSD and it boots up very fast, but I still think I can take it to the next level again. So when the dollars are right, I’ll take a good look. This is what I’m considering.

        Here there are compared:

  4. Hi,
    I need some help deciding whether I should get a 4,1 mac pro with dual xeon cpu’s, or get a 2010 27″ imac with i5 or i7. I do web design/development in which I use the Adobe CS5 master suite. I’m leaning towards the mac pro and just tossing in a gtx 770 and running two monitors. On a side note, I do have a 2010 macbook pro which I added ram to, which works great. I’ll be adding an ssd to it relatively soon. So, should I go with the mac pro or imac?

    1. Hi Jamie,
      I guess it depends on what you prefer. I went the MP 4,1 because it was a beast and I like the upgradeability of it. They are powerful, but so are the newest i7 models coming out. Not sure if a 2010 i5 would beat a 4,1. As you’d know there are more pixels on a 27″ than a single 1080p display, but having a gtx770 with even 3 screens you could totally smash out more than an iMac could easily.
      I do web development, audio editing and video edits too and the MP never misses a beat. I also have 4 sata drives in use too + 1 SSD as well. It boots up very fast.
      Cs5 will utilise the CUDA cores, but not fully as the earlier versions don’t have as good integration as the latest, or even CS6.
      I guess it really depends on what you want to achieve or have preference for as they are both good options. I was looking at some stats recently, and with the right upgrades, a pre-2013 macpro can come close to the performance of the new macpro. Obviously the newer is better but it’s also a lot dearer too.
      I’ve also got a mbp 2010 13″ that I’ve put a bigger drive and 12gb of ram in too. It feels very slow compared to the MP.
      I hope this helps a little.

  5. Hi…

    did you need to use another PSU for the extra power in this card or does it works fine with mac PSU??

    I’ve read that if you use a graphic card with 1×6-pin and 1×8 pin power connections then you have to use an extra power because mac PSU has not enough power for this graphic cards…


    1. I used the 2gig card, not the 4gig card based on that assumption too. But so far I haven’t had any issues with my 2gig card.
      Yes, as you say, you need both power cords, however you do not need a separate PSU.
      I have all my drive bays full as well, and it is still running fine after all this time since doing it.

  6. Does anyone know where to get flash rom (and instructions) for the gtx 770?

    I have the 770 running without issues on my Mac Pro 2009 (OS X 10.9.5) but I would like to flash it so that the Mac logo shows up at first start up.

    I know this is kinda superficial at this point (since there are no issues) but I think this would be nice.

      1. I got a new 770 gtx (4gb ram) for real cheap ($250) and installed the non-flashed version. It works perfectly out of the box.

        I do not miss seeing the pretty Apple logo on startup 🙂 If that is all that flashing adds, then I do not believe flashing is necessary for this card.

        For reference, I am running latest version of Yosemite.

    1. Hi Doug, no. I haven’t upgraded. Have heard of some programs not running (such as Motion 4 – from FCP7 Suite). So I’ll hold off as long as I can, just like I did with Snow Leopard.

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