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How do I share a Thunderbolt display between a 2011 MacBook Pro and 2011 MacMini?

12548 Views 18 Replies Latest reply: Sep 20, 2013 2:35 PM by szenttehen RSS
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ericfromoak ridge Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Aug 10, 2011 7:24 PM

I'd like to share a Thunderbolt display with my MacMini and MacBook Pro.  The MacBook would presumably be connected periodically via the Thunderbolt / power cable from the display.  Can I connect the MacMini via the Thunderbolt port on the back of the display?

MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.7)
  • JFK in Colo Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I'd like to do the same.

  • Smudge Level 1 Level 1 (115 points)

    Sorry but it doesn't work that way.  The Thunderbolt port on the back of the display is for data communications, not video, so it is for connecting other Thunderbolt devices like a hard drive.  The attached cable is for the video connection.  To use the same display with multiple computers, you would need to manually disconnect/reconnect the cable to the computer you want to use or wait until someone makes a Thunderbolt video A/B switch box.

  • Smudge Level 1 Level 1 (115 points)

    You could get a mini display extension cable to run from the mini to the top of your desk next to where the MacBook would be.  Then you run the display cable to the same location.  When you want to connect either system, both ports are right there.

     

    Be aware of an unknown problem that has been brought up in a few posts here, including this thread.  The issue is how to control/access the various features of the display like brightness control, audio, camera, etc.  Those are normally controlled over the Thunderbolt's data connection similar to via USB with the Cinema Display model.  When you connect a Thunderbolt display via mini display port, it will only be able to send the video to the display since mini display port doesn't have a data connection.

     

    With your setup, you might want to think about getting the Cinema Display instead of the Thunderbolt Display since you might not be able to use the full potential of the Thunderbolt Display.

  • ToothpickProductions Level 1 Level 1 (125 points)

    Noooooo... The statement you have as a correct answer is INCORRECT!!!  I'm not sure where Smudge got that idea originally from, but it is NOT the case.

     

    @ericfromoak ridge:   PLEASE Remove that as correct so that other users don't read and believe that!!!

     

     

     

    Basically, if it's a Thunderbolt port... it contains both the PCIe (data) and DisplayPort (video) information.

    Thunderbolt_processDiag.png

     

     

     

    Just from the Apple website alone it shows otherwise...

    http://www.apple.com/displays/

     

     

    In their example (from apple page), it shows (1) MBPro connected to the first TB display (via built-in cable... you can see this because it is the combo-cable with both the TB plug and power cable).  Then the 2nd TB display is connected into the back of the 1st display.  There-by "Daisy Chaining" and also showing that TB devices can plug in and work in any order... and that VIDEO (along with data) is still passing thru (bi-directionally) via the backport.  No Difference.

     

    Screen shot 2011-09-12 at 4.04.02 PM.png

    Screen shot 2011-09-12 at 3.46.10 PM.png

     

     

     

    ericfromoak ridge wrote:

     

    I'd like to share a Thunderbolt display with my MacMini and MacBook Pro.  The MacBook would presumably be connected periodically via the Thunderbolt / power cable from the display.  Can I connect the MacMini via the Thunderbolt port on the back of the display?

     

    In regards to your original question...

     

    - Do BOTH of your machines (your MacMini & MBPro) have Thunderbolt capabilities?  If either one or both don't have TB on the computer, you will Not be to run the scenario you are trying. 

  • Smudge Level 1 Level 1 (115 points)

    My answer is correct but not stated very well. 

     

    I meant that the TB port on the back of the display for incoming connections is data only (actually bi-directional of course but for this discussion he is asking about an incoming connection). 

     

    It is not possible to connect a single TB display using both TB connections to 2 different computers.

  • ToothpickProductions Level 1 Level 1 (125 points)

    Thanks for the clarification on restating.  Still though... that's only somewhat true.

     

    The TB port on the back and the built-in TB cable are both identical Thunderbolt ports.  This would mean that a user can connect the computer directly to either port for full TB functionality.  Yes, that would obviously mean an additional TB cable would be needed to connect into the back port.  So just be aware that both DisplayPort AND PCIe is bi-directional into either port of the TB display.  The user would Not be forced into using just the built-in cable.

  • Smudge Level 1 Level 1 (115 points)

    Thanks for the followup.  I got this info from calling Apple support a few weeks ago but it is very possible they just didn't know since the displays were so new and not even shipping yet.  The support rep (after "going to ask someone") said that only the attached cable will work for incoming video and the port on the back is only for outgoing video to a 2nd TB display.  If the back port works for incoming video instead of using the attached cable, that will be very good news for those that have complained about the attached cable being too short to run down to their MacPro.  I guess we just won't know for sure until someone tries it.

     

    However, going back to the original question, and assuming it will accept video-in on the back port; what will happen when connecting 2 computers at the same time?  Would one connection always take priority or just perhaps which ever is connected first?

     

    Today or tomorrow I need to stop by the Apple Store and if they have TB displays in stock, I'll try my best to test this out and report back.

  • ToothpickProductions Level 1 Level 1 (125 points)

    I contacted one of my associates and they still don't have them shipping to their stores yet.  So unless you are going into the store for other things, I wouldn't make the trip 'just for that' (at least today).

     

     

    Smudge wrote:

     

    However, going back to the original question, and assuming it will accept video-in on the back port; what will happen when connecting 2 computers at the same time?  Would one connection always take priority or just perhaps which ever is connected first?

     

    Well... i've heard some rumors, but I don't want to spread speculation.  So we'll just have to wait and see how this one pans out, once they are available. 

  • ToothpickProductions Level 1 Level 1 (125 points)

    Here's a new article that basically covers and clears up a lot of the new Thunderbolt display questions.

     

    Although it doesn't address the scenario of (2) different TB computers plugged into the same TB display.

     

    Happy Reading...

     

    http://www.tuaw.com/2011/09/18/thunderbolt-display-daisy-chaining-spec-cleared-u p/

  • thefirstsebastian Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    Smudge wrote:

     

    Thanks for the followup.  I got this info from calling Apple support a few weeks ago but it is very possible they just didn't know since the displays were so new and not even shipping yet.  The support rep (after "going to ask someone") said that only the attached cable will work for incoming video and the port on the back is only for outgoing video to a 2nd TB display.  If the back port works for incoming video instead of using the attached cable, that will be very good news for those that have complained about the attached cable being too short to run down to their MacPro.  I guess we just won't know for sure until someone tries it.

     

    I tried it and it works just fine. I just bought a MacBook Air and a Thunderbold Cinema Display and it doesn't matter wether the display is connected to the Air via the attached cable or via the port on the back. Video, USB and Firewire work in both cases (haven't checked Ethernet but I'm sure it'll work too).

     

    Of course, this doesn't answer the question of the OP, but hopefully helps others that (like me) feel that the attached Thunderbolt cable is too short.

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