Upgrading your Mac Pro Video Graphics Card

Upgrading your Mac Pro Video Graphics Card

The Mac Pro 5,1 tower allows you to upgrade to the latest and greatest aftermarket PCIe graphics cards. Most Apple systems support AMD ATI cards out of the box since the Apple lineup uses AMD ATI graphics. However, you ,may also be able to use standard NVidia PCIe cards and install the MacOS drivers from the NVidia web site and have a different card to use for build out.

I have found most Radeon cards work out of the box in Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave and Catalina. To install Mojave, the card also needs to support Metal (most new cards do). If you run DosDude's Catalina install, you don't need the metal card though systems perform much faster with one.

Plan Before You Leap

Before ordering a new video graphics card, check the forums to make sure that the particular model will work in a Mac and the version of MacOS you intend to run. If you want to be safe, look at what Apple is installing in its current line up and get a reference card using the same graphics processor.
Check the power requirements as some top end cards demand more power than the Mac Pro power supply can give you. Check also the power cable requirements as you will need to purchase two 6 pin Apple video card cables if you don’t already have them in your system along with two standard 6 pin female to 8 pin male adapter cables for most cards. That being said, some cards only require one cable rather than two so check the specs and the pictures before you purchase. You can now purchase a two-into-one cable from the Apple motherboard power connectors to the power connector required for most new graphics cards to save messing with things. Avoid video cards that get all of their power from the PCIe bus as these will more than likely overload the bus.

These are the generic cards that currently support Metal and are compatible with macOS Mojave. Some can even be flashed to show EFI boot screens according to The Definitive Classic Mac Pro (2006-2012) Upgrade Guide but more about that later.

    AMD GPU Metal EFI Flashable
    Radeon HD 7950 Yes Yes*
    Radeon HD 7970 Yes Yes**
    Radeon HD 7970 (GHz Edition) Yes Yes**
    Radeon HD 7990 No ?
    R7 250 ?? No
    R7 260X ?? No
    R9 270 No No
    R9 270X No No
    R9 280X Yes Yes**
    R9 290X Yes No
    R9 380 Yes Possible
    R9 380x Yes Possible
    R9 390 Yes No
    R9 Nano Yes No
    R9 Fury Yes No
    R9 Fury X Yes No
    Radeon RX 450 Yes No
    Radeon RX 455 Yes No
    Radeon Rx 460 Yes No
    Radeon RX 470 Yes No
    Radeon RX 480 Yes No
    Radeon RX 550 Yes No
    Radeon RX 560 Yes No
    Radeon RX 560x Yes No
    Radeon RX 570 Yes No
    Radeon RX 570x Yes No
    Radeon RX 580 Yes No
    Radeon RX 580x Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 2100 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 3100 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 4100 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 4130 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 4150 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 4170 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 5100 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 7100 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 8100 Yes No
    Radeon Pro WX 9100 Yes No
    Vega 56 Yes No
    Vega 64 Yes No
    Vega Frontier Edition Yes No
    Radeon VII Yes No
    Radeon 5500 XT Yes No
    Radeon 5600 XT Yes No
    Radeon 5700 Yes No
    Radeon 5700 XT Yes No
    Radeon 6600 XT Yes No
    Radeon 6700 XT - No
    Radeon 6800 Yes No
    Radeon 6800 XT Yes No
    Radeon 6900 XT Yes No

    * OEM/Retail ROMs are available for these cards
    ** Modified Netkas or Blacksheep ROMs are available for these cards


      Mac Pro 7,1 Graphics Cards

      Apple uses fan-less MPX Modules in the Mac Pro 7,1. These draw their power from two separate  motherboard buses via an extended slot so installing an Apple MPX module in your Mac Pro 5,1 probably won't work even though the RX 580X modules are pretty inexpensive second hand. You can however look for (cheaper) non-apple cards using the same chipsets that Apple uses in the 2019 Mac Pro since these are natively supported by newer versions of MacOS from Catalina onwards and Big Sur onwards for newer ones. Otherwise you may have to mess around with custom Kexts to run the latest cards.

      • Radeon Pro 580X
      • Radeon Pro W5500X
      • Radeon Pro W5700X
      • Radeon Pro W6800X
      • Radeon Pro W6800X Duo
      • Radeon Pro W6900X

        EFI Flashing

        Some standard video cards can be flashed with the Apple EFI so you can watch the system boot up, but I have never bothered. I keep a trusty Apple GT120 and a Radeon 4870 card around just in case they are needed for troubleshooting. If flashing your video card to Apple EFI specs is of interest then go check out the forums or check out this video. However, flashing does not seem to be an easy option for newer cards. The question you have to ask yourself is how often do you need to see the boot screens?

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