Following the Thunderbolt firmware update for Macs, Apple has published three new support documents pertaining to the new $49 Thunderbolt-to-Thunderbolt cable released Monday, using Thunderbolt with Boot Camp and Windows 7 and some tricks to get the best performance from Thunderbolt. Here’s what you need to know…

Getting the best performance from Thunderbolt – Apple only says this update will “get the best Thunderbolt reliability and performance” on Thunderbolt-capable Macs (at the time of writing 2011 iMacs and 2011 MacBook Pros).

Using Thunderbolt with Boot Camp and Windows 7 – In Windows 7 under Boot Camp, Thunderbolt devices won’t be recognized unless you connect and turn them on prior to boot time (blame it on Microsoft, not Apple). Also important, Target Display Mode is not supported using Boot Camp and Windows 7 on a Thunderbolt capable iMac. Sleep mode is disabled in Windows 7 while a Thunderbolt device is plugged in.

Oh, and you cannot reconnect a previously disconnected Thunderbolt device without restarting the computer. You will also need to restart the computer after waking up from hibernation because all Thunderbolt devices will be disconnected when your Mac hibernates. And the final Windows deficiency: Your PCI Express cards won’t be recognized via Plug-and-Play on your MacBook Pro unless you disconnect or eject the Thunderbolt device first.

About Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) – Apple says the proper way of inserting the Thunderbolt cable is with the Thunderbolt symbol on the top of the connector. The maximum bandwidth supported by the cable is up to 10 Gbps between Thunderbolt capable devices and your Mac (one 10Gbps link is dedicated to displays and the other for PCI-E device traffic), provided your cable is no longer than two meters.

“Some devices not made by Apple may support different bandwidth rates”, Apple warns. You can check your mileage with Thunderbolt storage devices, such as the Pegasus RAID units, using the Disk Activity tab in Activity Monitor. To get a list of thunderbolt devices hooked up to your Mac, check out the Thunderbolt tab in System Profiler. Are you experiencing  a black screen when connecting an Intel-based iMac that supports Target Display Mode via Thunderbolt?

According to Apple, “Although a Thunderbolt cable will fit into Mini DisplayPort connections, only Mini DisplayPort cables can be used to in Target Display Mode with an iMac (Late 2009) or iMac (Mid 2010) connected to a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac;  iMac models produced before 2011 do not support Thunderbolt cables or devices. If you have an iMac (Late 2009), make sure you have the 27-inch SMC iMac Firmware Update 1.0 installed to avoid issues waking from sleep in Target Display Mode.”

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