Thunderbolt 3 adapter guide: How to connect an iPhone, display, hard drive, and more to a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air
he new MacBook Pro comes with two or four external ports, depending on the model you pick. And the new MacBook Air has a pair of ports. But those ports are only of one type: Thunderbolt 3, which is compatible with USB-C.
But you probably have devices that use USB-A, Thunderbolt 1, Thunderbolt 2, DisplayPort, HDMI, or something else. How do you connect these devices? With an adapter.
If you’re planning to buy a new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, make sure you set aside a considerable amount of cash for the adapters you need. Apple doesn’t include any in the box, except for a power adapter.
Your best bet is to get a combination dock, like the Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Adapter ($60 on Amazon). It connects via USB-C, and includes a USB-C pass-through port, two USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI port with 4K (30Hz) support. With this, you don’t have to carry around multiple adapters.
If you don’t want a dock, or you can’t find a dock with the mix of connections you need, Apple or another company probably has an adapter for you. We’ve come up with this guide to help you sort out what you need, and we link to the appropriate adapter in the online Apple Store or on Amazon. You can also use the quick link list below to jump to the info you need.
How to connect:
- USB-C devices
- USB-A devices
- Micro B SuperSpeed USB
- iPhone or iPad
- Lightning Earpods
- Headphones with a 3.5mm headphone plug
- Thunderbolt 1 or Thunderbolt 2 devices
- DisplayPort and mini DisplayPort
- SD cards
- FireWire devices
- Printer with USB-B
Be sure to check the return policies; sometimes adapters from third-parties don’t work. Read user reviews whenever possible, and read the specifications to make sure the adapter can do what you need it to do.
If there’s a connection we missed, or you have advice on what adapters to buy, let us know on Twitter or Facebook.
How to connect USB-C devices
The Thunderbolt 3 ports in the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air work with USB-C devices, which have the same connector shape. If you want to use a USB-C device, you can just plug it into one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports. No adapter necessary. Whew.
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How to connect USB-A devices
USB-A is the USB connector with which you’re probably most familiar. It’s the USB connector that was on the previous MacBooks, and it’s the connector that comes on your iOS device’s sync cable in the box. (Terms like USB 3 and USB 2 refer to the speed at which data travels through the connector.)