Example of how to setup an external GPU on a Mac using a Thunderbolt case.

As usually Mac systems do not include graphics cards that meet our system requirements (they include AMD cards instead), some users have managed to use an external Thunderbolt case to plug a Nvidia graphics card that meet those requirements and use it for rendering with our new GPU engine.

Here we are explaining how we set it up in our office, so you have a clue of what could work in your case, but if you can manage to get your Mac recognize your Nvidia card by any other mean, the GPU engine should work too.


1.- IMPORTANT. Read before you begin.

This procedure is just an explanation on how we managed to make use of an external nVidia GPU on a Mac for rendering with our render engine, but neither we or the maker of the computer are supporting it; following this procedure could make you lose the warranty of your machine or make it unusable. Also we are using a script not coded by us and in the process we kind of hack the security locks of MacOS. If you don’t feel confident or comfortable with this procedure or don’t know exactly what you are doing, we encourage you not to try it.

Warning!

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If you still dare to do it, you make it at your own risk; we are not responsible for any harm or problem it may cause to your hardware or the information included in it.


We are only showing what worked in our case as an example, our own in-house experience, but it could not work in your case.


2.- Summary of the procedure


  • Hardware setup
  • Download the script and modify a couple of arguments.
  • Boot in safe mode
  • Deactivate the security lock for unsigned or unknown programs
  • Reboot in normal mode
  • Run the script
  • Reboot in safe mode again
  • Reactivate the security lock
  • Reboot in normal mode


3.- Step by step

 

HARDWARE

We used an Akitio Thunder2 PCIe Box although it’s not actually indicated for graphics cards probably because it doesn’t have the extra power plugs that most of current graphics cards need (sadly, we noticed that after buying it).

Here are some other cases that probably will fit better (in alphabetical order, not preference):


https://www.akitio.com/expansion/node

https://bizon-tech.com/us/bizonbox2s_design

http://magma.com/products/thunderbolt-expansion/expressbox-3t/


Here are some pictures of what we used:


The case, power supply cable, thunderbolt cable and the small graphics card (Quadro K620)


The graphics card inside the case


Case connected to the Mac Pro

Of course the graphics card has to meet the same requirement as for Windows or Linux.


THE SCRIPT

We are using this script published in GitHub:

https://raw.githubusercontent.com/goalque/automate-eGPU/master/automate-eGPU.sh

This is the project page:

https://github.com/goalque/automate-eGPU

And it’s explained here by its creator in this forum post (not our forum):

https://www.techinferno.com/index.php?/forums/topic/7989-script-automating-the-installation-of-egpu-on-os-x-inc-display-output/


We downloaded it and modified this two lines replacing

boot_args="nvda_drv=1" with boot_args="NvidiaWeb"

and boot_args="kext-dev-mode=1 nvda_drv=1" with boot_args="kext-dev-mode=1 NvidiaWeb"


PROCEDURE

Once we have the script ready we had to:

  • Reboot the machine in safe mode so we could deactivate the security lock that avoids installing or running downloaded, strange or unsigned code.
  • After deactivating the security lock we rebooted again in normal mode.
  • Then we ran the script.
  • Then we rebooted again in safe mode to reactivate the security lock.
  • And finally reboot in normal mode.

If running El Capitan, it has SIP enabled by default. Please do as the script says: Boot into recovery partition and type: “csrutil disable”. Reboot, run the script, reboot again in recovery partition, type: “csrutil enable”, reboot and off you go.


And that’s all!


We hope this document gives you some clues to get your external Nvidia GPU working on your Mac.

If you get in trouble we recommend to look for information in the same forum where the script was posted or searching for eGPU on Mac on internet.


Good luck.



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