Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Find answers to frequently asked questions about Thunderbolt™ technology below. Use links on the right for more detailed information and resources.

What is Thunderbolt™ technology?
Users have long wanted desktop-level performance from a mobile computer. Thunderbolt was developed to create new user experiences by simultaneously supporting the fastest data and most video bandwidth available on a single cable, while also supplying power.
What is Thunderbolt™ 4?
Thunderbolt 4 builds on the innovation of Thunderbolt 3 for a truly universal cable connectivity experience. Thunderbolt 4 always delivers 40 Gbps speeds and data, video and power over a single connection. It is the most comprehensive Thunderbolt specification yet with compliance across the broadest set of industry-standard specifications – including USB4, DisplayPort and PCI Express (PCIe) – and is fully compatible with prior generations of Thunderbolt and USB products. For full details please see the News Byte on the Intel Newsroom.
What is Thunderbolt™ 3?
Computer ports with Thunderbolt 3 provide 40Gbps Thunderbolt – double the speed of the previous generation, USB 3.1 10Gbps, and DisplayPort 1.2. For the first time, one computer port connects to Thunderbolt devices, every display, and billions of USB devices. A single cable now provides four times the data and twice the video bandwidth of any other cable, while also supplying up to 100W of power. It’s unrivaled for new uses, such as 4K video, single-cable docks with charging, external graphics, and built-in 10 GbE networking. Simply put, Thunderbolt 3 delivers the best USB-C. Thunderbolt technology is a transformational high-speed, dual protocol, PC I/O delivering performance, simplicity and flexibility. Thunderbolt I/O technology lets you move data between your devices and your computer with 2 channels of 10Gbps flowing both ways (upstream and downstream) at the same time. And it allows you to connect as many as 6 devices, daisy chained, through a single compact port. Watch our What is Thunderbolt 3 video on the Thunderbolt YouTube channel.
How Thunderbolt™ 4 is different than Thunderbolt™ 3 and other solutions?
Thunderbolt 4 Increases minimum performance requirements, expands end-to-end solution capabilities, and is USB4 specification compliant. For full details please see the Press Deck on the Intel Newsroom.
Why is Thunderbolt™ the best USB-C for docking?
Now, one compact port provides Thunderbolt 3 data transfer, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, and quick notebook charging up to 100W with a single cable. Also, any Thunderbolt or USB dock can connect to a Thunderbolt 3 computer making it the most advanced and versatile USB-C docking port available.
Can I connect USB devices to a Thunderbolt™ 3 port?
Yes, Thunderbolt 3 ports are fully compatible with USB devices and cables.
Can I connect a Thunderbolt™ device to a USB computer port?
For full compatibility a Thunderbolt™ device should be plugged into a Thunderbolt computer port. Some functionality may be available over a USB-C port depending on its implementation, but cannot be guaranteed.
Can I connect Display Port devices to a Thunderbolt™ 3 port?
Yes, Thunderbolt 3 ports are fully compatible with DisplayPort devices and cables.
Are Thunderbolt™ 4 PCs backwards compatible with Thunderbolt™, Thunderbolt™ 2, or Thunderbolt 3 based accessories?
Accessories built to Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 specifications are not supported by Thunderbolt 4 PCs.
Accessories built to the Thunderbolt 3 specification are fully supported by Thunderbolt 4 PCs.
Are Thunderbolt™ 3 PCs backwards compatible with Thunderbolt™ and Thunderbolt™ 2 accessories?
Yes, solutions and products built to Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 specifications will work with most Thunderbolt 3 PCs via an adapter, except Intel platforms launched in 2020 and later such as 10th gen Intel® Core™ vPro® platforms, 10th gen Intel® Core™ desktop and mobile processors. See the following link for information on specific launch dates for specific CPU skus.
The Apple Thunderbolt display was certified for Mac only and may not work properly when connected to Windows based PCs.
Why did Thunderbolt™ 3 move to the USB-C connector?
Thunderbolt 3 needed a new connector to achieve 40Gbps and fit into smaller form factor devices. With the USB-C connector allowing for alternate modes, it made sense to bring Thunderbolt to this connector and create a superset solution that supports both Thunderbolt and USB.
What is the difference between Thunderbolt™ 3 and USB-C?
Thunderbolt 3 is a superset solution which includes USB 3.1 (10Gbps), and adds 40Gbps Thunderbolt and DisplayPort 1.2 from a single USB-C port. This enables any dock, display, or data device to connect to a Thunderbolt 3 port, fulfilling the promise of the USB-C connector. See more information on the Thunderbolt Blog
How is Thunderbolt™ 3 able to connect to every display?
Thunderbolt 3 provides DisplayPort, which can natively connect to all displays with DisplayPort and Mini DisplayPort, and via adapters can connect to all other modern display interfaces, including HDMI, DVI, and VGA.
What are the video formats supported by Thunderbolt™ 3?
Thunderbolt 3 is based on the DisplayPort 1.2 specification and can support up to 2 streams (eight lanes) of DisplayPort 1.2 video bandwidth. A single cable now provides four times the data and twice the video bandwidth of any other cable, while also supplying up to 100W of power. One 4K display (4096 x 2160) 30-bit @ 120 Hz One 5K display (5120 x 2880) 30-bit @ 60 Hz Two 4K displays each (4096 x 2160) 30-bit @ 60 Hz
How can I become a Thunderbolt™ Developer?
Submit your interest in developing Thunderbolt technology products here.
Who do I contact for Press and Analyst Inquiries?
For Press and Analyst inquiries, please contact:

Thunderbolt Technology at a Glance

  • Simultaneous bi-directional, 10 Gbps transfers over a single cable
  • Dual-protocol support (PCI Express* and DisplayPort*)
  • Compatible with existing DisplayPort* devices
  • Daisy-chaining devices
  • Choice of electrical or optical cables
  • Low latency with highly accurate time synchronization for professional audio and video applications
  • Uses native protocol software drivers
  • Power-over-cable for bus-powered devices