The Thunderbolt display is a really cool external display for thunderbolt-enabled mac laptops, but the sad reality is, all those peripherals and that gorgeous display is useless when the laptop is gone.

My question is, will the new 2013 27" iMac support peripheral passthru via thunderbolt to my 2012 Macbook Air like a Thunderbolt display would?

I would have the following connected to the iMac

  • Gigabit ethernet
  • External speakers
  • Wired keyboard
  • Wired mouse
  • USB microphone
  • USB printer

Would the Macbook Air be able to use these?

When the Macbook Air is connected, I'd essentially like it to operate just like the Thunderbolt display.

When the Macbook Air is disconnected, I'd like the iMac to function as a normal iMac.


For the display, yes:

Target Display Mode. In this mode your iMac can serve as a display for another Mac. This is supported via the Thunderbolt port using a Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (not supported via a Mini DisplayPort cable)

source: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5522

For the rest of the devices, theoretically not:

7. When I have a Mac connected via the Apple Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2.0m) via Target Disk Mode or Target Display Mode, do devices connected to that Mac become active on my computer?

No. The additional devices will become peripherals for the Mac in Target Disk Mode or Target Display Mode. The additional devices do not "chain" through the Mac and its other Thunderbolt port.

source: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5219#target

Hope this helps (wouldn't it be neat?)

  • Such a let down. Thanks for digging up the answer, though :) – macek Feb 8 '13 at 13:46
  • I know right? I was thinking about getting a new 27'' to use with my MBA 11' but I'll guess I'll just get a display :) – Martin Marconcini Feb 8 '13 at 22:45

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protected by Community Aug 29 '13 at 11:09

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