I have a recent iMac and will buy a new MacBook Air. And I'm finding fastest way to connect internet to the Air. Wi-Fi is still too slow and USB-Ethernet converter offers only 100-Mbit speed. But both of them have Thunderbolt port, so I expected internet sharing via the port. It could be fantastic.

But I couldn't fine any way to do that. In configuration panel, it shows only old options like Firewire. Is sharing internet connection via Thunderbolt possible? If it is, how can I do this?

4 Answers 4


I don't think you can do this. Thunderbolt doesn't really have a "native" protocol like Firewire or Ethernet, it's just fancy PCIe transport. It might be possible in the future, but it would require Apple to add the functionality.

However it's worth noting that it's unlikely Thunderbolt would speed up your connection at all. Unless you have a seriously heavy duty internet connection (think corporate/university fiber), the limiting factor in your internet speeds won't be the connection between local machines, it's the cable/dsl your ISP provides. It's possible wifi could be limiting if you have a bad connection with a lot of interference, but most wifi should be able to keep up with your internet connection.

  • This is correct, the Mac OS X network stack doesn't currently (10.7.2) allow defining the thunderbolt port as a network interface. It currently works for storage when booted and in target mode as well as for display out (and in on select iMacs). I can't wait for this since network connectivity faster than GB ethernet is very pricey and only available on Mac Pro.
    – bmike
    Oct 31, 2011 at 21:10

Now OS X(Mavericks) supports Thunderbolt networking just like any other networking interfaces. Then, you can share internet just like any other interfaces.

Anyway Thunderbolt interface is pretty picky, then sometimes you will not able to make connection. I don't know why, but if established, it provides at least 100MiB/s bandwidth! I expect this is limited by HDD in my iMac, and if I have both SSD, it will be even more faster.


I believe it is possible. But it's a bit bulky since it comes with a 27 inch display attached.

Maybe there will be other options later but don't expect them to be cheap since it will have to use Thunderbolt chips.

  • 2
    Awesome - a $999.00 Thunderbolt to gigabit ethernet adapter. Wall powered and comes with stereo speakers and a small subwoofer. And a stunning display as well is included at no additional cost.
    – bmike
    Oct 31, 2011 at 21:16
  • 1
    This isn't what the poster intended to ask - you are referring to connecting to an Ethernet network while they are referring to sharing the connection via the Thunderbolt cable, similar to the way you can share a connection over a FireWire cable.
    – Cajunluke
    Oct 31, 2011 at 23:46
  • @CajunLuke You are joking, don't you?
    – iskra
    Nov 1, 2011 at 0:22
  • @iskra No, not joking. While your answer would work, to some extent, it is clearly not answering the question that was asked.
    – Cajunluke
    Nov 1, 2011 at 0:59
  • @CajunLuke I see. I should probably blame bmike for stripping with his edit a smiley I've originally put in my 'answer'.)
    – iskra
    Nov 1, 2011 at 1:04

It would be just as easy for Apple to emulate a PCIe adapter as it is for Parallels, VMWare, Xen, Virtualbox or any of the others to emulate it. They haven't. My guess it's because not enough people have complained about it. Write your congressman.

There's no reason that the other peripherals such as sound from an iMac cannot be shared (again, look at Parallels or Fusion).

FWIW, the reason I want this is because I currently have to plug three cables into my Macbook to do target display mode on my iMac. I should only have to do two -- the Thunderbolt and the power cable.

Apple has patented the ability to put fiber optic over the middle pin of the power cable, presumably for Thunderbolt. If that worked with Ethernet and sound over Thunderbolt, one could simply connect a single MagSafe.

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