One of the specifications Apple heavily markets for MacBooks is the Thunderbolt interface that it made in collaboration with Intel. The current version, Thunderbolt 3, is enabled via USB-C port on Macs. It is also the inspiration behind its popular sibling USB 4 announced last year, and can deliver up to 40 Gbps transfer speeds.
On the other hand, Microsoft’s Surface lineup is considered a true Windows-powered alternative for Mac computers. However, one thing you might have noticed is that Microsoft doesn’t provide Thunderbolt support in any of the Surface models.
Earlier we could think of it as one of the cost-cutting measures, but now we have an answer. WalkingCat has leaked a Microsoft presentation video on Twitter, where a company official explains the absence of the Thunderbolt interface on Surface devices.
Giving the example of Surface Laptop 3, the official says that Thunderbolt provides direct memory access. It means an evil mind with a specially crafted USB stick can extract all the data from the device without having the OS to control it.
This is not the case with USB 3.x ports (USB-C and USB-A) currently used on Surface devices as the USB interface doesn’t provide direct memory access.
Thus, Microsoft chose to stay away from Thunderbolt due to security reasons. Still, we would like to know how Apple was able to tackle the issue and include the Thunderbolt interface in Mac computers without making any compromises — or if the Cupertino company didn’t mind the “feature” at all?
Why you can’t upgrade RAM on Surface devices
In the video, the Microsoft official also cites security reasons behind why you can’t upgrade the RAM chip on Surface devices. He explains that if the memory was upgradeable, an attacker having physical access could freeze the memory with liquid nitrogen and take it out of the device.
He could then use some cheap memory reader ordered from AliExpress to pull out all the data stored in the memory chip, including the BitLocker recovery keys. That’s why the RAM chips on Surface devices are soldered to the motherboard and aren’t upgradable.