The Robservatory

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Frankenmac 2017: The roadblock

Today I was going to write about the process of going from the BIOS boot screen to having macOS installed on Frankenmac 2017. That, however, will have to wait for tomorrow, due to a pretty big roadblock I hit while trying to get my GTX 1080 graphics card working. The roadblock looks like this:

On the left, that’s my hand. More relevant to the problem is that six-pin PCIe connector (from the power supply) in my hand. On the right is my graphics card, with its eight-pin connector. Now, while this may look like a round-plug square-hole problem, I didn’t think it was, mainly because of what I found on this page:

Because of both the physical design as well as the use of the sense signals, the six-pin power supply connector plug is backward compatible with the eight-pin graphics card socket. This means that if your graphics card has an eight-pin socket but your power supply has only six-pin connectors available, you can plug the six-pin connector into the eight-pin socket using an offset arrangement, as shown below.

And it’s true, the plug fits just fine. And when I powered up Frankenmac, the card lit up and the fans spun. However, onscreen I saw a message about connecting the PCIe power cable to the card, so clearly, something was amiss.

After some mucking about with other six-pin connectors in the case—and looking for adapters and other hacky solutions—I figured the easiest solution would be to replace the power supply. It is nearly 10 years old, after all, and newer ones have nice features like modular plugs, so you don’t have excess cabling in the case. In looking to do that, however, I ran into a related snag, and it’s best summarized by this picture…

On the left is a representative image of my old power supply. On the right, a much more current power supply. See the big difference? In order to use larger, quieter (slower turning) fans, newer power supplies have the fans located on top of the power supply, not at the back. The physical size of the box is identical, but the fan has moved 90 degrees.

And as you may recall, I’m using my old case to hold new Frankenmac. And in my old case, the new power supply’s position would be problematic…

On top, there’s nothing in the way of an airflow exit path, just solid steel. There is air below, but the fan on a power supply is an exhaust fan, so it should be blowing out of the case, not into the case! That was wrong; it’s an intake fan, but still, I wouldn’t want it sucking in the warm air from inside the case. (Thanks, @latteine!)

And that, my friends and readers of my idiocy, is how I wound up buying not only a new power supply, but a new case as well. What did I pick? I really like my Antec case, so I’ve gone with a new Antec P100 case (with foam and steel in the sides for quiet operation), and Thermaltake Toughpower 750W 80PLUS modular power supply. I have updated my parts list to reflect these new parts and costs.

The moral of the story? Eight year old technology probably shouldn’t be used in a current-technology project. I would’ve saved myself time and aggravation by purchasing a new case and power supply up front.

Tune in tomorrow to see how Frankenmac’s move to its new home went…

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