I'm considering a Mac Pro purchase but cannot afford the one I really want. The question is this; Can the cheapest Mac Pro 5,1 single quad-core Nehalem 2.8 GHz be upgraded to the dual six-core Westmere 2.93 GHz at some point in the future? If not, what would be the cheapest one that could?


Short answer:

The lowest end Mac Pro that can be upgraded to a 2.93 12-core Westmere is the 2.66GHz 12-core Westmere.

Long answer:

The single socket Nehalem and Westmere Mac Pros literally have one socket. Aside from that, most of the lower end configs ship with a 1066MHz memory bus instead of a 1333MHz bus. In order to upgrade to a part that uses faster ram you will need to replace all your ram, and probably solder some resistors to change the clock multipliers on the board.

Without SMD soldering you will need to match the bus speed of the processor, which means if you have a 1066MHz memory interface the highest end part you will be able to install is are quad core 2.66GHz Xeon E5640s. There is also no guarantee the firmware will actually initialize it correctly, though odds are good that it will.

  • Thanks for the quick answer. So, the upgradability of the Mac Pros is realistically only really in terms of HDD, RAM & GPU if you discount the mostly insignificant processing improvement from 2.66 to 2.93. I don't know how it is historically, but it seems even less likely then that upgrade paths will exist to newer processors in the future. – Teo Sartori Aug 28 '10 at 14:19
  • There is no chance that these machines will be upgradable beyond Westemre. Sandybridge (Intel's next part) uses a completely different socket and adds a 4th memory channel. There might be a few more Westmere SKUs added, but I would not expect any CPU upgrade path. – Louis Gerbarg Aug 28 '10 at 14:46

Yes you can upgrade the Mac Pro 5,1 single quad Nehalem base configuration to a dual 6-core Westmere. There is no soldering or any thing required with in the Mac Pro. Everything is on the back plane with in the Mac Pro, it is the same between all processor configurations.The dual socket processor tray is where the changes live, that is what really what makes a Mac Pro what it is in terms of RAM, processor sockets, and QPI speed.

Mac Pro 2010 Processor Trays

In fact OWC's upgrade services demonstrates the upgrade flexibility of the Mac Pro. Since OWC offers a mail in upgrade service for this version of Mac Pro, where you mail the processor tray to them. They offer single chip upgrades where they swap the CPU and additionally offer dual socket options where they trade processor trays with you for a dual socket version.

So all you need to do to upgrade to a faster Westmere Mac Pro is the dual socket process tray and the CPUs to go with it. And it looks like the processor trays are available for order from Apple as noted in this AnandTech botched CPU upgrade article for an older Mac Pro 2009 version. However ordering one might be a trail and error processes, since its probably not a common user part to buy.

Thankfully, the folks at the Crabtree Valley Mall Apple Store in Raleigh, NC are AnandTech readers and quickly understood what had happened. They ordered the replacement part and I waited. If you’re curious, it’ll cost a bit under $400 to replace the processor board in an 8-core Mac Pro provided you allow Apple to keep your dead board.

  • Thanks for the update, MrDaniel. Of course now it'd be more interesting to see what the next Mac Pro, if there will be one, will offer and whether you can buy just the board to swap for the old one. – Teo Sartori Apr 9 '12 at 14:51
  • Teo, that would more than likely be a change that would not allow a simple possessor board change since the next upgrade would represent a "Tock" in intel's tick,tock scheme. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Tick-Tock – MrDaniel Apr 9 '12 at 15:16
  • Indeed, that would require the whole motherboard to be replaced. I just don't know where you'd get one; AFAIK Apple doesn't sell them. – Teo Sartori Apr 9 '12 at 15:24
  • In all truth if you need a Mac Pro get one that will meet your needs today and for the next 4 years or so. In all truth the next gen Mac Pro will be at most 20 - 30% faster than the current gen. So for most use cases its not going to be that big of a deal between the high-end configurations. So if a dual six core or even a single quad meets your needs today and in the near future, its going to continue to do so for the near future, and you can upgrade from there when you need to. Although waiting for a discount on the current gen would be nice when the next is released. – MrDaniel Apr 9 '12 at 15:38

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