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    I purchased my first Mac Pro back in 2017. I will be honest with you, I didn’t really know much about them at the time. I had some experience of an iMac so I figured they were more or less the same, except, of course, the iMac was a complete system in itself – a combined desktop / monitor. After scouring Ebay for a ‘bargain’ I found one that suited my purpose (or so I thought). I forked out the princely sum of £275 (with FREE delivery!). Such a sum didn’t break the bank at the time – I considered it a steal, to be honest with you.

    The spec of the above machine was this …

    Apple Mac Pro 2.1 2x 3.0GHz QUAD-CORE INTEL XEON 1TB 16GB RAM 10.7 LION OS X

    As you can see there was power aplenty, with 2 very powerful XEON processors right at the limit of their speed (3.0GHz), a huge amount of RAM and more than enough hard-drive space for my needs. I really couldn’t believe how much for so little.

    On receiving the ‘beast’ I was taken aback by the sheer size of the thing and the weight – it was built like a tank! Wow, if you have only been used to flimsy, cheap computer cases then you will be knocked off your feet with the build quality of a Mac Pro of this lineage. Every part of the Mac Pro seems superbly engineered, with easy access to slots and hard-drive bays (hard-drives slide in and out on caddys).

    What the Mac Pro lacked was a wireless keyboard and mouse, but as I had a number of these lying around this wasn’t a problem or an additional expense for me. Of course, another missing part of the configuration puzzle, was a lack of monitor, but again, as the Mac Pro was replacing a computer already in situ then it was simply a matter of swapping cables over – or so I thought (no it wasn’t – see below).

    ATI Radeon XT1900

    The working windows computer setup in my house used a wireless keyboard and mouse, along with utilising the TV as a monitor through an appropriate cable – a VGA to SVGA cable. The graphics card installed in the Mac Pro was an ATI Radeon 1900 XT. I hadn’t paid enough attention to this as there were no VGA connections available. I was expecting a few teething problems and this was just one to overcome, though, I did find it a bit annoying at the time – annoyed at my own stupidity or laziness, that is. I therefore needed an adaptor or a new cable. I purchased a DVI to VGA adaptor off Ebay for just a few £s – but it didn’t work! I then purchased the appropriate cable – a DVI to HDMI cable, which did work – thankfully.

    Once connected to the TV it was game on. Everything came to life as I hoped it would. These Mac Pros are not the fastest to boot up, which can be a bit disconcerting, but boot up it did – eventually. As luck would have it the Mac Pro came with the ability to connect to the internet (not all do!). Once connected I then experimented with all sorts to get the hang of things. It quickly became apparent to me more work was required as OSX Lion was just too outdated – hardly anything worked with it! By this I mean the latest version of Firefox, or Opera, or any modern browser for that matter, wouldn’t install nevermind run. I was stuck with an operating system where very little worked to my satisfaction. I quickly understood why this version of Mac Pro can be picked up for so little money. What to do about it? To be honest with you I parked the Mac after a while, kinda giving up in the process, and went back to my Windows, computer setup.

    Dual Boot Mac OSX with Windows

    I came back to the Mac now and then, especially went I came across a reference to a hack – a work around the Lion OSX limitation. I read up on how to go about this, but I must admit, I didn’t fancy the proceedure much – just seemed too much fuss and bother. Probably the fact I had little experience of the Mac OSX to begin with was putting me off at this stage. I eventually decided to have a go at installing Windows 8 in a dual-boot configuration to see if I could at least breathe some useful life into the Mac Pro. Futher teething problems became evident when I tried this approach – the wireless keyboard and mouse refused to play ball.

    When I tried to reboot the Mac to the boot-up screens – I just couldn’t access the boot-up screens using the wireless keyboard and mouse – no key combinations worked and the Mac just remained unresponsive. More expense was on the cards as I then invested in both a USB keyboard and mouse (along with some extension cables as I was some way from the screen – my sofa being some way from the screen or TV in this case). I gave up installing dual boot after a while, but not before I had wrecked the Lion OSX which was initially on the drives (or at least I could no longer boot into it). Yes, I know, I should have made a backup – well, I hadn’t. What now? Thankfully the Mac wasn’t the only way to access the internet in my house as I also had a Windows computer available.

    To be honest with you I can’t remember exactly how I overcame this, but I do know I eventually reinstalled OSX Mountain Lion (CD worked I think – downloaded on my Windows machine and created using a special program) AND the hack needed to run both El Capitan (I will attempt to find the sites I used with this info needed for this). I do remember it wasn’t that hard – just a bit unsettling and fiddly. Trouble is running El Capitan unearthed another problem – and one requiring a fair amount of dosh to sort out – a new graphics card was required! Although the Mac would run and display the resolution was low and fixed. It was obvious the graphics card was no longer working as intended – it was defunct! There was no way around this bar for acquire a new graphics card, one which could handle El Capitan.

    After double and triple checking which cards were right for the job (easier said than done – I will list them myself in due course) I picked up another bargain by bidding on a Sapphire ATI Radeon 5770 HD 1GB PCI-Express 2.1 x16 HDMI PC / Mac compatible graphics card (displays as an ATI Radeon HD 5000 1024), costing me just £39.99 (with FREE delivery). Another great buy I reckon as these cards can be costly. Once swapped over the Mac was ready to go. There is a strange drawback to these cards though – you lose the boot up process – it just doesn’t display.

    HD 5770 Graphics Card

    All through this debacle I was becoming all the more knowledgeable about Macs and the operating system they used, also my scouring of Ebay had built up a comprehensive listing of suppliers of bits and pieces. One such supplier sells small hard-drives with the hack and El Capitan already installed. To upgrade my next Mac Pro (the one I’m using to type this) I bought such a cheap hard-drive and simply cloned it over to the much larger hard-drive this Mac users. This is so much simpler and of course I have the hacked El Capitan hard-drive to hand for any other installation on this or any other Mac Pro I get my hands on.

    El Capitan on this Mac Pro

    Both my Mac Pros are now flying. I can install all the modern programs and on top of that the whole thing is much smoother and faster overall. The full power of the Mac Pros has been unleashed – and it is considerable. I couldn’t be more delighted. I will write more on the programs my Macs now use – such as MAMP, and will demonstrate how their raw power makes opening multiple browser windows and programs at the same time a hesitant free experience, far surpassing my Windows driven computers by a long ways.

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