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I have a Mid 2010 Mac Pro that was once my main computer; however, when the graphics card failed and I couldn't find a replacement that the Mac would take I had to replace the computer. I still have the Mac and am considering re-purposing it as a file server. If I install new HDDs (I salvaged the old HDDs for the replacement computer), would the Mac run even without a video card? Thanks!

CLARIFICATION: Since I would be using new HDDs, OS X would not yet be installed on those HDDs.

  • I've never tried one headless, so this can't be an answer, but you can get an original GT120 on eBay for 50 quid, or an ATI 5770 for 70. Those machines are well worth souping up to 2012 spec too. I've a fully-loaded dual 6-core 3.46GHz with 64GBRAM that used to be a 2010 model. As far as HDs, they'll take SSDs in the optical bay, with adaptors [well worth it for a boot drive] or you can get PCIe mounted SSDs, even faster - & HDs up to 4TB [bigger drives have moved the mounting screws, so you'd need new sleds.] – Tetsujin Feb 15 '16 at 17:56
  • @Tetsujin You can also get a PC card and either flash it (or if it's new enough, just deal with only having video on the desktop.) – JMY1000 Feb 15 '16 at 18:31
  • @JMY1000 - for sure, really you can just 'bung in any old card' if you don't need to see the boot screen - just the older Mac-specific, or Mac-flashed cards are pretty cheap these days. I've actually got a GT120 kicking around here, doing nothing. – Tetsujin Feb 15 '16 at 18:36
  • @Tetsujin Thanks. Getting a new video card is something I'm trying to avoid doing here, since this computer is just going to be a file server, but I'll probably take your advice as far as the drives. 8 TB of storage (assuming a RAID 1, 01, or 10 setup) should be more than enough. – PSDuckie Feb 15 '16 at 18:39
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I have 2 mid 2010 MacPros and have been able to run both without a GPU. If you can load OSX with screensharing turned on onto a drive using another Mac in Target Disk mode you should be able to plug that drive in and boot it up.

I have this running as a media and file server and it works great. Also cuts back on the heat as I loaded my pro up with 6 HDDs (4 in the trays and 2 using the OWC 3.5 adaptor in the CD Drive space). Set up an SSD via a PCIe adaptor for OSx. It works perfectly.

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This will work. I have a 2010 MacPro running Mojave (I had a RX 560 in it). I wanted to use the MacPro as a full time Plex server but reuse the card elsewhere. I pulled the card and it booted fine the very first time and I was able to access Plex, VNC to the box, see file shares, etc.

The only thing I would add is that it seems to have a small timeout before booting without a card (maybe 30 or 60 seconds) as it seems like the it takes about a minute longer before the Plex services come online after a cold boot.

  • Thank you for the answer. Unfortunately, the Mac Pro died last year, so I am unable to test your solution. – PSDuckie May 7 at 18:17
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Based on the comments so far, I'm going to hazard a guess that no, it isn't possible to run the Mac with no video card - at least in my scenario. I'd love to be proved wrong, but it is looking at this point like I will have to end up buying a video card.

  • If you are able to boot from an existing OSX installation that is at least 10.8, you should be able to get away with just about any PCIe video card from the last decade; only the most recent may not work. It doesn't have to be a "Mac Video card" as PC ones work fine, they just don't fire up until the OS gets to the login screen as the PC firmware doesn't know how to display the boot screen by itself. – bjb Feb 19 '16 at 20:34
  • Considering that the Mac Pro currently has no hard drive, there is no OS X installation of any version to boot from at this point. Once I get a new HDD for it, it would still have no OS X installation until I install it - which would require seeing the installer on the monitor. – PSDuckie Feb 19 '16 at 20:36
  • As others have suggested, Target Disk Mode would work somewhat. I think the installers have basic GPU support. The PC firmware issue only affects the boot screen (gray apple logo, bootcamp selection, verbose "text mode" scrolling startup), but I think installers would be fine since my PC GPU seems fine with the recovery partition which can't be that much different than the installer's GPU support. – bjb Feb 19 '16 at 20:42
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I think you can do this as long as you have access to another Mac with firewire support. Once you put a new drive in the Mac Pro, plug in a usb keyboard and hold down the "t" key while you turn it on and it powers up. This should put the Mac Pro into target disk mode. Connect it via firewire to the secondary Mac. Press and hold the option key while you power it on. This should allow you to select the Mac Pro as your startup disk. Initiate the installation using the secondary Mac.

  • Unfortunately, the only other Mac I have access to is a MacBook Air with no FireWire ports. – PSDuckie Feb 19 '16 at 18:30
  • Good to know. I'm not sure if it can be done via Thunderbolt, as I have no experience with Thunderbolt and target disk mode. – Jerry W. Feb 19 '16 at 18:33
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    The Apple website says it can be done via Thunderbolt, but again there's a port issue: the Mac Pro, having been made before Thunderbolt's debut, doesn't have any Thunderbolt ports. – PSDuckie Feb 19 '16 at 18:48
  • Update: After doing some research on Apple's forums I learned that I could theoretically use a FireWire-to-Thunderbolt cable to set up the Mac Pro in Target Disk Mode like you said. Here's the link: – PSDuckie Feb 19 '16 at 19:10
  • I know I haven't accepted your answer yet. As soon as I get the hard drives, I'm going to try it and, if it works, accept it. – PSDuckie Mar 3 '16 at 16:31

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