USB-C might be the king of connection standards in terms of popularity, but Thunderbolt is steadily making a name for itself.
If you’re looking to make sure your motherboard can support thunderbolt, the best place to check would be it’s manual. Still shopping around? Then head to the motherboard’s product page on the manufacturer’s website to check if they list Thunderbolt support.
Do All Motherboards Support Thunderbolt?
Only motherboards with a chipset that supports Thunderbolt can actually incorporate a Thunderbolt card. If your motherboard is older or doesn’t indicate support for Thunderbolt, then you won’t be able to install an expansion/add-in card to get a Thunderbolt connector on your computer.
If you’re looking to buy an expansion card, you should make sure it’s one that goes with your motherboard. These cards aren’t universal and typically need to be the same brand. That means, if you have an ASUS motherboard, for example, then you’ll have to find a matching ASUS Thunderbolt expansion card.
The main reason for this is the Thunderbolt card’s TB Header that has to be plugged into the corresponding spot on the motherboard. Motherboards that don’t support Thunderbolt don’t have a slot for this TB Header.
A Thunderbolt expansion card takes up a PCIe slot on your motherboard. So in addition to finding the right type of add-on card, you’ll also have to make sure you have a slot available. These slots can fill up pretty quickly since your graphics card, hard drives, and a few other components also use them.
Can You Use Thunderbolt on AMD Motherboards?
Thunderbolt used to be exclusive to Intel until very recently when they made the technology open-source. That means older AMD motherboards and CPUs can’t support Thunderbolt, but some new ones coming out now do.
For now, this is still a niche product, but it should pick up, especially as Thunderbolt becomes more widely used thanks to its expected expansion alongside USB 4.
Can You Use Thunderbolt on USB-C?
Thunderbolt 3 & 4 ports look and work exactly the same as USB-C ports, so you’ll be able to plug all of your regular drives, USBs, and chargers in there too. All of your USB-C devices should work just fine.
A UAD Thunderbolt device will only work with a Thunderbolt connector, though. USB-C connectors don’t currently support Thunderbolt.
There’s speculation that USB 4 connectors will work with Thunderbolt devices and cables because it’s based on the Thunderbolt 3 standard. But that hasn’t officially been confirmed yet at the time of writing.
How to Check Which Thunderbolt Version You Have on Mac?
The quickest way to identify which version of Thunderbolt is installed on your Mac is to check the speed of the ports.
- Open up the Apple Menu and select About This Mac.
- Head to System Report, then click on Thunderbolt and you should see a list of your different port speeds. Here’s the version equivalent of the port speeds:
- Thunderbolt 1 has a speed of up to 10 Gbps
- Thunderbolt 2 has a speed of up to 20 Gbps
- Thunderbolt 3 has a speed of up to 40 Gbps
You should also be able to tell based on the type of port you have. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use the Mini DisplayPort connector. Thunderbolt 3 uses USB-C.
If you have a Mini DisplayPort connector and your Mac was released before 2013 (which you can also see in About This Mac), then it’s a Thunderbolt 1 connector. Otherwise, it’s a Thunderbolt 2 connector.
How to Check Which Thunderbolt Version You Have on Windows 10?
On older Windows systems, you could easily identify which version of Thunderbolt you have via the system tray. Windows 10 doesn’t have that option, but it does have the Thunderbolt Control Center app from Intel.
- Just open the app, click on the menu.
- Then click on About.
- Look for Thunderbolt Generation and it should tell you which version of Thunderbolt your PC has.
Like with Mac, you could also simply look at your USB ports. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use the Mini DisplayPort connector while Thunderbolt 3 uses USB-C.
Just keep in mind that just because your PC has a USB-C port doesn’t automatically mean it supports Thunderbolt 3. USB-C ports that do support it typically have the Thunderbolt icon above them.
How to Use Thunderbolt on Your PC?
Thunderbolt devices work the same way as any other USB-connected device. When you connect a device to your PC via a Thunderbolt port for the first time, a prompt may pop up requesting authentication to continue before you can access the connected device. Simply click Ok/Yes as required to set up your new device.