The USB-C ports on your Mac may look the same, but sometimes they’re built differently. USB-C ports in particular have different data transfer and power delivery speeds. If your Mac has different USB-C ports, you may find that one port transfers data (or charges your phone) faster than the other.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to check USB-C port specifications and how to determine the fastest USB port on your Mac.
USB-C vs Thunderbolt USB-C: What’s Different
Apple uses both the regular USB-C and Thunderbolt USB-C ports on MacBooks. As mentioned earlier, these connection interfaces can have different configurations. But because they look similar, it’s often difficult to distinguish which USB-C port is a regular port and which uses the Thunderbolt standard.
Some laptop manufacturers distinguish these two interfaces by labeling the Thunderbolt port with a “lightning bolt” symbol. On the other hand, regular USB-C ports are usually labeled USB. Even so, some manufacturers don’t label the USB-C port either.
Apple doesn’t label the ports on the new generation MacBooks, so it’s nearly impossible to tell the USB-C ports apart by visual inspection alone. In the next section, we’ll show you how to identify your Mac’s USB-C ports and their data transfer speeds.
If you’re new to the entire discussion of USB-C vs. Thunderbolt USB-C, or you want to learn about their differences, check out this in-depth coverage of the Thunderbolt standard.
What ports does your Mac have?
When buying a new Mac, it’s a good idea to look at the port configuration on the specs sheet found on the packaging. Some MacBook models also have screen sizes, years of manufacture, and connector configurations with their product names. So when you see “13-inch MacBook Pro (Four Thunderbolt 3, 2020)” it will tell you the type and number of ports on your Mac.
But what if you threw away your Mac’s packaging? Or, does your Mac not have a port specification in its model name? Apple has a dedicated resource page that can help identify ports on your Mac. Also, check online-based manuals or specifications for your MacBook model.
Click Apple logo on the menu bar and go to About this Mac > Donate and choose User manual or Specifications. That will open a new browser window and redirect you to a web page where you can check your Mac’s port configuration.
How to test USB-C speed on a Mac
macOS has a built-in tool that allows you to check the status of your Mac’s hardware, software, and network components.
Follow the steps below to use the macOS System Information tool to check the speed of a device connected to your USB-C port. This will give you an idea of which port is the fastest on your Mac.
1. Hold Right to buy key and click Apple logo on the menu bar.
2. Without releasing the Option key, select System information.
An alternative to accessing the System Information tool is to click Apple logooption About this Mac and click System report in the Overview tab.
3. Expansion Hardware section.
4. Scroll down the left sidebar and click USB.
inside USB device tree , you’ll find your Mac’s USB-C ports listed by their versions. You’ll also find detailed information about the USB devices connected to your Mac.
Plug the device into any port and click on its name to check the speed that device or port is capable of. Repeat the steps for the other ports to test their speed.
Note: If your device doesn’t appear on the USB Device Tree, close and reopen the System Information window and check again.
If there is a Thunderbolt on the left sidebar, it means that some (or all) ports on your Mac support the Thunderbolt standard.
Option Thunderbolt on the left sidebar and check Speed, velocity for ports and devices in the list.
USB-C Speeds and What They Mean
The speed information on the USB Device Tree page shows you the version and specifications of the USB-C port on your Mac. These can help you find the fastest USB-C port on your Mac. Here’s what they mean:
first. Up to 1.5 Mbps: This USB-C port or device indicates USB connection type 1.
2. Up to 12 Mbps: USB 1.1-capable devices and ports have this speed.
3. Up to 480 Mbps: This tells you that the USB-C device or port is capable of USB 2.0 speeds.
4. Up to 5 Gb/s: The connected device supports USB 3.1 (Gen 1) speeds.
5. Up to 10 Gb/s: This describes the USB 3.1 (Gen 2) and USB 4 connectivity standards; they’re currently the fastest USB-C port on any Mac.
For optimal transfer speeds, your USB device(s) and USB-C cable must also support the same USB standard as the port. So to enjoy USB 4 speeds (up to 10GB/s), your Mac, USB-C device, and USB-C cable must all of supports the USB 4 standard. Keep this in mind when purchasing USB-C accessories and peripherals. Also, refer to our explanation of USB cables to learn more.
A USB-C hub (or adapter) can also slow down the potential data transfer speeds between your Mac and your USB-C device. Make sure your USB adapter or hub supports the Mac’s USB-C standard. Otherwise, connected devices will be limited to the speed of the USB adapter.
For context, if you plug a USB 2.0 hub into your Mac, the devices connected to the hub will be limited to USB 2.0 speeds. For the best experience, plug the device directly into your Mac or use compatible accessories.
USB-C: Thunderbolt 3 Vs Thunderbolt 4 on Mac
MacBooks come with Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 2, Thunderbolt 3, and Thunderbolt 4 ports. However, only the Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 standards use the USB-C interface. They are backward compatible high-speed ports that work with all USB-C generations/specifications. Both of these standards also have the same maximum data transfer rate of 40Gbps, but Thunderbolt 4 is far superior.
Thunderbolt 4 comes with better security and improved support for video data transfer. For context, the Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connector can transmit a video signal to one 8K display or two 4K displays. Thunderbolt 3, on the other hand, can only handle one 4K display. Currently, only the latest M1-enabled Macs introduced in 2020 have Thunderbolt 4 or USB-4 ports. Future releases will certainly use the Thunderbolt 4 standard as well.
Still don’t understand the whole concept of USB-C and Thunderbolt connections? Or perhaps, you have some unanswered questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll try to answer it for you.