Here is my problem:

A) Goal

Connecting a MacBook Pro 13'', Early 2011 (MacBookPro8,1) to a Laptop Docking Station (Sabrent DS-RICA) via USB 3.0.

B) Situation/Setup

Said docking station only supports input via USB 3.0 (5 Gbps), which would be fine if it weren't for said MacBook which can only output via USB 2.0 (480 Mbps) over its USB ports since that was the standard at the time this laptop was built. So at the moment I'm connection said MacBook via an USB 2.0 A port via an USB 2.0 A-B cable to the USB 3.0 B port of said docking station.

Everything else - apart from power which is connected directly to the laptop - so ethernet, DVI monitor, sound via 3.5 mm jack, USB mouse, USB keyboard and some additional USB devices (external drive and a USB HUB) are connected to said docking station and all those signals have to be transmitted via the USB 2.0 cable between the docking station and the laptop.

C) Problem

With this setup I'm getting hard delays on the attached screen of up to one second, e.g. when I type (maybe 1/4 of a second), but especially when scrolling down internet pages or anything within the browser. The same delays, even longer ones, occur when I open folders in the MacOS (10.11) dock: The fan and grid view take quite some time to be displayed, not to talk about when I try to click an item... Also some minor screen errors occur (pinkish grey instead of grey as color of the top bar of windows). But all in all the delays annoy the most.

All of those problems do not occur when I'm opening my laptop and work (windows etc. displayed on) its own screen but still being connected to the internet and USB devices etc. via the docking station (DisplayLink Drivers seem to work fine)...

D) Leads / How I'm trying to solve my problem

So I reckon this is because I demand too much of that USB 2.0 connection, 480 Mbps might be not enough for all this data, especially for transmitting the video signal as it seems. But please correct me if I'm wrong or you see the problem somewhere else.

I therefore think about changing the connection type.

According to this, my MacBook Pro has three wired data in- and output ports other than USB 2.0 (and SD card slot and 3.5 mm socket), which might serve as alternative for the connection to the docking station:

  • Ethernet 1000BASE-T (IEEE 802.3ab) port at up to 1 Gbps, depending on the used ethernet cable.

  • FireWire 800 port at 800 Mbps.

  • Thunderbolt 1 port at 10 Gbps.

I will therefore need an adapter at some point, I guess. As of my inquires (e.g.), a FireWire signal cannot be translated into a USB signal easily with an adapter, at least not at a reasonable cost.

So only 1. and 3., ethernet to USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 1 to USB 3.0 will be in question. I am looking for the most reliable or at least working option for the best price. I've found the following three options:

  1. Ethernet to USB 3.0 adapter (e.g. here) + USB 3.0 A female to USB 3.0 B male (e.g. here). Probably the cheapest option. But I'm not sure if this, that is ethernet, supports a data connection to a docking station at all; it might only work in the other direction - comments on this are much appreciated! About USD 30 + 8 = USD 38, where I plan to buy.
  2. Thunderbolt 1 to USB 3.0 adapter (e.g. here, also here). Most straight forward option, but incredibly expensive and quite a large thing (my MacBook is placed vertically in a laptop stand next to the docking station; this adapter will hang down its side...), but will probably do the trick... USD 80-120, where I plan to buy.
  3. The adapter train: Thunderbolt male-male cable (e.g. here) + Thunderbolt 1/2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter (e.g. here) + Thunderbolt 3 female-female adapter (I cannot find this in my country though! - suggestions?) + Thunderbolt 3 to USB 3.0 A Adapter (e.g. here) + USB 3.0 A-B cable (I already have this, lucky me...). Incredibly complicated, but should work, if I can get all components (!) and maybe less expensive than option II): USD 24-47 + 31-46 + 10? + 9-20 + UBS 3.0 A-B already owned = USD 74-120...

E) Questions

  • A) Is my assumption correct, that the problem comes from the overtaxed USB 2.0 connection?
  • B) If yes, can my approach solve the problem? Which option is the most promising?
  • C) Or is there a way to upgrade the USB 2.0 ports of my MacBook Pro to USB 3.x ports?

Any suggestions, also on a less complicated option 3, are greatly appreciated!

  • While this question falls pretty firmly into being Too Broad and a Hardware Shopping Recommendation, as phrased and answered it is a concrete and specific question that has been specifically answered and as such is a positive bit of knowledge here on SU. For this reason, I believe it should NOT be closed. – music2myear Dec 10 '18 at 18:55


After long deliberation, the all-knowing Stack Exchange Community has spoken: None of my options work.

EDIT 3: This thing did the trick at last. No lag, USB 3.0 compatibility. Everything fine. But pricy...

EDIT 1!! Option one, this Adapter or a similar product (like this), will probably do the job after all and despite the explanation below as indicated by the accepted answer to this question. But next paragraph still has a point!

The only reasonable and working solution is to buy a Thunderbolt 1/2 dock (@JamesP) (All MBP owners with only USB 2.0 ports please note: Do not buy a USB docking station, but do buy a Thunderbolt 1/2 one or even a TB 3 one with a TB 1/2>3 adapter (to have a TB 3 dock for newer computers) instead, if you badly want a dock!!), which are quite pricy (new about USD 200-300) or - more probably reasonable - buy a new MPB with the latest (USB 3.0) ports (and a thunderbolt 3 dock, which is about as pricy as the Thunderbolt 1/2 ones).

EDIT 2: I can confirm now, that the adapter above does provide USB 3.0 for such an old MacBook Pro somewhat since I just bought the one above out of curiosity and against my previous statement in EDIT 1. Bitrates are doubled. I also can confirm that is does not resolve my screen lags (see here: DVI to USB 3.0 to Thunderbolt: Laggy Screen and mediocre USB bitrate)!! Stick with EDIT 1.


Mostly because of unequal signal "languages" or "losses" while translating from Thunderbold/Ethernet to USB and the therefore impossible back-translation from USB to the others:

  1. Ethernet to USB 3.0 adapter: Read @Christopher Hostage's answer to the question.
  2. Thunderbolt 1 to USB 3.0 adapter: Read @JamesP's comments beneath the question. And @Allan's explanations here and here.
  3. The adapter train: Same as 2.

Thanks to those three people, the question is answered! A last advice: The cheapest way is probably not to use a dock or only partially (as a USB HUB with ethernet xD) and plug the external monitor into the Thunderbolt 1 slot with a DVI/VGA etc. adapter, so that the USB 2.0 connection is not overtaxed.

P.S. No one actually confirmed that my screen delays are because of the USB 2.0 connection, but I'm assuming sure that this is silently implied by all the answers, so I'll consider my question closed anyways.


I don't think any of those three options in the initial question will work.

  1. "USB to Ethernet Adapter" is not the same as "Ethernet to USB adapter". The adapter is intended to have its USB port plugged into a computer. The docking station is a "client" device for USB 2. USB 3 blurs the line between client device and computer, but in your case it would function as a traditional USB 2 device.

  2. EDITED : The 2011 MacBook was the first to include Thunderbolt ports. #2 might be possible, but I suggest buying from a vendor that allows returns. Same with #3, but it would be so much effort with so little chance of success that you might as well get a used more-modern laptop.


protected by Ramhound Aug 25 at 21:05

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