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Summary:

The innovation of the new Mac Pro leaves a gap between the old and the new. This gap could cost old Mac Pro users a significant investment as they switch to alternative data storage solutions.

The New Mac Pro

While innovation is certainly a good thing most of the time, it ends up costing more when the strides that innovation takes are long and wide.  The problem for old Mac Pro owners is that the innovation that went into the new Mac Pro is happening all at once.

The old Mac Pro for the most part has remained the exactly the same for the last four years. A few minor bump-ups in processor performance, memory speed and graphics, but its mainly the same machine.  Making the jump to the new Mac Pro will require some changes in how you operate and use it. Most notably will be how you choose to store your data.

Migrating all your storage to Thunderbolt

The one thing missing from the new Mac Pro is storage space. They may be fast, but they don’t have much space to store things. Especially if you have been utilizing the four internal drive bays of the old Mac Pro. Your two choices for accessing external storage on the new Mac Pro are USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt. If you have been using FireWire 800 external drives on your old Mac Pro, you will need to change. You will be hard pressed to find many modern drive enclosures that support both FireWire 800 and Thunderbolt.

Mac Pro and Drobo 5D

What you will likely end up with is something that supports both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt like the Drobo. The Drobo 5D costs $850 and has five internal drive bays that would serve as a good desktop replacement for your old Mac Pro’s four internal drive bays. That, and it comes in matching black for those who pay attention to such things. Supporting both USB 3.0 as well as Thunderbolt, it can serve to bridge the data storage gap as you plan on upgrading to the new Mac Pro.

USB 3.0 for your old Mac Pro

The old Mac Pro however only supports USB 2.0, and that is not fast enough. In order to access your new external drive solution using a method that provides the best speed possible, you will need to utilize one of the internal expansion slots. All Mac Pros from early 2009 (MacPro4,1) forward have PCIe 2.0 expansion slots.

CalDigit SuperSpeed

To bridge the gap and access your data using USB 3.0 consider adding a CalDigit 2 Port USB 3.0 Host Adapter for $87.99. This will add two USB 3.0 ports to your old Mac Pro and allow you to access your new external storage solution as you wait to upgrade to the new Mac Pro.

Accessing your hard drives once they’re out

One of my favorite Mac Pro accessories is the NewerTech Voyager SATA drive docking solution for $74.99. It looks like a toaster and allows you to swap out SATA hard drives like they were removable media.  This solution will allow you to continue accessing your files stored on the internal drives after you remove them from your old Mac Pro.

Voyager Q

It supports both Firewire 800 and USB 3.0, which help it serve both the old and new Mac Pros right out of the box. Of the options available, it is certainly the cheapest way to bridge the external data storage gap. It also allows you to access all of your files via the fastest interface that comes with both the old and new Mac Pro.

Mountains of optical discs still exist

With the Mac Pro, Apple will finally remove the last computer from its lineup that comes with a SuperDrive. While burning discs may be a thing of the past, it is still likely that you have a formidable stack of old discs that you will want to access from time to time. Backups of old photos, documents and even music files that you thought you would never need access to again. When you do discover that you need to access these old discs, you will have to purchase something like the Apple USB SuperDrive for $79.00.

With a fully stocked new Mac Pro costing as much as $10,000 each, investing $1,000 in your old Mac Pro may be a more economically feasible, short term option.  This may even give you some time to make the transition to the new Mac Pro a much easier task.

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  1. Seems a bit expensive… for 3D graphics faster renders.

  2. 1) you can use a thunderbolt to FireWire adapter if you have external FW800 drives

    2) The MacBook Pro 13″ still has a SuperDrive

  3. I understand it’s the goal of writers today to be somewhat dramatic even if the article is mostly “pro” product but acting like FW800 doesn’t work with the latest technology is just disingenuous.

    I have a FW800 to Thunderbolt adapter and it works great. Additionally (I believe) Belkin has the the most affordable adapters for other thunderbolt “to things”.

  4. I was told I could hook up,the new Mac Pro to my old Mac Pro (early 2008) using Ethernet. Is that correct

  5. I love my MAC but it sounds like the new MAC is just another way to get more money…..by having to buy an external drive :(

  6. Anyone ignorant enough to take these complaints seriously is not a logical candidate for the new MacPro.

  7. Just get a Thunderbolt to FW800 adapter. Done. No need to buy an expensive solution. While I can appreciate people that have all that storage built into the original MacPro, I would think that most people don’t (or shouldn’t) just because of the portability of the data. Even if they do, an enclosure to hold all of that is what? $200 for USB 3.0? You don’t need TB for the drive you probably had in the MacPro.

    If you are investing in a new MacPro, saving a buck or two is NOT your utmost concern. Your concern is a machine that gets the job done and gets it done fast so you can make more money. If you are considering one, you should also be considering your data storage solution as well. If you can’t figure it out now, you are not ready for this, or maybe you should stick with your old MacPro.

  8. The author is not being overly dramatic. He raises some great points. The Voyager Q is a great option to have and I’m very appreciative of the author mentioning it (yeah yeah, you can buy adapters up the wazoo and then you have to fish around for those adapters and figure out what’s what, and some adapters make the cables hang at angles which are not desirable with extra weight or tension on the cable). Don’t forget, some people run Mac Pros as servers such as in schools and even the Apple Stores themselves run their stores network on Mac Pros “behind the curtain” so to speak (do you really think each Apple Store is using a Mac Mini running OS X Server to run Open Directory Masters and Replicas for each store’s display Macs and iOS devices etc. not to mention e-commerce electronic cash register stuff and so on)? Yeah right, a Mac Mini for OS X Server in the Apple Stores, I highly doubt it (don’t believe me? Just ask one of the business staff at an Apple Store and they will tell you its a Mac Pro behind the curtain).

  9. Uhhh…. Do both the new Mac Pro and old Mac Pro have network adapters?? Sounds like someone forgot to mention that having them on the same network through a gigabit switch/router is a great way to access files stored on either machine. How about remote desktop even?

  10. Geoffrey Goetz Sunday, December 22, 2013

    To clarify a little, the intent was to have similar (or better) performance when accessing large storage capacity drives from the new Mac Pro compared to the old Mac Pro. Presently the ‘old’ Mac Pro that I am using has a series of WD Caviar Black drives in each of its four internal SATA drives accounting for a current capacity of 12TB of fast access storage space. FW800 and GB Ethernet access simply does not provide the same performance.

    Also, this is not just a theory or an observation, it is the path that is currently underway with hardware that is under my direct control. Not mentioned in the article (was not relevant for the purpose of the article) was the fact that the ‘old’ Mac Pro that is making this journey has been supercharged with internal SSD and an updated graphics card as well. I love my ‘old’ Mac Pro and have done what I could over the years to keep it as technically relevant as possible. It still performs very well.

    I had previously invested in eSATA drive enclosures by adding an internal PCIe card to connect to external drives. I was able to achieve similar performance to the internal drives. eSATA access to external drives does not appear to be a possibility directly from the ‘new’ Mac Pro just as Thunderbolt access is not possible from the ‘old’ Mac pro. USB 3.0 appears to be the best solution that bridges the old and new Mac Pros (again from a performance vantage point).

    If the five drive bay Drobo supported eSATA in addition to Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, I would have been in external drive heaven (and would not have needed to add USB 3.0 to my old Mac Pro).

    1. There are a few eSATA to Thunderbolt adapters out there. Check out the LaCie eSATA Hub which has Thunderbolt pass thru and two eSATA ports. Sonnet has (among other things) an express-card to Thunderbolt adapter. OWC Mercury Helios looks interesting in that it allows one to install a single ½ length PCIe cards into the enclosure. I’d consider it if it could accept two cards.

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