Mac Boot Camp eGPU Setup: Definitive Guide
Last Updated on 4 Oct 2020
This is a super detailed guide on how to setup Mac Boot Camp to use eGPU for gaming and crypto-mining. Tons of credit to eGPU.io for the great references which I used as a starting point to build my very own eGPU enabled Mac Boot Camp. Please take note that I am not following everything in the eGPU.io guide because my objective is to avoid over tweaking the MacOS (such as automating the eGPU EFI). I also want to create a build recipe that is less intimidating to newbie (like myself).
There are checkpoints throughout the guide so that you can compare your progress with mine. This will give you the added assurance that you are on the right track.
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- I will be updating this guide regularly as I uncover more information on how to optimize the Mac Boot Camp eGPU build.
- As and when Windows update installs a new version on my system, I will be sharing the version number in Appendix B so that you can install with confidence.
- There could potentially be new problems along the way (we don't know what we don't know). For that, I update regularly my findings and resolutions in Appendix A.
Questions? Ask me anything in the comments below and I will do my best to help you.
Suggestions? Always welcome feedback so that I can improve the guide to help more people.
- The optimal build
- eGPU & Radeon
- The recipe
- The Boot Camp
- Graphics Drivers
- Windows 10 Insider Preview
- Personalisation & Maintenance
- Appendix A: Common Problem Faced
- Appendix B: The Latest Version
The optimal build
There are lots of trial and error involved towards reaching this stable build. It is optimized as far as the current set of drivers and OS version are concerned. I will continue to update this definitive guide so that everyone who use this build recipe will benefit as much as I do.
In Chapter 2, I will dive into detail on my shopping decision for the best (in my own opinion) graphics card and eGPU enclosure. The Macbook Pro and the DELL monitor is what I already have (so, I am not gonna do any review on my purchasing decision)
- 2018 15" Macbook Pro, Intel 2.9 Ghz 6-core i9 CPU, 32GB 2400Mhz DDR 4 Memory, 1TB SSD
- MacOS Catalina 10.15.5 (This version is as of July 2020. By the time you read this article, MacOS version may have been updated. I would recommend use the latest MacOS version)
- Windows 10 Version 2004 OS Build 20152.1000 (You may have read that the recommendation on eGPU.io Bootcamp eGPU setup guide is to use only Windows 10 Version 1903 OS Build 18362.295. However, I want to take a step further to build with the latest Windows 10 version. Read on to find out how you can get the latest version of Windows 10 installed on Bootcamp without getting the infamous Error Code 12)
- DELL P2815Q 28" Display (I do not recommend you to buy this monitor as I got this in 2014. Still serving me well but I am sure you can get a better specs monitor at about the same price now. As for me, I will upgrade this monitor when it is faulty. Pretty amazing that it has served me well over the past 6 years!)
- Razer Core X
- Sapphire 5700 XT Special Edition
eGPU & Radeon
Before I start with the step by step guide on setting up the Mac Boot Camp for eGPU support, I would like to share with you how I reach my decision in purchasing the Razer Core X and Sapphire 5700 XT Special Edition.
This definitive guide is not meant to provide a thorough review on each of the product described in here. There are many great comparison and reviews websites that I will share in here for your reference. No GPU or eGPU enclosure shoot out here folks 🙂
Choosing The Best eGPU Enclosure For Mac
Choosing the best eGPU for Mac is quite straightforward. There is a great comparison done at eGPU.io - eGPU enclosures buyers guide
Apple has a recommended list of eGPU enclosure for AMD Radeon RX 5700, 5700 XT, and 5700 XT 50th Anniversary. I am not considering other graphics card model so sticking to the following that are recommended by Apple is a safe bet:
After going through a lot of the review and user comments, I have narrowed my choices to either:
Here are my reasons:
- They offer the highest GPU power draw of up to 500W This is an important factor to future proof my purchase. For example, the more powerful graphics card in the future may require higher power intake.
- They are able to accommodate longer graphics card. As you know, graphics card comes different sizes. Again, this is an important factor to future proof my purchase.
Finally, I decided on Razer Core X because I don't want to spend the extra money on:
- Chroma RGB lightings. You may however consider Razer Core X Chroma if you like the idea of synchronizing the light displays across all your other Razer peripherals through synapse 3.
- USB ports. I would prefer my own USB ports than having them integrated as part of the enclosure. This is a personal preference.
- Ethernet port: I am happy with my Wifi connection. Furthermore, there are users who complained about certain unresolved issues with Razer Core X Chroma ethernet port.
Razer Core X comes with a short (50cm) Thunderbolt 3 cable. Thunderbolt 3 specs allow up to 2m long cable at 40 Gbps.
In Mac Activity Monitor, you will notice that the Max Bandwidth/sec = 5Gb (instead of 40Gbps). Fret not! It is actually 5GBps (Gigabytes / sec) which is equivalent to 40Gbps (Gigabits / sec) because 1 GB = 8Gb (1 byte = 8 bits). For some reason, the Mac is showing it as a small "b" which represents bits instead of capital "B" which represents bytes.
If you would like to upgrade your stock cable to something longer, these are some cables recommended by a number of happy customers: CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 Type-C Cable or Cable Matters Certified Active 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 Cable.
Here's the Razer Core X information after it is being detected by Mac. The eGPU enclosure is connected to Mac's Thunderbolt Bus 0.
Choosing the Best Graphics Card For Razer Core X
I spend more time choosing the best graphics card for my build because there are quite a number of decision factors. For full compatibility with MacOS, only AMD Radeon card should be used. If you get a Nvidia graphics card, the eGPU will only be used for Boot Camp Windows environment. So assuming you are like me, you want to make full use of the eGPU on both Mac and Boot Camp Windows environment, select the best AMD Radeon card you can get your hands on in your region.
With that as the basis of my decision making, There are 2 AMD graphics card that I will focus on:
- Radeon RX 5700 XT
- Radeon VII
I would love to own the Radeon VII but RX 5700 XT is finally selected because of the following key reasons:Radeon VII is not widely available. This is probably because AMD has stopped producing this graphics card (reference to Tom's Hardware article). I can't find
1. Radeon VII compatibility with Mac. So, is Radeon RX VII compatible with Mac? Glad to see that on 9th June 2019, someone managed to have the use a Radeon VII in a Razer eGPU on a Mac. Follow this thread on eGPU.io, I know that Radeon VII is indeed working fine on Mac though there are still driver bugs that need to resolved. However, on Apple does not explicitly support Radeon VII graphics card on it support page, On Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box Graphics Card Compatibility Chart, the company indicated on its foot note that Radeon VII requires MacOS 10.14.6+ and even so, will not be fully functional.
4. Price-performance point is not convincing enough for me to spend more on Radeon VII. I am happy to have equal or better performance than Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070. Don't think at this point in time (July 2020), there is comparable AMD graphics card that can match the GeForce RTX 2070 in what we are to achieve in this project.
2. Radeon VII is noisy. As pointed by one of the user on eGPU.io, the noise level is too high.
3. The Fan noise test done by techpowerup.com also shows a significant noise level of Radeon VII @ 43dBA vs Rx 5700 XT @ 33dBA
As reported in HWBench, it is noted that RX 5700 XT is about 5% lower in relative performance vs Radeon VII.
Now...which RX 5700 XT is better? Here are the competing brands.
I have shortlisted the following brands of RX 5700XT:
- Gigabyte Aorus Radeon RX 5700XT
- Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Nitro+
- ASUS ROG Strix AMD Radeon RX 5700XT
- MSI Gaming X Radeon Rx 5700 XT
- XFX RX 5700 Xt Thicc III Ultra
- PowerColor Red Dragon Radeon Rx 5700 XT
Gigabyte has 2 version RX 5700XT. The Gigabyte RX 5700 XT Gaming OC and the Aorus RX 5700 XT. See the review in this video:
Likewise, Sapphire also has 2 RX 5700XT model. Here's a review on Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT done by Tom's Hardware. There is also a great video comparing the 2 model:
Here's a video comparing MSI RX 5700 XT Gaming X Review vs. Gigabyte RX 5700 XT Gaming OC, Sapphire Nitro+ 5700 XT, XFX RX 5700 XT THICC, Sapphire RX 5700 XT Pulse
- The Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Nitro+ Special Edition has the highest factory-overclocked speeds at 2035 MHz (vs 2010 MHz on the standard Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Nitro+ standard edition),
- The memory on the Special Edition is also overclocked to 14.4 Gbps (where the standard edition is at 14 Gbps).
- Sapphire also uplifted the card's aesthetics by giving it RGB LED-illuminated fans in place of opaque ones on the standard Nitro+.
My final choice for the graphics card is the Sapphire RX 5700 XT Nitro+ Special Edition.
Other News Related to AMD Graphics Card
Here are some newsworthy articles related to AMD graphics card.
AMD's New Radeon Pro VII GPUs Enhance Workstation Experience. Is that the reason why they are putting a stop to Radeon VII gaming graphics card?
DO NOT CONNECT YOUR EGPU IN THIS CHAPTER YET!
Step 1: You will need the following files downloaded first. Have a USB thumb drive ready so that you can store all these files for your Installation process in Chapter 4. There is no need to install any of these files here until later part of the Guide. You
- Windows 10 OS (The starting version and OS Build for this project is Windows 10 Version 1903 OS Build 18362.295. This is a great guide on where to get the older Windows 10 version. I have also provided direct links below to both of the files for your convenience. If you do not know why you need the 2 files, don't worry! You will appreciate it better once I describe in detail the setup steps in next Chapter)
- Windows 10 Version 1903 OS Build 18362.30 (direct link). Download the iso file and store it in a local folder.
- 2019-08 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1903 for x64-based Systems (KB4512508) (direct link). The file name is windows10.0-kb4512508-x64_1893edc9a11d760be11e49d2500170ceee8026d7.msu. Download this file and store it in your USB thumb drive.
- Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) (link). DDU is used to uninstall the default AMD Radeon driver. This is an important step because the default Radeon driver will result in MacOS not able to interface with eGPU properly.. DDU is also used to disable Windows automated GPU driver installation. Only after uninstalling the default AMD Radeon driver, you can then install the modified driver from bootcampdriver.com. Download the file and store it in a USB thumb drive.
- Modified AMD Radeon driver from bootcampdriver.com (link). For this guide, I will be using Adrenalin April 2020 Red Gaming edition (Best FPS in games). Download the file and store it in a USB thumb drive.
Step 2: After you have downloaded all the files listed above, the next step is to register for the Windows Insider Program. You will need to register with your Microsoft account. If you do not have a Microsoft account, you can create one by clicking on Create one! as shown in the screenshot below.
After you have successfully registered for the Windows Insider Program, you should see the Welcome page (see screenshot below)
The Boot Camp
DO NOT CONNECT YOUR EGPU IN THIS CHAPTER YET!
1. Run Boot Camp Assistant on your Mac.
2. On the ISO Image field, select the Windows 10 iso file that you have downloaded in Chapter 3. Then set the size of your Boot Camp partition. For my case, I set the 64GB (which is the minimum setting for my 1TB SSD)
3. Let the system do its stuff. Wait patiently for the set up to complete.
4. After the Boot Camp setup is completed, you will be in Windows 10 environment where you will follow the setup wizard to complete the Windows 10 installation.
After the Boot Camp Windows installation is complete, you can verify the your Windows 10 Version and OS Build number. It should be Windows 10 Version 1903 OS Build 18362.30.
5. Next, access your USB thumb drive and install (by double clicking the file windows10.0-kb4512508-x64_1893edc9a11d760be11e49d2500170ceee8026d7.msu (2019-08 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1903 for x64-based Systems (KB4512508)) (This is the file that you have downloaded and stored on your USB thumb drive in Chapter 3). It will take a while to install, so please be patient.
6. After the update is complete, don't restart yet. You will see on your screen a Boot camp installer wizard window. Click Next.
7. During the Boot Camp installation process, your screen will flicker a few times. Once the installation is completed, you can go ahead to restart the system. When you restart your Mac, please be patient as the Windows update itself. After the Windows complete its update, you will be back into the familiar Windows screen.
At this point, your Windows 10 should be Version 1903 OS Build 183762.295.
8. Now it is a good time to create restore point. Go to Control Panel >System and Security. Since this is the first time you are using the System Protection on Windows, you will first need to configure the Restore Setting.
- Turn on system protection and set the Max usage to around 1 GB. If you have allocated a larger partition for the Windows Boot Camp, you can consider increasing it.
- Now, press Create... to create the restore point. After it is created, you will see a pop up letting you know that the restore point was successfully created. Press Close.
If you follow this definitive guide up to this point, you will notice that there is an Unknown device in your Device Manager. You can safely ignore this unknown device. For 2018 15" Macbook Pro i9, this is the only unknown device that you will see.
In this chapter, you will be setting up the graphics cards (eGPU and dGPU) by first uninstalling the all traces of graphics card driver on your Windows. This will then be followed by installing the customised AMD Radeon driver from BootCampDrivers.com.
You will need the DDU program and bootcamp graphics driver that you have downloaded on your USB thumb drive for this chapter.
DO NOT CONNECT YOUR EGPU UNTIL LATER PART OF THIS CHAPTER!
1) First thing first, restart Windows in safe mode. Not sure how? You can find this instruction useful from Microsoft: Start your PC in safe mode in Windows 10
2) Next, on your USB thumb drive, run the Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) executable that you have downloaded in Chapter 3. This will extract all its files in your preferred folder.
3) Run the executable (Display Driver Uninstaller.exe) that you have extracted. In DDU program, go to Options.
Press OK and you will be presented the Options window.
- In AMD Specific Options section, check all 4 options
- In Advance Options section, check Prevent download if drivers from windows update when windows search for a driver for a device. A pop up will appear to remind you that system will not automatically install drivers. Press OK.
- Press Close on the Option window. If you did not start your Windows in Safe Mode, you will receive the following warning. I suggest that you run DDU in the Safe Mode (refer to Step 1 in this Chapter on how to start Windows in Safe Mode)
4) Back on the DDU main windows, select device type: GPU and select device: AMD.
5) On the main DDU main screen, press Clean and do NOT restart. Repeat this step 3 times (ie. every time the DDU completed the cleaning, press Clean and do NOT restart again)
6) For the final step, press Clean and restart. Windows will restart.
7) After the Windows has restarted, create another restore point (You can refer to Chapter 4 Step 8 for instruction on how to create Restore Point).
In the Device Manager, you should now see that display adaptor is reflected as Microsoft Basic Display Adapter. This means that the default Radeon driver has been effective uninstalled by DDU.
8) Now, shut down the Windows.
9) Connect eGPU to the Mac via the Thunderbolt 3 cable. If you have an external monitor connected to the Mac, you will need to disconnect the external monitor from your Mac. You may want to connect the external monitor to the eGPU enclosure instead.
10) After you have connected the external monitor to the graphics card in you eGPU enclosure, do not turn on the external monitor. Now, go ahead to press the power button your Mac to start the machine up. While its powering up, press and hold Option key on your Mac keyboard (not your external keyboard if you have any). You will be asked to choose the startup disk. Select the Boot Camp disk. You will soon enter into the Windows system.
In Device Manager, you will now notice that you have 2 Display adapters. Both are having generic graphics driver and one having a warning. With regards to the Unknown device detected (under Other devices), you can safely ignore it.
11) From your USB thumb drive, run the modified AMD Radeon driver executable that you have downloaded from BootCampDrivers.com (in Chapter 3).
12) Select Factory Reset checkbox. You may retain the default location. Press Install to start installaton. Take note that throughout the installation, the system will be setting up a number of drivers (such as the display and PCI bus driver).
13) After a while, you will be prompted to restart the system. Go ahead to restart.
14) After Windows has restarted, a Windows Security pop up will appear. Press Install to continue installation.
15) Once the installation is completed. Press Restart.
16) After you have restarted the system, turn on your external monitor (which you would have already connected to the EGPU).
Your external monitor should now display the mirror image of what is being displayed on your Mac internal screen.
The Device Manager will also show that you have 2 display adaptors - AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon Pro 560X
Windows 10 Insider Preview
In this chapter, you will be updating your OS to Windows 10 Insider Preview.
1) Before you start the Windows 10 Insider Preview update, let's get one thing off our plate. You will notice that Apple Software Update will pop up and prompt you to install the Boot Camp Update. DO NOT INSTALL! Instead, you will modify the schedule to check for update in Apple Software Update to Never.
2) Go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and press Check for updates. There will be 2 updates for you to install - Windows 10 Insider Preview (rs_prerelease) and AMD graphics device driver. After completing the installation, press Restart now to reboot your system.
3) After Windows has rebooted, you will notice on the bottom right corner of your screen that you have installed the Prerelease version of Windows 10.
4) Go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. It will show that you have successfully installed the newest feature update for the Windows 10 Insider Program
In the System Information, you will find that you now have Windows 10 Insider Preview Version 2004 OS build 20152.1000. You will also have the Windows Feature Experience Pack 120.13701.0.0. The version and os build is as of 28 Jun 2020. You may have a more updated version by now.
5) Go ahead to create another restore point. This is essential as I want to continue receiving the latest update from Windows. For every successful update, I will create a restore point. If a Windows Update breaks anything, I will restore to last good restore point.
Personalisation & Maintenance
1) You can now personalize your Windows (Display and Power). If you are going to use the External monitor with your Macbook lid closed, you can change "When I close the lid" to Do Nothing for both on Battery and Plugged In.
2) Reboot the system one more time. The reboot will take a while. You will not see the Windows start up logo on your external display which makes you feel that nothing is happening. Don't panic. If you want to be reassured, you can always flip up the Mac lid to see what's going on.
3) Windows Insider Program updates your Windows regularly with new releases that sometimes may have bugs. For peace of mind, I recommend that you select either the Beta Channel or Release Preview Channel. For me, I have selected Release Preview Channel as my build is very stable now and I don't want to spend time tearing my hair over issues that I have no competency is resolving.
4) I highly recommend you to setup a backup plan on Windows. If your system crashed for whatever reason, you can recover it back to the last known good state. Best to attach a separate HDD for store backups and also programs that you are installing on Windows (since the partition that we setup is relatively small).
Appendix A: Common Problem Faced
Intermittent issue at MacOS login screen
When you boot up your Mac, after you enter your password at the login screen, it may hang. Hard press the power button to restart the Mac will resolve it.
Problem starting up to MacOS
When you boot your Mac without opening up the lid, the external monitor will not show the bright white Apple logo and the Mac login screen. You will be required to open up the Mac lid to see the login screen. After you have logged in, you can close the lid again.
Problem starting up to Windows
When you boot your Mac without opening up the lid, the external monitor will not show any boot up activities. You will need to wait until the Windows Login Screen shows up.
Do take note that when the Windows restarted after/during the Windows Update, it may restart to MacOS. So, I would recommend have your Macbook lid opened. If it is showing the Mac login on your Macbook, simply shutdown and restart. While system is restarting, press and hold Option key on your Mac keyboard (not your external keyboard if you have any). You will be asked to choose the startup disk. Select the Boot Camp disk. You will soon enter into the Windows system.
Problem after Windows Update - Error Code 12 / Error Code 31
Don't we all love the latest and greatest when it comes to technology? So, don't short change yourself by limiting your Windows version/build. The only break I can anticipate is either the Error Code 12 or Error Code 31 on the dGPU (Radeon Pro 560X). Thus far, I encounter only Error Code 31 which I am choosing to ignore since I am driving the external monitor with the eGPU only. Refer to a few recovery options that you can take below
There are 3 options on how we can resolve the issue:
- Recover from previous restore point. Every time before the Windows Update install new update, it will create a restore point for you. Problem with this option is that you will also rollback updates that are useful and not related to the problem.
- Use DDU to uninstall the drivers then run the Radeon installation software again. This is preferred if are also connecting a separate monitor to the Mac directly. (ie. an external monitor connecting to eGPU and another monitor connecting to the Mac)
- Ignore the error (if the external monitor connecting to the eGPU is your only display)
Appendix B: The Latest Version
This chapter will be updated whenever new Windows and graphics drivers are successfully installed.
As of 16 July 2020, this is my Windows Version and OS Build (You can find this information in Setting > System > About)
As of 16 July 2020, the following have been successfully installed via Windows Update.
As of 19 July 2020, KB4565626 is installed.
As of 16 July 2020, this is my graphics driver information (You can find this information by first launching AMD Radeon Software, then go to Settings > System in the software)
The device properties can be found in Device Manager:
As of 4 Oct 2020, I installed all these updates presented to me.
- Apple Inc - Media - 6.1.8000.4
- Intel - System -2035.15.0.1807
- Windows Malicious Sofrware Removal tool X64 - v.5.83 (KB890830)
- 2020-09 Cumulative Update for .NET Framework 3.5 and 4.8 for Windows 10 Version Next for x64 (KB4576477)
- Logitech - USB - 188.8.131.52
- Logitech - Image - 8/28/2017 12:00:00 AM - 184.108.40.206
After installation of latest Windows Update, all looks good on the Device Driver
AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT driver looks good: 26.20.15027.20013 (DDtd 1/4/2020)
Radeon Software Version: 2020.0401.1512.27368
iGPU: Integrated gpu that is built into your CPU. It is less powerful than the dGPU.
dGPU: Discrete GPU. In 2018 15" Macbook Pro, the dGPU is an AMD Raderon Pro 560X (4GB GDDR5 1470Mhz VRAM.
eGPU: External GPU. In this guide, the eGPU that we are using is the Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Nitro+ Special Edition.
eGPU Enclosure: A Thunderbolt 3 enclosure that connects eGPU to the Mac. In this guide, we are using the Razer Core X.
Thunderbolt 3: Thunderbolt 3 has a theoretical bidirectional bandwidth specification of 40 Gbps. 8 Gbps can be only be used exclusively for video data. The remaining 32Gbps is usable by non-video data.
1080p: 1,920 by 1,080 pixels
1440p: 2,560 by 1,440 pixels
2160p or 4K: 3,840 by 2,160 pixels