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I've noticed on many used MacPro listings that people have upgraded a MacPro4,1 (a.k.a. 2009) to a MacPro5,1 (a.k.a. 2010) simply by updating the firmware. From this, it appears that these machines are now able to accept 6-core Xeons as well as utilize 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM.

While this sounds all great and magical, is there anything else that changed between the two revisions of the tower? I'm asking more along the lines of physical rather than software; i.e. is a 2009 model with updated firmware inferior in any way whatsoever to a 2010?

UPDATE 2015-11-02 just to be a bit more specific, my curiosity is more around if the 4,1 and 5,1 are identical except for the upgraded firmware and new CPU/GPU options? Considering the CPU/GPU can be replaced aftermarket, I'm curious if (say) the motherboard is identical between the two revisions or were there any modifications?

  • I can't provide an answer as I really don't know, but… I have one of these machines. About this Mac still considers it an 09, but the hardware overview says it's a 5,1 dual 6-core 3.46 - which as far as I'm aware was never a standard option, there's no 3.46 listed on Everymac or Mactracker [Mactracker, incidentally, thinks the machine is both a 2010 & a 2012 ;) – Tetsujin Oct 31 '15 at 12:41
  • I can't answer the question but I have some experience that might help narrow it down. I have a Mac Pro 2009/4,1 that I flashed to 5,1. The motherboard burned out a few years later so I bought a 5,1 as a replacement. The native 5,1 motherboard wasn't compatible with the fans in my 2009 box. The fans ran at full speed. So I returned that motherboard and purchased a 4,1 that had already been flashed to 5,1. I'd upgraded the processor to a 6-core which is not compatible with a 4,1 board. – diskerror Apr 21 '18 at 22:04
  • So my experience says these two differences: a 5,1 mb is required for 6-core processors; fan tachometers communicate differently to each board. But I'm confused now because I see many people selling Mac Pro fans that are supposed to be compatible with 2009-2012 Mac Pros, 4,1 and 5,1. Maybe there was something else going on. – diskerror Apr 21 '18 at 22:04
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The Mactracker app (for Mac and iOS) is a great resource for questions like this. You can check out all the specs for yourself side by side, but the more significant differences are:

4,1:

Processor:          Intel Xeon 3500 or 5500 series ("Bloomfield, Gainestown")
Graphics Card:      NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 or ATI Radeon HD 4870
Graphics Memory:    512 MB GDDR3 (GeForce GT 120) or 512 MB GDDR5
                    (Radeon HD 4870)
Display Connection: 1 - Mini DisplayPort and 1 - dual-link DVI

5,1:

Processor:          Intel Xeon W3530, W3565, W3680, E5620, 
                    X5650, or X5670 ("Bloomfield, Westmere,
                    Gulftown")
Graphics Card:      ATI Radeon HD 5770 or ATI Radeon HD 5870
Graphics Memory:    1 GB GDDR5
Display Connection: 2 - Mini DisplayPort and 1 - dual-link DVI
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    Unfortunately, this doesn't answer my question because they're just replacible components. For example, the graphics card, memory and connections is completely irrelevant since you can swap that out. The CPU is a bit more relevant since the 5,1 offered a model that wasn't available for the 4,1, however, my question somewhat noted that with the firmware bit. I'm looking more for things along the lines of is the motherboard or build different in some way or did they just re-use the 4,1, update the firmware and use an upgraded CPU that fit in the same socket? – bjb Nov 2 '15 at 18:02

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