MacBook Pro + Thunderbolt Display Problems: Won’t Recognize USB Devices When Waking from Sleep

by Michael on February 5, 2013 · 0 comments

Well, this sure is frustrating… I got a shiny new Retina MacBook Pro along with a 27″ Thunderbolt display to replace my dead mid-2009 MacBook Pro. It’s a great combo except that it has trouble recognizing USB devices plugged directly into the display.

More specifically, I have a USB keyboard (Apple), trackball, and external hard drive plugged into the USB ports on the display (actually, the trackball is daisy-chained off the keyboard) and none of them work when I first connect the MacBook Pro to it using the Thunderbolt cable.

Rather, I have to fiddle around with it plugging and unplugging the devices before they’ll be recognized and functional. This is obviously quite frustrating, especially since I disconnect and re-connect on a daily basis.

I’m running the latest version of Mountain Lion (currently 10.8.2) and have checked all of the relevant firmware. Yes, I have all the latest versions, so it can’t be chalked up to old firmware.

And guess what? If you Google it, you’ll learn that I’m not alone. Lots of people are having problems with their USB devices not being recognized by

I’ve read that bypassing the built-in Thunderbolt cable with a separate male-to-male cable is a possible workaround, but that’s completely unacceptable for such an expensive display.

I have also read that using a powered USB hub can help. This makes sense since my wall-powered devices (an external hard drive and a ScanSnap scanner) work fine. It’s just the unpowered devices that have trouble.

I’ll be troubleshooting this in the coming days to see if I can narrow down the problem and (hopefully) come up with a solution. Otherwise I’ll be contacting Apple for a replacement.

Update: Some have reported that you may be able to avoid this problem by waking the computer before plugging into the Thunderbolt display. Sadly, that hasn’t helped in my case.

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