How to determine the type and functions of USB Type-C: charging, connecting to a monitor, Thunderbolt

How to check what type of USB Type-C port my laptop has?

Computers have a variety of ports, for example, there are at least 4 types of ports and wires for connecting a monitor alone.

There is currently a strong trend towards the unification of ports and cables on both computers and mobile devices. USB-C is chosen as the standard. This is great because it reduces the number of different wires, and the connectors become universal. Even more convenient is that one port and one wire can perform several functions at once.

But this results in the same looking USB-C being able to perform different functions. Even on the same device, 2 USB-Cs side by side can have a different set of capabilities.

What can USB Type-C be used for

data transfer (examples: data exchange between a mobile phone and a computer, or an external drive and a computer; data exchange between a computer and a USB hub on a TV; connection to a wired network through an adapter or other device with a LAN RJ-45 connector)

  • charging a peripheral device (for example, recharging a mobile phone connected to a laptop)
  • power supply of the main unit, PD Charger (for example, a laptop can receive power from the monitor)
  • video signal transmission to the monitor
  • Thunderbolt

These functions can be combined or present all at once. Only one thing can be said in advance with certainty: USB-C in any case supports data transfer and charging of peripheral devices. All other functions are optional and depend on the type of USB Type-C.

For the usual large USB connectors and wires, everything is also far from being so simple.

See for details: How to determine the type and speed of a USB port

This article will tell you how to find out what the USB Type-C port supports: data transfer, laptop charging, video signal transfer to a monitor, Thunderbolt. That is, you will learn how to check what type of USB-C port your laptop has.

What does a USB Type-C port look like?

The USB-C port is an oval port. It's also smaller than a USB-A port. In addition, the USB-C connector is symmetrical. This means you can connect a USB-C plug to a USB-C port in two ways.

You can also see an example of a USB-C port on a mobile phone – all modern smartphones come with a USB-C port, which is used to charge the device and transfer data.

The meaning of the symbols next to the USB Type-C port

Next to ports on a laptop, you will find symbols/logos showing what you can do with a particular port.

  • If there is a lightning bolt (Thunderbolt) next to the USB-C port, then you can use this port to charge your laptop and as a display port. This means that you can connect a monitor to the port. This port supports DisplayPort alt mode. Data transfer is also supported.
  • If there is a D (DisplayPort) symbol next to the USB-C port, then you can use this port for video signal transmission. This means you can connect a monitor. This port supports DisplayPort alt mode. Data transfer is also supported.
  • If there is a battery symbol next to the USB-C port, then you can use this port to charge your laptop. This port does not support DisplayPort alt mode. Data transfer is also supported.
  • If the symbol is  trident with prongs that end in a square, circle, and triangle (the same symbol used for USB-A), then this USB-C connector is only suitable for transferring data and charging peripherals (for example, a mobile phone)

Sometimes, for greater clarity, the symbols for one USB Type-C are indicated by two symbols, for example: Thunderbolt and DisplayPort:

Which USB-C ports are suitable for transmitting a video signal to a monitor

The Thunderbolt port always supports DisplayPort. That is, if the Thunderbolt port, then it can be connected to the monitor.

As for other USB-C options, video signal support is also possible, if provided by the laptop manufacturer.

If you are not sure if your USB-C supports a monitor connection, then you can check it. Connect USB-C to the monitor and select USB Type-C in the signal sources. If your USB-C port does not support signal transmission to the monitor, then the image will not appear, or the USB Type-C item in the monitor menu to select the signal source will be inactive.

What to do if my laptop does not have USB Type-C

Most likely, this is a very old laptop, since now the USB Type-C port is the most common.

If your laptop doesn't have a USB-C port, there are alternative options. The USB-A port can be used to connect various peripherals such as a mouse, keyboard, and printer. There are different types of USB-A ports such as 2.0, 3.0 and 3.1. The latest version offers the fastest data transfer. Want to connect a monitor? Check if your laptop has HDMI or DisplayPort. These ports are equally suitable for connecting to monitors.

What type of USB-C port does a MacBook have?

MacBook models do not have a logo or symbol next to the port. Follow the instructions below on a MacBook:

  1. Boot the MacBook.
  2. Go to the Apple logo in the top left corner of the desktop and click it.
  3. Click “About this Mac”.
  4. Check which model/introduction year you have.
  5. Use the scheme down below to check what the type of USB Type-C port on your MacBook model can do.

USB Type-C features for various MacBook models:

Model MacBook Charging Video signal/Supports DisplayPort alt mode
MacBook Pro 2020-2021 Yes Yes
MacBook Air 2020-2021 Yes Yes
MacBook Pro 2016 - 2019 Yes Yes
MacBook Pro 2015 No No
MacBook Air 2018 - 2019 Yes Yes
MacBook Air 2015 - 2017 No No
MacBook 12 inches 2015 - 2017 Yes Yes

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