Out of the box, the first impression of the Mac Pro is of a class of engineering I’ve seen only in enterprise class systems intended for data centers (something I’m familiar with though my day job).
Instead of the usual flimsy sheet metal and plastic and a bird’s nest of wires, the Mac has an almost cable-less design, using connectors directly on the system board and an all-aluminum chassis. An ingenious latch flips to allow removal of the side panel to reveal an interior which is clean and simple with modular aluminum clad sections. Hard drives slide on metal carriers which include captive screws (Nice. No parts to lose). Memory slots are easily accessible. IO slots are accessed by removal of a metal bar secured with thumbscrews.
I mounted my SSD in an unused CD drive bay, which is contained in separate module which slides out as a unit – the empty bay even includes the four mounting screws ready to install your drive! All I needed was a 2.5-to-5.25 bracket – the SATA connector was already in place. Same thing with the hard drives: screw them to one of the slide-in brackets, insert and go. The last thing was to replace the memory DIMMs with the 4GB modules – very straightforward.
The Drobo external disk array was just as easy to set up. I added the eSATA card into the Mac Pro (no tools needed) , slid the drives into the Drobo chassis, connected the cable and turned it on. That’s it. The Drobo recognizes and configures the drives automatically and the control software on the Mac can change the configuration – I set mine up to be able to survive up to two disk failures (this reduces available capacity, but I can always change it if I start running out of space).
Data transfer from the PC was simply a case of mounting the old drives (taken out of the PC) to one of the Mac brackets, sliding it into the Mac, and then copying – either to the internal drives (set as a RAID 1 pair) or to the Drobo. Copying the external USB drives data across was just as simple – if a little slower.
I used a free utility (Carbon Copy) to clone the OS the SSD and make it my boot drive, installed the applications (primarily Photoshop and Lightroom) and setup my email using the email folders copied from the PC. Finally I installed VMware Fusion, with Windows XP and then Qimage.
All-in-all it was an incredibly smooth process. The hardest part was recreating all my old settings and preferences.