Wringing the Life Out of an Old Mac Pro Tower

PVC by Scott Simmons

Like a good automobile it just keeps chugging along. And it is paid for.

There?s a whole lot of us who still have a big, old aluminum Mac Pro tower sitting around doing a lot of work. We haven?t moved to 5K iMacs, Macbook Pros (or PCs) just yet. We also haven?t spent the money on a new Mac Pro. A conversation early at NAB 2014 got me thinking about all the stuff one could add to an old Mac Pro to help extend its life. NAB was the perfect place to talk to vendors who make those products you can stuff inside, or attach to, an old Mac Pro. A bunch of emails, phone calls and boxes later I?ve tried most all the gear mentioned below with my machine. I think of this current tower like a good, reliable, paid for car: I'm going to drive this thing until the wheels fall off.

My old Mac Pro certainly isn?t the fastest of the towers that existed. It?s only a quad-core 2.66 GHz with 32 MB of RAM. It really has been a workhorse over the years though churning through a ton of data and generating lot of media. The expandability of a tower design like the old Mac Pro means it has lasted through a lot of jobs. Now that we finally have a new Mac Pro that is the polar opposite when it comes to design (it?s all based around USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt) you have to throw out a lot of your old gear and an old way of thinking to move to that new Mac Pro. But if you want to keep using your old Mac Pro here?s a list of what might help extend the life of that already paid for computer. Couple this post with a similar recent article by Oliver Peters and you?ve got a lot to think about when it comes to making an old Mac Pro last longer. If you?d like a bit of FCPX specific talk about using an old Mac Pro with FCPX and a big edit job listen to my recent talk on FCPX Grill where we discuss just that.

It's so tempting to upgrade to a new machine, be it an 5K iMac or a new Mac Pro tube. Heck I have a top of the line Macbook Pro which I do a lot of work on but it's small screen can't compare to my full desktop setup with a 30 inch cinema display and 27 inch HP Dreamcolor. I do a lot of offline editing and this old Mac Pro tower still holds its own very well. It's plenty fast for DSLR media, ProRes and media right off a C300. I've done native RED R3D work in Adobe Premiere Pro CC with the Mercury Playback engine and a good GPU. A lot of those DSLR and C300 jobs are finished right in that box and it doesn't blink. Best of all it's a system that is paid for and has paid for itself many times over. Like a used car you don't want to spend a lot of money fixing something that is broken when you could put that money toward a new car (or new computer in this case) but if you have a working, reliable, paid for Mac Pro a few hundred dollars here and there might get you another year out of the thing, depending on what you're asking it to do. I have to admit that Retina 5K iMac is very, very tempting but that $3,000 price tag isn't something that I have to spend right now. So here's how I keep my old Mac Pro tower rolling along. read more...

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