Slow Download Speed Macbook Air Usb 3.0 Thunderbolt Adapter

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USB port types and names

USB (Universal Serial Bus) is an industry standard for connecting computers and other devices. It's available with many types of ports, and each type has a unique shape. On Mac, USB is available with these ports, depending on your Mac model:

USB-A

Type USB-A ports are commonly called USB, USB 2, or USB 3 ports, depending on the USB specification they support. They aren't reversible, so a USB-A connector plugs into the port only when oriented correctly.

USB-C

Type USB-C ports are available on Mac as standard USB-C ports, Thunderbolt 3 ports, and Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports. They all look the same, and the connector plugs into the port in either orientation.

Learn more about identifying the ports on your Mac, as well as the adapters and cables you can use to connect older devices to type USB-C ports.

3.0

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USB specifications

USB specifications are important primarily when you want the most speed and power for your USB device, or your device needs more power or is using too much power. Every USB port supports a particular USB specification, which determines the port's maximum>USB specifications on MacData transferPower deliveryUSB 4Up to 10 GbpsUp to 15W at 5VUSB 3.1 Gen 2
Also known as USB 3.2 Gen 2
Up to 10 GbpsUp to 15W at 5VUSB 3.1 Gen 1
Also known as USB 3.2 Gen 1 or USB 3
Up to 5 GbpsUp to 900 mA at 5VUSB 2.0
Up to 480 MbpsUp to 500 mA at 5VUSB 1.1
Up to 12 MbpsUp to 500 mA at 5V

To learn which specification is supported by a type USB-A or type USB-C port on your Mac model:

  • Choose Apple menu  > About This Mac, click Support, then click Specifications.
  • Check the System Information app for more details, including about USB devices connected to USB ports on your Mac. Select USB in the sidebar, then select a USB bus on the right.

Get the best performance from your USB devices

USB specifications all work with each other, but speed and power are limited by the cable or device that uses the earliest specification. For example, if you connect a USB 3 device to USB 2 port, your device is limited to USB 2 speeds, and it can't draw more power from the port than can be delivered over USB 2. In other words, to get the best performance, make sure that the USB port on your Mac and the USB cable to your device meet or exceed the USB specification of the device itself.

If your Mac doesn't recognize a USB device after you plug it into your Mac:

  • Check all connections: Unplug the device from your Mac, then plug it back in, and make sure that all cables and adapters are securely connected at both ends. Test with another cable or adapter, if available.
  • Plug the device directly into your Mac instead of a USB hub or other device, and if necessary test with a different USB port on your Mac or device.
  • Some devices need their own software, such as drivers or firmware. Others work without additional software. Check with the maker of your device, and install all available Apple software updates as well.
  • If your device came with an AC power adapter, use it. Some devices can be powered by the USB port on your Mac. Others need more power than your Mac can provide.
  • Restart your Mac.
AdapterSlow download speed macbook air usb 3.0 thunderbolt adapter pinout

Learn more

  • USB 3 devices can create wireless interference that affects Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. Learn how to resolve Wi-Fi and Bluetooth issues caused by wireless interference.
  • Mac notebook computers with USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, or Thunderbolt / USB 4 can charge over that port using a compatible USB-C power adapter and cable.

Slow Download Speed Macbook Air Usb 3.0 Thunderbolt Adapter Pinout

Many people still need a wired network (LAN) connection, because wireless networks (WLANs) are not allowed at their workplace. The MacBook Air using the USB ethernet adapter is slow. Slower than using wireless.

Slow Download Speed Macbook Air Usb 3.0 Thunderbolt Adapterr

Because Apple doesn’t sell a USB 3 ethernet adapter the only alternative is a Thunderbolt ethernet adapter, if you want high speed transfers. The same is true for the new MacBook Pro Retina, which also don’t have a wired ethernet port anymore.

Options of Connection

If the only Thunderbolt port of the MacBook Air is used for the adapter, you only can connect an external display via USB to DVI. This works quite well but is expensive and has a subpar performance. Videos or fast scrolling is too slow. But it’s an alternative if you really need both.

With the MacBook Pro Retina it’s much easier, because not only it has two Thunderbolt ports, it also has an HDMI port.

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Apple’s Thunderbolt display has internal docking options via Thunderbolt, so you get a free Thunderbolt port on the display for using your internal one. But we won’t need it because the display also has an internal gigabit ethernet port. Very convenient.

A Quick Benchmark

I quickly speed-tested the adapter using a Time Capsule 2011 with 802.11n wireless and wired gigabit ethernet. As test devices I used a MacBook Air 2012 having Thunderbolt and a MacBook Pro 2.8 GHz 2009.

To test real-wold performance I copied a 800 MB file. Because of the large file size this is a best-case test, so the resulting speeds are the maximum you can get. If I would have been using many small files the numbers would have been significantly lower.

Speed Comparison

ConnectionMacBook AirMacBook Pro
Wireless 802.11n (300 Mbit/s)16 MByte/s down
20 MByte/s up
Wireless 802.11ac (867 Mbit/s)20 MByte/s down
30 MByte/s up
Wired Thunderbolt Gigabit Adapter (1,000 Mbit/s)78-88 MByte/s
Wired Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 Mbit/s)75-80 MByte/s

Conclusion

The Thunderbolt ethernet adapter is getting full gigabit ethernet speed. If you need the speed and don’t have to run an external display on your single Thunderbolt port of your Air, this is the way to go.

Personally I would opt for the external display connected via Thunderbolt to utilize the higher resolution and live with the lower network speed via USB 2.0.