Admittedly, this Thunderbolt article has an odd title.
But it’s not random…
Keith Shively and I meet every-other Friday to discuss how the blog is doing. We go over more statistics than you can imagine – what the traffic patterns look like, what posts appear to be trending, what content people don’t seem to give a rip about, and most importantly, what information we believe Rocket Yard readers are really looking for. You see, Keith is OWC’s SEO/SEM guru and makes my job much more productive and enjoyable!
A few weeks ago, Thunderbolt came up as a topic that should probably get a little more attention from us on the blog. Why? Because a lot of people had a lot of related questions. But there was a problem. “Thunderbolt” is a fairly broad topic, so a little bit more focus as to what exactly people are interested in knowing was needed.
Is it Thunderbolt as a technology? Or Thunderbolt 3 vs. Thunderbolt 4 and how they differ? Maybe it’s about cables, computers, or connector ports? I was reasonably sure it had nothing to do with the logo of the legendary Australian rock band – but I could be wrong.
I asked Keith if he wouldn’t mind aggregating whatever information he could. So, he did his magic-internet-voodoo stuff and came up with a well-defined and organized grouped-list comprised of the top search queries involving the term “Thunderbolt.” Why did he give me 14? No idea, but I learned very early on never to question genus…
Most Frequently Searched Thunderbolt Questions
- First, all the questions seen below appear exactly as searched online, so please keep any “you’re a horrible grammarian” comments to yourself. 😊
- Second, they are taken in order from the 1st most queried to the 14th most queried.
- Third, because there are so many questions, we will keep our answers brief. If there is an outcry for more detailed information on specific subjects, we will expand in later articles.
- Fourth, as always, we value any input you may have – just use the comment section at the end!
Now, off we go!
#1 / what is thunderbolt?
No surprise that this ranks at the top of the list. Even seasoned veterans can have a difficult time explaining all the complexities of Thunderbolt. What is a Thunderbolt port? What is Thunderbolt 3? What is a Thunderbolt 3 port? What is Thunderbolt 2? What is the Thunderbolt port used for? What is a Thunderbolt cable? What is Thunderbolt connection?
These are all variants of the same basic question – What is Thunderbolt?
- Thunderbolt™ is Intel’s trademarked name given to a high-speed protocol that can deliver power, and adjust data and video bandwidth on-the-fly depending on its use.
#2 / is thunderbolt the same as usb c?
Nope. Well, yes – kind of. I mean, no it’s not…
The reason this is a bit difficult to answer is due to the nuances that might be behind the question being asked. As mentioned above, Thunderbolt is merely a protocol, a technology of sorts. But the confusion lies in the fact that Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 use a USB Type-C connection. (To muddy the water even more, Thunderbolt 2, and the first generation of Thunderbolt use the Mini DisplayPort connection – more on that later.)
- The simplest way to describe the difference is that USB-C refers to the connector (port) and cable specification, whereas Thunderbolt 3 refers to the capabilities that are available over USB-C.
#3 / is mini displayport the same as thunderbolt?
As mentioned above, there can also be a bit of confusion with Mini DisplayPort and Thunderbolt/Thunderbolt 2 as well. The capabilities of these past iterations of the protocol are made available through the Mini DisplayPort connection, not USB-A, USB-C, etc.
- Apple puts it best:
“Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 are not the same as Mini DisplayPort . They have the same shape, but use different symbols on the cable and port. However, this port does support Mini DisplayPort for video output, so you can use a Mini DisplayPort cable to connect a Mini DisplayPort display.”
#4 / what is thunderbolt software?
This one is easy.
- Thunderbolt isn’t software.
However, there must be a reason this query cracked the top 5. Were I to postulate (which I know can be dangerous), this could arise from PC users desiring to download/update Intel’s Thunderbolt Control Center.
#5 / what does a thunderbolt port look like?
With so many different ports throughout the years, it can be confusing to know what is what. USB, HDMI, Ethernet, DisplayPort, SD Card? When it comes to Thunderbolt ports, they can “look” like two variations: USB Type-C and Mini DisplayPort (MDP).
- Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 use the USB-C port on your computer or device. It looks like this:
- Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 use the Mini DisplayPort form factor, like this:
#6 / what thunderbolt do i have?
Is your laptop equipped with Thunderbolt 3? Possibly Thunderbolt 4? Or do you have an older Mac with Thunderbolt 2? You can search your Model Identifier online if you’d like, but it’s easiest to simply check your System Report.
- Go to Apple > About This Mac > Overview > System Report…
- Select Thunderbolt in the left sidebar under Hardware. Look under Port:
|Up to 10 Gb/s||Thunderbolt 1|
|Up to 20 Gb/s||Thunderbolt 2|
|Up to 40 Gb/s||Thunderbolt 3/4|
#7 / does my computer have thunderbolt?
If you have a Mac built after 2011, it is likely.
#8 / is thunderbolt 3 backwards compatible?
People do get a bit concerned with the compatibility of Thunderbolt. Can Thunderbolt 1, 2, 3 & 4 all play nice in the sandbox together?
- Thunderbolt is backward compatible. However, because the connectivity protocol changed between Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3, you will need to use Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter. This will allow you to connect your Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 devices—like external hard drives and Thunderbolt docks—to any of the USB-C ports on your Mac.
#9 / how fast is thunderbolt 3?
The answer to this applies not only to Thunderbolt 3, but to what Intel calls “Thunderbolt 4” and Apple calls “Thunderbolt / USB 4” as well.
- Thunderbolt 3 can attain speeds up to 40 Gb/s.
#10 / what does a thunderbolt cable look like?
Just like ports, what a Thunderbolt cable looks like varies in two different ways.
- Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 cables have a USB-C connector:
- Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 have Mini DisplayPort connector:
#11 / when did thunderbolt 3 come out?
We’ll take this answer one step further and give you all the Thunderbolt release dates.
#12 / can you get thunderbolt on pc?
Assuming the question is whether or not PCs are capabable of Thunderbolt 3…
- Yes. But unlike Apple’s implementation of Thunderbolt, PC manufacturers vary greatly in what capabilities they offer. Thankfully, Thunderbolt 4 solves this problem.
#13 / what is thunderbolt 3 dock?
There are docks and hubs made for all different versions of Thunderbolt, including 2, 3, and 4. however, since the question specifically mentions Thunderbolt 3, there shall our answer be…
- A Thunderbolt 3 Dock is a piece of gear that allows you to connect many different devices to a computer using one single port/cable. For example, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock has Analog Audio In/Out, Dual Thunderbolt 3 Ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a microSD Card Reader, Mini DisplayPort, Optical Audio Out, an SD Card Reader, and 4 USB 3 ports.
#14 / can I add thunderbolt to my computer?
Depending on how this question is interpreted, the answer could be super easy, or quite complex.
- If you are looking to add a Thunderbolt device to a Thunderbolt-equipped computer, then yes, it can be added. Plug it in and you’re good to go.
- If you are looking to add Thunderbolt capability to a non-Thunderbolt computer, that’s an entirely different story. For all practical purposes, you cannot add Thunderbolt to a computer that wasn’t born with it. However, statements like this are often gloriously trounced by the hard-core gear-heads who have a knack for being able to do anything with anything. Like this guy did: Mac Pro 5,1 Cheese-grater With Thunderbolt – The Impossible Is Now Possible
So, there you have it – the top 14 questions people have regarding Thunderbolt!
If there is something that you feel needs a more significant explanation or something we missed completely, let us know in the comment section below. Majority rules, so make yourself known and voice your opinions! We’ll keep on top of this topic and cover what we can, when we can, and in any way we can!