Some questions about upgrading an older Mac Pro

Nov 26, 2014
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Hi, I just joined.

I'm in the market for a Mac Pro for music production using Logic Pro.

I've gotten quite confused with the various different iterations of these machines, and so was hoping the experienced people here could help me.

As you'll know, there are many different models, at many different prices.
I've recently learned, that there are various numbers, referring to certain models within a given time frame, the last of which, being the "5,1" models.

The two models I'm torn between, are the 5,1 and the 4,1.

The obvious choice would be the 5,1. However, I've noticed these are considerably more expensive.
On Ebay, a 5,1 (2010 onwards) are about £300 more expensive.

After realizing this, I looked into the 4,1 , which as a student, is definitely more in my price range.

On a music forum, I was told the 4,1's could actually be upgraded to the 5,1 model with a firmware update.
This would allow for processor upgrades and the like.
They also said the process is tricky, and if It needed doing, you'd be better off paying someone else to do it.

Do the differences between a 5,1 and a 4,1 really matter (especially if upgradable)?

I had a look on a few websites, and didn't find there was much between them, apart from some some video card alterations, firmware versions, negligible RAM speed differences, and of course, the processors the 5,1 can support, that the 4,1 (without an upgrade) cannot.

Sorry if this is a noob question

Last edited:
May 4, 2010
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Western Washington (USA)
Your Mac's Specs
MacPro 3.2Ghz Quad-Core, Mid 2010
If it were me I would find a way to get the extra money and get the 5,1.
You'll have a computer that Apple will still update slightly longer then the 4.1, the upgrade cost's will be about the same when you get on your feet again and have money available to start upgrading it. AND, If you do something wrong and "brick" the 4,1 upgrading it then you just lost all that money and have to start all over again. This way you can just sit back and do your thing with no worry's.

good luck.....
Feb 29, 2012
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You can not upgrade a Mac Pro to a later model with firmware. You can upgrade the firmware, to bring it up to date for your model, but that is not what you think it is doing.

All Macs have the version number xx,xx which indicates what model and what version within that model it is. You can look it up to find out what age the model is.

MacTracker [free] will give you all the specs and details on every model Mac, iPod, iPad, iPhone etc ever built.

Or use:

Mac Identification (Identify My Mac and Your Mac) @

Lookup Mac Specs By Serial Number, Order, Model & EMC Number, Model ID @

Check the GeekBench scores for each model here:

Compare Macs, Compare iPods, iPhones & iPads @

Upgrading the RAM really helps performance and is always money well spent. The Pros do however use a much more expensive RAM than regular Macs.

Larger and faster Hard Drives help as well but not so much. Keeping at least 20% free on boot HDD helps keep OSX running smoother.

Upgrading the CPU whilst doable on a Mac Pro rarely makes financial sense, you may as well have paid for a better model, which normally uses another, sometimes incompatible CPU.

Currently for single processes the 5k Retina iMacs are actually faster than the current Mac Pros for far less. The Mac Pros perform better for multi process software. Most of the software for Macs unfortunately does not make optimal use of the processors available. Handbrake is one that does and can really fly with multiple processors and a fast hard drive.

Only the recent Mac Pros have Thunderbolt (two kinds/speeds) and USB 3.0 as well as other hardware enhancements, so buying an older Mac Pro may not be money well spent, unless it is really cheap. The older Mac Pros have non-standard size motherboards so don't think of upgrading those with PC motherboards.

Be careful, you are buying into older technology which will be abandoned by Apple sooner rather than later. The older the hardware the less years left for that model, except frozen in time with the ultimate OS & software that will run on it. Macs are not as flexible as PCs in that regard.

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