I have a Macbook Pro which I use in combination with a Thunderbolt display. I also have a standard Apple USB keyboard with numeric keypad which is plugged in one of the USB ports of the Thunderbolt display.

The problem I have is, that the keyboard is often not recognized. Usually when I shut the laptop down and start it again. I usually managed to bring it to work when I unplug the keyboard several times and plug it in again OR I open the settings and wait for some time and do random things.

I don't have any problems when I just put the Mac to sleep. The keyboard will still work when I wake the Macbook up again.

The keyboard works perfectly well when I connect it with the Macbook directly - so it seems not to be an issue with the cable. Other USB devices work in the ports of the display - so this seems not to be the issue as well.

But of course I want it to work with the display so that I don't have to unplug too many things to take my laptop away.

  • Could you post the specific keyboard model that has been giving you trouble?
    – CyberSkull
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 10:42
  • It is the Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad and USB extension cable Could I be more specific? Unfortunately I don't know when it was purchased ... Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 9:57
  • The model number should either be written on the back or available via System Info.
    – CyberSkull
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 21:00
  • 1
    You should make the question as Answered. Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 3:20
  • Sadly I don't have enough reputation here yet to answer but I had a similar problem with my Keyboard. I tried everything: Resetting PRAM / SMC, using different ports, leaving the Keyboard unconnected for a while but it just kept happening and only with my Macbook and not my girlfriends. What solved the problem (for 1 day now) was to active n-key-rollover on the Keyboard. No disconnects so far.
    – patchrail
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 2:14

11 Answers 11


I discovered that when I plug the USB cable of the keyboard into the short USB extender cable (that came with the keyboard) and then plug the extender cable into the Thunderbolt display, it works for me. Maybe it will work for you too.

  • yeah, that'S what I'm successfully doing for a week now. Didn't experience any issues since then. Magic! Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 8:21
  • I faced the same issue on a LED Cinema Display ut the extender cable trick also worked for me
    – Lars Beck
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 12:36
  • 1
    Why does it work this way! I had the same issue and just plugging in through an extender made it magically work!
    – Aadi Droid
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 16:24
  • This has tripled my productivity. ;-) Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 17:58
  • This did not work for me, now I am out a cable. Thanks, Apple. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 16:02

A late answer because I only just had this problem!

So I did everything in all the other posts I could find on this [MBP Retina 15" Intel Core i7 Moutain Lion (10.8.4) - twin Thunderbold 27" screens]:

  • Unplug everything
  • Turn everything off
  • Wait 30 minutes (not seconds)
  • Tried all combinations of re-plugging and re-powering up
  • Tried all combinations of re-start / sleep / wake
  • Tried SMR reset & PRAM reset

All to no avail.

And the key board worked fine plugged into the MBP - so it had to be the USB port, right?

But wait!... another identical keyboard plugged into the USB port worked just fine :S

So, my solution (fwiw):

  • I unplugged the USB keyboard and walked away for an hour
  • I did absolutely nothing else
  • I plugged it into the same USB socket on the same TB monitor
  • And it worked!... I am typing this on it now.

Go figure! My take is that there is some sneaky circuitry in the keyboard that's at fault and all the attention has been on the USB port (where mine was too!)

Hope this helps others who may be searching on this very problem, as I was.


I followed the advice of a poster in the Apple forums, and used a USB extension cable between the keyboard and thunderbolt display. It fixed the problem for me, and no-one seems to know why. It might be something to do with changing the cable's impedance, or maybe it's a bus timing issue. Either way, it worked for me.

  • This did not work for me. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 16:03

System: Macbook Pro with Mavericks, 27in TD display, USB Keyboard

What didn't work: Unplugging/plugging the USB keyboard would normally resolve the issue. However, today unplugging did not work so I took it a few steps further by rebooting everything and plugging/unplugging the USB cable multiple times - all to no avail. The system preferences/keyboard application has functions for setting up a bluetooth keyboard, but nothing to recognize/default to the USB keyboard when you have a laptop connected.

What worked: I plugged the short USB extender cable (that came with the keyboard) into the Thunderbolt display then plugged the USB cable of the keyboard into the extender cable with everything powered on (TB display and macbook pro) and it started working immediately. I will try and update this post in a few weeks or months to let you know if this issue came back.

  • I did the same - it works for months now. Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 9:25

Thanks guys for your suggestions. Unfortunately nothing worked for me. However, I solved the problem. This is what I did.

I use the Mac in the office, so there was another free keyboard - same apple usb thing. I plugged it in the Thunderbolt Display as the other keyboard before. Never had any problems since then. Works perfectly. Magic.


Somebody told me to FIRST add the magsafe power to the macbook air and then plug in the thunderbolt display, while leaving the lid closed. After that, all my strange power problems disappeared (i leave it closed at home)


Now it's getting interesting! Of course I had to return my colleagues keyboard when he returned from his hols. So I took the old keyboard again until I finally get a new one. And - surprise - I now works without any problems now. Didn't experience any issues since then!

Wonder how but actually I'm happy it works.


Thanks for all the suggestions folks. Here's my fix, based on suggestions from you all:

Before you waste time reading below, just skip to UPDATE3. My conclusion: The Apple keyboard will NOT work when plugged in to the USB port of the 27" TB monitor.

I grabbed a coworker's mac keyboard (Same Model as mine : Model A1243) and plugged it into a free usb port on the back of my TB monitor. The coworker's keyboard worked immediately and then suddenly my keyboard started working too. Both keyboards plugged in at the same time and both worked fine. I unplugged the other keyboard and now mine is fine.

Haven't attempted a reboot yet to see if it continues to work. Maybe I'll just buy another keyboard and keep two always plugged in and then pull out the one that works when i need it.

UPDATE: Reboot failed to recognize the keyboard...again. However, I plugged a thumbdrive into one of the other free usb ports. The thumbdrive was immediately recognized and guess what....so was my keyboard. Thumbdrive will just stay in place until next reboot.

UPDATE2: Next reboot failed, even with thumb drive in place, so no help.

Next, I unplugged the keyboard from the back of the TB monitor. Rebooted. Waited until network connected to internet (through the TB Cable), then plugged in keyboard. All OK with that.....for now.

UPDATE3: OK fine. I'm giving up. Boot up this morning and NOTHING on this stinking keyboard. It's like my previous tricks were a 1 time coupon, cashed in, not useable again. Nothing that worked before is working now. I'm just gonna have to plug my keyboard directly into my MBpro where it works without issue. One day, I will have enough free hours (like never) to drag my MBPro and my 27" TB monitor to the Mac Store and let the real geniuses figure it out. For now, I'll just suffer the inconvenience.


I have the same issue: Thunderbolt display, Macbook Pro and an external keyboard plugged in to the display. Sometimes on initial boot, sometimes after waking, the keyboard doesn't seem to be recognized. If I unplug the thunderbolt from my Macbook for a bit, then plug it back in, the keyboard usually starts to work. Sometimes it takes doing it twice. Severe pain in the rear.

  • try what worked for Greg (comment above) an me: "I discovered that when I plug the USB cable of the keyboard into the short USB extender cable (that came with the keyboard) and then plug the extender cable into the Thunderbolt display, it works for me. Maybe it will work for you too." Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 14:21

I have the same issue with a new Mac Pro. Eventually I plugged in another Mac USB keyboard which worked straight away. Then plugged original one back in and that worked too.

I have to redo that after reboots but at least I got it working again.


I have same issue as above: MacBook Pro, Thunderbolt display, and extended Apple keyboard. At startup my keyboard isn't recognized, but it is when awaking from sleep mode.

My fix has simply been to unplug the keyboard from the USB port then replug it into the same USB port. Even doing that has been mildly annoying, but it sounds easier than a lot of things that have been suggested in other answers.

I don't remember getting an extender cable with my keyboard. I might look into purchasing one to solve this mild annoyance.

  • I had the same problem and i can confirm that using the extender cable that is supplied seems to sort the problem as never happened since.
    – user77725
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:14

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