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Adding more memory to a Mac Pro


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#1 of 31 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 28 2008 - 08:52 AM

My 21 month old Mac Pro is getting really crazy these days. Though it has 3GB of installed memory I have been adding so many startup items, so many icons in the dock, and running applications such as Photoshop, EyeTV and Safari at once that I am getting slowdowns, choppy TV playback and spinning beachballs galore. Obviously I am taxing my Mac Pro's resources. Crucial has a really cool website that scans any Mac, tells you your exact configuration, and then suggests memory upgrades. For about $119 I can add two more 1GBx2 modules and bring my unit up to 5GB total. For $181 I can buy 4GB of memory bringing it up to 7GB total. A few questions.... 1. Is Crucial good memory? 2. Is it easy to add memory to the Mac Pro? The Crucial site shows pictures of the memory bay and its empty slots. I would imagine all I need to do is open up the back, find the memory bay, and insert the memory chips. That simple? 3. Will the added 2-4GB of memory (bringing me to 5-7GB) cure the slowdown and spinning beachball problems I am experiencing due to the amount of startup programs? Will this be the cure? 4. Will the added memory increase bootup and file loading times as well? I don't mind going up to 7GB. It may sound like overkill, but it certainly sounds as if I will have unlimited head room to play with for some time. Thanks!

 

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#2 of 31 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted August 28 2008 - 09:30 AM

1. Is Crucial good memory? Yes. I've ordered from them a few times and appreciate that they take the worry out of memory: no problems picking the right type, the right amount, and the prices are fair.

2. Is it easy to add memory to the Mac Pro? The Crucial site
shows pictures of the memory bay and its empty slots. I would
imagine all I need to do is open up the back, find the memory bay,
and insert the memory chips. That simple?
It should be that simple. I recently added memory to my wife's 3-yr old dual-G5 system and it was as you describe.

3. Will the added 2-4GB of memory (bringing me to 5-7GB) cure the
slowdown and spinning beachball problems I am experiencing due
to the amount of startup programs? Will this be the cure?
4. Will the added memory increase bootup and file loading times as well?


3&4 I don't know. But I'll note that memory is no cure if you're CPU limited. This is out of my league, but you might need to figure out if you're CPU limited or RAM limited. But $181 will answer that pretty quickly Posted Image

#3 of 31 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 28 2008 - 09:43 AM

Dave, as always, thanks for the response. I wish I could find a way to figure out if I am CPU or RAM limited before dropping $181. I have a quad core system and I would guess that it's RAM before CPU....but then again...what do I know.

 

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#4 of 31 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted August 28 2008 - 09:56 AM

You can use the Activity Monitor to gauge your need for new memory and new CPU. (run it while you're trying to do real work, or at least mimicking it)/ If most of your memory is Free or Inactive, you don't need more RAM. If most of your CPU is idle, you don't need a new CPU.

#5 of 31 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 28 2008 - 10:04 AM

Being the dummy I am with this stuff perhaps you guys can
tell me how I am doing with these screenshots of Activity Monitor.

When I ran the Monitor the system was not giving me the kind
of slowdowns I had been experiencing, but I did have a lot of
the same kind of programs I have active at any given time.

Posted Image

Posted Image

Appreciate the assessment.

 

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#6 of 31 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted August 28 2008 - 10:26 AM

From those shots Ron, you are barely touching the CPU, but running close on RAM. So, more RAM should be your solution. Also, depending on how many RAM slots you have available, you may actually end up removing smaller cards to install bigger ones. Meaning, you may not get the RAM gain you expect. I think Pros come in 4 and 8 RAM slot configurations. You can use System Profiler and go to Memory to find your RAM capabilities. More RAM should not make the computer start slower, but all those startup items will.

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#7 of 31 OFFLINE   Ken Chan

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Posted August 28 2008 - 10:50 AM

Mac Pros have two separate riser cards which provide quad-channel memory. That means that -- in theory -- the best memory performance is to use sets of four memory sticks of a given size. Pairs are allowed, but not as good. If you have 3GB, that means you have two 512MB and two 1GB, which has not been optimal these past 21 months. You can get two more of each, for a total of 6GB. Put each pair of the 1GB on the bottom half of each riser card (near the gold "finger" connections") and each pair of the 512s on top. One of the few times more memory is slower is if you put the machine to sleep. The Mac will copy the contents of RAM onto the hard drive in case the power goes out. You're "not supposed to" move the computer while it's doing this. This is really only an issue if you have a laptop.

#8 of 31 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 28 2008 - 09:00 PM

John and Ken, Thank you. Ken, you made an interesting observation that the memory I have been using has not been optimal. Can you explain this? You mean I have not been getting my memory's worth all this time? You are correct about the configuration of the memory I now have. I will take your advice and buy two of each memory model and bring my Mac Pro up to 6GB The only thing that worries me is that I have yet to actually look at the memory risers inside the machine. You seem to have provided me with decent directions of what to do, but it almost sounds as if I could easily screw things up if I don't put the right modules directly in the correct slots. What if I don't? What if I screw up and put them in the wrong slots? I am going to buy the memory in two weeks so I hope you will revisit this thread as I may post a picture of the memory bay prior to the installation so someone like you could perhaps affirm what I am doing before I do it. Thanks

 

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#9 of 31 OFFLINE   Christian Behrens

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Posted August 29 2008 - 02:59 AM

Ron, You're not going to screw up. If you've never had your machine open, it's time to do so and marvel at the clean layout of your machine. Simple maintenance, like adding/removing a drive or memory (on those mentioned riser cards) is done in mere moments. The memory cards are easily removed and modules on the cards added, just look for the right orientation, but seriously, without rushing at all, taking your time, finding the right orientation of the modules, a RAM upgrade will not take longer than, say, 10 minutes. It really is THAT easy. What Ken was alluding to by saying you weren't running in the optimal configuration just means that these machines run best when populated with four identical modules, while you are currently running with two different pairs of memory. So yes, there is a slowdown associated with that configuration; however, I'd bet good money that the slowdown we're talking about here is not noticeable to you or any ordinary user, outside running benchmarks. I'd wager and say that while the additional memory will do you good, the beachballs are caused my the (combination of) the various software items you have running automatically at startup. To see whether that's true or not you could create a new user without all those startup items and see whether you get to see the beachballs as often as on your current account. Hope this helps, -Christian
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#10 of 31 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted August 29 2008 - 03:00 AM

Ron, it should be fairly obvious by looking at the memory slots. You should be able to see 2 banks of four slots, with some visual break between them. If you have all 4 cards in one bank, you just need to move one matching pair to the other bank and add the 2 matching pairs to their respective bank. If you get the cards mixed up, you won't hurt anything so long as you keep matching pairs together. You can then use System Profiler to confirm you got 4 matching cards in each bank (or riser). What happens with having two different pairs of memory in one riser is a miniscule loss of speed, but I'm pretty sure that is all. There is also a good chance if you look closely at the edge of each slot that you will find a designation. Most likely a letter for the riser and a number for the slot. So, an example might be k 1-4 for one riser and j 1-4 for the other.

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#11 of 31 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 29 2008 - 09:45 AM

Guys, It has been a pleasure reading all your responses. I will check back here in two weeks after I get back from Denver and order the memory. I checked the online manual for changing memory and it doesn't look easy, though I am certain once I open the back bay it should be obvious. I may post pictures of how it looks inside and you can instruct from there. I will order 3 more gigs of memory, in the exact configuration as I have now.

 

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#12 of 31 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted August 29 2008 - 03:21 PM

Ron, changing memory on Macs (except iMacs) has been extremely easy for several years now. Even my 8 year old gigabit Ethernet model is incredibly simple to change. I haven't seen inside a Pro, but I believe it is essentially the same as a G5. With them you take the side (not back) panel off and the memory slots are right there. The touchy thing is, they are typically a very tight fit, so you have to be careful to get them seated properly and fully. Enjoy Denver. We're having nice pleasant, moderate weather.

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#13 of 31 OFFLINE   Keith Plucker

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Posted September 01 2008 - 05:28 PM

Other World Computing (macsales.com) has a Mac Pro memory installation video available if you want to take a look.

Tech Center at OtherWorldComputing.com

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#14 of 31 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted September 01 2008 - 05:35 PM

Ron, there have been a lot of great responses and information in this thread. I would just add my voice to the chorus that it really is pretty easy (not like it was back in the Quadra 950 days Posted Image). I would imagine that it will help out your performance quite a bit, but there may also be something else going on, like a software conflict of some kind.

#15 of 31 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 01 2008 - 09:56 PM

Keith, That video is priceless. Thank You. I only skimmed through it since I am sitting here at the airport replying to this. It *seems* that all you need to do is copy exactly what is installed in memory riser A (TOP) into memory riser B (BOTTOM) Am I correct? Granted I only watched 1/2 the video so far. Also, the video said that the memory must be the same manufacturer as the original. Is this really important? I am sure that Apple used their own memory in the original configuration and I am buying Crucial memory to add.

 

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#16 of 31 OFFLINE   Yumbo

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Posted September 02 2008 - 07:44 AM

Adding memory is one of the joys of using a Mac. lol. Cheap thrills. Opening System Profiler/About this Mac afterwards is like Christmas (for some). I have 4Gb on mine (hands me downs from the other Macs), and could do with more (swap-ups).

#17 of 31 OFFLINE   Ken Chan

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Posted September 03 2008 - 09:08 AM



#18 of 31 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted September 03 2008 - 02:49 PM

As for the same manufacturer debate, I have been in a situation with 25+ machines for many years and have never seen proof that the manufacturer matters. I have seen faulty RAM lead to a lot of problems though and it can happen with any brand. I happen to prefer Crucial for my after-market stuff. Thanks for that link Ken-- interesting stuff.

#19 of 31 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 03 2008 - 11:36 PM

Guys I greatly appreciate all your help. Listen, I need to get a question answered that was glossed over in an above post... It *seems* that all you need to do is copy exactly what is installed in memory riser A (TOP) into memory riser B (BOTTOM) Is it that easy? Is that the way it is done? I simply open the bottom riser and duplicate the exact same memory modules?

 

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#20 of 31 OFFLINE   Ken Chan

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Posted September 04 2008 - 08:52 AM

You may have to rearrange the sticks that you have now to get that. When you stand the Mac Pro up, the risers are sticking out sideways. They should look like this (with the left edge here being the motherboard): A: 1GB 1GB 512MB 512MB B: 1GB 1GB 512MB 512MB




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