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DIY eGPU experiences

Discussion in 'e-GPU (External Graphics) Discussion' started by master blaster, Sep 18, 2009.

  1. oripash

    oripash Notebook Enthusiast

    Jun 19, 2012
    Because I failed at homework and only found out it exists after having ordered the sonnet :/

    EDIT: It was a good move.

    TH05 = ONE thunderbolt channel. 10Gbit/sec in each direction. Equivalent to two PCIe 2.0 lanes electrically. (PCIe 2.0 = 500Megabyte/sec per lane)
    Sonnet Echo Express Pro: TWO thunderbolt channels. 2 x 10Gbit/sec in each direction. Equivalent to four PCIe 2.0 lanes electrically. This is basically the same bandwidth good'ol AGPx8 (or PCIe 1.0 x8) used to give us. See here:


    Unlike its 2011 sibling, the 2012 macbook air has a dual-channel thunderbolt controller. The sonnet takes advantage of it, doubling what is effectively the biggest bottleneck in the system - the interconnect between the CPU and GPU.
  2. oripash

    oripash Notebook Enthusiast

    Jun 19, 2012
    This is a re-post from another thread, figured it's relevant here too.

    This is a loose guide for installing Windows 8 64-bit in EFI mode (e.g. not via bootcamp), dual-booting with MacOSX on a 2012 Macbook Air. The purpose of this exercise is to set up a windows-based game rig on the mac using a thunderbolt-based eGPU, that will co-exist nicely with OSX.

    View attachment 86458
    View attachment 87799

    My experiences so far:
    There are two roads to install Windows on a mac.
    The road of BIOS and the road of EFI.

    Older PC's only have BIOS. Windows on those PCs talks to hardware directly through the BIOS.
    Macs come with EFI as the primary interface to the hardware. OSX talks to hardware directly through EFI.
    Macs also come with a BIOS emulation, because through BIOS, Windows works flawlessly (with the exception of thunderbolt...). This is how bootcamp makes your windows work.
    The newest Windows (Win7/64 and Win8/64 ONLY) can interface with hardware directly through EFI as well. Not all windows drivers are tested to work this way.

    What happens with eGPU's - the new eGPU thunderbolt device tells EFI/BIOS it exists. On a BIOS-based PC, the BIOS would enumerate it and tell the OS the device is ready. Tomshardware review of the Sonnet suggests this works flawlessly on a thunderbolt-equipped desktop motherboard.

    On an EFI-based mac, things are a bit different. The thunderbolt device tells the EFI it exists. The EFI enumerates it as a PCI device and tells the OS the device is ready. That's what happens in OSX (which runs in straight EFI mode), and what happens in Win7/x64 or Win8/x64 if you installed them in straight EFI mode.

    If, however, you run windows in regular BIOS mode (if you installed Windows via bootcamp, this is the case), Apple's BIOS emulation does not pass the thunderbolt enumeration event back to windows, and your thunderbolt eGPU doesn't work.

    There's a way to make it work using a rain dance, where you connect the eGPU to the mac but not the AUX power plug to the GPU, turn mac on, get past the boot loader, immediately turn the GPU power on before windows completes booting, jump on one foot holding your left ear, bend over backwards twice, scream in agony, and on occasion your thunderbolt device gets recognized and appears in device manager. Even then, twice it disappeared on me while installing nVidia drivers. I gave up on trying to get thunderbolt eGPUs work it through Apple's BIOS emulation.

    I decided to install windows in EFI mode. I tried windows7/64bit/EFI, ran into a pile of weirdness installing and gave up. I'm using Win8/64/EFI instead.

    Setting up a dual-boot EFI on a macbook is easy:
    b. when in OSX, fire up terminal, sudo to root and shrink your EFI OSX partition:
    # diskutil resizevolume /dev/disk0s2 250G
    (in this case, I have a 512GB SSD, I shrunk the partition to 250G).
    c. DO NOT create windows partitions under OSX. DEFINITELY do not let boot camp do this for you - it creates MBR partitions, EFI windows won't install on that.
    d. On some windows PC (or if you're like me, in your Windows7 parallels VM), Create a USB bootdrive of windows 8:
    insert 4GB or larger USB disk. Note: below steps will wipe it. Proceed at own risk.
    run command prompt as administrator
    > diskpart
    > list disk
    (check which disk number your USB disk appears as, use it in the next commands)
    > select your-usb-disk-number-from-previous-step
    > clean
    > convert gpt
    > create partition primary
    > select partition 1
    > format quick fs=fat32
    > assign
    > exit
    Now copy the guts of the windows 8 DVD or ISO onto this new drive.
    Congrats, you now have an install drive.

    e. Back on our macbook, I recommend installing rEFIt - install it, then open a shell, cd to /efi/refit and run:
    sudo ./enable.sh

    f. Reboot with the USB disk in. in the rEFIt menu, you should see two ways to boot from the USB disk - EFI and BIOS. Choose EFI.

    g. Installing windows:

    1. First boot: windows installation. When you get to the partitioning stage, you should have a block of empty space on your macbook SSD. Let windows create its EFI partitions on them and tell windows to format the last big one of these. Then proceed with the install.
    It will copy files and reboot.
    2. Seocnd boot: you don't need to do anything. It will go into a black screen (this is because the GMA4000 driver breaks in EFI mode), reboot on its own after a few minutes.
    3. Third boot: Again, it'll go into a black screen again. LEAVE FOR 15 MINUTES for the installer to do its thing, then, after it presumably finished doing all the things it isn't showing you, HARD POWER-OFF.
    4. Fourth boot: In the refit menu, choose to boot off the USB drive again. This time go into the recovery menu and fire up a command prompt. Delete the broken intel GMA4000 driver file (causing the default VGA driver to take over). Once in the shell, run:
    C:\> del c:\windows\system32\drivers\igdkmd64.sys
    Exit the shell and let the machine reboot.
    5. Timekeeping: Windows likes to think that the machine's SAVED time (what time your machine thinks it is if you boot it completely offline) reflects the local time in your timezone. OSX likes to think SAVED time reflects time in Greenwich. They'll keep fighting between them over what time it is.
    In Windows, using regedit, navigate-to and add the following DWORD, and set it to 1:
    Then reboot. Now let either OS set the time, and it will remain good across both.

    6. Windows works!.

    h. DO NOT TRY TO UPDATE THE DRIVER FOR THE GMA4000 onboard graphics. It will just reinstall a new (still broken, as of the time I'm writing this post) igdkmxd64.sys file, and force you to go through step 4 above again.

    i. I installed Forceware 306.97 nVidia driver for Win8/64. It installed fine.

    j. Go back to OSX. Fire up boot camp assistant and select "Download the latest Windows support software from Apple". Untick everything else. Save it on your USB or somewhere where windows can see it. It will create a WindowsSupport directory with drivers for all the Apple bits and an installer that installs all of them.
    Boot into windows, go to the WindowsSupport folder on this USB stick and run setup.exe. This will properly install drivers for a few more things, including bluetooth. GMA4000, screen brightness controls & onboard audio will still not work.

    The boot camp control panel in windows won't work - its start screen shows bootable partitions and it expects a hybrid MBR which we've very deliberately avoided setting up in our non-1980's shiny GPT partition structure (you can manually install a hybrid MBR and experiment using gdisk and the 'h' option in the recovery submenu, but that confuses the hell out of windows).

    l. Things that don't work for me:

    1. Screen brightness controls in Windows.
    2. Sound driver. I just plugged in an external USB sound card I had lying around.
    3. The GMA driver. There are four drivers you can use:
    a. The GMA driver bundled with windows (or an updated WHQL one from windowsupdate).
    b. The driver supplied in Apple's bootcamp driver pack.
    c. The latest GMA driver downloadable from intel's website.
    d. The default VGA driver in Windows.

    As of 26/11/2012, (a-c) do NOT work in EFI. This has nothing to do with the eGPU and whether it is connected or not. It has everything to do with the driver not yet being written to be compatible with windows working in straight EFI. I'm sure Intel will fix this at some point, I'm just not sure when this will happen. (a) and (b) will give you a yellow triangle in device manager, (c) will not (but still not work).
    (d) works FINE (it's snappy and not laggy or anything, it doesn't feel like the good'ol "video card without a driver" in windows). It'll be 100% good for everything except optimus/gaming.

    4. Boot camp control panel (to tweak behavior of apple hardware, trackpad options, what the button on your apple display does, etc). It opens up on the "partitions" tab, which it can't figure out because we have no hybrid MBR, so it bombs out.
    The system tray icon still runs, and you can tweak some of the behavior via registry if you're thus inclined.

    At the end of the day:
    Steam works. So do all games I tried to date (Metro 2033, Borderlands, Portal 2...)

    3DMark 2011 works gave me a score of:
    Score: P5802 3DMarks
    Graphics Score: 7147
    Physics Score: 3703
    Combined Score: 3719

    By contrast:
    A retina Macbook Pro 15 with a Kepler dGPU does P2275, and an alienware M18x does P5602.


    I would REALLY love to compare this rig in a benchmark that is HIGHLY influenced by PCIe constraints (such as the Dirt3min test Anand ran here: http://www.anandtech.com/print/5458) using [a] a 660Ti with 2GB, a 660Ti with 3GB, [c] a 680/690 (at, say, 1080p and 2560x1600 res) and [d] Same 680/690 with 4GB.
    This would show:
    1. Whether having more GPU RAM results in meaningfully more on-card caching (both at the 660-level cards and 680 or 690 level cards), less need to shuttle textures over limited thunerbolt bandwidth and ultimately a meaningful performance increase.
    2. Whether there's any point in putting a high-end GPU on this rig.
    I don't have the required GPU's, but if anyone is in the Melbourne, Australia area and has one he can lend for the sake of this experiment, shoot me a private message and we'll try.

    My kit:
    Macbook Air 2012:
    Dual-channel thunderbolt (Intel DSL3510L Cactus Ridge controller, details here), 2x10Gbit/direction, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, CPU: Intel Core i7-3667U @ 2.00GHz/3.2GHz turbo'd (...always wanted to run a gamebox on a ULV 14Watt part :D)

    Thunderbolt to PCIe: Sonnet Echo Express Pro

    GPU: Galaxy GTX660ti 3GB

    Power supply: FSP X5, external to the Sonnet enclosure. (It's a 5.25'' 450Watt booster PSU).
    I'm too lazy to pull enough 12V rails from the Sonnet's built-in 150W PSU to drive the card (and I don't want to accidentally fry it, it is an $800 part), so I'm feeding the GPU's power from an external $80 source.

    Summary: to quote a vending machine.. "FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT MORE AWESOME".
  3. PatrikL

    PatrikL Newbie

    Oct 25, 2012

    So in other words, its probably bigger success rate if i use win8 in efi mode than win8/win7 in bios mode?
    But, i would like to get the intel card running since i would like to run optimus but i guess thats just a mather of time? or can it be done now?
  4. pinkpwnther

    pinkpwnther Newbie

    Oct 27, 2012
    I know this thread is very old and I hope that I get a response. =) I have a Dell Studio 1558 with an Intel Core i3 GPU and 6 gigs of ram. I installed the Verde 285.62 + kizwan's nvam.inf (32/64-bit) to work with my Nvidia GTX 460 that I have in my Vidock 4 plus. When I installed everything, it seemed to be working at first - my fps in WoW went from an average of 1-14fps on lowest graphics settings to 14-30fps on high graphics settings. However, my graphics score went down from 4.2 to 3.1, which seemed odd. I figured this was a mistake on my computers part though, as everything was running smoothy. That is, until I decided to run a dungeon (the high activity often makes my frame rate tank): my fps dropped to 3fps, occasionally stopping altogether. I also would get randomly logged off of WoW - I got kicked off 7 times over the course of 3-4 hours. I want very badly for this to work! please help me!! <3

    ~ Morgan
  5. pinkpwnther

    pinkpwnther Newbie

    Oct 27, 2012
    Oops, sent message twice.
  6. EpicBlob

    EpicBlob Notebook Evangelist

    Jan 24, 2012
    You should be able to just install the regular NVidia desktop drivers from their site.
  7. sgluhov

    sgluhov Newbie

    Oct 25, 2012
    Does the rig works without egpu? May be it is possible to install gma driver when rig is off?
  8. oripash

    oripash Notebook Enthusiast

    Jun 19, 2012

    The intel card is running. It just isn't running optimus. Yes, imho EFI is overall a bigger win.
    So long as you delete the c:\windpws\system32\drivers\igdkmd64.sys driver that any of the following install:
    [a] Windows setup
    Apple bootcamp (windows Support installer that installs all the apple drivers) setup
    [c] Intel Win8/64 driver from intel's website (the only one that doesn't come up with a yellow exclamtion mark).
    ALL the above are broken - the driver itself doesn't know how to digest the GMA without a bios at play.
    However, if the driver file isn't there, you'll get a yellow exclamation mark, the standard VGA driver will kick in, and it will work.
    View attachment 86489
  9. oripash

    oripash Notebook Enthusiast

    Jun 19, 2012
    dupe pls ignore.
  10. Wall Screamer

    Wall Screamer Newbie

    Oct 7, 2012
    Having some problems with my eGPU. Can anyone help here?

    I'm running a GTX465 on a Lenovo Thinkpad T420 with Windows 7, 8GB RAM, connected through PE4H and E2C2. I've been running this setup with relatively few problems for about a month. I typically boot by turning the eGPU on, plugging in the express card, and turning on my Lenovo. A few days ago, I hit the power button on the T420 to go into hibernate. When I came back, I was unable to get it to return for hibernation. In an attempt to get a response, I'm pretty sure I yanked the express card (rather stupid on my part), but still couldn't get anything to come up and was forced to power down by holding down the power switch. When I tried to turn it back on, my PC would not pick up the eGPU or show up on my external monitor, even when I used the same process as before.

    I un-assembled and re-assembled the eGPU setup to make sure all the cables were connected properly. There are no problems; the GTX465, PE4H, and power suppy appear to be working fine. Still, the eGPU wouldn't be detected on start-up.

    Today, I tried plugging in the express card of the running eGPU during the Windows boot sequence, rather than before. To my surprise, it worked! My eGPU was back up and running.

    Then, however, I decided to download, install and play the latest Beta of Hawken. After installing, I ran the client, which loaded and then immediately crashed. Both my screens were black and totally unresponsive. Again, I yanked the express card (I really should stop doing that) in the hopes that something would come up on my laptop monitor. Nothing did, and I had to hard reset again. This time, Windows ran a rescue process when I booted back up, and I hit okay when asked to run something that would revert to an older state of Windows. Now, my eGPU is again not showing up, regardless of when I plug the express card in. Any ideas on what I should try to do?

    UPDATE: It may be worth noting that my express card slot is not secure. The spring loading and unloading works, but when the express card is in what it supposed to be the "locked" position, I can still pull it out without too much force. Could this be the issue? I know that the express card itself works and is getting info, though. On the PE4H, there is a red light on when the E2C2 is not plugged in. When it is, the light turns green.

    LAST UPDATE: PROBLEM SOLVED! All I had to do was install the latest NVIDIA drivers.
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