How to Backup your data

We are all told on a regular basis that we should be backing up our data; but in a world of many options and setups how do you know you have a working Backup and how do you make sure you can get back and working if the worst happens?

There are many different techniques to back up your data; I will try and talk in broad brush strokes to give an idea of the main strategies, outlining the advantages of each and any common caveats.

The main thing to remember with a backup is actually how to get back to a working setup which does what you need. This really depends on how you use your computer and how critical it is to your working life. A home computer taking 5-10 days to get back to working condition will not usually result in any major problems; however a critical work Mac taking 1-2 hours might do! The only person who can effectively evaluate this is you! Once you know how important your data is then you can decide how much effort and cost is needed to create a restore strategy which works within your expected timescales.

The rule of thumb with backups is n-1; that means that having 1 backup is (1-1=0) the same as NO backups. Often you do not know there is an issue with a backup until you try to use it. With our digital lives being increasingly important (bills, photos, logons to school work etc) it is worth taking a little time, buying the right equipment and setting this up properly.

1) Time Machine.

This is Apple’s built in software which keeps incremental backups onto some form of external hard drive or the Apple Time Capsule. Apple have a really nice guide webpage which can take you through the setup and the only hardware you will need is a backup drive.

Time machine is usually a reliable solution, but gives you very little control over what is backed up and when. You can use more than one backup disk (Useful if you work away from where your Time Capsule is located as you can take a portable hard drive for backups on the road).

The disadvantages are that it can be tricky to restore specific files or if you have a file corruption or some system preference etc which is making a system unstable this can be restored at the same time.

You can use any external hard drive as a Time Machine destination. It is generally advised to use a drive only for Time Machine. We recommend at least twice the size of your storage use at the moment i.e. if you have 200 GB of data, then at least 400GB. These days this is less of an issue as even the smallest external Hard drives are 1TB in size.

A Flash Thumb drive is not a suitable drive for Time machine.

NAS (network attached storage) systems from Synology and Netgear both support network volumes which can be used with Time Machine.
The speed of a Time Machine destination is not so important, as long as it is a working drive. So do not worry about buying a fast SSD for the purpose.
We generally recommend against any special drives which have things like hardware / fingerprint / PIN encryption or their own encryption. These features tend to hamper the restore process as the migrate step usually takes place in a limited OS not the full loaded OS and the unlock software may not work.

2) Clone backup.

We use clones (using either Bombich’s great piece of software Carbon Copy Cloner or something similar such as SuperDuper or rsync) as these give you much more control. CCC can be setup to perform a clone at a chosen time each day, week or month.

A clone can be very useful – if you suffer a hard drive failure or even if you loose or break you mac – you can plug your clone drive into a replacement machine and be up and running in hours (if you have kept up to date with all the software updates you can even grab a new machine from you local Apple Store and boot from the clone). This really does minimise downtime as all your eMails, work and files are exactly as they were the last time you cloned your data.

A Clone will also let you choose files which you do not want to clone – great if you are using a small backup hard drive and don’t need your huge iTunes library as part of the backup, or have files already in the cloud which you can restore later.

The disadvantages are making sure you have a regular clone and the lack of incremental backups (i.e if you deleted a file before your last clone it will usually be gone from the drive).

Cloning is a great complement to a time machine backup; it gives you the ability to be back up an running as soon as possible; giving you time to choose when to apply a permanent fix.

A clone needs to be done to a local HDD (hard drive) or SSD (solid state drive); preferably to something easily portable to be back up and running as soon as possible. Speed of a clone drive is important as you hope to be able to use it as a startup volume if the worst happens. So think about USB 3.0 SSD or a Thunderbolt SSD which will work well externally on a modern Mac.

3) Cloud Backup. (inc Apple’s Pictures Sync)

Backup to an offsite location is an important point to consider. Protecting yourself against “worst case” scenarios like a flood or a fire at your home or office is defiantly worth considering – the truth about the “80% of businesses don’t survive an office fire” may not be referenced in detail but in our experience the stress of loosing a backup and the main machine data is not to be under-estimated. We have seen grown men cry when their data died.

iCloud backup is usually automatic (such as photos sync in iPhoto and Photos) and invisible – many people do not realize that it is turned on.

However it is also usually very slow – taking days or weeks to restore a large photo library. And it also usually only applies to specific Apps and is normally limited to Apps provided by those who provide the backup – i.e. Apple’s iCloud supports Pages, Numbers, Keynote; Microsoft’s OfficeDrive supports Word, Excel. Older versions of these applications don’t have support and you usually have to chose to use the cloud version.

4) Other offsite.

Combinations of clones stored away from the home, Time Machine drives taken away from the office or other cloud providers are very useful to mission critical data.

If you are a business; code 42 still offer a basic Crashplan version which is currently $ 10 per month and worth considering for each of your important Macs. Home users have solutions such as Back Blaze which works well.

If you have a NAS then you can often setup automatic backups to cloud servers or even similar NAS boxes on other networks (I have seen work NAS syncing to Home or to another office which works well).

5) Help; I don’t have a backup at all!

Give us a call, we offer data recovery on your old drive and can usually complete a hard drive replacement in your Mac within a couple of days, with a clean OS to get you back up and running if needed.

MacBook Pro 15″ & 17″ 2011 – Graphics card failures – New options January 2019

2011 MacBook Pro Graphics problems – The options as of 2019

So we here at MacUpgrades see about 20 of the MacBook Pro 2011 15” and 17” each and every week with the common GPU failure.
These issues occur due to a manufacturing defect within the GPU chips themselves.

Apple did eventually offer a ERA on this defect but only replaced failed boards with working ones with the same chipset. These units are all now beginning to fail as well.

Options

1. Reflow – A solution we have offered for many years. We remove the board, heat up the chip on a profile which will bring the machine back to life for a few months (some have lasted many years, but this is rare) Machine is fully functional at this time.

2. Replace the GPU – Not an option, simply because no good cards are made and as the fault is a manufacturing defect it will not last. There still are people selling this service for about £300 – it is not worth it. We see so many that have been replaced and its always the same fault. If you were lucky and didn’t get a pre reflowed chip, or a fake its still going to fail.

3. Reball the GPU – Worst option of the lot, costs more than a reflow and is yet the same thing. The fault is inside the GPU changing the balls does nothing other than incidentally reflowing the GPU whilst you are doing it.

4. Using software to disable the internal GPU, through altering the NVRAM (thanks to DosDude)

http://dosdude1.com/gpudisable/

This works pretty well. Does have full brightness control due to the mux being fully working. It can however fail if you do a NVRAM / PRAM reset and it OS upgrades may cause it to fail, which requires reapplying the fix.

5. A recent hardware development by DosDude bypassing the GPU with a hardware solution. (GMUX Bypass)

If you fancy doing it yourself here is the solution. Please read the whole post before starting.

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/permanently-disable-2011-15-17-macbook-pro-dedicated-gpu-gmux-ic-bypass.2134019/

This involves soldering microwires to the GMUX chip so that the dedicated Nvidia GPU is permanently disabled. Correctly carried out this repair is permanent, cannot be overwritten with PRAM / NVRAM resets and is a good tested fix.

Upsides

Permanent hardware fix.
Battery life improved.
Never worry about software updates or PRAM resets.
No software to install or update.

There are some downsides.

No brightness control by default. The GMUX chip is responsible for brightness on the machine so bypassing the chip will result in the machines brightness being 100% all the time.
No external video output. (Thunderbolt does work but no video)
Time consuming to do.
Intensive tasks such as rendering will be considerably slower due to the absence of the chip.

We have performed this procedure on a number of machines with completely dead GPU’s and machines which have failed for reflow and even machines with burnt and deformed GPU’s. All work flawlessly.

See the link below for before / after shots.

After serious testing as outlined above we have decided to offer this as a professional service.
Costs for the service are £200 + Vat as it is a long fiddly job. But we feel that for those who wish to continue to use their 2011 MBP it is a good option for continued longevity.

The service is on our website here

6. Another recent development by CMIZAPPER.com (Firmware Bypass) 15” and 17”.

This method is essentially a combination of part of the NVRAM solution and a hardware fix with a chip which ensures that the NVRAM solution is never overwritten. This involves soldering a chip around the Bios / EFI chip on the motherboard. This makes the machine think it is a 13” MacBook Pro with only one GPU (the intel one).

This fix is NVRAM stable, so that once the chip is soldered in the fix will not be erased buy an NVRAM or PRAM reset or when doing an OS upgrade.

Upsides

Permanent hardware fix.
Battery life improved.
Never worry about software updates or PRAM resets.
No software to install or update.
Cheaper than the GMUX bypass.

There are some downsides.

Full Brightness control available via the version 2 chip now being installed.
No external video output. (Thunderbolt does work but no video)
Intensive tasks such as rendering will be considerably slower due to the absence of the chip. However if you are doing video editing you should have moved to a newer machine some years ago.

Costs to do this are £130 + Vat which includes parts and labour.

The service is on our website here

We hope that this gives you an idea of the options and how we can help.

Reflows – an update Spring 2017

So we have offered a reflow service for many years now. If you are not familiar with what a re-flow is we have a blog post here which may help, and an early update here.

Typical symptoms of a GPU issue which may be resolved with a reflow are that on starting up you get an Apple Logo (showing the Mac has found it’s OS and started to load) – getting a progress bar (in 10.10+) which goes to three quaters along and then getting screen flicker to a grey screen. At this point the Mac stops responding or reboots. Usually these will work in “Safe Boot” (with the shift key held down on startup) – as they do not load the full GPU driver.

We have seen some newer Macs with these symptoms appearing and thought it worthwhile to share these with you:

MacBook Pro 2011 (MacBookPro 8,1; MacBookPro 8,2 and MacBookPro 8,3)

These were covered under an Apple Repair Extension Agreement -for Graphics Issues ranging from pixel discoloration to black screen on startup. This originally expired in Sept 2016 but was extended at the last minute to Dec 31st 2016. This has now ended (unless you are less than 4 years from date of purchase – in which case please see here and get booked into an AppleStore Genius Bar ASAP).

These suffer from a different issue from earlier MacBookPros / iMacs – it appears to be an issue within the GPU Chip to do with the solder borders internally. The Reflow “cookbook” for these is a little hotter and a little shorter than the ’08s or ’09s and works very well indeed. We have done a good number since the REA ended and have had none come back under warranty – so are hopeful this is a longer term fix than the earlier models. Only time will tell!

As ever this is a fixed cost repair – £ 85 + VAT and del. It usually only takes 1-2 working days once in our Sawston workshop.

If you want to book in please look here.

Mac Mini 2012; (MacMini 6,1 and MacMini 6,2)

These Mac Minis seem to display the typical Graphical issues; pixelated color spots or black screen on startup. Symptoms persist even with good RAM, HDD, PSU or Display adapters.

We have completed a few of these reflows – they are more involved than the MacBook Pros as they need a little more stripping down and have had good results following the 2011 MacBook Pro “Cookbook”. They appear to suffer from the same internal GPU issues. We have not created a code for the website yet, so please feel free to call us to discuss your Mac Mini.

Component Level Repairs – An Update!

So we have been offering micro soldering to repair many common issues on MacBook Pro logic boards for a while now and thought we’d update you with some common issues we have seen and how we have fixed them! We’ve now saved over 200 machines from the scrapyard or from a £600 apple board replacement. Maybe we can help you?

i) MacBook Retina 2013-2015 liquid damage and won’t power on!

Liquid spills can damage machines in a variety of ways but one we have seen a number of is on MacBook Retina 2013-15 machines where the liquid has shorted the keyboard backlight socket on the motherboard shorting an important 5v rail to ground. As long as there is no damage elsewhere the port can be replaced or removed and it will bring the machine back to life. (ultrasonic cleaning etc is required after and thorough testing). This lets the Mac startup – unfortunately it does stop the keyboard back light from working; but much cheaper than a whole logic board replacement.

Before:

backlight damage

After:backlight socket removed

ii) MacBook Pro Retina L 2012 / E 2013 – U8900 intermittent black screen – Repair Service

These machines were subject to a recall (same as the 2011′s) for GPU issues – however in a lot of cases it is in fact damaged soldered connections to the GPU power QFN package (U8900) we suspect due to its placement on the underside of the board underneath a heatsink screw hole which applies pressure to the board and damages the connection. This can be resolved by preheating the board and flowing the solder to the pins of the chip. Most common symptoms of this is the screen going black or not coming on at all. (This only applies to the L2012 and E2013 15″ retinas, we can resolve issues on other machines but they have a different layout and don’t suffer this issue). Kudos to Duke Fawks for the solution.

 

iii)15″ 2010 C9560 – Kernel Panics when Display / GPU switching – Repair Service

Another problem which is often attributed to the GPU shows up in the 2010 15″. Common symptoms are kernel panics, normally when starting to run a high GPU intensive program. The fault is in fact a bad tantalum capacitor on the board which is used when switching from integrated to dedicated graphics chips. The solution is to replace with a larger longer lasting poly capacitor this requires scraping a larger ground plane for the ground pin but it will last! (Another Duke Fawks first)

Before:

tant

After:

polycap

iv) MacBook Air U1950

A common failing component when liquid has got onto MacBook Air’s is the U1950 chip. This is mostly used to send a all system power good signal through for the machine to turn to an S0 state (power on). Replace the chip with a known good one and make good the traces (often pin 8 is burned).

Before:u1950After:

u1950 after

v) Damaged connectors

We see a lot of these where accidents have happened whilst doing a DIY upgrade or repair. In most cases these can be fixed easily.

Mac Mini Fan connector:

mini fan b4

mini fans after

MacBook Air LVDS (display signal) connector.

air lvds b4

air lvds after

MacBook air with damaged traces from the LVDS solved with a jumper wire:

mba with burnt traces

 

Our standard logic board repair service is £150 + vat. Details here.

Feel free to contact us with any inquiry or for more info here

Spilled liquid on your machine? – here are some immediate tips:

Help i’ve spilled liquid on my mac!!

Creating “The Beast” – how to upgrade a Mac Pro 1,1 to run El Capitan.

So we received a couple of Mac Pro 1,1′s which were having issues and decided to see what we could make from them. The idea being to make a powerful, modern Mac as cheaply as possible. The Mac Pro 1,1 is a great place to start – it has masses of internal expansion, and can be grabbed cheaply second hand sources, often for less than £ 100.

The basic issue with the Mac Pro 1,1 is that as factory setup and running it will not run above Mac OS 10.7.5 – this limits it’s usability; especially with Applications like Adobe CC or even modern apps like Photos or iTunes. It also limits some upgrade options; especially with Graphics cards like our R9 – as these earlier OSes do not have the drivers needed.

To start with much of this work has been done by others; I will try and link back to sources as much as possible. That said many people have done similar things in different ways – so I will try and justify my methodology as well (or at least explain the logic behind the decision).

The short short version:

1) Upgrade the firmware to Mac Pro 2,1 (add support for newer CPUs)

2) Upgrade the CPUs to 2 x Quad Core 3.0Ghz Xeons.

3) Upgrade the RAM to above 16GB (we went to 32GB but anything above 16GB should be fine)

4) Install 4 x HDDs (defiantly Matched in size – preferably matched in brand, model etc) – Setup as a RAID 0 – and Test.

5) Upgrade the Graphics Card (we used our R9) – you need to have at least 512 MB VRAM.

6) Install Mac OS X 10.11.6 onto the RAID and modify the boot.efi and <supported platforms> list

7) Boot and enjoy!!

So these steps in detail – with reasons and processes.

1) Upgrade the firmware to Mac Pro 2,1 (add support for newer CPUs)

There is a useful forum here: which has a utility to do this. I followed the instructions and rebooted with the long tone and off you trot! This is needed to add support for the newer CPUs we had in store.

2) Upgrade the CPUs to 2 x Quad Core 3.0Ghz Xeons.

We had these in store from a failed Mac Pro 2,1 which had logic issues – but they can be purchased from eBay very cheaply – there is a great list here on MacRumors which can help you decide which suit your budget / needs. If you want to run lots at any one time then going from Dual Core to Quad Core can be helpful (I wanted to get virtualization working to support legacy OSes at the same time) – otherwise going for higher clock speed is more helpful for processes such as video encoding.

3) Upgrade the RAM to above 16GB (we went to 32GB but anything above 16GB should be fine)

If you trust the second hand market; you can pick up some real bargains for 667mhz RAM for these Machines (we do see some customers with issues from second hand RAM but would image it is a small number given how much it appears on eBay etc) – we do sell new modules here.

You MUST have above 12 GB RAM to run El Capitan without it falling over at random intervals – when we had it up and running with 8GB (waiting for a stock delivery) it would fall over every 10 mins or so at random times – since the upgrade it is up for days without any bother.

4) Install 4 x HDDs (defiantly Matched in size – preferably matched in brand, model etc) – Setup as a RAID 0 – and Test.

I had 4 x 3TB HDDs from a previous project which were no longer being used – a bit of a miss match of brands (a pair of Seagate 3TB, and a pair of  WD Green 3TB drives). Once these were installed in the Mac Pro I used Target Disk mode via Firewire to a Mac Mini and setup as a RAID 0 using SoftRAID. Using target mode meant that we could install the latest SoftRAID drivers and not have issues later with older versions etc.

This RAID gives over 500MB/s read and write speed (as tested with BlackMagic Disk Speed Test) – and you could expect more with newer and matched drives. Not bad for 12TB of storage!

I used RAID 0 as this Mac will be backed up to a Time Machine server and also be acting as a Media Backup – so failure accounted for.

5) Upgrade the Graphics Card (I used our R9) – you need to have at least 512 MB VRAM.

Video Cards with less than 512 MB VRAM cause issues on these early Mac Pros with the later OSes. I replaced the stock GT with a flashed R9 270x 2GB VRAM. Other cards will work; however the 270x is within the Max power draw spec, has nice out of the box driver support in 10.11.6 and full Dual-link DVI.

6) Install Mac OS X 10.11.6 onto the RAID and modify the boot.efi and <supported platforms> list

I used the Mac Pro in Target disk mode attached to a 2012 Mac Mini running 10.9 – this allowed me to install 10.11.3, create an account and complete all the usual upgrades to 10.11.6 so that I knew it was a fully working install. – Effectively using the Mac Pro as a big hard drive enclosure!

Once it was all working I booted back into the Mac Mini and followed the instructions here:

This involved replacing the boot.efi and adding a line item to the <supported devices> plist. (I went for grey as I am a traditionalist!).

A tentative reboot with the “Alt” key and the 10.11.6 RAID appeared – selected and then the login appeared! It lives! Make sure that the hard drive is selected in the startup disk panel to avoid a long delay on boot and it has been up and running ever since!

So now I have a Mac Pro, running El Capitan 10.11.6 with 32GB RAM, 12TB hard drive operating at similar speeds to a modern SSD, the wonderful R9 270X with 2GB VRAM and two displays. Daily it runs four web browsers with approx 10 tabs in each, Parallels with various older OSes from 10.6.8 server upwards, Photos, eMail, Facetime (with a USB webcam), iTunes, iWork and all the usual office tasks and all for less than the cost of a iPad!

 

 

macOS Sierra has gone into beta; but my Mac won’t run it!

So Apple have released several versions public betas for the next version of macOS – Sierra (10.12). With this release, the first since mountain lion 10.8, Apple have introduced new limits to the hardware capable of running it meaning that most Macs made before 2010 will not run it.

So; what does this mean for owners of these “orphaned” Macs?

Not much really – we are starting to see some older versions of the OS’s loose support for modern browsers (10.6 and 10.7) especially some popular sites like iPlayer, Netflix, facebook and twitter (and strangely often reported thetrainline.com). Even Chrome which has valiantly keep supporting older versions of Mac OS X has stopped supporting below 10.8 with new updates.

This means that now is the best time to get your older Mac up to date, and leave it running “as is” to give it the best chance of still being usable in years to come. Here is a quick list of must dos to make this happen.

1) “Get” Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitain) from the Mac App Store – with previous releases as soon as the newest is out you can no longer purchase the last one so make sure it is on your Apple ID before it goes (once it is gone you can always re-download from the “purchased tab”).

2) Check how much RAM you have – we recommend at least 6GB to run El Capitain.

3) Make sure you have a working backup. Upgrading the OS should not cause any issues, but if you don’t have a backup and something does go wrong you could loose all your data. – see our Tips and tricks for a Major OS Upgrade for some details on this.

4) Check your hard drive before upgrading. – We recommend two applications which can test your have drive: It is worth running these before upgrading the OS.

i) BlackMagic Disk Speed Test: this tests the speed of your hard drive for use with digital video – very useful as failing hard drives often slow down. Expect a normal working HDD to give 70-100 MB/s – failing hard drives between 10-30 MB/s. If these readings have a high range (i.e. 1st is 90MB/s and then 30MB/s) that can also be a issue.

ii) SoftRAID: This is a great tool for creating an array of disks into a volume for speed or data redundancy. It also reads the extended SMART info which can be a helpful indicator of a failing hard drive.

5) Make sure you have enough time to be without your Mac – if something goes wrong it may take a few days to get back up from your backup or replace failed hardware – not worth doing if you have a major project due in next week!

 

In summary; now is the time to get these 2008-2010 Macs up to date and current to make sure that they are still useful machines for years to come.

Tips and Tricks for a Major OS Upgrade

El Capitan (Mac OS X 10.11) is nearly upon us – Due for release on 30th Sept so we thought it would be a good time to list some tips and helpful advice to make the upgrade as smooth as possible.

The last couple of releases of Mac OS have not had the same issues as some which came before (moving from 10.6.8 to 10.7 had major headaches!) but it is still a full replacement of the heart of your Mac. We always see an increase in the number of failed hard drive or hard drive upgrades required to support the new versions of the OS and are expecting the same this time.

Tip #1 – Always (ALWAYS) have a full backup of your OS and important files before completing the Upgrade.

We recommend you complete a full Time Machine backup, and also have a Clone of your current OS.

If you use the wonderful Carbon Copy Cloner, you will need to make sure you are running 4.1.4 for it to work in 10.11.

Why Both?

The advantage of a Clone is that you can boot from it and get back to a working state if the worst happens or if some vital piece of software stops working after the upgrade. A Time Machine backup often updates before you have a chance to test everything. The OS may upgrade library files such as the Mail or Photos folders to later versions which may not be compatible on an older version of Mac OS. We recommend unplugging your time machine backup disk before applying the upgrade; and plugging it back in after you are happy that everything is working. You may need to erase and restore to go down to your previous OS.

Tip #2 – Complete all recommended software updates before upgrading.

Most software authors have spent lots of time and effort to make sure that their software will run happily in El Capitan (Mac OS X 10.11). We recommend going through each application you use and applying their upgrades (often in the help menu or a reminder at startup). Completing these updates before hand means give you the best chance that it will work after the upgrade.

Tip #3 – Make sure you have enough RAM.

Apple min spec is 2GB RAM for 10.10 and 10.11. In our experience this is just not enough. (see this article). We recommend 6GB min for 10.11 – preferably 8GB and, if your Mac can take it, 16GB is defiantly worth considering.

Tip #4 – Make sure you have enough storage capacity.

You’ll need to allow around 6GB of space for the download, and 6GB for the installer to work with – this is on top of the recommended 10-15GB of free space on your storage device (SSD or HDD). Running a machine with less than 10-15GB of free space will be very slow and will work the drive very hard.

Make sure you empty your Trash folder and check your “Downloads” folder for any large installers (Office 365 installer image takes over 3GB) or updaters which have been applied. Look out for older updaters (we often see many multiples of Java or Flash updaters which can be deleted once used). This can free up space.

Tip #5 – Plan your time.

Downloading 6Gb of upgrade may take a few hours (especially on launch day) and applying it will defiantly take an hour or two.

Our testing installing a clean version onto a standard rotational drive in an iMac or Mac Pro  will take between 45 mins and 1.5 hours. Upgrading from a pervious version can take a little longer (one Mac in the Office took 2 hours after the download completed). This will be faster on a newer Mac with an SSD and fast internet connection.

This is not something to do when you have a deadline looming or work to be done. Give yourself a day for a work Mac or have another which you can work from for the time being.

For a home Mac; start it early and have your favourite beverage to hand. Once the download is complete you will need to select the destination and hit “continue” – the second part takes a while and will often restart a couple of times automatically! Also factor in time for libraries / databases to be updated (such as Mail)

What to do if it all goes wrong:

Recent updates have gone very smoothly for the vast majority of Apple Mac users, if anything does go wrong we can often help, so give us a call, eMail or join us in our online chat during office hours to go through your options.

What would you do?

Today we were asked an interesting question: A customer was given a 2009 Mac Pro as a work Mac and told he could do whatever upgrades he wanted as long as the performance was improved; up to £1500. What would you do?

This sparked some serious debate in the office; mainly about the order which these upgrades would be installed to give the maximum kick for the buck and completing piecemeal as budget allowed. Below is what we agreed and the order we would do it in to give the quickest improvement first.

i) Install a very very fast SSD for the Operating System (Mac OS X) and applications.

Two options stand out – depending on need for speed and capacity.

The new Tempo SSD (which is a M.2 based Blade solution attaching via PCIe) which is only available in 512 GB at the mo – more than enough for the OS, Apps and some swap files. This is the fastest drive you can attach to this Mac Pro – although it is not cheap (£ 720 inc VAT) it will give workflow changing speed boosts (approx 20 x the speed of a rotational hard drive)!

Alternativly there is the 960 GB OWC Accelsior E2 These give a larger capacity, and are still around 10 x the speed of a rotational drive they are not slow! Nearly 1 TB of capacity gives this card a edge over the Tempo – but the reduced speed makes it the second choice. Also not cheap at nearly £ 640 inc VAT but a great card to breath new life into a 8 year old Mac Pro.

ii) Install a new Video Card

This was the most agreed upon option in the office. The bespoke R9 270x graphics card which we have been selling for a couple of months gives amazing performance for most uses. For £ 300 inc this is a great performance improvement. The only disadvantage is that this card is not CUDA certified – meaning that specific Adobe Apps will not take advantage – Mainly After effects. This is a great speed boost for the whole OS and most Apps – giving 5-10 x the speed of the stock GT 120 and 2-4 x the speed of the best card available for the 09 Mac Pro (the 5770).

iii) Max out the RAM.

Most Mac Pros can take 32-64 GB RAM – depending on if you have the “dual Processor” version or not. the 8GB Modules for the 2009 Mac Pro can be found here (around £90 inc VAT each). An interesting point to note is that adding more RAM will not increase the speed of your Mac, however it will prevent it from slowing down under load. This is why it is 3rd in our “Performance enhancing” list.. and many Mac Pros we see already have 16GB + RAM. If you think you need more RAM check out our earlier post “do I need more RAM?

Conclusion: The 08-10 Mac Pros are still great computers – the Xeon CPUs can still handle all but the most bleeding edge of tasks and for around £ 1200 you can put in an amazingly fast SSD, Fast GPU Upgrade and 16GB RAM, making a really fast Mac Pro for any professional work!

Other Additional Options:

If you need lots of hard drive capacity (Video editing work, Time Machine server etc)

As above but add 4 x 2TB Hard drives into the Main bays and use Disk utility to give you a RAID 0 disk array – 8TB of fast hard drives space available. or if you really need the space you can add 4 x 4TB to give 16TB of available space. – maybe go for the smaller Accelsior to keep within budget.

How to speed up the internet?

One of the regular reasons people ask us for upgrades is because the internet feels slow. Many times this not due to the speed of your Mac; but can be through other bottlenecks which can be fixed without too much difficulty and we will list 3 easy fixes here:

1) Check your DNS settings.

DNS is the system the internet uses to translate the nice human address “www.macupgrades.co.uk” into an address which the network can understand to access resources on the server.

On the Mac a slow DNS server can be seen most commonly as a long delay between entering a web address and the page starting to load (you can tell a page starting to load because the name of the window will change to the proper name given by the website). This may also show itself as a delay between clicking a link and the page changing.

Often your DNS settings are set by your home router; and modern routers include a DNS caching server which stores the commonly used addresses before asking the local network for the answer but as home networks get busier it can be worth adding a secondary DNS server.

One way to find your quickest server is to use this utility from google.

It is also worth taking a look at Open DNS who provide a free to use service for home users.

2) Remove adverts and trackers:

Many websites these days use advertising around their content to make back the costs of running their site. Some even treat this a business model to make their money – sometimes known as “clickbait” where the whole point of the content is to generate page views. We have all seen articles like “20 cutest cats” or “15 silly things to do with a lawnmower”.

Although this may be a legitimate way to market information you might be interested in (there is a whole other debate about the use of such marketing info to categorise your lifestyle and preferences), it most defiantly slows down page loading times and is noticeable on older Macs as it increases the resources needed to display the page.

Two programs we recommend are Adblock and Ghostery both available as Safari, Firefox or Chrome extensions.

Installing these apps will mean that your pages will use less RAM and CPU cycles – as one customer put it the other day “making the internet usable again”.

3) Remove any “Adware” or PUAs/PUPs – Potentially Unwanted Applications or Programs.

A more nefarious trend of late is adding PUPs into installer packages. We have had customers reporting downloads for TV Channels, free movie sites or from torrent sites including these. Often a PUP will change the default search engine as well as inserting additional DNS servers or proxys into your configuration meaning your internet traffic gets re-directed from where you want to go. Examples include Genio and GoldenBoy.

There also appears to be some reports of “MacKeeper” doing the same thing.

These can be difficult to remove; they place Safari extensions and system extensions all over the place. There is a great Application called Adware Medic which can search your hard drive for examples and removed them to the trash. If issues still exist we recommend seeking the advice of someone who can help you (such as ourselves!)..

These are 3 tips which may help you upgrade your Mac online experience. We hope you find them useful.

Update to the Re-flow services – MacBook Pro 15/17″ 2010/11

One of the services we offer is called a “reflow” – it involves heating the logic board – and more specifically the Graphics Processor of a Mac to near to the melting point of the solder used to attach these together.

This has been very successful in resurrecting dead Macbook Pro’s and dead iMacs; especially with graphics artefacts in the kernel panic or in use.

We have recently been trialling the same process with the Macbook Pro 15″ & 17″ 2010 and 2011. These seem to suffer similar issues (dark screen after boot, graphics issues, only booting into recovery mode or only booting in “safe boot” mode – the later two we think is because these do not use the same GPU drivers!).

We have now got a modified “cookbook” for these Macs and feel we can offer this repair with some certainty. It is offered at the same price as previous re-flows (£85 + VAT) and we have had a number of happy customers of this service.

Give us a call and see if we can help you out today.