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HOW TO: The Perfect Hack Pro (Mac Pro) build using an original Mac Pro case & parts


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HOW TO: The Perfect Hack Pro (Mac Pro) build using an original Mac Pro case & parts:


I wanted to share my experiences with this project, as I have wanted to do it for years but never found all of the answers in the right place, here I am sharing them with you for your own benefit. The purpose of this project was to build a cheap hackintosh using a Mac Pro case keeping it in tact as much as possible. The information posted here has been gathered from numerous forums around the Internet as well as my own findings. The modifications require a good amount of skill working with aluminum, soldering, and general modding. My build was made in a way that it would be very easy to change out the parts for future upgrades. I wrote this guide originally in June of 2011, so many of the links may be uotdated. I will post updates as I can find the time.


Here are images of the build


First let me say that I purchased the case without knowing that the Mac Pro case cannot accommodate a full size ATX Motherboard. Since it took me about 40 hours just to do the metalwork for this, I would have used a MicroATX motherboard had I know the amount of work it required. My mod involved cutting out a part of the bottom of the case to accommodate about 8mm of the motherboard (you cannot get away without cutting it out if you want a full ATX board. My recommendation is to get a MicroATX board to avoid doing this. I don't have any recommendations on which board to get, look around in the forums (note that the motherboard standoffs will be different in this case).




Highlights of this build:

  • I was able to use all 4 HD Bays, something others have not been able to do with a full ATX board, by experimenting with various cable configurations.
  • RAID 0 configuration with SATA 6Gbp working (more on this later).
  • Original apple IR receiver (something the Mac pro does not have).
  • Original apple Wireless 802.11n card
  • Original apple bluetooth module, and original Bluetooth antenna inside of case
  • All ports on the front panel work
  • Custom made Printed Circuit Board (PCB) to interface between the Front panel/IR/BT and Motherboard. I will refer to this as the "Custom PCB" from here on out.
  • Full ATX motherboard inside of a Mac Pro Case.
  • Gigabyte ON/OFF charge working (can charge an iPad/iPhone while the computer is off/sleep).
  • Fully modular setup: easy to upgrade components.


Parts you will need & Cost:

  • Original Mac Pro case and Apple components: Multitechparts - check their latest prices, these guys are absolutely terrific. Extremely fast shipping, great prices, they respond to emails with lightning speed and are very friendly.. I gave them my build list so they should have a custom auction that will have all of the Apple parts you will need to build this unit. If they still have the build then it is by far the cheapest and easiest solution for getting all of these parts. Here is the list of components I used, I purchased them individually and it came to a lot more, over $200, especially with all the shipping since I wasn't sure what I needed at the time:
    • Apple Mac Pro Chassis Case 620-3970. The part number probably doesn't matter for this. I think most of them are the same. Mine was the early 2008 model (they have all been more or less the same since 2006).
    • Speaker Fan Guide Assembly 815-9561. This is the internal speaker for the unit. Not necessary if you don't plan on using the additional 2 fans up front, but I also mounted my IR board to this, as it provides a nice surface on the front. If you don't use it you will need to buy a cheap internal speaker.
    • Power Supply Cable Cover 922-8005. This is great to keep your PS cables tucked behind the optical drive. It's a tight fit but makes everything much cleaner.
    • Mac Pro Hard Drive Carrier 922-7728. You will need these to hold your hard drives.
    • Mac Pro Front Fan 922-8497. This is the fan holder that will hold 2 front 116mm case fans. (I have not finished this part of the project yet). You cannot use standard 120mm fans inside of this holder because THEY WILL NOT FIT. The original apple ones will need to be modified, I will update this post once I have completed this. There are many threads out there about this issue, if you figure out an easy solution, would be great to hear about it.
    • Optical Drive Carrier 922-7729. This will hold your optical drive(s).
    • Mac Pro Front Panel. I will talk more about this later; there are different models with different pinouts.
    • Mac Pro Front panel Power cable (its long, we will cut it up and use it to connect to a custom PCB board that interfaces with the MB.
    • Mac Pro Front panel Audio cable. We will cut this up as well and use it to connect to the Custom PCB.
    • Mac Pro SATA Hard Drive Cable bundle 593-063. This is another optional part, nice if you are using a MicroATX board as it will easily fit. I haven't done it yet but I plan on converting my regular SATA cables back to this- it's a lot of work and if you are going full ATX then parts of the plastic from the connectors will need to be cut.
    • Bluetooth Antenna. We will hook this up to our apple Bluetooth board.
    • Wifi Antenna. Again, we will hook this up to our apple wireless card. Both of these antennas should be built into the case.

    [*]$25 - SYBA PCI-Express USB/1394B Model SD-PEX5001. This Firewire card has 2 external USB, 2 external 1394b, 1 internal 1394b (VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE FRONT PANEL) and 1 internal USB. As far as I can tell this is the only affordable card on the market that will give you what you need to make the front panel firewire work. It is not listed as being compatible with Macs but I took a risk and it turned out to work just fine. Aquamac and others have purchased the Belkin F5U602ea, which costs $100. I purchased from this one from sewell direct

    [*]$4.49 - Motherboard standoff screws - the Mac Pro 2008 case uses M3.5-0.6 screws which are very hard to find - get yours here - Amazon (Update - it’s no longer available on Amazon, try McMaster or somewhere else)

    [*]$110 - PC Power and Cooling Silencer 760W High Performance 80PLUS Silver SLI CrossFire ready Power Supply. IMPORTANT I searched high and low for a power supply that does not have a fan on the top or bottom of the unit. This is important because we are going to squeeze this into a tight space that is separated from the rest of the case, and there is not enough space to provide air flow for the PSU. This is the only Power Supply that I found that does not have these vents. You can take a look at the specs on the manufacturers website, they have internal and external diagrams.

    [*]$7 - Controller 3 Pin 3 Fan Cooling Bracket PCI Speed. This is a PCI bracket that you will need to reduce the speed of the case fans. Otherwise your computer is going to sound like a jet engine. I got this off eBay. They don't sell these in the US so you have to order them from Taiwan, which takes about 3 weeks.

    [*]$5 x 2 - 22 Pin SATA Male to Female Extension Cable. This is the magic cable that will allow you to use the 2 HD bays above the processor - #3&4. Get yours on eBay from microsatacables. I tried several and this is the only one that works because the connector is small enough. We will route this cable underneath the motherboard and use a short LEFT-angle SATA cable to connect it to the SATA ports. This is only needed if you choose not to go with modifying the original Apple SATA connectors.

    [*]$10 - Internal Desktop 9pin Audio Header Cable. eBay once again. This should be about 23" long. We will use this to connect the front panel audio jack to the Custom PCB we construct.

    [*]$10 - APEVIA CVT12VMPE ATX24 pin Power Cable 3 in1 Pack. got mine on eBay. We will use these to extend the length of the 24pin and 8pin Motherboard cables as they are not long enough. These are 9 1/2" which is just enough to get you there.

    [*]$8 - USB 2.0 Internal Motherboard Extension Cable. eBay again. You are going to need 2 of these, 20 inch cables should be enough.

    [*]$3 - CONN PLUG SATA R/A 22PS T/H GOLD. We are going to use this to build our custom front panel interface board. Got it from DigiKey here

    [*]$1 - CONN AC RECEPT 7MM R/A FLAT PC. This is used to have a nice looking plug on the back of the computer. We will wire it to the PSU by soldering 12awg wire to the plug on the back. They are angled downwards so that you can have enough space between the PSU and the rear of the case. I had to buy about 5 of these before I got one that worked well. Go this from DigiKey as well

    [*]$2 - Small PCB. I got one from RadioShack, about 2" x 3". This is the board we are going to use to make clean connections between the Front Panel, IR Reciever, Bluetooth card and the motherboard. I recommend this method because it allows for expansion and it makes everything clean. Others have just connected the cables directly to the MB, which I tried at first and turned out to be more difficult than building this.

    [*]$15 - 5x LEFT-angle SATA cables, 2 long SATA cables. I got mine from cpustuff.com - here are the part numbers - 3x SSL04 4inch / 1x SSL06, 6inch / 1x SSL088inch. These need to be the left angle cables, not the standard right angle ones (one side has a left angle, the other is straight, I bought all short ones to keep cable clutter to a minimum because space is tight). 2x 4inch to connect Hard drives 3&4 (from the SATA extension cable), 1x 4inch to connect the front panel board to the custom PCB, 1x 8inch for HD #1 and 1x 6inch for HD#2. Even if you plan on using just 2 HD's its good to use this setup to allow for expansion in the future. The 2 long cables are for connecting the optical drives, you can use 1 right-angle cable for the top drive, and 1 normal cable for the lower drive if you have one, I didn't.

Interchangeable Parts depending on your build:

  • $100 - XFX Radeon HD 5770 1GB DDR5 PCIE Graphics Card HD577AZNFC. With my install, I was able to get Both DVI ports, the HDMI port and the DisplayPort working simultaneously. It's a little loud for my taste but works great. I got mine from Amazon. Looking back, there may be better options out there. Update- Don’t get this video card. I had to buy another one because it didn’t work with OS X 10.7
  • $200 - Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R - Amazon or Newegg. Excellent board that is a very easy install with ######.
  • $12 x 3 - EVERCOOL FAN-AL12025B 120mm Case Fan - This is nice aluminum fan that will look great and works well. You will need 1 or 3 of these (I recommend 3) to keep her cool. Mine started to reach 70 degrees Celsius with just 1 fan now that it is how outside. Got mine from Newegg but there are cheaper ones out there if you buy 3. Update- I am working on installing the original Apple fans so you will only need 1 of these.
  • $50 - ZALMAN CNPS9500 AT 2 Ball CPU Cooling Fan. Personal choice, for a core i7 1366 you will also need the mounting kit ZM-CS4A. Got mine from Newegg. Update- I am thinking about going with a passive cooling system because this is too loud.
  • $50 - Kingston HyperX 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model KHX1600C9D3K3/6GX . I ended up getting two sets of these for a total of 12GB. They are listed as being compatible with the Gigabyte motherboard. You will need ram that comes in sets of 3 to take advantage of the tripple channel support. The system profiler lists them as being 1333 MhZ but that is fine with me. MB/Processor I chose claims it does not support 1600 Mhz memory but I turned on XMP (extreme memory profile) in the bios and that lists it as 1600.
  • $20 - Apple Atheros AR9280 AR5BXB92 Mini Pci-e AGN 300Mbp. This is the wireless card I bought but I don't like it very much. The signal on my MacBook Pro is stronger. You will also need a PCI-E to PCI mini card. Update- I ended up getting the original Apple MB988Z/A. This works much better.
  • $8 - Apple MacBook 2GHz A1181 Bluetooth Module + Cable A1114. Got mine on eBay.
  • $7 - Mini PCI-E to PCI-E Wireless Adapter w/ 3 Antenna WiFi. We use this with our original apple wireless card to get easy WiFi. I bought this one on eBay and I removed the part that connects to the PCI bracket with the antennas, and I used the original apple antennas that are located underneath the computer. I was able to secure it to the rear fan by screwing it in- basically I stripped everything but the card. I plugged it into my first PCI x1 slot, which does not actually have access to one of the rear PCI slots so I still have 5 slots available for other stuff (I ended up using all of them).
  • $3 - 2 Port Motherboard USB 2.0 Header Bracket adapter cable. eBay again. This is a PCI bracket that connects to the first motherboard header to provide the ON/OFF charge feature. You cannot use the front panel because power is not supplied by the USB port (although you may be able to route the +5v USB power to the front panel, can't confirm that this would work and I suspect it doesn't).
  • $8 - Apple 922-8169 20"/24" iMac Aluminum Infrared IR Board. This is a cheap original IR board that you can use. If you make a mistake with the pinouts (I did and had to purchase another one), then you will fry the board. I connected this to the custom PCB and routed the cable over to a free USB header.
  • $210 - Intel Core i7 950 3.06 ghz Processor - based on what I am reading the newer generation processors are much better, but I bought this one and there are no returns so I have to stick with it for a couple of years.
  • $120 - 2 x 1.5TB Hitachi SATA3 6Gbp Hard drives. I got these on sale locally for 60 each, poke around to find a good deal, make sure they work well for a RAID setup if you want, these work great.
  • $20 - DVD drive with lightscribe. Any will do, you just need to pop off the front plastic part on the disc tray to allow it to work with the Mac Pro case.
  • $5 Motherboard Header cables for the speaker and PWR/MSG. I got mine in a package from my local computer store.

My total came to around $1200 after rebates, including the Mac Pro case.

Options for a MicroATX build:

If you are going to go for the MicroATX build, you won't have any problems fitting in all 4 HD's, so don't bother with the SATA extension cables and shorter SATA cables. You may as well use the original Apple SATA HD connectors so that the hard drives can easily slide in and out. Just cut off the iPass connector and connect 4 SATA cables to the end. Aquamac did it here.


Lets begin. The two hardest aspects of this build is physically modding the case and getting the front panel to work. I will try to elaborate as much as possible on my configurations but a lot of it will come from trial and error. Let me stress that everything is this case is a tight fit and will require extensive modifications. I will not get too much into the cutting of the case part because if you don't know how to work with metal you should not be doing this. The Mac Pro case is actually quite fragile and very susceptible to scratches and dents. The good news it that with my setup, I only had to cut out a piece of the bottom and back part for the ports. Everything else was left in tact.

Modding the Case:

There are several steps to this process, I followed them in this order and thought it was the best way to go about doing it:

1. Remove all of the motherboard standoffs that would go underneath your motherboard (if they are not directly underneath your board leave them in). Gently rock them back and forth with a large pair of plyers until they snap off. Use the screws to connect them to your motherboard and place it inside of the case to get an idea of how it will fit. Draw an outline on the bottom of the case to get an idea of where to cut. I used a combination of a jigsaw and snips to cut out the bottom, but since then I have purchased a Dremmel tool and I must say this that would have taken me 1/5 of the time and it would have been MUCH cleaner. The aluminum as actually thin enough if you have a nice pair of big sharp snips. The snips will bend the edges of the case depending on how you cut it. Work slowly, if it doesn’t work, use your head, not muscle.

2. Once you have completed the bottom of the case take the measurements for the rear ports. I used a 3/4" wide piece of aluminum and bent it at 90 degree angles to create a recessed space for the rear ports. I then used the plate that came with my motherboard. Take a look at the pictures for more details. I had to make this piece 3 times before I got it right. I used an agle grinder to recess it around the outside so that a small piece would stick out of the back and cover up the edges of the place where I cut the case.

The front panel:

There are a few models of the front panel out there. I have the early 2008 model, which supposedly is more problematic. I didn't have any problems except for audio (see below). Take a look at this thread for some more info, I have the board on the right which supposedly doesn't work. I can't stress enough the importance of making the custom PCB, otherwise you will have problems making the connections, especially with the USB.

The front panel basically has 4 connectors on it. Power, USB, Audio, Firewire.

Firewire- this is just a regular1394b plug that you connect to the PCI card.



In order to take care of the power and the USB, we are going to use our CONN PLUG SATA R/A 22PS T/H GOLD.


This is basically a plug that you can connect an SATA power cable into and an SATA data cable. Since our power supply gives us 3, 5.5 and 12v on the SATA power cable, this becomes much easier than cutting into the 24pin motherboard plug that other modders have done. Update- it seems that using this method it only provides power to 1 USB port at a time. I recommend tapping into the MB power supply extension with a split SATA power extension cable that has all 5 cables on it. This will allow our connection to be very clean, and more importantly not destroy out PSU cable should we ever need to do a warranty exchange. For the power side of this connector, The pins run is sets of 3, so the first 3 pins are 3.3v, the next is the ground, etc. I had to bend all three pins into 1 hole on the PCB because of the spacing.




A note on the install method:

I'm not going to go into details on this, as there are plenty of threads out there that do it better than me. Here is one that I ended up using that I liked the most. There is a new bootloader out there available in the ###### package that I used. Also, since I have been building hackintoshes for some time, I got the idea to create a disk image of the OSX hard drive for a new MacBook Pro. When the computer is fresh and you have not yet turned it on, boot it into target disk mode the first time and just make a copy of the hard drive before it get gunked up with user files. I used this image to restore to my new HD, ran a system update, and then installed ######, even before booting into that drive. Update- this is all old, you should be looking for a 10.7 guide.



Some Links for exploring:


Zapro made a very clean-looking Mac Pro mod that involved removing half of the dividing panel rather than cutting into the bottom of the case. You loose two HD ports this way, but at least his cables are much cleaner.



Multitechparts (these guys are the best, they can supply you with all of your Apple parts.)

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