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Upgrading Your Mac Pro CPU from Dual to Quad Core

written by: •edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 6/17/2011

If you own a Mac Pro, the chances are you spent around $2000 on the computer, so spending the same again to upgrade might not be an attractive option. However, as you will see, a quad core processor will fit in a dual core Mac Pro, enabling you to upgrade and save money!

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    Upgrading Intel Mac Pro Computers

    Upgrading Intel Mac Pro Computers Increasingly over the past few years, Mac computers have been transformed from stylish objects for specialist users to mainstream devices, and the main reason for this is the transfer from PowerPC processors to Intel.

    With Intel processors and compatible motherboards – not to mention a revised operating system and compatible software – Mac computers were able to finally start competing with the standard Windows-powered PC, offering compatibility via Bootcamp and Parallels for anyone transferring from a Windows computer to continue using their legacy applications while also becoming a more attractive platform for gaming.

    A quick browse through a computer brochure or catalog will reveal that new Mac OS X devices use the same Intel processors as their Windows competitors. However, this new match in power and functionality has some interesting side effects. For instance, the Mac Pro tower computer can be opened up and its hardware upgraded – but only if the motherboard is suitable. You might want to find out if a quad core processor can fit in a dual core Mac Pro, for instance, before actually fitting the component and enjoying an increase in power and productivity.

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    Identifying Your Mac Pro and Its Hardware

    Before getting tied up with the question of whether you can upgrade a dual core Mac Pro to a quad core, you need to find out more about the computer itself.

    There are various models of Mac Pro, with single processor systems and dual processor systems enabling you to have from 4 to 12 cores of processing power to provide you with the most powerful Mac experience ever.

    However, regardless of the number of processors you will need to find out exactly which processor type you have before you can think about upgrading. You can get started on this bit of detective work by using the About This Mac screen available from the main Apple menu on your Mac. This will display the type of CPU that you currently have fitted, and by running a search on the web or the Apple.com website you should be able to establish the model of your Mac Pro, the internal specifications and which processors you can use.

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    Improving Power with an Upgrade

    The whole point of upgrading a dual core Mac Pro with a quad core processor is to improve performance (unless your dual core CPU has failed and all you can get your hands on is a quad core processor).

    Therefore, making the right choice is vital as a mistake might result in you having no Mac, rather than a slow Mac. Fortunately, thanks to the similarities in dual and quad core architectures, it is possible to swap your Intel Core Duo for a quad core CPU.

    For instance, Intel Core Duo (Intel 5130) CPUs can be replaced with quad core Intel 5355 processors, allowing you to upgrade from 2 GHz to 2.66 GHz; on a dual-processor system this obviously offers a considerable increase in processing. These similarities are the same reason why many Windows users stick to building their own computers rather than purchasing one.

    However, while increasing your processor speed with one or more new CPUs is an option, another is to increase the amount of system RAM that you have installed. Bear this in mind when shopping for a new processor – upgrading your system memory can yield impressive performance enhancements, as can a faster hard disk drive.

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    Where to Find a Faster Processor

    There are various places online and offline where you can find a replacement processor for your Mac Pro. The most obvious solution – and one that will save you the trouble of installing the new CPU yourself – is to take your computer to your local Apple store and have one of the Genius staff help you to select a replacement processor and have it fitted.

    Alternatively, you might head online and look for a recognized and approved Mac dealer, or one that specialises in Mac components so that you can get a good comparison of prices.

    Another top location for finding and buying components for your Mac Pro is, of course, eBay, where you will find processors from old and new models waiting to be snapped up. You might also choose a site that recycles computer components after the main device has given up. If you’re happy to install your new processor yourself then this is the route to take as you can expect to get a bargain compared to prices listed elsewhere or the Apple store.

    Remember, however, that replacing a processor on a Mac Pro tower is not for the faint hearted. If you have never seen the inside of a computer before you certainly shouldn’t be attempting the process unaided.

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    References

    Apple Support, https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2809634?start=0&tstart=0

    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Frijole