2012 13" MacBook Pro [3rd,2C,M] + RX 580 @10Gbps-TB1>TB3 (Razer Core X) + macOS 10.15.6 & Win10 [evad604]
This has been a crazy journey kickstarted by the COVID lockdown where I spent too much time at home and decided I needed to update my tech and do some gaming. I had a 2011 Macbook Pro which I upgraded to a 2012 model by switching out the logic board while adding a 1Tb SSD along with 16 Gb of ram. The upgrade was astounding and I wanted to see how far I could push this 10 year old machine and when I realized that the internal Intel 4000 graphics was its biggest weakness I decided to pair it up with an egpu.
I decided on the razer core x because that was what everybody was recommending and I liked the design. I was also considering the chroma but I have been reading that the docking station and the ethernet port of it tended to be finicky and sometimes not work. I was only drawn to it by its RGB lighting which I thought was super cool which then led me to finding a graphics card which could light up. I really wanted something mesmerizing and fun to look at since it would be sitting in front of me on my desk while I was gaming or doing work on the computer. I connected the thunderbolt 1 port to the egpu via the apple tb3 to tb2 adapter.
Installation steps (what did you do to get it all going?)
Running purge wrangler for Mac OS Catalina was very straightforward and I was so happy that it worked. Windows 10 however......was a whole other story and that's where the adventure really began. I learnt that because my macbook was so old, running bootcamp meant that my Windows bios would be in legacy mode and therefore, all the efi boot loaders (automate-egpu EFI and apple_set_os.efi) would just freeze and I would have to restart my computer. So here it goes, I'll try summarize the windows installation as cleanly as possible.
Step 1. - Create your bootable Windows 10 installer
Download the ISO file from Microsoft and unzip it in your Mac. Format a usb flash drive to ex-fat and master boot record scheme then copy the zipped ISO folder onto it. Afterwhich, download the BootCamp drivers from Apple and store it in the flash drive as well.
Step 2. - Install Windows 10 in UEFI mode.
Partition your hard drive in MS-DOS FAT format and run gdisk to convert your entire hard drive fom MBR to gpt disk by using GPT fdisk https://sourceforge.net/projects/gptfdisk/files/gptfdisk/
Step 3. - Restart your macbook and hold down the option key with your bootable Windows installer inserted and you will see "EFI Boot". Set up your preferences until you reach customize and advanced set up where Windows will then ask you where you want to do the installation. This is extremely important and was where I had the most difficulty as I received many errors and ultimately led to me formatting my entire hard drive. After converting your hard drive to GPT, you must physically disconnect all other internal hard drives.
Step 4. - Once Windows has been installed, run the drivers from 'setup' in the BootCamp drivers you download from bootcamp assistant. Because of my AMD card, I had to download the drivers from bootcampdrivers.com and it was straight forward after that. Restart your system once drivers are downloaded and your secondary screen should activate at login.
As you can tell from my post, I'm not very computer literate but I was still able to do it. I still do not know what UEFI, MBR, GPT or ISO stands for but I get the idea thanks to this great site, its moderators and its contributors. My post is an example that you can do this so long as you're willing to push the boundaries and unshackle yourself from the Apple train because let's face it, gaming on Mac is pretty lame. I've got Counterstrike GO on both systems and when I'm playing on Mac I just wanted to shoot myself which was why I needed to run Windows to get a proper gaming experience.
In terms of costs, it would have been cheaper to get a used gaming desktop but I wanted to restore this old macbook and bring it up to date from 2011 to 2020 and it's running beautifully. However, eventually I would like to get an intel Nuc 8 bean canyon to fully utilize the power of thunderbolt 3. I'm already blown away by the graphics of thunderbolt 1 so I am curious as to see what the rx 580 can give me with tb3!
@evad604, Thank you for posting this. It gives me hope - as I am in a similar situation. My 5700 XT works fine in MacOs Catalina 10.15.6, I want to try and follow your steps and get it working in Windows 10. 2012 13" MacBook Pro 2.9 Dual-Core i7 with Razer Core X Chroma.
Can I ask which Windows Build you were using? Does it have to be 1903?
I installed Windows 10 Home, Version 2004, OS build 19041.388
I just downloaded the latest Windows ISO file opened and copied it into a usb stick and it works! Remember to convert your hard drive to GPT, partition to MS-DOS FAT and physically disconnect secondary internal hard drives.
I've been in these forums for a long time, seeing each one's experiences. I currently have the same macbook pro model and it was between the "razer core X" and the "aorus gaming box" with a 1060. Have you used it in games? In case you could show an image, in my case it is an i5
No you don't need an external display, the laptop's internal display works fine, but you get about 25% less performance on the internal display vs an external connected to the gpu.
Just as nu_ninja says, you do not need an external monitor and I am currently using only the macbook's internal display. However, I do recommend getting one as I have experienced occasional spontaneous shut downs on my system while I waiting for my gaming monitor to arrive. These shutdowns occurred once I stopped using my previous low spec external monitor which I have since returned back to Amazon. Why these shutdowns occur, I do not know and maybe someone can explain it but it could be the bottleneck within the thunderbolt 1 cable and for data to travel back and fourth with the gpu.
@torete, Hi I use it solely for games and it works beautifully. I would love to add a picture if I could only figure out how to on this forum.
Hi @ evad604
My niece also has such a 2011 macbook pro 13" with TB1 and do to the harsh circumstances to buy gaming PCs these days, i would like to try an el cheapo eGPU setup for her, with an old GTX660 which i have lying around by using a Transcend Thunderbolt to PCIe case together with a chinese Gumstick to M.2 to PCIex16 adapter and a very compact 150Watt 12V FSP Power brick (90% efficiency). The hardware is already proven and its TB1 also, no need for an adaptor to TB3. I want to run Win10 parallel to her High sierra installation on the internal upgraded SSD.
I am still unsure wether to go with the standard MBR Boot or UEFI because apparently her model has problems with the soundchip when using UEFI.
As far as i understand, automate-egpu is for macOS with builtin discrete and not neded for win10 and apple_set_OS_efi is also only for Macbooks with discrete Graphics. I thought these are mainly for correcting the problem with the 15" machines with their integrated+dGPU having deactivated intel GPUs when booting anything other than macOS for compatibility reasons.
But since the HD3000/4000 are the only Graphics adapters in these systems, these should definitely be activated and transparent to windows for Optimus or AMD switchable to work.
Did you try MBR Windows before and it didn't work?
Or is there any other reason to go for uefi vs MBR Install?
If you install windows as MBR the thunderbolt device will not show up at all. In my experience if you install windows as MBR then the thunderbolt port only works as a mini-Displayport output and when you install windows as UEFI then windows uses it as a thunderbolt port.
The soundchip issue also effects this model, the workaround is to apply a DSDT override to get internal sound working again or give up and just plug in a usb sound adapter. See the Win 10 link in my signature for how I did both of these options.