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Windows 8.1 won't fix Thunderbolt issues with Macs

By John Rizzo

Mac users enduring problems with Thunderbolt and Boot Camp won't get relief from Windows 8.1, according to a blog post by ZDnet's David Morgenstern. He quotes a Thunderbolt engineer saying that the Mac Boot Camp experience won't get better until Microsoft fixes deficiencies, which it isn't doing with Windows 8.1.

I've previously written about the specific problems with Thunderbolt and Boot Camp and the workarounds. Once central issue is that Apple prevents the Mac from sleeping when booted from Windows when a Thunderbolt device is connected. The reason is that if the Mac were to wake from sleep, Windows would no longer recognize the device until you reboot.

Despite Microsoft's lack of support, there are some PCs that come with Thunderbolt ports, and more are scheduled. Morgenstern points out that manufacturers of Thunderbolt devices make their products compatible with Windows through the use of drivers. Apple also provides some Thunderbolt support for Windows running on Macs through its own drivers for Windows.

But PCs with Thunderbolt ports also have to make an accommodation, and a few newer models have a BIOS chip that can recognize a Thunderbolt device. Macs don't have a BIOS chip at all -- they boot from an EFI chip. Boot Camp provides BIOS emulation. It is unclear whether it is possible for Apple to rework Boot Camp's BIOS emulation to enable Windows to recognize a Thunderbolt device after Windows is booted. Currently, the device has to already be plugged into the Mac before Windows is booted.

Even if this were possible, other problems would remain until Microsoft starts supporting Thunderbolt.