How can I update the firmware? (a.k.a. Consider supporting Linux Vendor Firmware Service)

Hey there,

I’ve been using the tbt3-udz dock with a few different laptops:

  • 2018 13" macbook pro (previous work machine)
  • 2021 m1 macbook pro (current work machine)
  • Framework laptop 1165g7 configuration running elementary OS (based on ubuntu 20.04) (personal machine)

For the most part, the dock works as great. Even with the m1 macbook, I’m able to output 4K30fps to two monitors, which is not something I would have expected based on the marketing page for this product. One issue I am having is when running the dock with my framework under linux, the second monitor (connected via HDMI) will lose connection for about 1 second every couple minutes or so. I understand that linux is not a supported platform, and so I’m not asking for help debugging or fixing this, however I would like to request that Plugable considers supporting firmware updates to the dock via the Linux Vendor Firmware Service.

I have looked through Plugable’s support articles and some topics in this forum for information about updating firmware, and the only reference I can find to updating firmware for this product anywhere is in this topic, where support linked to a zip file containing a windows application for updating the firmware: https://support.plugable.com/t/tbt3-udz-msi-gs66-11uh-no-displays-detected-hdmi/22055/5

This leads me to believe that it’s not really intended for users to update the firmware for this device, even though there are updates (as evidenced by the linked thread). Is this really the case?

If it is possible to update the firmware on the dock through macOS, I have been unable to find any information on that. I would prefer being able to update through Linux anyway since my personal devices all run some form of Linux, but I do have access to an m1 macOS machine that I could use to update the firmware if needed.

To further my case for supporting LVFS, the firmware update manager on my linux machine can already identify the TBT3-UDZ as a device capable of receiving firmware updates, here’s the output of fwupdmgr get-devices:

Additionally, supporting LVFS doesn’t mean that Plugable will need to verify that any particular Linux distribution will work well with the dock, just that LVFS is capable of updating the firmware.

In summary:

  • I want to update the firmware
  • I want to be able to do it from Linux in the future
  • I can do it from a mac immediately if that is possible
  • I do not have access to a windows machine to perform updates

Thanks for reading!

Hello,

Thank you for contacting Plugable support! Sorry to hear about this issue. I’d be more than happy to assist you.

I must apologize, at this time we do not have any ability to support updating the TBT3-UDZ via Mac or Linux. There are various technical reasons why, but primarily this is because we are not updating the Thunderbolt controller firmware (which is what you’re seeing via LVFS by the way). Rather, we’re updating various video ICs in the dock which at this time requires a Windows only utility to do so. Unfortunately, I would not expect for this to change in the future.

You mentioned:

Even with the m1 macbook, I’m able to output 4K30fps to two monitors, which is not something I would have expected based on the marketing page for this product.

It is not expected for a base model M1 to support more than a single display via any Thunderbolt based docking station (due to base model M1 architecture limitations). Since two displays are working, I would expect that you must have an M1 “Pro” or “Max” version and not the base model. (Otherwise I am uncertain how two displays would even be possible with the base model M1 with this dock.)

One issue I am having is when running the dock with my framework under linux, the second monitor (connected via HDMI) will lose connection for about 1 second every couple minutes or so.

This kind of issue will most likely be corrected with updated firmware, however, I have not personally tested a TBT3-UDZ with a Framework laptop yet, so I am uncertain what kind of behaviors are expected. It should be noted that while the Framework laptop is capable of USB4, it is not currently Thunderbolt certified.

This leads me to believe that it’s not really intended for users to update the firmware for this device, even though there are updates (as evidenced by the linked thread). Is this really the case?

For some context, we have had a few firmware updates so far for this dock since it was released. Generally we do not recommend updating the firmware without consulting us first to ensure that the problems experienced will likely be corrected by an updated firmware. In addition, there is now more than one hardware version of the TBT3-UDZ, so it’s imperative to ensure the correct firmware is being flashed to it.

Ultimately, since you do not have access to a Windows system to perform the firmware update then we will have to send you a pre-updated replacement under warranty.

If you would like to proceed with having us send you a pre-updated replacement dock under warranty, please do the following:

  1. Email us at support@plugable.com and mention ticket # 384099 in the subject line.
  2. In this email please provide your Amazon order ID number, or other proof of purchase.
  3. Also please provide the serial number off the bottom of the dock. (It should be on a small barcode sticker on the dock itself.)
  4. Finally, let us know the best shipping address (along with a telephone number if you’re located outside of the United States).

(Do not post any of this information here.)

If you still prefer to perform the upgrade yourself the only way I can think of would be to temporarily install Windows to your Framework laptop for this purpose. If you were to do so I could then provide instructions on how to check what dock version you have and finally suggest the correct firmware.

Please don’t hesitate to let us know of other questions.

Thanks again for contacting Plugable support and best wishes!

Joshua Henry
Senior Engineer | Product Owner
Plugable Technologies

Thanks for the quick reply!

I would rather not need deal with mailing docks back and forth, but I think I know someone with a thunderbolt-capable windows laptop, and can bring my dock next time I visit them for getting the current version & then installing an update. Unfortunately that does mean that the process will likely extend over a matter of days or weeks anyway, as likely would the mail & replace method.

Is the download provided in the linked thread still the correct way to identify and update the firmware version? If so I will prepare that, and if not could you link to an updated download?

Additionally, I realized I had the HDMI cables plugged into my monitors’ HDMI1 inputs, which only supported up to 30Hz, when switching to the HDMI2 input I can get a full 4k60 on both the m1 macbook pro and my framework laptop on both monitors. Very cool!

Thanks again!

You’re most welcome.

For a situation like this we would not need to mail anything back and forth. We would simply mail you a pre-updated dock as I had mentioned earlier and once it arrives you can discontinue use of the original dock. Typically sending a replacement only takes a matter of days, I wouldn’t expect this to be a multi-week process.

Otherwise, if you are able to gain access to a Windows host to perform the firmware update, I can send you the full instructions for how to do so. (The linked thread is out of date.)

Finally, that’s fantastic news to her moving the HDMI to a different input on the monitors have allowed full 4K @ 60Hz operation.

Best wishes,
Josh

I’ve coordinated with the person with the windows laptop, should be able to get access to it in an hour or so

Understood.

I have emailed you directly with instructions.

Best,
Josh

Followed the instructions and it looks like everything’s working! Haven’t experienced the problem with the second monitor since the upgrade

Thanks for your help!

1 Like

Thanks for letting me know, that’s great to hear!

You’re most welcome for the help.

Have a great evening!
Josh