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Thunderbolt adapter guide: How to connect anything to a USB-C Mac


The new MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports. Here’s what you need to be able to use the gear you already have.
Apple equips its Macs with Thunderbolt ports that are compatible with USB-C. A new MacBook Pro comes with either two or three of these ports, depending on the model you pick. A new MacBook Air has a pair. A 24-inch iMac comes with two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports; some models also include two USB-C ports. You probably have devices that use USB-A, Thunderbolt 1, Thunderbolt 2, DisplayPort, HDMI, or something else. How do you connect these devices? With an adapter. If you’re planning to buy a new 24-inch iMac, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air, make sure you set aside a considerable amount of cash for the adapters you need. Apple doesn’t include any in the box, except for a power adapter. Your best bet is to get a combination dock, like the Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Adapter ($60 on Amazon Edit non-product link Remove non-product link). It connects via USB-C, and includes a USB-C pass-through port, two USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI port with 4K (30Hz) support. With this, you don’t have to carry around multiple adapters. If you don’t want a dock, or you can’t find a dock with the mix of connections you need, Apple or another company probably has an adapter for you. We’ve come up with this guide to help you sort out what you need, and we link to the appropriate adapter in the online Apple Store or on Amazon. Be sure to check the return policies; sometimes adapters from third parties don’t work. Read user reviews whenever possible, and read the specifications to make sure the adapter can do what you need it to do. If there’s a connection we missed, or you have advice on what adapters to buy, let us know on Twitter or Facebook. The Thunderbolt ports in the current 24-inch iMac, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air work with USB-C devices, which have the same connector shape. If you want to use a USB-C device, you can just plug it into one of the Thunderbolt ports. No adapter necessary. Whew. USB-A is the USB connector with which you’re probably most familiar. It’s the USB connector that was on the previous MacBooks. (Terms like USB 4, USB 3 and USB 2 refer to the speed at which data travels through the connector.) You can get a dock, like the before-mentioned Satechi. Or you can get Apple’s $19 USB-C to USB Adapter Edit non-product link Remove non-product link. Apple USB-C to USB Adapter Apple If you need to connect multiple USB-A devices, get a USB-C to USB-A hub. Anker sells a USB-C to 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub Edit non-product link Remove non-product link ($26 on Amazon) that provides four USB-A ports. This connector is often used with external storage devices. You’ll need a new cable, like the $15 StarTech USB C to Micro USB Cable Edit non-product link Remove non-product link. The name of the cable is confusing, because it could be mistaken for micro USB. But if you check the product page on StarTech’s website, you can see a clear shot of the micro B SuperSpeed connector on the cable, which is quite different from micro USB. For the iPhone and iPad, if you are still using the USB-A to Lightning (or 30-pin if you’re using an older device) cable that came with your device, you can get the USB-C to USB Adapter Edit non-product link Remove non-product link mentioned above in the USB-A section. Don’t want an adapter? Buy a $19 Lightning to USB-C Cable Edit non-product link Remove non-product link (1m). You can also get a 2-meter version for $29. More recent iPhones and iPads include a USB-C to Lightning cable, and the iPad Pro includes a USB-C charging cable, so you don’t need the adapter for those devices.

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