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Silver-Colored Mac Pro Q&A - Updated October 9, 2013

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How do you upgrade the RAM in the "Early 2008" (Harpertown/Penryn) Mac Pro? What type of RAM does it use? How much RAM does it actually support? Is it backwards compatible with RAM from the original Mac Pro?

Please note that this Q&A explains how to upgrade the RAM in the "Early 2008" Mac Pro models (model identifier MacPro3,1).

EveryMac.com also provides RAM upgrade instructions for other Mac Pro models -- the original Mac Pro (MacPro1,1 and MacPro2,1), "Early 2009" (MacPro4,1), and "Mid-2010" and "Mid-2012" (MacPro5,1) systems.

Just like the original Mac Pro models, installing RAM in the "Early 2008" Mac Pro line -- the Mac Pro "Quad Core" 2.8, "Eight Core" 2.8, "Eight Core" 3.0, and "Eight Core" 3.2 -- is an easy procedure, but it is important that the memory meet exacting standards and be installed in a particular way to function properly.


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Early 2008 Mac Pro)

Identification Help

If you're not sure if you have an "Early 2008" Mac Pro or another model, the A1186 Model Number is insufficient as this identifier is shared by the original Mac Pro models, which use a different type of RAM.

However, for the purposes of upgrading the RAM, the "Early 2008" Mac Pro models can be uniquely identified by the Model Identifier in software and externally by EMC Number. More information about specific identifiers is provided in EveryMac.com's detailed Mac Identification section.

To locate the model identifier, select "About This Mac" under the Apple Menu on your computer and click the "More Info..." button. If the Mac Pro is running OS X "Lion" (10.7) or later, click the "System Report" button after clicking "More Info..." as well. Regardless of the number of cores, all "Early 2008" Mac Pro models share model identifier MacPro3,1.

The EMC number is located on the rear of the system in small type. As carefully hand documented by EveryMac.com, all "Early 2008" Mac Pro models share EMC number 2180.

Specifically, the following systems are "Early 2008" Mac Pro models:

Mac Pro

Subfamily

Model ID

EMC Number

"Quad Core" 2.8

Early 2008

MacPro3,1

2180

"Eight Core" 2.8

Early 2008

MacPro3,1

2180

"Eight Core" 3.0

Early 2008

MacPro3,1

2180

"Eight Core" 3.2

Early 2008

MacPro3,1

2180

EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app -- also can identify these models by their Serial Numbers.

RAM Type & Actual Maximum Capacity

Officially, the "Early 2008" Mac Pro requires "800MHz DDR2 ECC fully buffered DIMM (FB-DIMM) memory", but more precisely, the memory must meet these exact specifications:

  • 800 MHz, DDR2, FB-DIMMs
  • 72-bit wide, 240-pin modules
  • 36 memory ICs maximum per DIMM
  • Error-correcting code (ECC)

However, the always excellent BareFeats also discovered that the "Early 2008" Mac Pro line is capable of using 667 MHz FB-DIMMs that are compatible with the original Mac Pro, albeit at a "maximum penalty of 4% in speed."

Apple also reports that "DIMMs must be installed in matched pairs." There are eight FB-DIMM slots in total on two "riser cards" (four slots per card) that officially can hold 32 GB of RAM.

More recently, though, site sponsor OWC certified that the "Early 2008" Mac Pro models actually can use as much as 64 GB of RAM using eight high-density 8 GB memory modules.

RAM Upgrade Instructions

Detailed information is printed on the inside of the door of the Mac Pro, and this is likely to be sufficient for many users. Apple provides a PDF version with photos of these instructions, too.

However, perhaps even better, site sponsor Other World Computing also provides a step-by-step video of the process:

From watching the above video, it is clear that upgrading the RAM in the Mac Pro is easy. However, if you do not feel comfortable -- or have the time -- to upgrade the RAM yourself, professional installation never is a bad idea.

Mac Pro RAM Purchase & Professional Installation Options

Just because RAM meets the minimum listed criteria does not mean that it will necessarily function as intended in your Mac. Be sure to buy from a quality vendor that has tested their RAM with the Mac Pro to ensure full compatibility.

In the US (and many other countries), site sponsor Other World Computing sells memory compatible with all Mac Pro models (and all other Macs).

In Australia, site sponsor RamCity sells Mac Pro compatible memory with a lifetime warranty and fast, flat-rate shipping Australia-wide.

In Southeast Asia, site sponsor SimplyMac.sg sells Mac Pro compatible memory with free delivery -- and optional upgrade service -- in Singapore and flat rate shipping to Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea.

Also see:

  • How do you upgrade the RAM in the original Mac Pro? What type of RAM does it use? How much RAM does it actually support?
  • How do you upgrade the RAM in the "Early 2009/Nehalem" Mac Pro? What type of RAM does it use? How much RAM does it actually support?
  • How do you upgrade the RAM in the "Mid-2010" and "Mid-2012" (Nehalem/Westmere) Mac Pro models? What type of RAM do these models use? How much RAM do they actually support?


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