Boot Camp Windows presents some limitations with Thunderbolt

Boot Camp Windows presents some limitations with Thunderbolt

Summary: Macs running Windows under Boot Camp may encounter some trouble when it comes to Thunderbolt niceties — in other words, the Mac experience.

TOPICS: Apple, Laptops, Windows

John Rizzo at MacWindows pointed me to several recent posts about Thunderbolt compatibility with Windows running under Boot Camp. For example, readers reported problems with sleeping (the lack of same) or when reconnecting devices. However, a look at Apple's Thunderbolt Support FAQ tells a different story: some of the issues are features.

At MacWindows, readers reported problems of Macs failing to sleep when running Windows 7 or 8 while a Thunderbolt device was connected. They also had recognition issues with Express Card interfaces on MacBook Pro laptops.

Rizzo said the sleep issue was a "feature (sort of):"

Apple disables sleep because of a limitation of Apple's Boot Camp Thunderbolt drivers for Windows. In order for Windows (booting a Mac) to recognize Thunderbolt, it has to boot up with Thunderbolt already plugged in. Windows will "forget" that the Thunderbolt device is there if it goes to sleep. So, preventing sleep is a feature (sort of) because if Apple allowed the Mac to sleep with a Thunderbolt drive plugged in, when Windows woke up, it would no longer see the device. This would be like disconnecting a hard drive without dismounting it, which can cause messy problems, including data loss.

Rizzo runs down the other issues with the Thunderbolt, Boot Camp and Windows mix from the Apple Thunderbolt FAQ. For example, Windows only recognizes these external devices during boot, so you can't plug it in and expect it to mount on the Windows desktop. If users want to access a Thunderbolt device in such a case, they must shut down and reboot Boot Camp again. The same applies to the Express Card situation.

This isn't the first issue with Thunderbolt and Windows boot sequences. For example, about a month ago, an Apple Support Note offered a fix when Thunderbolt devices weren't recognized after an upgrade to Windows 8. The problem is in the Windows 8 Fast Boot feature. It needs to be turned off in Window's Shutdown settings.

Currently, as far as I know (and I'm easily wrong when it comes to Windows driver details), there's no built-in Thunderbolt support in Windows supporting hot-plugging and daisy-chaining devices. This is due to limitations with the Windows PCIe drivers. Thunderbolt is a PCIe technology and hence, the source of the issue.

Topics: Apple, Laptops, Windows

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  • Or, to explain it more correctly, the problem is Windows!

    • If only Apple could get their hands in there...

      ... And fix all the inherent problems with Windows itself. But I guess some basic workarounds will have to do. :/
      • Apple has already "fixed' Windows . . .

        and it is called OS X :-)
    • How?

      "Apple disables sleep because of a limitation of Apple's Boot Camp Thunderbolt drivers for Windows. "

      Yeah right, Windows problem.
      Boot camp's hopeless with windows - had to use it for a short contract recently and win 7 blued three or four times a day. Never seen win 7 blue out prior to that.
      • Something wrong with your box maybe

        I use Windows 8 on a Mac everyday. No issues. Sleeps perfectly. Wakes up perfectly.

        And no, I don't have any Thunderbolt devices. I am fine with USB.
      • Re: Boot camp's hopeless with windows

        Does Windows work properly when booted natively on a Mac with Thunderbolt?
        Or on a "Windows PC" with Thunderbolt (nothing to do with Apple)?

        But it is Apple's problem, right?
        • Apple's problem

          Apple controls the Win experience on a mac, they write the bootcamp drivers; those are not 3rd party drivers, they are Apple drivers. TB works on Windows only through 3rd party drivers(MS staunchly refuses TB support citing security concerns) therefore any problem you might encounter with TB on a bootcamp Win partition is entirely due to Apple's driver.
          • Microsoft did not support

            Bluetooth initially either. My first Bluetooth interface was a USB dongle that had to use 3rd party drivers. The difference between 3rd party and MS drivers lies with the MS drivers being better integrated with the OS. Some OEMs get good driver support and most devices now have a native MS driver. I guess MS did not wish to work closely with their competition, huh?
          • Intel invented thunderbolt, not Apple.

            MS works very closely with Intel, who invented thunderbolt.
            Sean Buckman
          • Intel may have developed TB,

            but they worked far more closely with Apple than Microsoft on the tech. I don't think Microsoft really was in on that one until after the initial release, and only then because it's like with USB and the game of catch-up they had to play with that tech as well.

            TBolt is the future when it comes to expansion, and in another 2 years (which I bet is when the tech will be integrated into mainstream laptops), we'll start seeing high-performance TBolt video cards - which is where the real power of the interface will be.
          • Yeah but no

            Thunderbolt is dead tech. USB is the past, present, and future.
            x I'm tc
          • Re: MS works very closely with Intel, who invented thunderbolt.

            Yet, Microsoft does not support Thunderbolt and Apple does. Go figure.
        • They make the drivers

          Any problem with the drivers is their fault.
          Michael Alan Goff
        • It's not Windows!

          Works just fine on a PC with thunderbolt, I know because I have tested it multiple times. The problem is that you're running a non native OS and think it's going to work perfectly. If Windows was ever meant to be on a Mac, then there would be a Mac version. I guess you all shouldn't comment on something you have no idea about.
          Sean Buckman
          • Re: shouldn't comment on something you have no idea about.


            On what PC with Thunderbolt have you tested that Windows works? With whose drivers?
    • Wrong

      The problem is that your running a non native OS on your Mac. Windows has nothing to do with it.
      Sean Buckman
    • Boot camp is worse than iTunes.

      At least iTunes functions right (although, it is laggy).

      It's 2013, and there's still no GPU switching on Windows.

      Apple is just bad at writing drivers.
  • Why

    Why would anyone want to run Windows on overpriced apple hardware anyway? You could do better just buying a Windows Ultrabook for half the price. USB 3.0 has great data speed anyway.
    • Pay a rubbish price and rubbish is what you get

      Laraine Anne Barker
      • Or pay more, Get an Apple

        And still have rubbish. Apple computers are really crappy. Fragile, lousy chicklet keyboards, ugly, lacking touch, poor WiFi performance, and business unfriendly with the lack of VGA out (still used -- exclusively -- at 98% of the presentation podiums in the world).
        x I'm tc