Thunderbolt to finally be on Windows PCs in April 2012?

If you are a PC user and have been waiting patiently for the super-fast Thunderbolt port to be installed on new PC systems, your wait may be over soon. Digitimes reports via unnamed sources that Thunderbolt's owner and developer Intel will finally have the port ready to be placed on PC desktops and notebooks starting in April 2012.

The story claims that Sony will have Thunderbolt ports in its PC products along with Asus. In addition, the motherboard maker Gigabyte is expected to release motherboards with Thunderbolt support as well.

Thunderbolt was first announced back in February and allows for data transfers at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. The port was first made available on Apple's MacBook Pro notebooks and has since been used on other Apple PCs. Intel has said that the Thunderbolt technology would appear on Windows-based PCs at some point but has never said specifically when that day would come.

The Thunderbolt port will likely compete for PC space with USB 3.0, the latest version of the Universal Serial Bus port technology that is just beginning to find a way into new PCs. While USB 3.0 has data transfer speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second it is also backwards compatible with all of the older USB 2.0 devices that have been released. Microsoft also announced that its upcoming Windows 8 operating system will natively support USB 3.0.

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"Since Thunderbolt extends the PCI Express bus, which is the main expansion bus in current systems, it allows very low-level access to the system. PCI devices need to have unlimited access to memory, and may thus compromise security.[39] This issue exists with many high-speed expansion buses, including PC Card, ExpressCard and the IEEE 1394 interface, commonly known as FireWire."

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface)

It was always fun being able to plug in a linux machine direct firewire to another machine (Windows, Mac, or linux) and blow through ANY security they had with a simple DMA attack. Its awesome that they're implementing another port that will be such as huge security risk for every system its on once again. Thanks Apple for helping Intel finally spread that world wide, and hopefully that gets implemented on a ton of servers too.

Kelxin said,
"Since Thunderbolt extends the PCI Express bus, which is the main expansion bus in current systems, it allows very low-level access to the system. PCI devices need to have unlimited access to memory, and may thus compromise security.[39] This issue exists with many high-speed expansion buses, including PC Card, ExpressCard and the IEEE 1394 interface, commonly known as FireWire."

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface)

It was always fun being able to plug in a linux machine direct firewire to another machine (Windows, Mac, or linux) and blow through ANY security they had with a simple DMA attack. Its awesome that they're implementing another port that will be such as huge security risk for every system its on once again. Thanks Apple for helping Intel finally spread that world wide, and hopefully that gets implemented on a ton of servers too.


so its main advantage is its achiles heal then? But I suppose if you have physical access then security is out the window anyway, companies will simply buy pcs without thunderbolt (I mean mainstream companies that need pcs for office use and want to prevent the 'geeky' member of staff from bypassing the security model by bringing in his Linux laptop and haxoring away).

djdanster said,

Other way round. Intel Developed Thunderbolt and licensed it to Apple to use in their products.

You are wrong.

Anyone else worried that some consumers might be confused by the icon? The little lightning bolt can mean power. I just imagine people wondering why they can't plug their computer's plug into the Thunderbolt port.

More competition is on its way, the PCI-SIG is also working on a external, cabled version of PCI Express that is even faster than Thunderbolt. I like that better since it will not be controlled by Intel and we can expect products from AMD, ARM and others supporting it.

In a little comment on the USB 3.0 support post for Windows 8, Microsoft clarified: "Thunderbolt offers some attractive advantages such as speeds twice the theoretical max of USB3 and the ability to multiplex PCI-e with DisplayPort on a single connector. However, these advantages require more complex and costly controller chips in the PC and and in the device, so most consumer devices will use USB3 instead. Thunderbolt also consumes more steady-state power than USB3 ports when nothing is plugged in, so it's not the best choice for mobile devices/laptops. Finally, Thunderbolt devices can directly access system memory through DMA without the knowledge of the operating system. If every Windows machine automatically connects to any Thunderbolt device this constitutes a security exploit surface. For these reasons we think Thunderbolt is likely to be confined to higher-end peripherals and it's better for people who know what they're doing to install custom software to enable their Thunderbolt devices."

I can see this as a good thing so long as PC manufacturers and hardware companies don't turn this into a fragmented thing like mini usb. Firewire was great, but what always annoyed me is that PC desktops would have the 6 pin firewire and then laptops would get the 4 pin "Ilink" option. I can see USB3, Thunderbolt, and HDMI being the way now. If they could just even stick to 1 or 2 of those than even better

Zeet said,
I hope adapters for connecting older devices to thunderbolt won't cost a fortune.

adapters will have to be active, so…

I have Thunderbolt on a Macbook Pro and an iMac and haven't really found any appealing products that use it yet.

Way to editorialize the article John. To make it appear that Windows/Linux PCs are always catching up with Mac PCs. There is still no USB3 support in Macs despite Windows/Linux PCs having them for a couple of years now. Maybe you should write an article on that? But OH its Neowin so we don't want to make Apple look bad.

sam232 said,
Way to editorialize the article John. To make it appear that Windows/Linux PCs are always catching up with Mac PCs. There is still no USB3 support in Macs despite Windows/Linux PCs having them for a couple of years now. Maybe you should write an article on that? But OH its Neowin so we don't want to make Apple look bad.

Actually it's only him.

sam232 said,
Way to editorialize the article John. To make it appear that Windows/Linux PCs are always catching up with Mac PCs. There is still no USB3 support in Macs despite Windows/Linux PCs having them for a couple of years now. Maybe you should write an article on that? But OH its Neowin so we don't want to make Apple look bad.

USB 3 isn't exactly setting the mainstream world on fire though, so who cares? USB 2 is enough as most devices on shelves are USB 2 devices. So I don't see how not having it makes Apple look bad. Apple tried to push Thunderbolt, as it's better. They took a chance. And maybe it'll work out. Who knows. This article does nothing but state that Windows machines will have Thunderbolt ... nothing to do with who is good and who is bad.

Spirit Dave said,

USB 3 isn't exactly setting the mainstream world on fire though, so who cares? USB 2 is enough as most devices on shelves are USB 2 devices. So I don't see how not having it makes Apple look bad. Apple tried to push Thunderbolt, as it's better. They took a chance. And maybe it'll work out. Who knows. This article does nothing but state that Windows machines will have Thunderbolt ... nothing to do with who is good and who is bad.

USB 2.0 hasn't been enough for hard drives for a long time. Good thing the new external drives are USB 3.0 and most new computers come with USB 3.0.

sam232 said,
Way to editorialize the article John. To make it appear that Windows/Linux PCs are always catching up with Mac PCs. There is still no USB3 support in Macs despite Windows/Linux PCs having them for a couple of years now. Maybe you should write an article on that? But OH its Neowin so we don't want to make Apple look bad.

Apple computers also lack any form of BluRay support

shinji257 said,

Apple computers also lack any form of BluRay support

They prefer selling their TV series at twice the price on Itunes.. so...

shinji257 said,

Apple computers also lack any form of BluRay support

And the three Power Mac Pros (or whatever they're called) our company just bought at 5 grand a pop? No SD slot? -_-

I still dont understand why USB 3.0 and thunderbolt seem to be viewed as mutually exclusive, they both have their benefits. Thunderbolt cant be touched by USB 3.0 on pure speed and the fact that it's basically carrying PCIe plus displayport protocol data and can be daisychained has enormous benefits - but then USB 3.0 has the backward compatibility and is perfect for peripherals (mice, keyboards, printers etc but is also perfectly acceptable for external disks. if you wanted to build an external 'dock' for a laptop, or a high bandwidth RAID disk enclosure, or external GPU - OR all three then a thunderbolt connection is perfect and USB simply cant do it.

duddit2 said,
I still dont understand why USB 3.0 and thunderbolt seem to be viewed as mutually exclusive, they both have their benefits. Thunderbolt cant be touched by USB 3.0 on pure speed and the fact that it's basically carrying PCIe plus displayport protocol data and can be daisychained has enormous benefits - but then USB 3.0 has the backward compatibility and is perfect for peripherals (mice, keyboards, printers etc but is also perfectly acceptable for external disks. if you wanted to build an external 'dock' for a laptop, or a high bandwidth RAID disk enclosure, or external GPU - OR all three then a thunderbolt connection is perfect and USB simply cant do it.

I really doubt it can manage the bandwidth required for a GPU. If it does it's perhaps a really slow one.

Frazell Thomas said,
Where is native USB 3 support from Intel on the south bridge?

It's coming with Ivy Bridge. I know too late but better late than never.

why would it need to compete for space with usb3.0 if its backwards compat then all they need to do is knock off the usb2.0 ports

BBinder said,
why would it need to compete for space with usb3.0 if its backwards compat then all they need to do is knock off the usb2.0 ports

The problem is that most OS's don't have native built-in support for USB 3.0 yet. If the OS doesn't have a USB 3.0 driver installed then it can't access the ports. Once the driver is in though any USB 1.1 or 2.0 device will work on it though. A board will need to have a mix of USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports. At least one USB 2.0 port should be present if nothing more than for legacy reasons.

jakem1 said,
"Thunderbolt" has been in Windows PCs since Sony included it in the Vaio Z at the beginning of this year.

Hmm from what I can see the Sony VAIO VPC-Z2 was only announced in June 2011 and hasn't been released yet.

jakem1 said,
"Thunderbolt" has been in Windows PCs since Sony included it in the Vaio Z at the beginning of this year.
The technology has, but not in a state that's actually useful. Thunderbolt products don't run through a USB port, which is the only thing the Vaio offers - thunderbolt peripherals will use what was formerly only a mini display port (of course, a mini display port doesn't give you thunderbolt, but thunderbolt gives you a mini display port).

Gaffney said,
I don't see why we should use thunderbolt over USB 3.0, 5GBPS will do until USB 4.0

Why wait for something more when you can have it now?

Gaffney said,
I don't see why we should use thunderbolt over USB 3.0, 5GBPS will do until USB 4.0

It is unlikely there will ever be a USB 4

Wombatt said,

This uses copper, as opposed to fibre optic.

Fibre is still planned, bandwidth will go through the roof, but same spec

Hopefully this will actually get manufacturers making devices that can actually use the port. It will be interesting to see if Thunderbolt catches on, or if it falls into the same league as Firewire.

Simon said,
Hopefully this will actually get manufacturers making devices that can actually use the port. It will be interesting to see if Thunderbolt catches on, or if it falls into the same league as Firewire.

If Thunderbolt does as well as Firewire then it will be successful. I've had a Firewire port on just about every PC I've owned in the past 7 years.

Shadrack said,

If Thunderbolt does as well as Firewire then it will be successful. I've had a Firewire port on just about every PC I've owned in the past 7 years.


How often have you used it in the last 7 years?

MFH said,

How often have you used it in the last 7 years?

If you work in the professional audio or video world then quite often. I've never run into a playback deck or pro-sumer / pro grade camera that supports USB.

Simon said,
Hopefully this will actually get manufacturers making devices that can actually use the port. It will be interesting to see if Thunderbolt catches on, or if it falls into the same league as Firewire.

Epic fail is epic.

Edrick Smith said,

If you work in the professional audio or video world then quite often. I've never run into a playback deck or pro-sumer / pro grade camera that supports USB.


Exactly. I also have gotten FireWire external hdds because I like them more. Everyone had FireWire, it's just not as used as USB. But it didn't fail like say Betamax or hddvd failed.

GabotrilHD said,

Epic fail is epic.
In what way? Firewire was quite successful in the professional markets, but it wasn't meant for just that. Much like Thunderbolt is being marketed as a consumer- and pro-oriented port, rather than just for pros.

If you have something to say, say it - don't just trash my comment entirely without any backing up. It makes all of us look bad.

MFH said,

How often have you used it in the last 7 years?

You know to some degrees why this is the case. Normal firewire 1 is quicker that USB2 even though the transfer rate of USB2 is 480Mbps and firewire 1 is 400Mbps firewire is quicker due to the protocol it uses (This is data transport speed I'm talking about).

If you go into a store and ask about firewire 1 everyone (generally) will say why? It's slower?! Hence why there is basically no stock and so it faded out! Sad really!