What is the Thunderbolt on My Mac?

By Edward C. Baig

Apple has a way of changing the ports and connectors on its computers, the Mac included, along the way completely doing away with some. Apple sometimes does this to popularize a new standard, even before too many devices that can connect to this particular new port are available.

Such is the deal with Thunderbolt. This versatile port is Apple’s zippiest ever, letting you shovel data to and from peripherals up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0, up to 12 times faster than FireWire 800, and twice as fast as USB 3.0. If your Mac is so equipped, you can connect a Thunderbolt-capable high-resolution display or certain storage devices.

An even faster version of Thunderbolt, known as Thunderbolt 2, was built into the new Mac Pro and MacBook Pro with Retina display models at this writing. Lest you fret, Thunderbolt 2 is compatible with devices that can connect to the original Thunderbolt. Currently, Thunderbolt hadn’t yet taken the public by storm (sorry, couldn’t resist).

It ’s only a matter of time before more Thunderbolt options appear. Meanwhile, if you still need FireWire, Thunderbolt to FireWire converter cables are available as an accessory.