I've been spinning around with this question but couldn't find the answer. Hope someone here could help.

I have been trying to connect my Windows 8 desktop to a Thunderbolt Display 27" without success. My desktop only has HDMI and VGA output. Hence, I naturally tried two options:

1, Desktop <==(VGA)=adapter=(Thunderbolt)==> Display

Result: Thunderbolt screen remains blank/black/not turned on when I plug it in. Also tried to restart the desktop while the two are connected, no luck!

2, Desktop <==(HDMI)=adapter=(Thunderbolt) ==> Display

Results: Exactly the same as above.

Any suggestion folks?

P/S:I've paid $2K for two of my Thunderbolt displays thus don't want to throw them away.

  • that is a bootcamp windows 8 on a Mac ?
    – Ruskes
    Apr 17, 2015 at 1:51
  • No, it is a PC desktop that runs Win 8.
    – Callitaday
    Apr 17, 2015 at 23:36

5 Answers 5


Thunderbolt is not backwardly-compatible with any other display technology. It is an active technology, all before it were passive. It is a combination of video & PCIe.

You can connect Thunderbolt to DisplayPort, but not the other way round.

From how do I connect an Apple Thunderbolt display to a PC?

If the Wikipedia article is to be believed (and I do believe it is correct based on what thunderbolt is), then your configuration will not work.


Apple Thunderbolt Displays, like the video input on Thunderbolt iMacs, drop compatibility with all previous standards, including VGA, DVI, and DisplayPort.[3] As such, they cannot be connected to computers lacking a Thunderbolt port, including pre-2011 Macs and the vast majority of PCs.

Thunderbolt is not the same as Display Port. Therefore you can only connect thunderbolt equipped Mac's (or some PC's with thunderbolt hardware and appropriate drivers) to the Thunderbolt display.

From the Apple Mini DisplayPort FAQ

  1. My computer has the same connector but the symbol is different, what does that mean?

Some Apple computer have a Thunderbolt port instead of a Mini DisplayPort. Computers with a Thunderbolt port will have the following symbol next a port although the port physically appears the same as a Mini DisplayPort:

Thunderbolt ports:

Are compatible with all of the Mini DisplayPort adapters referenced below in question 5 and with Apple Mini DisplayPort equipped displays. Support adapters like Apple's Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter and Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter which are not otherwise compatible with Mini DisplayPorts. See Thunderbolt ports and displays: Frequently asked questions (FAQ) for more information on Thunderbolt.

So with your adaptor you can drive a DisplayPort based monitor to your PC, but not a thunderbolt display as it lacks support for DisplayPort. That's why it didn't turn on and work.

Some Googling and I haven't yet been able to find a USB based thunderbolt adaptor, it seems there is talk of such a device using USB 3.0 to thunderbolt although at reduced speeds. There are a few thunderbolt PCIe cards available and some PC motherboards support thunderbolt.

  • Thanks for your response. I've went through those discussion threads before. I posted the question here with the hope that someone might be aware of some update/upgrades on windows drivers for thunderbolt connectors. Thanks.
    – Callitaday
    Apr 17, 2015 at 23:38

A Thunderbolt (TB) display is a bit of a misnomer. It's actually a Mini Display Port (mDP) monitor with TB connectivity.) So, in effect, your Apple TB monitors are just really nice high res DP monitors. We know this to be the case because on this forum related to the Surface Pro 3 and the Apple TB display, a user says that the video works as it was mirroring his display. TB, obviously dosen't work because there is no TB on a SP3

Thunderbolt is a multiplexing of tree different signals:

  • Power
  • DisplayPort
  • PCIe

The signal we are concerned with here is DisplayPort. PCIe and power don't come into play.

Based on your description, your desktop has two displays out, VGA (analog) and HDMI (digital). mDP is digital.

So connecting

  • VGA ====> DP is going from analog to digital. You can't do this without upscaling the resolution. It's just not worth the time an expense for the results you are going to get.

  • HDMI ====> DP is going from digital to digital so the results are better, however the signaling is completely different so an active converter is required. You can do this converstion by using a device like this

I have never seen the above mentioned device used in a daisy chain situtation so you may have to test.

A more ideal situation would be to install either a Thunderbolt adapter or aa DisplayPort adapter in your desktop:

No matter which direction you chose to go, you need to get native DP signals to those monitors from the PC and VGA and HDMI simply don't support it.

  • Tried a Lenovo laptop with mini-displayport today and it although it blanked the screen just like connected a supported PC monitor to the port, it never detected the Apple 27" Thunderbolt display. There seems to be some useful info in this answer, so I'm not going to downvote, but it appears to be incorrect that a mini-displayport can display to a Thunderbolt display. Apr 19, 2016 at 18:14
  • That may be indicative of a problem with the Lenovo dock because I tried this myself (Surface Pro 3) and a TB display in BestBuy and it worked with no problem.
    – Allan
    Apr 19, 2016 at 19:25
  • Interesting. I also found quite a few pages suggesting that mini-displayport won't work with Thunderbolt display (even for an older Mac). ex: cnet.com/news/confusing-mini-displayport-with-thunderbolt One rumor is that Surface Pro 3 has a thunderbolt plug: reddit.com/r/Surface/comments/2j3q0h/… , but MS lists it as mini-displayport - quite confusing Apr 20, 2016 at 0:22

I am currently building a PC and may have an answer to your question. It's has a rather powerful graphics card with 4 DisplayPort ports. Doing some Internet research, I was able to find a couple people who used a simple adapter such as the 6in DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort Video Cable Adapter that converted output from the DP to the MiniDP

Please note that I have yet to try it but I am hoping this may be an option. I would recommend a GPU like mentioned above, or a TB card (Asus makes one around $100 if your GPU doesn't have a DP output.

Side note: to run two 1440p 144hz Apple TB Displays, you may need a decently powerful GPU such as a GTX 1070 or 970.

Summary of my rambling: You need a GPU or PCIe card with a DP, miniDP or TB port.


I tried this adapter: https://www.startech.com/ca/Cables/Audio-Video/DisplayPort/6in-DisplayPort-to-Mini-DisplayPort-Video-Cable-Adapter-Male-to-Female~DP2MDPMF6IN

Thunderbolt Display plugged into a Monoprice Thunderbolt 3 hub with DisplayPort using the aforementioned adapter and it DID NOT work.


I haven't found an answer for HDMI but the Startech TBT3TBTADAP USB-c to thunderbolt works with my HP Zbook.


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