When Apple first introduced the FireWire port it included the ability to boot from external hard drives, and eventually support for booting from external drives was added to USB, as well. Owners of Apple’s recently updated MacBook Pro and iMac will be able to boot from external drives via Thunderbolt, too, once drives with the new interface hit store shelves.
Thunderbolt is a new peripheral connection first introduced on the MacBook Pro in February with the promise of data transfer speeds that dramatically outperform USB 2.0 and FireWire 800. The interface next showed up on the iMac refresh in early May.
Apple’s Thunderbolt port
Thunderbolt offers two bi-directional channels that support 10Gbps data transfer speeds, and can transfer video, audio and other data. The Thunderbolt connector uses the same Mini Display Port plug found on other Mac models, which means the video adapters users already own can still be used with the new laptops.
Right now booting from a Thunderbolt hard drive is limited only by the fact that manufacturers haven’t released their drives and cables yet, according to The Mac Observer’s anonymous source. That limitation, however, should go away as early as June when companies begin shipping their first Thunderbolt-based hard drives.