Installing a 5th Hard Drive into a new Mac Pro ‘Nehalem’

In response to a recent blog question we received: Yes, you can install a 5th hard drive into the new 2009 Mac Pro ‘Nehalem’ machines.  Simply use the second optical drive bay.  The SATA connection is the same for a hard drive as it is for an optical drive and both run off the same system BUS.

Adapter bracket attached to a 3.5" SATA hard drive.

Adapter bracket attached to a 3.5" SATA hard drive.

Now, the only issue you will run into is how to secure the drive. Simply put, Tab A is not supposed to go into Slot B.  How do you get a 3.5″ drive installed into a 5.25″ bay?  You use an adapter bracket.

http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Apple/CLONESLED/

We do carry just such a bracket that will work – originally designed for the Mac clones and PC cases – it does functionally secure your drive in the bay.  However, if you use your Mac Pro in an audio-sensitive manner, be advised that suspended metal-on-metal provides no soundproofing.  While this will work for those that don’t mind the low hum of a drive spinning, this is not a solution for extra storage capacity if your Mac Pro is intended to be in the same room as your audio recording.

Hard Drive installed into the 2nd optical bay of a Mac Pro 'Nehalem' machine.

Hard Drive installed into the 2nd optical bay of a Mac Pro

For those audiophiles among you who must have a zero ambient noise environment, don’t fear … we’re working on it. Currently, we’re waiting on delivery of additional bracket systems and when we’re satisfied with their performance, we’ll be offering one or more solutions to you.  Watch the blog for developments on this and if you haven’t already, sign up for OWC Larry’s newsletters where the latest and greatest products are usually first announced.

UPDATE (4/17/9) – Well, the good news is that we have found a very elegant solution for installing 3.5″ drives into the optical bay of the Mac Pro that does reduce the hard drive noise as I mentioned back on the 6th of this month. The bad news is we’re still a few weeks out before we’ll have any stock on them. However, you can check out the X-Swing by (((NoiseBlocker))) and even pre-order.

X-Swing installed pics:

The optical and one hard drive installed.

Two hard drives installed.

 

Note:

Only the above two configurations will fit in the optical drive bay of the Mac Pro.  Two hard drives plus one optical drive combined is too large for the space.

Update: Since this article was posted, we’ve come up with several mounting solutions… See our blog post on Drive Adapters Galore—Which Is The Right One? for more information.


LEAVE A COMMENT

  • Hi Feldspar,

    That isn’t actually anything we’ve tested out. The OWC Multi-Mount is designed to dampen vibrations just like the X-Swing does, while also offering several more drive configurations. So, there is no need to mix product lines.




  • Would it be possible to use the X-Swing with a 3.5-inch-to-2.5-inch adapter (such as the blue bracket OWC sells) to install a single 2.5 inch SSD along with a single 3.5 inch hard disk, and keep the Mac Pro optical drive? Would you get better vibration dampening with the X-Swing than the current line of OWC brackets?

    I have a Mac Pro (early 2008). I’m considering routing my motherboard SATA ports to the optical bay, using an SFF-8087 to SFF-8482 Fanout Cable. My understanding is that the optical bay SATA ports don’t support Boot Camp, but the main SATA ports do. (The main SATA drive bays would be routed to a RAID card.)




  • Hello Joel,

    Actually, we have one bundle that has everything you need to install two SSD or 2.5″ HDDs to your 2006-2008 Mac Pro, including the mounting bracket:

    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/MM352A52MP/




  • Hi there.

    I have an original Mac Pro (2006 model, 2x 2.66 GHz MacPro1,1). Would it be possible for me to install two 2.5″ SSD in my optical drive bay along with my existing SuperDrive?

    From reading this blog and looking over the OWC site, I seems like I could do this using:
    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Micro%20Accessories/SATA18L/
    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Micro%20Accessories/SATA18S/
    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Micro%20Accessories/SATAPAY/

    Since the SSD have no moving parts, it would seem that mounting brackets wouldn’t be essential.




  • If you put two 3.5″ HDD in the optical bays, what would be good options for enclosures to make an external optical drive? Since external drives are only used occasionally, this configuration makes more sense to me.




  • Where can I get the x-swing brackets? OWC seems to have been sold out for months…




  • I am wondering if you considered/tested Hard Drive Cooling Kit
    Aluminium heat sinks with rubber suspension from
    http://www.akasa.com.tw




    • Hello Serge,

      Actually that product was not a part of our testing back when we were researching a solution and found the X-Swing by Noiseblocker. From looking over the akasa website, I have no doubt that as a concept the hard drive cooling kit should perform very similarly, but we haven’t done our own testing to back up my speculation.




  • The optical drive cage has an open top, enough to let an HDD peak over, so would it work to place the superdrive in the lower bay and a double drive X-Swing in the top? Does the case have enough clearance to do so?




  • BTW, I have a related question: would the enclosure fit 4 of your OWC SSDs? Am I correct in assuming that they need not be mounted properly since they have no moving parts? Also, the Sonnet Tempo SATA E4i says it is only compatible with the PowerMac G5 – can I use it in a 2008 Mac Pro to add the additional SSDs?




  • By the way, thanks Mike for being so quick and helpful in your responses – you guys are the best!




  • What size is the clearance between the inside base of the optical drive cage and the base of the superdrive? Is it even possible to fit two HDDs in the gap, if a suitable mounting system were fabricated? (I have a metalworker friend)




  • You say that it won’t work on the Nehelem; I have the 2008 Mac Pro, is that any different?




  • Alternatively, could 2 X-Swings be used to mount 3 HDDs and no optical? Perhaps using the upper deck of the top X-Swing.




  • Would mounting the X-Swing upside down allow the installation of two drives below the optical drive? I notice that there is free space below the drives in your photo, and turning over the X-Swing shifts the centre of the drives relative to the mounting points. Would this measure up?




    • We had tried a few alternate combinations to install two 3.5″ hard drives using the X-Swing in the ‘Nehalem’ Mac Pro, but alas, when we tried upside down, the unit didn’t fit either.




  • just to make sure…

    for the 2009 you can use EITHER the X-Swing OR the Clonesled…

    or do I need BOTH these items?




  • Hello Daniel,

    I’m assuming that you meant the Antec P183 case, and yes, any standard 5.25″ Optical drive bay should have no issues with installation.




  • Hello James and Dylan,

    In answer to your question, we don’t carry a product yet that will install two SSD drives in a single 5.25″ bay. However, we currently do offer a solution for installing one based on the X-Swing here.




  • I would like to know the answer the question that James (#22) asks. I am planning on doing the same exact thing.




  • Wonderful post! This is great news :) So for a 2008 Mac Pro let me check, I’d need:

    1) X-Swing: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Noiseblocker/HDC65/
    2) SATA to SATA standard 7 Pin connecting cable (18″): http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Micro%20Accessories/SATA18L/ OR http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Micro%20Accessories/SATA18S/
    3) Serial ATA (SATA) Power Adapter cable 15 Pin to 4 Pin (12″): http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Micro%20Accessories/SATAPA/

    I know I need the first two things, but do I also need the power cable adapter? Be great to know before ordering, thank you! (to save opening up my Mac before ordering :)




  • Hi OWC,

    In reply 2 you said it will fit just about any 5.25″ bay. I’m not running a macpro but would like to install 3.5″ HDs into my 4 spare 5.25″ bays. So just to confirm they work with any standard tower case yes?

    I’m using the Antec P138 case. Thanks. Daniel.




  • This is a great post; very helpful.

    OWC Michael, is there an X-swing like device that can hold two 2.5″ SSDs in the lower optical bay, while still allowing for a standard superdrive on top? I know I can’t put the SSDs in the 3.5 mounting brackets they come with, as the two wouldn’t fit together.

    I’m on a 2006 Mac Pro, and will be taping into the 2 extra sata ports on the motherboard.




  • Thanks, good advice. Is there a board that does both extra internal and external SATA ports, to me that would be the bonus option.




  • You certainly could go that direction, yes. The power adapter you speak of can be found here:
    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Micro%20Accessories/SATAPA/

    But for a greater set of SATA options down the line, I’d suggest using those additional motherboard ports to add eSATA to the system:
    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Newer%20Technology/MPQXES2/




  • using a SATA drive in the 2008 MP in the optical bay, would it not be simpler to take a cable from one of the spare sata ports on the motherboard and use an adaptor for the power cable?




  • Erick – Absolutely, a drive installed in the optical drive bay could be used as the boot drive.




  • Would it work to install the boot drive in the optical bay? The boot drive is the one least likely to be swapped out and if it were in the optical bay then there would be 4 bays available for easy exchange.




  • I’ve added a few pictures of the X-Swing to the post (please pardon the composition, they were done rather quickly). To answer your question though, yes two disks will fit. But only two. That’s one hard drive and one optical drive – or two hard drives.

    The nice thing is only one X-Swing would be necessary in either event as there are two ways it can be installed. One for single drive use, one for double drive use on the bracket.

    Installing two hard drives and an optical drive poses a problem in fitting all three into the optical drive bay bracket.




  • Can we get some pics of the X-Swing installed? Will two disks fit?




  • Just to make the issue of whether an additional adapter is needed in installing a 5th hard drive into ANY Mac Pro…

    The blog was written in reference to the latest Mac Pro ‘Nehalem’ model which has a SATA optical drive (prior versions of the Mac Pro came with an IDE optical drive). So, type of drive can make a difference depending on the model of Mac Pro being installed in.

    Basically here is the breakdown between type of hard drive and Mac Pro model:

    If installing a SATA hard drive in a ‘Nehalem’ Mac Pro, then no additional cables or adapters are needed.

    If installing an IDE hard drive in a ‘Nehalem’ Mac Pro, then an adapter for the drive like the STITPASA is needed.

    If installing an IDE hard drive in a previous model of Mac Pro (ie. ‘Woodcrest’, ‘Harpertown’ or ‘Clovertown’), then no additional cables are needed.

    If installing a SATA hard drive in a previous model of Mac Pro (ie. ‘Woodcrest’, ‘Harpertown’ or ‘Clovertown’), then an adapter such as ADDADSAIDE would be required.




  • ^ please disregard above – I am an idiot. I thought there was supposed to be a special cable connecting the hard drive (iso SuperDrive). I’m assumng the cable commg out of the mac connects to either the hard or super drive as is.




  • hi again OWC Michael

    OWC have put my order on hold at my request to see if I can add this connector that I will need to connect the 3.5″ Hard drive to 5.25″ optical cable to my order. They need an “item code” to complete the order. Any chance you can provide a link / item code for the exact thing I need? (There is something called “Newer Technology USB 2.0 Universal Drive Adapter”, but I don’t think that is what I need) Thanks!!




  • If you have a SATA hard drive, the connections are the same and no other cables would be necessary. On the other hand, if you were really looking to add an IDE/ATA drive to the system, you would need to use an adapter like the Sonnet Tempo Bridge. OWC Part Number: STITPASA




  • OK, thanks. Also, I’m told I need some sort of connector between the 3.5″ hard drive and whatever the optical plugs into… Does OWC sell them? Cheers




  • The optical drive replacement video shows how to get into the optical drive bay. To date, we have not made a video showing the installation of the X-Swing, but the instructions that come with are quite clear on how to correctly install the hard drives into that bay.




  • hi OWC Michael. Just wondering if there is a link for your above post number 6. I found the one for adding / replacing the optical, just wondering if that is it, or is there another one for adding the 5th drive. (connectors, correct way to put in the X-Swing etc). Cheers, Drew




  • Well, the good news is that we have found a very elegant solution for installing 3.5″ drives into the optical bay of the Mac Pro that does reduce the hard drive noise as I mentioned back on the 6th of this month. The bad news is we’re still a few weeks out before we’ll have any stock on them. However, you can check out the X-Swing by (((NoiseBlocker))) and even pre-order.




  • Stan, the Mac Pro ‘Nehalem’ optical drive replacement video will be posted on our website by Friday. Watch the blog as OWC Chris S. announces each new video here first.




  • Hi Tony, the washers could certainly help in a pinch. The washer material and size could definitely be a factor in how much noise reduction it offers.

    We have tested and found a solution that we should be offering very soon. It is a product that reduces hard drive noise by as much as 7dbA, which brings the total noise emission of the drive below the ambient noise of the Mac Pro itself. Perfect for using in a live studio setting. I hope to hear more details on an official release date ASAP and promise to post its release here as soon as I know.




  • Is there any tutorial somewhere that shows how to install a 5th hard drive in the Mac Pro Nehalem? How do you access the 5.25″ bay?




  • We just got a new Mac Pro at work. I noticed that the mounting brackets that Apple uses internally have 2 rubber washers on each mounting point.

    If we got your bracket and did the same for mounting a 5th drive in the 2nd optical bay, wouldn’t that be just as good as the Apple solution? Or do you think we would need some other sound dampening because the optical bay is closer to the edge of the case than the 4 HDD bays?

    We are looking to put the computer in the same room as the HD video camera and record direct to disk uncompressed. We need a workable, quiet solution ASAP.




  • The brackets will actually work for mounting just about any 3.5″ hard drive in a 5.25″ drive bay.




  • I would guess that these brackets would work on a 2008 Mac Pro as well.