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Install an inexpensive USB-C PCI-E card in a Mac Pro for full USB 3.1 data transfer speeds

An inexpensive card available from Amazon allows users of Apple's Mac Pro tower with PCI-E slots to get some of the benefits of the new USB-C connector — and faster USB 3.1 speeds. AppleInsider tells you what you need.

For a long time, adventurous Mac Pro users have been fiddling with third-party hardware to extend the life of the systems. For some older gear, the tinkering has mostly come to an end, but properly outfitted, the last two models of the Mac Pro tower can still be competitive with the "6,1" Coke-can 2013 Mac Pro.

The key for some of these adventures sometimes relies on third-party drivers, like for PCI-e graphics cards from Nvidia. However, from time to time, there are solutions that just drop in, and nothing is needed from a software perspective.

Despite not advertising macOS compatibility, Aukey has a macOS 10.11 and 10.12-compatible USB 3.1 Type C card, that AppleInsider has been testing. The Aukey B01AAETL6Y PCI Express card with 2 USB 3.1 Type-C ports does work on the 3,1, 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pro, and can deliver a full 10 gigabits per second transfer speed from each port.

Considering the USB native to the Mac Pro tower is USB 2.0, the much faster speed is welcome.

The card worked driver-free in the 4,1 and 5,1, but was slightly problematic in the 3,1 under El Capitan with periodic disconnects of input devices — but no problems with mass storage. But, why would you want to hook up a keyboard or mouse to USB-C anyway with other ports available?

Caveat emptor

The card must be powered to completely meet the USB-C specification, and for most of us, the best way is to use to the power leads in the 5.25-inch optical drive bay. Failure to do so prevents the card from functioning. The power extension is child's play, though, especially if you're used to Mac Pro tinkering.

We haven't delved into the maximum power the card can deliver, but an assortment of USB-C hubs and peripherals needing power from USB worked fine.

The Aukey USB-C card isn't compatible with alternate modes, so if you want to hook up a monitor, just get a PCI-E card to do so. Additionally, Aukey could change the chipset on the card at any time in future manufacturing runs — so if this is something you need for your Mac Pro, you probably should get it now!

The Aukey B01AAETL6Y PCI Express card with 2 USB 3.1 Type-C ports retails for $30, but can be found on sale for $16 frequently at Amazon.