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I have two laptop PCs:

  1. HP EliteBook 840 G4 (for personal use)
  2. Lenovo T480 (for work use)

My Lenovo is connected to a ThinkPad USB-C Dock Gen 2 (Type 40AS) so it can project to 2 monitors. I would like to use this dock on my HP EliteBook when I'm not using my Lenovo since based on the Product Page of the Dock, it's generic and should work with other non-Lenovo PCs.

However, I found out from the Product Manual that my HP's USB Type-C isn't Thunderbolt-compatible or doesn't have alternate modes: HP Elitebook 840 G4 Docking solution.

Based on that, it seems I may not be able to project to dual monitors using this dock, but I found that some other users were able to actually make their HP Elitebook 840 G4 work on a Universal Docking Station:

As advised on the second Reddit post I've tried installing DisplayLink drivers but it still isn't working.

Is there any way I can "upgrade" my HP's normal USB-C or USB-A to a Thunderbolt Port? Perhaps via a software upgrade or a connector dongle/adapter?

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    Probably you can’t do nothing about it. USB C and Thunderbolt 3/4 are just connector compatible; not protocol compatible. Thunderbolt 3/4 can downgrade to USB C but — to the best of my knowledge — USB C can’t be upgraded to Thunderbolt 3/4. – Giacomo1968 Jan 1 at 22:05
  • Listen to @Giacomo1968. I second that answer. Don't waste your time trying to make this work. I don't care what reddit says. I would love to be proven wrong.. but I don't think that is going to happen. – Señor CMasMas Jan 1 at 23:17
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Is there any way I can "upgrade" my HP's normal USB-C or USB-A to a Thunderbolt Port?

No, supporting Thunderbolt requires a Thunderbolt controller in the computer. You can't upgrade a port from USB 3.x to Thunderbolt with software or a dongle any more than you can upgrade a USB 2.0 port to USB 3.x with software or a dongle.

If all you want is a dock for two displays, 2 or 3 USB-A devices, and passthrough power to your laptops with USB-C ports then there are plenty of options that should be under $150. The laptops will have to support DisplayPort MST on the USB-C to find a dock in this price range with dual video support, unless you find a real deal on a DisplayLink dock.

I've tried the DisplayLink approach and updated the drivers but it still isn't working.

I'm not sure I understand. DisplayLink is a brand of USB to video hardware and you can't add DisplayLink to a dock with drivers. To get DisplayLink means getting a dock with the DisplayLink hardware in it. DisplayLink docks will require drivers to provide video, DisplayPort docks will not require drivers for video.

Don't get too hung up on "Thunderbolt compatible", I've seen this term abused into meaninglessness. All "Thunderbolt compatible" means is it won't burst into flames if you plug it into a Thunderbolt port. If a dock plugs into a USB-C port then it is by definition "Thunderbolt compatible", unless they really screwed up the wiring. Being "Thunderbolt compatible" is not the same as requiring a Thunderbolt host to work.

Also abused into meaninglessness is "universal docking station". As best I can tell is that this term describes a dock that can connect to laptops that may or may not support DisplayPort on its USB-C port, and may or may not have a USB-C port. They get video by using a DisplayLink chip in the dock. If you have laptops that support DisplayPort MST then using DisplayLink will likely be going backwards in video performance. Most any laptop with DisplayPort on USB-C will do better than DisplayLink can offer and for lower cost.

Thunderbolt docks (not "Thunderbolt compatible" docks) are often quite expensive because they require the bandwidth that only Thunderbolt can provide. A dock to get two video ports and 3 USB-A ports will not require Thunderbolt to work. Ignore the terms "Thunderbolt compatible" and "universal docking station", this is meaningless marketing speak.

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  • And 1 little addition: If you install the DisplayLink drivers on a Thunderbolt system there is a high chance that the DisplayLink and Thunderbolt driver don't tolerate each other well, leading to blue-screens and/or video-glitches. So if you have a laptop with USB-C AND Thunderbolt, you still need a Thunderbolt dock for external video in most cases. With the upcoming Thunderbolt v4.0/USB v4.0 standards both standards will integrate with each other and USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4.0 equipoped computers, hubs and docks will be required to always support both standards in full. – Tonny Jan 3 at 9:43
  • " So if you have a laptop with USB-C AND Thunderbolt, you still need a Thunderbolt dock for external video in most cases. " No, you don't. USB-C can support TB3 and DP alt modes, separately or together. While TB3 support doesn't require DP the two are often seen together. If a USB-C port supports DP alt mode then TB3 on the same port will not prevent a non-TB3 dock from providing DP video. – MacGuffin Jan 3 at 10:58
  • " With the upcoming Thunderbolt v4.0/USB v4.0 standards both standards will integrate with each other and USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4.0 equipoped computers, hubs and docks will be required to always support both standards in full. " DP and TB have been able to share a port since TB1, TB3 and USB-C didn't change this. The SS lines on USB-C have been able to split bandwidth between DP and TB from the start. TB4 and USB4 allows DP and TB to also share SS lines with USB data. USB 3.x, DP, and TB3 share a USB-C port just fine now, just not on the same SS wires in the cable. – MacGuffin Jan 3 at 11:10
  • Technically you're right (on both your remarks). Problem is that you can't tell from the outside or (in many cases) from the vendor information whether or not any given combination of TB3 and USB3 is going to work and what will or will not be supported if it does halfway work. From a user (and a customer support) perspective it is a nightmare and you just have to hope that your particular combination of equipment will work as desired. That should get better with USB4/TB4, but at the moment... It is a real mess. – Tonny Jan 3 at 14:39
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Thunderbolt is a set of protocols that run over a USB-C connection.

Having a USB-C port does not mean your system can support Thunderbolt. In order to support Thunderbolt, your computer must have the Thunderbolt hardware controller. For laptops, this is usually an upgrade option when you first purchase the system, and cannot be added later because it is a physical chip soldered to the mainboard.

Another similar protocol is DiplayPort, which also has USB-C options. In general, these protocols each support the lower protocol (backwards compatible) but not the higher protocol (forward compatible). So a Thunderbolt-enabled computer can run basic USB 3.0 stuff, AND Thunderbolt stuff, but a USB 3.0 computer without the Thunderbolt chip cannot support any Thunderbolt systems.

Because your G4 lacks a Thunderbolt controller there's a slim chance it may support certain very limited aspects of the dock connection, but there's a better chance it will not recognize or support the dock at all, and even if it does support some functions, these will be limited.

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    Ha ha! Thanks for the edit @Giacomo1968 – music2myear Jan 3 at 20:38
  • No problem! And more thanks to @MigsIsip for doing extra cleanup because I just got tired and didn't do what I usually do… Copy the text to a text editor and do a search and replace. – Giacomo1968 Jan 3 at 20:51

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