New iMac, MacBook Pro Support Thunderbolt Booting

| Reports

Thunderbolt badgeWhen 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.

Thunderbolt portApple’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.

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“Right now booting from a Thunderbolt hard drive is limited only by the fact that manufacturers haven?t released their drives and cables yet…”

Although we do have to wait for the drives to ship, but won’t any mini DisplayPort cable work?


And the next question, following the booting from Thunderbolt feature is:

Will Thunderbolt enable target disk mode?

Seeing it as Thunderbolt is a peer-to-peer protocol (as opposed to the USB’s client-host, which prevents devising a target mode solution), this shouldn’t be too difficult to implement, perhaps somewhere in EFI, right?


I’m sure it’s just me, but whenever I hear or read the word ‘thunderbolt’, I involuntarily hear the theme from Thunderball, together with imagery of Sean Connery cutting a dashing image in his sea captains cap at the helm of the Thunderball escape speed boat.

I imagine that’s not what Cupertino intended, but perhaps Tom Jones’ hit single could be revised, something like:

‘His days of asking are all gone;
‘His fight goes on, and on, and on;
‘But he takes to the fight with a mighty jolt;
‘So he strikes like Thunder-bolt!’

Right, I’m going back to my day job.


I’m a bit skeptical of Thunderbolt. I used FireWire for years and liked it, but the market favored USB 2.0, and even Apple has slowly been moving away from FireWire over the years. Now USB 3.0 is out, but Apple is ignoring it for their own port again. I’d really rather see USB 3 in Macs.


I’d rather not, if there is a choice. USB conceptually isn’t as robust as protocols such as FW or TB. While it may support faster speeds, in normal use, oftentimes it can choke under sustained load, while FW always performed, and judging by the fundamental architecture of TB, it will likely, too.

Hopefully, TB will gain enough of a traction to attract hardware makers into early adoption.

Constable Odo

I?d really rather see USB 3 in Macs.

Thunderbolt seems more versatile than USB 3 due to the fact you can drive additional displays with it.  I’ll take that TB port any day of the week.  In theory TB is faster but most of the stuff I do doesn’t involve large file transfers and I don’t have any RAID devices.


Although we do have to wait for the drives to ship, but won?t any mini DisplayPort cable work?

I recall earlier reports confirming that since it’s the same (or at least a compatible) physical connector, sure, you can use it with known and trusted hardware. Good move.

(I welcome correction if needed.)

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