Thunderbolt 3 Support and Troubleshooting on Windows PCs
Before purchasing a new Thunderbolt™ 3 dock or adapter for use on your PC, you’ll want to make sure that your computer can support it, and be aware of differences from basic USB devices:
Note: The following does not apply to Apple Thunderbolt 3 systems.
- Many Thunderbolt 3 PCs require firmware and software updates before all adapters and docks will work.
- Dual display support is optional for Thunderbolt 3 PCs. How many displays are supported over Thunderbolt 3 depends on how the USB-C port has been wired on the system motherboard (up to a max of two), and is not changeable in software or by the Thunderbolt 3 graphics device.
- Support for PC charging (USB Power Delivery) on Thunderbolt 3 systems is optional. Many Thunderbolt 3-enabled PCs do not accept a charge over USB-C, and some PCs only will charge with their own branded power adapters.
- Unlike USB devices, Thunderbolt 3 devices must be manually authenticated (approved) for use by the user before the system will recognize them.
Host computers equipped with Thunderbolt 3 have the ability to install various updates including NVM (Thunderbolt 3 related Non-volatile memory) and PD (Power Delivery) firmware, UEFI BIOS, supplemental Thunderbolt 3 software utilities (for authentication) and various drivers to resolve potential issues and increase compatibility with new Thunderbolt 3 products as they are released.
System manufacturers have substantial discretion in how they implement various technical elements and features. As a result, compatibility information is complex, and many currently available Thunderbolt 3 systems aren’t fully compatible with our dual graphics adapters. Some systems may only be equipped with a single DisplayPort (DP) Alternate Mode (Alt Mode) line to the Thunderbolt 3 port which limits the port to a single display output. Due to this limitation some systems won’t be able to take advantage of our dual port Thunderbolt 3 graphics adapters regardless of firmware/software updates. This is a physical hardware limitation.
Many system manufacturers are also shipping with devices with older firmware and may or may not have updated versions available for download at this time. The latest Thunderbolt 3 firmware cannot be downloaded from Intel directly, as it first it has to be customized by the system manufacturer. Intel has a Thunderbolt updates page with some update information but as of this writing the list if fairly small. Currently our TBT3-HDMI2X and TBT3-DP2X adapters require the host system to have a Thunderbolt 3 firmware update with NVM version 14 or higher in order to work properly. The latest UEFI BIOS update from your system manufacturer must be installed before updating the NVM firmware.
Operating System Compatibility
Supports any operating system which has driver support for Thunderbolt 3. Currently, this is limited to Windows 10, 8.1, and 7. Non-Windows Operating Systems may obtain Thunderbolt 3 support in the future.
General Thunderbolt 3 FAQ
Q: Can a Thunderbolt 3 dock or adapter work in any system with any USB-C (USB Type C) port?
A: No. Thunderbolt 3 docks and adapters will only work with Thunderbolt 3 USB-C computers and ports. Connecting to a USB-C port without Thunderbolt 3 capability will not work. Note that computers and docks may have a mix of Thunderbolt 3 and other USB-C ports that look very similar. Look for the Thunderbolt icon on both sides of the connection to ensure compatibility.
Q: How can I identify the NVM version on my system?
A: See “Identifying the NVM” section below.
Q: What if a newer compatible NVM is not available from my system manufacturer?
A: Unfortunately the only option is to contact your system manufacturer and ask when a newer version will be available, and to let them know that until it is, certain accessories you are looking to use will not work.
Q: How can I identify if my system has the necessary two DisplayPort lines to provide dual display output through the Thunderbolt 3 port?
A: Unfortunately in many cases this information is very hard to discern based on the manufacturers published specifications. If your system is not among those listed in our compatibility table above, please contact your system manufacturer for confirmation of how many DisplayPort lines are routed to your Thunderbolt 3 port.
Q: I connected my Thunderbolt 3 dual display adapter and my monitor configuration changed by itself.
A: This may occur and is considered normal. You can change the main display back to your desired screen through the “Display settings” control panel.
Q: I connected my Thunderbolt 3 dual display adapter and am only getting a single output.
A: Depending on what Thunderbolt 3 equipped system you have, it may only support a single output because of the DP Alt Mode line configuration. See above “Known Host NVM Versions & DP Lines” to find out if your system has one or two lines.
Q: I connected my Thunderbolt 3 dual display adapter for the first time and my system crashed (hard lock).
A: Check to see if your system is running the latest Thunderbolt 3 software, NVM, UEFI BIOS, and all other updates from your system manufacturer. If everything is updated, unplug the adapter, reboot the system, and then reconnect.
Q: I connected my Thunderbolt 3 dual display adapter and am not getting any output to either display.
A: If your system has hybrid graphics (combination of built-in Intel GPU and AMD or NVIDIA discreet graphics) make sure the Intel GPU is set to be the primary GPU in the UEFI BIOS.
Authenticating a Newly Attached Device
When first connecting a Thunderbolt 3 device, the device must first be authenticated through Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 software. To do so you can use the below instructions as a guide:
After connecting a Thunderbolt 3 device the first thing that you should see (assuming that the system NVM, BIOS, drivers, etc are up to date and compatible) is an automatic notification above the system tray notifying you that a new device has been attached. You will want to click OK:
After clicking OK, you may get a Windows User Account Control (UAC) popup asking if you “want to allow this app to make changes to your PC?”. Click Yes:
After clicking yes you should see a windows like this appear which is where you will approve the Thunderbolt 3 device that was just attached:
Click on the drop down menu where it says “Do Not Connect” and select “Always Connect”. Then click OK:
To view and manage the approved devices you can find the program sitting in the system tray. You may need to click the caret (up arrow icon) to show all of the running programs then right click on the Thunderbolt icon it and select Manage Approved Devices:
You may again get a Windows UAC prompt, click yes. After clicking yes the below window will open and you can see any approved devices and remove them if you choose.
How do I check which version of Thunderbolt 3 software and NVM firmware I am running in Windows?
To determine what version of NVM firmware your system has, the first step is to ensure you have the latest Thunderbolt software version which varies depending on the system manufacturer. You should be able to download it from your system manufacturer’s website.
Once installed you can open the software by searching the start menu for Thunderbolt:
Once open you can find the program sitting in the system tray. You may need to click the caret (up arrow icon) to show all of the running programs then right click on the Thunderbolt icon it and select Settings:
Now you should see the settings window. Click on Details to find out all of the Thunderbolt software and controller information:
If a Thunderbolt 3 device has been connected to the system the Thunderbolt software will show you information about the controller. Below you can see the details from our Dell XPS 13 9350 system:
Unfortunately if a Thunderbolt device has not yet been connected to the system, the information about the NVM firmware may not be available within the utility:
If we determine a means to obtain firmware information without needing to connect a Thunderbolt device, and we’ll update this information.
If you have any questions feel free to contact our support team or comment below, we’re more than happy to help!
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