The release of a $49 cable from Apple on Tuesday may seem trivial at first, but when it’s the Thunderbolt cable, it’s actually an important moment for Thunderbolt technology. It’s so important that it warrants a Thunderbolt cable FAQ from Apple.
The FAQ covers ten questions that users may have regarding the use of the Thunderbolt cable. Some facts in the FAQ have been previously revealed, such as the obvious fact that a Thunderbolt cable is necessary to connect Thunderbolt-equipped devices; the 10Gbps maximum bandwidth per channel specification; and the ability to use Target Disk Mode with the Thunderbolt Macs. A few more mundane topics are covered, such as how to plug the cable into your Mac’s Thunderbolt port, and that Apple’s cable can be used with third-party devices.
But there are a few Thunderbolt tidbits that might be news to users. For example, according to the FAQ, Thunderbolt has “two separate 10Gbps links—one for displays and one for PCI-E device traffic.” Also, Apple says that to maintain maximum performance, a Thunderbolt cable should not be longer than two meters.
If you are using Boot Camp and Windows 7, you can still access your Thunderbolt devices, but with one limitation for MacBook Pro users: If you have a PCI Express Card in the MacBook Pro’s Express Card slot, it won’t work while a Thunderbolt device is in use. Apple recommends disconnecting the Thunderbolt device to use the Express Card slot.
The FAQ also states that when using Target Display Mode with a Thunderbolt iMac and a Late 2009 or Mid 2010 iMac, you should use a Mini DisplayPort cable, not a Thunderbolt cable. Pre-2011 iMacs don’t support Thunderbolt cables.
Macs with Thunderbolt need the Thunderbolt firmware update that Apple released this week. When installing this update, the Mac will restart and a gray screen with a status bar appears. Do not interrupt the installation or shut off the Mac while this screen is on your display.