2013 15" Macbook Pro Retina GT650M + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder2) + macOS 10.12.2 / Win10 [JimmyKip]^  

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JimmyKip
(@jimmykip)
New Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 2
January 20, 2017 9:18 pm  

Hi everyone,

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:

  1. Akitio/eGPU off, Power on MacBook, holding Option key
  2. After the MacBook chime, Choose to boot Windows instead of OSX
  3. At Windows Boot menu, choose DIY eGPU Setup
  4. MacBook reboots, hold Option key
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

  1. Power on Akitio & eGPU
  2. Power on MacBook
  3. Leave it to boot into OSX
  4. 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 😉

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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nando4
(@nando4)
Noble Member Admin
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 1814
January 20, 2017 10:01 pm  

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:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

 

eGPU Setup 1.35    •    eGPU Port Bandwidth Reference Table    •    Several builds
2015 15" Dell Precision 7510 M1000M + macOS 10.14 & Win10


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JimmyKip
(@jimmykip)
New Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 2
January 21, 2017 1:29 am  

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 🙂

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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chilla505
(@chilla505)
Active Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 18
June 8, 2017 7:10 pm  

Hey in the build, what version of OSX were you using?

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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