2012 15" MacBook Pro Retina (GT650M) [3rd,4C,Q] + GTX 970 @ 10Gbps-TB1 (AKiTiO Thunder2) + macOS 10.12.2 & Win10 [JimmyKip] // inc video
I built* my Thunder2 eGPU in the middle of last year with the help of all the people who had been posting over at the TechInferno forums, I had no idea that the community had had ructions & moved on with the experts coming over here so i'm super glad to find you all. I'm posting about my build experience so you all know how I got on, and in thanks to Nando4 & Goalque without whose expertise I would never have got this working.
I'm using a Zotac GTX970 which is small enough to fit inside the the Thunder2 box, but only with its shroud removed. Because of all the additional cabling and everything I haven't actually put the outer cover on the Akitio since I got it working; when I find some time i'll be building a slightly larger wooden box from some native New Zealand hardwoods I have which will enclose both the Zotac and all the wiring.
As you can see in the attached photo I ended up stripping the plug end of the Dell DA-2 power brick and using a screw down terminal to wire it all together instead. This meant I could wire everything directly and not worry about chaining different ill-fitting plugs together so is tidier from an electrical perspective but does mean that unplugging the whole thing requires pulling the barrel plug & the two plugs off the top of the Zotac. Instead of using the hairpin trick to do the short to let the brick power up & added a switch, so I can actually turn the power on without having to unplug the DA-2 from the wall. In the end after changing plans & going this way the powering & wiring part of the build was actually really simple.
Getting everything to work in Windows was a bit of a nightmare though. In the end I just happened across a post on the TI forums about using Nando's DIY eGPU setup to get past the problems I was having - I forget exactly what was going wrong but I think I needed to do the compaction to get it running. I got the DIYeGPU-Setup-1.35 and that has been running fairly well ever since, even after the upgrade from Win7 -> Win10.
The only annoying thing at the moment is the boot process which is very hit & miss. It is worse since the Win10 update which turned the boot menus from text to graphical - and despite trying the bcedit i'm yet to get it to revert to text. Basically my boot process goes like this:
- Akitio/eGPU off, Power on MacBook, holding Option key
- After the MacBook chime, Choose to boot Windows instead of OSX
- At Windows Boot menu, choose DIY eGPU Setup
- MacBook reboots, hold Option key
- After the MacBook chime, When the menu to choose between Windows & OSX appears, and once the wheel stops spinning power on the Akitio (here's where having a switch comes in handy), wait 3-5 seconds then choose Windows.
- At this point if the laptop screen goes blank then eventually the blue DIY-eGPU menu pops up on the laptop screen, I just press enter to choose option 1 and Windows goes back to its blue boot menu & I can choose Windows & it will start up on the eGPU's external monitor with a login menu.
- However, 3/4 times instead of the laptop screen going blank the DIY-eGPU menu pops up on the external screen, from here I can't get it to startup properly. If I do option 1 it begins the same process that works from the laptop screen but seems to hang very shortly afterwards. The only way I get things to work is by powering off & starting all over again. If you're interested & have some ideas for how to make this more reliable let me know & i'll capture all the details & messages about what happens for this part.
Once its booted into Windows things are pretty stable; I use it mostly to play World of Tanks with most settings on maximum and with v-sync have a solid 60 FPS pretty much all the time. Using the Zotac FireStorm utility I can see that the GT 650M is running & driving the laptop screen & GTX 970 is driving my external monitor. The only recurring problems I seem to have is when the laptop itself gets too hot - presumably from the 650M doing too much, if it goes up over 75 degrees internally i'll often have a full system crash. The GTX970 itself seems to barely get above 45 degrees, even under load - but it does have a bunch of air flow at the moment given its not in a box
OSX was a hell of a lot simpler to get running, I just downloaded & ran the automate-eGPU script after doing the reboot & making the change that lets it work and hey presto! The boot process is way easier:
- Power on Akitio & eGPU
- Power on MacBook
- Leave it to boot into OSX
- Success! Every time!
So that's a huge plus, the downside is that it seems a lot less stable than when it is running in Windows 10. Safari does not play nice at all - web pages pretty much render in blocks multiple times all over the screen, and using Flash with it will often cause a crash. So I mostly use Firefox and that's a lot more stable. I'll still have intermittent crashes, and particularly on shutdown the MacBook will crash & reload a couple of times before it successfully shuts itself down.
In any case, thank you again to those here & anybody else whose skill, ideas & experience helped me to get this running. As you can see this is a fairly old laptop now but for less than half the price I bought it for I've given it an upgrade & a new lease on life. I'm sure the increase in my WN8 score in World of Tanks can at least in part be attributed to having better graphics & being able to see what i'm doing easier
* Its not actually in its final box or anything yet, so its probably fair to say I 80% built 😉
The only annoying thing at the moment is the boot process which is very hit & miss. It is worse since the Win10 update which turned the boot menus from text to graphical - and despite trying the bcedit i'm yet to get it to revert to text.
Thank you for your extensive writeup. Did you know that the US$29 Apple TB3-toTB2 adapter allows you to attach and use TB3 enclosures on your TB1 machine? A US$249 AKiTiO Node TB3 enclosure comes with a 400W PSU and large chassis. Means no longer need to do power mods or warranty-voiding chassis mods like we used to with the Thunder2. Example TB3 gear running on TB2/TB1 Macbooks is here.
You can set your Wndows boot menu back to text mode with:
No I didn't know about the Akitio Node at all, it looks very cool! Perhaps i'll get one & a 1070 or similar for Christmas depending on what I can afford Any idea where to buy one - don't seem to be having much luck finding results for them on Amazon?
Thanks for the tip re bcdedit - the last site i'd tried on that had a different option to set after bootmenupolicy (possibly text instead of legacy) hopefully this shortens my boot cycle