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Thunderbolt 3  ·  Source: kanex.com

For Windows users Thunderbolt has been one of those annoying, fabulous-looking new technologies that promises wonderful things and yet only seems to appear on the Mac. When it has made its way to higher end PC motherboards and specialist laptops, it’s only been useful as a bridge to Firewire because the growing number of Thunderbolt devices out there don’t support Windows. *The problem has been largely one of availability and support. When something changes on an Apple product, like adding Thunderbolt, then every Mac has it – on the PC side it’s dependent on multiple manufacturers independently introducing and supporting a new technology and Thunderbolt has been scarce on desktops and almost completely absent from laptops – until very recently. This has not been helped by the lack of native Windows support which would enable hot-plugging and ease configuration. In the opportunities I’ve had to speak to Microsoft about this they’ve always remained resolutely silent – until now.

Pete Brown, Microsoft’s top Pro Audio evangelist, posted an article on the Gearslutz.com forum announcing that in the November 2015 Threshold 2 release of Windows 10 Microsoft had completed the work to enable reliable and secure operation of Thunderbolt 3 on Windows. This now opens up the support to device manufacturers, with the driver creation process being similar to that for OSX. This means that current and future Thunderbolt devices such as those by UAD, Focusrite and Apogee, could make it onto Windows.

I wasn’t sure that was ever going to happen although of course it’s still in the hands of the manufacturers to embrace this and give Windows a chance but it’s an awesome step forward for Windows connectivity.

For the complete picture you’ll find Pete’s post here:
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/1064429-thunderbolt-support-windows-10-a.html

*Amended in response to Pete’s comments below

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Pete Brown
Pete Brown
4 years ago

“The problem has been that without native support in the OS the manufacturers have to write entirely new and proprietary drivers for the Windows platform whereas that support is built into OSX.” Thanks for the article, but I need to correct the above statement. To support Thunderbolt, you have to do just as much work on the Mac as you do on the PC. In both cases, the peripheral company has to write a PCIe driver (most Thunderbolt devices are PCIe over the wire) plus a few extras. The difference has been in configuration and reliability, and lack of great… Read more »

a griefer
a griefer
4 years ago
Reply to  Pete Brown

MS never decided to implement TB because of security issues and the direct RAM access. Incompetence and lazyness – and no need for TB support yet.

gearnews.com
gearnews.com
4 years ago
Reply to  a griefer

Your Name nails it. Do you think MS is really this incompetent when they’re developing the leading Desktop-OS?

Pete Brown
Pete Brown
4 years ago
Reply to  a griefer

OSX had the same issues until Apple had it. Do a search for Apple Thunderbolt or Firewire exploits. There are two kinds: firmware and DMA. One of the hacker conventions showed how to do the DMA exploit over Firewire or TB. There are other stories about the firmware exploit. It’s not laziness or incompetence on Apple’s part or Microsoft’s. It’s the nature of having PCIe available over an externally accessible wire. It’s acting responsibly and taking into account all of the users and environments in which the devices may work. And I’m likely the source of the information about DMA.… Read more »

Robin Vincent
Robin Vincent
4 years ago
Reply to  Pete Brown

Hi Pete – thanks for the clarification. So why if the amount of work is the same between Mac and PC have manufacturers, in your view, largely stayed away from Thunderbolt on Windows? And how does native support in Windows make it easier?

Thanks

Pete Brown
Pete Brown
4 years ago
Reply to  Robin Vincent

Hi Robin So first of all, yes, it’s entirely possible to build a Thunderbolt 1 / 2 system today. It’s also possible to build a driver that works in Windows. And yes, the LOE is similar to that on OSX. Those drivers would not support hot plug/unplug and rebalancing, though, as those features were added to Windows 10 in support of TB3 audio. From past experience and from speaking to various companies, the two main reasons they have not built drivers are: 1. Very few Thunderbolt-enabled PCs in the wild. The add-on PCIe cards were difficult to find for a… Read more »

Robin Vincent
Robin Vincent
4 years ago
Reply to  Pete Brown

Thank you, that’s much clearer for me now – I’ve amended the text in the article 🙂

Pete Brown
Pete Brown
4 years ago
Reply to  Robin Vincent

Thanks Robin. I didn’t realize this was your article 🙂

One other bit of clarification: we’ve only announced support for Thunderbolt 3 audio devices, not Thunderbolt 3 all-up.

Robin Vincent
Robin Vincent
4 years ago
Reply to  Pete Brown

Doh! Just as i think i’ve got a handle on it it gets all complicated again. And yes i’m everywhere me.