Thunderbolt 3 docks backwards compatibility?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by gim, Jan 12, 2017.

  1. gim macrumors 6502


    Jul 27, 2014
    I'm planning on buying a docking station for my MBP mid 2014.

    Question: Are the new Thunderbolt 3 Docks backwards compatible and can they work with TB2 devices?

    Reason: I'll probably upgrade my MBP within the next 2 years, so I'd like to avoid buying an outdated TB2 dock now, just to buy a TB3 dock after I upgraded.

    What I know so far: There is an Apple adapter, which connects TB3 devices to old TB2 accessories. It doesn't work the other way around, so it doesn't help me in this case. Also, I wouldn't like to use my next MBP with an old TB2 dock.

    TB2 was backwards compatible to TB1.
  2. Cougarcat macrumors 604

    Sep 19, 2003
    It's technically backwards compatible with the proper adapter, but I'd ask the dock vendor. I think the adapter will also only work with other TB peripherals. You aren't going to be able to use a TB3 dock to connect monitors to an older MBP.

    Why won't the Apple adapter work? it states: "As a bidirectional adapter, it can also connect new Thunderbolt 3 devices to a Mac with a Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port and macOS Sierra."
  3. gim, Jan 12, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017

    gim thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jul 27, 2014
    Thanks for your response.

    I assumed I could use the TB3 dock as usual, only with the restrictions of TB2. For example no dual 5k monitors and all that stuff that just TB3 makes possible. But it doesn't make sense to buy a TB3 dock if my monitors wouldn't work with it at all.

    Oh, I definitely missed that the adapter is supposed to be bidirectional.

    Edit: I read that displayport monitors won't work with the Apple adapter. It's only for thunderbolt devices, like you said. A TB3 dock itself is obviously a TB device, question is whether the monitors, that are connected to the dock, work.
  4. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    I can confirm that those work absolutely fine. The protocol used between the dock and computer is, has been and most likely always will be Thunderbolt. There is no DisplayPort, USB, Ethernet, etc. These protocols are encapsulated into Thunderbolt by the TB device and the computer will undo that. The same applies for the other direction.

    You may want to read some of the info posted on the official Thunderbolt website. They have some videos, infographic, etc. The best image that shows the encapsulation is the one Intel showed when they introduced Thunderbolt:
  5. M1ndFu7 macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2018
    Hi Gim,

    It has been awhile since the last post. I am on the same boat as you were and i am wondering if you had any luck getting a TB3 Dock to work with an older macbook? If so could you recommend the brand of the dock?

    I have an older MBP 2014 with TB2 while the wife has the MBP 2017 with TB3. I am hoping the OWC TB3 dock will work for both laptop provided i get the TB2 to TB3 (Usb C) adapter.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

  6. gim thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jul 27, 2014
    Unfortunately I can't help you ;(
    I decided to take a completely different approach to my desktop setup. The uncertainty about the TB2 Mac with TB3 dock compatibility, and especially the high prices of TB docks, contributed to that decision.

    This probably won't help you, but I built a pretty decent windows desktop PC with the money I intended to spend for the dock. In hindsight, I couldn't be any happier, as I started to slowly move away from Apple products.

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5 January 12, 2017