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2012 MacMini + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder2) + Win10 [bsohn]

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My Hardware at the time of build:

Computer Hardware (Win10pro)

MacMini Late 2012

i7-3720QM 2.6GHz quad-core CPU

Intel HD4000 iGPU

10Gbps Thunderbolt 1 port

Apple Internal 128GB PCIe SSD + Windows 7 Professional (64bit)

16GB Memory

Intention for the build - External GPU to host multiscreen set-up for gaming in Windows 10

eGPU Hardware

AKiTiO Thunder2 PCI expansion box ($210 Amazon or $189 from AKiTiO Sales)

Galax GTX970OC ($337 Galax)

220W Dell DA2 Power Supply ($18 eBay)

Misc wiring, plugs and switches ($20 local electronics stores)

Custom Fan Grill ($35 customcargrills.com and paint)

Custom CNC parts, wiring, and case adjustments (done by me at Penguin r/c)

Total cost: $620 (Sans the custom CNC work as I have no price for that since I was able to do it)

Full Build Details:

2012 15" Macbook Pro + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder2) + Win10/7/OSX10.10 [bsohn]

Finished Build Photos:

Windows Setup - (MacMini with Windows 10 Professional)

For this implementation I decided to dedicate my Mac Mini to a Windows 10 computer so this does not run BootCamp or any other Dual Boot System.

The first thing I did was to download the Windows Media Creation Tool this allowed me to create a Windows 10 Bootable USB installer.

To run the installer from the USB Drive hold down the option Key at startup and select the EFI Boot (not the windows drive) by doing this it puts windows into an EFI installation mode rather than an MBR/BIOS installation.

I ran the installer and let it reformat the internal drive and set-up all of the partitions with a clean install.

Before trying to get the eGPU working I decided to do all of the basic setup on Windows 10 which included installing all of the latest bootcamp drivers from Apple to make sure my Bluetooth Keyboard and Trackpad were working properly as well as other things like WiFi. Once all that was done I made sure I had the NVIDA drivers ready for the GTX970 in the Akitio as with the MacMini it does not have the dGPU so I could not install those without the card being present.

Shut Down hook up all the peripherals needed and the Akitio with the GTX970 in it and start back up. During this time I was hoping for the best that it would all be recognized and that I would get the normal Error 12 on the eGPU. What happened was that the the Mac Restarted a couple of times and Windows 10 went into self repair mode. Needless to say this wasn't what I was expecting but it really didn't turn out so bad. I let Windows take it's time getting everything repaired and it came to the screen to boot to windows or go into advanced trouble shooting. I went into advanced trouble shooting and ended up just booting into windows from there without doing anything. (could have probably just booted without entering advanced.

Next time around Windows 10 loaded. Device manager saw the eGPU as a Generic Display adaptor. So I installed the latest NVIDIA Drivers using administrative mode.

Restart again, Again into Windows Self Repair mode. Weird I thought but I let it do its thing. Again I went into advanced and started windows form there (wasn't going to chance it it worked the last time) and Voila not only did it work but all three external eGPU connected screens tuned on and were already set to extended mode with the iGPU screen that I was using as the main display. NO Error12 no nothing it just worked.

So there you have it Simple as Pie.. Yes and No... Yes if I were going to run all the monitors individually or in extended this would have been all but for my purposes I run Nvidia Surround on the three main displays. This is where issues arise and it has nothing to do with the eGPU and it's functionality it is due to (in the end) an inconsistency in the manner by which Windows 10 handles the allocation of monitors to each card.

At this time I had the Internal Intel 4000 graphics card running the 4th display. Turns out Windows allocates the iGPU display as display #1 and 2-4 to the eGPU, NVIDIA however, allocates 1 to the iGPU and 1-3 to the eGPU. this causes the NVIDIA control panel to crash when trying to set-up a surround using the monitors attached to it. In the end I found that in order to set up the Surround correctly I could NOT have any display connected to the internal Intel 4000 graphics. Once everything was set-up I could then reattach the fourth monitor to the internal graphics with no issue and even add a fifth to the fourth port on the GTX970.

Side note:

I use a small 480x800 Raspberry Pi HDMI 5" screen as my fourth monitor under normal circumstances. The GTX970 will power this monitor fully via HDMI however the internal Intel 4000 graphics require a second power supply to do so. Interesting like thing I found.

Windows 10 Issues:

None except for the small incompatibilities with the NVIDIA Control panel. a couple other usability quirks are present such as, even though the control bar is centered on the middle surround screen when you click on the Start icon or the Notifications they register themselves at the far edges of the full surround monitor. Have taken to right clicking the start menu instead.

OSX and Windows on a MacMini:

If you were wanting to run OSX as well in a MacMini with windows I would probably suggest purchasing a second drive cable ($12 - $25) and installing the second HD in the Mini for use with OSX. Doing it this way you can avoid officially using Bootcamp but still use dual boot through the Macs native EFI loader allowing retention of the EFI based Install of Windows. It is possible to pull this off with a single multi partitioned drive but it is WAY more difficult. Bootcamp only installs Windows in MBR mode which I believe has more issues in getting the eGPU to work. I had to use eGPU Setup 1.2 with my MBR install of Windows 10 on the external USB3 drive mentioned with the actual eGPU build information through the link above. The Mac Mini I have included the Fusion Drive which windows sees as two separate devices so I used the SSD for the Windows Install and have yet to decide exactly what I want to do with the other 1TB as I could partition it to have a bootable OSX with a Additional Data Partition for Windows.

Benchmarks - (stock setting Galax GTX970OC)



Thank you,

Brion Sohn

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Do you have to do the repair / auto repair dance every time you power the system up? I've got exactly the same hardware and can't get it to reliably start up in Win10.

edit; It turned out my issue was that the DA-2 wasn't securely connected to the 2x6PCIE power splitter, so the card wasn't getting enough power. Seems to be boot reliably now.

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