2015 13" MacBook Pro [5th,2C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 16Gbps-TB2>TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + macOS 10.13.6 & Win10 [glitchglitch]
Hi all, long time lurker, first time poster!
First off, I just want to say that this community has been incredible in helping me to figure out how to get things running on my particular system. I'm happy to say that everything has been working 100%* and I would not be here without the people here that make it possible. Thank you!
(If you're looking to run a similar setup on your machine, feel free to follow along and I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have about it. Overall the process is straight-forward and you can do it in an afternoon, even with very little technical experience. I've included guides that I used throughout the process within this guide.)
With that, I'm very pleased to share with you my setup for my 2015 MacBook Pro Retina. Its definitely not the first guide for this particular system, but at the very least, its an update for others hoping to try this on theirs. My computer specs ( https://support.apple.com/kb/SP715?locale=en_US&viewlocale=en_US) are as follows:
* OSX High Sierra 10.13.6 (17G66)
*3.1GHz Intel i7
My computer is definitely a pretty capable machine on its own, but <insert Iris graphics joke> so I was hoping to get a bit more power out of my system. I settled on a GTX 1060 (since its what everyone else in the entire universe apparently uses) and decided to run with the Akitio node TB3, and just run a TB2/TB3 adapter for my computer. I'd like to say I did this for a very good and calculated reason, but in reality, it was because the TB2 Node was out of stock and the adapter solution seemed to work well for others*****. I am using an external monitor as well, running out the back of the graphics card. I recommend this for higher performance.
First of all, if you haven't already, I highly recommend utilizing High Sierra if you're running a similar setup to mine. Apple has taken great care to remove support for Nvidia cards in later versions. If you need to downgrade, as I did, follow the guide I have linked below. Please be sure that you back up everything you're going to be utilizing. Because you'll be running a different OSX version, Time Machine will not suffice, and you'll have to do the backup manually. That sounds pretty scary, but it only took me about an hour for my machine, and I was able to carry over all of my applications without any headaches. The downgrade process is relatively straightforward, I recommend this guide: ( http://osxdaily.com/2018/10/21/download-macos-high-sierra-from-mojave/) This one is specifically for Mojave, so make sure to check your version for the exact steps, as things tend to differ a little.
(I will mention here that my version of High Sierra (17G66) doesn't seem to have much documentation on it anywhere. The closest I could find is 17G65, but it is a genuine version downloaded from Apple's servers.)
With parts in-hand, I slapped the whole thing together and it fired right up. I utilized @mac_editor's amazing set-egpu, purge-wrangler and purge-nvda scripts to get the entire system running. Make sure you disable system integrity protection! There's many guides available and this process is pretty well-documented, so I won't be offering the nitty gritty here, but here's a link to walk you through the basic process if you decide to try this for yourself ( https://egpu.io/forums/builds/2014-mbp-w-750m-akitio-node-w-980-ti-mac_editor/)!
Now, for whatever reason, there's an issue with this particular computer when it comes to booting up with an eGPU attached. The screen stays pitch black, no sound, nothing. In order to bypass this, you have to "hot plug" the system, which basically means that you need to plug it in at the right time when booting the computer. For me, right after the Apple Logo appears has been the perfect time. Make sure the Node is on, and fans are spinning before booting, then start the computer, and plug in the thunderbolt cable as soon as you see the Apple logo pop up. Why is this the case? I don't know specifically, but after a bit of searching I believe having the Akitio Node TB2 would bypass this problem...though I cannot verify that.
And that's OSX setup complete! Overall its extremely simple, and I'd guess might take 2-3 hours max. This worked really well for me, across a variety of applications. Final Cut Pro and After Effects are extremely snappy and render almost instantly at full resolution. However, I had some issues with Steam Games. Moving them onto the second monitor helps a little, but the set-egpu script I wasn't able to get to recognize my steamapps folder as "applications". So I decided to try dual-booting my system with Windows. This process is fairly straightforward overall, and it works great now, but I ended up having to do a bunch of extra steps I'll explain throughout the process here.
The first thing I did was download a Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft's website, and try to go through Boot Camp Assistant. This seemed to work at first, but I ended up continuing to run into issues due to the Fat32 limitations imposed by the Assistant setup. Follow this guide if you end up getting a similar error to undo the partition ( https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/344478/the-startup-disk-cannot-be-partitioned-or-restored-to-a-single-partition-window).
I ended up following this guide to get it installed, which was incredibly helpful ( https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/313007/high-sierra-and-bootcamp-with-windows-10-not-working). Once installed, I followed another guide from this community for my system ( https://egpu.io/forums/builds/early-2015-13-macbook-pro-retina-gtx95016gbps-tb2-akitio-node-via-tb3-tb2-adapter-win10-macnoob/). He also demonstrates the "hot plugging" you'll have to do for the system to get it to work properly.
Last but not least, with everything else installed, I set up Windows to run video only to my external monitor (through the eGPU) and I pointed my Nvidia control panel application towards the appropriate "steamapps" folder. So far, every game has managed to run at a solid 60fps on the highest settings I've been able to push it, Vsync and Filtering included.
All-in-all, I couldn't recommend this more to someone in a similar situation to mine. In my opinion, this is the way performance should be on a Mac. OSX setup is very easy and Windows setup is well worth the payoff of working in windows CLI. Normally I think I'd be bummed out about not getting gaming-level performance all on OSX, but I think having to boot to windows just to play video games keeps me focused when I have to get stuff done 😉
A MASSIVE THANK-YOU to everyone that was able to help me along the way. I'm very excited to report that everything is working incredibly well, and I couldn't be happier.