Introduction

The 2009 Mac Pro shares an identical motherboard with the 2010 model. With a firmware update, you can use newer CPUs and upgrade to macOS 10.12 and 10.13.

It is important to note that you will need an official Apple GPU installed while performing the flash, so go ahead and dig out that old GT120 that came with the system when you purchased it if you've upgraded to a non-official GPU in the meantime.

If you opted for a GPU upgrade from Apple at any point, you may have a different card. This could include:

• ATI Radeon 4870

• ATI Radeon 5770

• ATI Radeon 5870

Provided these are original Apple cards, you should be fine to proceed.

First thing's first: you will need to download two different packages.

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  • You'll need to disable System Integrity Protection (SIP) in order to flash the new firmware.

  • Restart your Mac Pro and hold cmd+r to boot into the recovery partition on your boot drive.

    • Once in Recovery Mode, go to the Utilities menu at the top of the screen and click Terminal

    • Enter the following command:

      • csrutil disable

    • Hit return and restart your Mac Pro as normal.

This step only pertains to OS El Capitan and later

bm_dong - Reply

  • While the tool was originally designed to pull the firmware directly from Apple's website, a change in the file location and name on Apple's part has made it necessary to download & mount the .dmg prior to running the tool.

    • Double click the firmware file you downloaded in step one to mount the disk image to your desktop.

  • Right click and select "Open" on the firmware update tool. Since it is not signed with the proper certificate, macOS will likely refuse to open it just by double clicking the file. Right click the file and open from the menu to fix this.

    • You should have two options in the window - upgrade to 2010 firmware and downgrade to 2009 firmware. Only one option will be available at any given time, dependent on which firmware you have installed.

      • There is really no reason to ever downgrade to 2009 firmware, as none of those machines are still under any warranty from Apple and the system discs are not as important now that all OS versions are given as software downloads.

      • You are not required to upgrade your CPUs if you update to the 2010 firmware- your original system configuration will continue to operate as it always has.

    • Be sure to read any and all information that the utility may pop up.

I just tried this on my 2009 Mac Pro. Everthing seems to go according to plan. The helper utility runs, does it’s thing, then tells me to shutdown. But when I hold the power button to start back up and actually run the firmware update…. nothing happens. That is, it boots normally, no updater. I’ve held the button till if flashes, I’ve held the button till I got the tone. But no matter what, it just boots normally. This machine is running 10.9 btw.

Any suggestions?

John M - Reply

Hi John, I’m not entirely sure - there’s some good discussion in this macrumors thread that may be of assistance. Also feel free to ask a question in the answers forum here- you will likely get some good responses!

Josh Calvetti -

Step 2 says to run the firmware tool, but in Step 1 there are TWO firmware tools to download. Which of these do I run?? If both, which one goes first?

david - Reply

Hi David,

In the first step there is a tool for installing the firmware and the firmware itself- if you download just the .dmg on your 4,1 machine, it will refuse to install. You need the .app from Netkas, which is the second link. Download both, open the disk image from Apple, run the tool from the second download and it should auto detect the package on the desktop. Then it’s off to the races!

Josh Calvetti -

  • After the tool has finished its work, it will tell you to shut down your computer. Just perform a normal shut down procedure.

  • After your Mac Pro is powered off, hold the power button down until you see the power LED blink quickly or you hear an audible tone. The blinking LED will precede the tone.

  • Your computer should now begin to update the firmware on its own. You should see a gray screen with a progress bar at the bottom of the screen.

    • This is a different bar than you would normally see with macOS- the firmware updating bar will be a hollow rounded rectangle that slowly fills up, rather than just a bar that slowly gets longer as you would typically see.

    • Your computer may restart on its own again following the flash.

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  • Once your machine has rebooted to the desktop, it's time for the moment of truth.

  • Open About this Mac and click on System Report

    • It is worth noting that About this Mac will still report this as a Mac Pro (2009), even after a successful flash.

    • In System Report you should see a line in the first window labeled Model Identifier - if the firmware flash was successful, you should see Mac Pro5,1

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  • Unless you have a compelling reason otherwise, you'll want to reenable SIP. Once again, you'll have to go into Recovery Mode just like you did before and open the Terminal.

    • Enter the following command

    • csrutil enable

  • Reboot the machine and let it load to the desktop. Open a new terminal window and enter the following command to check the status of SIP

    • csrutil status

    • If all was successful, you should get a line back that reads:

    • System Integrity Protection status: enabled.

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  • And that's all there is! Now you should be able to upgrade the processors to a much wider swath of options.

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Finish Line

17 other people completed this guide.

Josh Calvetti

Member since: 12/04/2009

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16 Comments

once installed the firmware 5.1 can be updated in the installation of the new OS?

infoalessio100 - Reply

Do you mean to update to 10.13? Yes, you can do that firmware update as well. It should work automatically.

Josh Calvetti -

Can you use a processor tray designed for a 2010-2012 model after the firmware update? Not inclined to actually replace the CPU chips.

BradMacPro - Reply

I’ve heard conflicting reports- at the very least, if it does boot with a 2010 tray, my understanding is the fans will go crazy. I don’t think it’s recommended to swap trays between versions as they have a slightly different firmware and construction. Replacing the chips is pretty easy though, and we have a guide for that as well!

Josh Calvetti -

What restrictions are there if you no longer have an original Apple GPU? My MacPro has an ATI Radeon HD 4870 512 MB to drive my 30” Apple monitor.

Ronald Koontz - Reply

We’re in a similar boat: I’ve got a Radeon HD 5770, purchased from Apple, driving a 30-inch Cinema Display. I got through both BIOS upgrades fine. Perhaps display adapters with non-Apple firmware cause problems.

Tom Yager -

A quick note that might save someone trouble: Following these well-crafted instructions, my Mac Pro kept booting to my OS (10.11) instead of the firmware updater. Starting over from a Lion (10.7) startup partition worked, and then I was able to return to 10.11 to do an in-place upgrade to High Sierra from the App Store. The second firmware update from the OS installer ran without issue.

Tom Yager -

Hi Ron, thanks for the info! You should still be okay with upgrading if your GPU is one of the upgrade picks Apple offered. I have amended the introduction to reflect this as well.

If memory serves, there were 3 other GPUs Apple offered as upgrades for the 09/10 model Mac Pro. These are the

• ATI Radeon 4870

• Radeon 5770

• Radeon 5870

Provided they’re all still official Apple cards, you should be okay to proceed.

Josh Calvetti -

It is because if you have a non mac gpu as your primary card none of the mac os startup screen will be displayed. You would have no idea what the mac was doing while the firmware was installing (if it even was) and just have to sit looking at a black screen and hope that it completed correctly.

hpesoj11 - Reply

Is it safe to swap back in a non-Apple GPU once FW update is complete?

anonymous 5344 - Reply

Yep, you can swap back to the non-Apple GPU after the update is complete.

Josh Calvetti -

Awesome! Now I can install High Sierra and hopefully Mojave later this year.

Thanks!

Milan Meiland - Reply

I followed the instructions. I have an early 2009 MacPro 4,1 firmware. the Mac Pro 2009-2010 Firmware Tool.app would not open from the desktop of from the drop down menu. Prompt stated that the “…Fiirmware Tool.app could not be opened because it is from an unidentified developer.” Any suggestions on how to overcome this?

Kenneth J. Filarski

Kenneth J. Filarski - Reply

Hi Kenneth,

Sounds like that’s Gatekeeper at work. If you right click on the application and click open in that menu, it should give you an option to proceed when that dialog box pops up.

Josh Calvetti -

Thank you so much for this amazing guide. Followed it exactly and had no problems upgrading the firmware of my Mac Pro 4,1 to 5,1. Now I can happily update my OS past El Capitan 10.11….

anonymous 5344 - Reply

i am having problems doing this my Mac is a 4,1 and when i download to update tool and software to do the update i keep getting an error saying the software is not compatable or something like that i followed everything and it don’t work for me here is the specs on my mac early 2009

Processor 2x2.26 GHZ Quad-Core intel Xenon Serial Number is H0014TB4PD any help would be great thanks

Shiva Parasram - Reply

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