Mac Pro Storage


Even the very last year of Mac Pro tower (2012) only supported SATA 2 connections for hard drives, which was slow at the time and is even slower today. Not to worry though because you can install a much faster PCIe card hosting NRAM storage using an OWC Mercury Accelsior Pro Q or OWC Accelsior E2 for your system volume and applications, then use the SATA 2 drive bays for storage. You can if you want also use the 5.25" CD/DVD bays for storage as well with the right adapter. The OWC Accelsior lineup supports booting a mac whereas other PCIe M2 drive solutions may need their firmware modifying. If you purchased a used Accelsior from Ebay you may need to update the firmware which can be found on OWC's web site. Careful there are several different models.


All Mac pro towers are designed with four 3.5" drive bays and 4 caddies. Mac Pro 1,1, 1,2 and 1,3 have different caddies to the later 4,1 and 5,1 models so they are not interchangeable. Factory caddies support the old hard drive screw layout and will hold most drives up to 4TB. From 6TB drives onwards the base screw layout changed so if you want some large storage then you will need to invest in replacement caddies from OWC. I believe these are only available for 4,1 and 5,1 models.


With the right caddies, you can install up to four 8TB, and possibly 10TB and 12TB modern SATA 3 drives in your Mac Pro and stripe (RAID0) or mirror (RAID1) them for a capacity of up to 48TB and beyond. That should be more than enough for most people's data needs even if you have hundreds of movies and thousands of tunes. Thermal capacity of the cheese-grater case is good but I usually use 5,400rpm NAS drives to keep the heat down.

You will need to add a RAID card if you want to run RAID5 but beware that the Apple RAID card has a maximum addressable drive size of 2.2TB each which means you are wasting space if you can only address part of each drive. A number of third party RAID cards solve this and the SATA2 limitation and some even support SAS rather than SATA3. Bear in mind they are still pretty expensive and you need something that will work with macOS.

If you are after some cheap used storage for the inside of your Mac Pro, you can pick up used Enterprise SAS drives on Ebay for pennies. These fit the factory caddies but you need a RAID card to address them. Bear in mind the 2.2TB per drive limitation so 3TB drives are great. One thing I found with mine is that the drives I purchased take a bit longer to spin up than consumer hard drives so you may get a 'Volume Missing' message from a power-on cold boot - just reboot without powering off and it will fix the problem. My systems stay on all the time anyway so its not a problem for me, but if you are the kind of person that powers off his or her system every night then you are probably better off with consumer 5,400rpm eco green drives or cloud storage.


Next Page - Upgrading Video