2006 Mac Pro 2.66ghz and ATI Radeon 5770 graphics card upgrade


Mac Pro 1,1 2×2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon with ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card upgrade.

In 2006 I purchased a Mac Pro 1, 1 2.6GHz Dual Core machine with 2 NVIDIA GeForce 7300GT graphics cards to run my 4 displays. Packed with ram and a 750GB hard drive in every bay, the old Mac Pro worked great without a single problem for a very long time. The first problem I had with this Mac Pro was with one of the graphics cards: one port quit working completely for some reason in the fall of 2009. Kind of a pain in the ass maybe, but not a huge deal, I thought, until I had to look for replacements!


I began the hunt for replacement graphics cards immediately. I just wanted to replace the one that went bad. In 2006 I wasn’t able to mix & match graphics cards without creating problems with Photoshop’s GPU settings. In fact, the Photoshop GPU settings wouldn’t even function properly unless the graphics cards installed were matching units. Unless I wanted to give up on using the Rotate View tool and several other core PS features dependent upon a good graphics card that I simply can’t live without, I had to install matching graphics cards, which is why I ended up running two Nvidia GeForce 7300’s rather than the one 7300 that shipped with the Mac and an upgrade to a better one for the second card.

NVIDIA GeForce 7300GT

ATI Radeon X1900

Even back then, only a couple years or so after I purchased the Mac Pro, I had a hell of a time finding replacement graphics cards and there weren’t many choices to begin with. Besides the Nvidia GeForce 7300GT that shipped with the Mac Pro, the only other options were the ATI Radeon X1900 and the ATI Radeon HD 3870. I went ahead and ordered two ATI Radeon 3870’s for a couple hundred bucks each (roughly), which seemed like the best solution for the long term given the recent issues with the GeForce 7300’s. I replaced the original Nvidia GeForce 7300’s and replaced them with the two new ATI Radeon 3870’s and figured I would be good to go until I was ready to buy a new Mac.

Turns out I couldn’t be that lucky. In 2011 one of the ATI Radeon 3870’s developed the same problem: one port on one of the cards quit working and left me with only 3 active displays. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but when a port goes out on a graphics card there’s a noticeable lag in the response and redraw time in the remaining ports and displays. Both times I had to remove the bad card entirely to continue working without the lag, which makes working in Photoshop nearly impossible.

I spent countless hours scouring the web and digging around in every dark corner of every Mac forum known to the computing world for information on the graphics cards that will fit in the old Mac Pro, but only found the same 3 cards as being confirmed compatible cards. In 2011 however, the pickings were damn slim for available compatible cards on the market, since they were pretty much out of production and had been for some time already, and after a major issue with purchasing a total piece of shit replacement Radeon 3870 from an eBay seller, I gave up and was forced to come up with a different solution. The card I purchased on eBay arrived looking like a used card in an open and obviously used anti-static bag, was stuck in a plain brown box, and had the same damn problem as my other defective cards: one port was bad! It only takes one burn like that for me to learn and I will never buy any critical computer hardware from some eBay jackass ever again. eBay will not support the transaction in any way and it’s up to the morals of the seller as to whether you’ll be refunded or screwed. In this case the seller was less than reputable and the experience was like being left alone in locked, dark room with your pants down.

By 2011 Photoshop was able to run any combination of graphics cards and I was able to replace the defective ATI Radeon 3870 and with the one good original Nvidia 7300 without creating any issues in Photoshop. Of course I realized that the old 7300’s days were numbered and would really put me in a bind with work when it finally died, I decided to purchase a new Mac Pro 2.4GHz Quad-Core in the spring of 2012 before any other issues had a chance to come up and interrupt my work. The old Mac Pro became my backup system and media server at that time and has been running in the background ever since, until last fall when the ATI Radeon 3870 finally bit the big one. With very few options left and not wanting to spend a bunch of money on such an old machine, I removed the 3870 and put the old original Nvidia GeForce 7300 with the bad port back in. Since then it has been running two displays just fine for a media server and TV, but with all the OS updates and the recently upgraded EyeTV HD unit, it’s been working pretty damn hard to keep up and display the big graphics. Then a couple months ago one of the ports on the last good Nvidia 7300 stopped functioning. Again, I dug up all the old cards and put the other defective Nvidia 7300 in my top PCIe slot and was able to limp along running a display off of the one good port on each of the cards. That worked for awhile until last week when the last good port on one of the defective Nvidia cards began to shut down. I just assumed that finding a replacement card now would be almost impossible. Thankfully, I was wrong.

ATI Radeon HD 5770
A bit of digging turned up a new option for the old Mac Pro that I just had to check, recheck, and check some more to make sure it wasn’t just bullshit, or wishful thinking: The ATI Radeon HD 5770. The official Apple Store description details are

“The ATI Radeon HD 5770 includes 1GB of GDDR5 memory, uses the PCI Express 2.0 interface and includes two Mini DisplayPorts and one dual-link DVI port.”

ATI Radeon HD 5770
Several posts on the Apple Store’s Q&A section confirm the card is compatible with the 2006 Mac Pro 1,1 2×2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon and also confirmed by OWC.
OWC: ATI Radeon HD 5770
OWC has a nice little preview of all Mac Pro compatible models:

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