Living with Windows 10 S: Hardware Devices

Posted on July 31, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 21 Comments

Living with Windows 10 S: Hardware Devices

When it comes to Windows 10 and hardware peripherals, there are successes and there are defeats. But the most common experience, I bet, is something in-between; devices that work, but offer only basic functionality.

In other words, it’s a mixed bag. As is the case with virtually everything related to Windows 10 S.

The issue, of course, is that every custom driver installer that’s currently available on Windows is a desktop solution. This makes sense, since doing it this way has always ensured maximum compatibility across Windows versions. Until Windows 10 S, that is.

Consider our network-attached Dell 3130cn color laser printer. This one is a success: It’s automatically detected and just works, just as it does on other Windows 10 product versions. And in a surprising nod to the future, the Dell Document Hub app—an actual Windows Store app—is automatically installed on all my PCs at home, letting me monitor the toner level and order supplies. So the experience in Windows 10 S is the same one I get elsewhere. (But others may prefer the Win32-based printer configuration capabilities that I just don’t ever use.)

My Canon scanner is another story. This device requires a desktop application that can’t be installed on Windows 10 S, so I knew that would be an issue. But I figured it would at least provide basic functionality with some built-in scanner app.

Nope. Windows 10 ships a Vista-era application called Windows Fax and Scan. Which can’t find my scanner. Or work in any normal way I can figure out.

So … this ships in WIndows 10 S and I can’t even install Chrome? Come on.

And Microsoft’s Windows Scanner app, which you can get in the Store, doesn’t work with my scanner. So this one is a no-go. It doesn’t see my scanner either.

Basic USB peripherals—hard drives, hubs, keyboards, mice, and so on—should work fine, assuming that you don’t need any custom driver or utility software. I stick with Microsoft keyboards and mice, so I’ve not had to install software for those types of peripherals in a long time. And they work fine in Windows 10 S, as expected.

If you need to connect an iPhone or Android handset to your PC via USB—perhaps to download photos or transfer other files—that works normally as well.

Could I record a podcast from this device? On the road, I need to connect a headset with microphone and, Ethernet, and depending on the PC, an external webcam, a Logitech C920.

I use a Diamond USB hub with Ethernet, and Windows 10 S quietly installed the drivers for that with no issue. Likewise, the Jabra USB headset I use on the road was configured automatically. And even the webcam works OK, though of course I don’t get Logitech’s Win32-based configuration software. Or the desktop version of Skype for that matter. But it seems like this could all work.

Finally, I did try a couple of unique Microsoft hardware solutions. The Xbox Wireless Controller for Xbox One connected automatically and downloaded the correct drivers. It shows up normally in the old-school Game Controllers control panel, and it works fine with (Store) games. All as expected.

Likewise, Surface Pen just works as well. The PC on which I’m testing Windows 10 S at the moment is a new (2017) Surface Pro, and based on my experience with Surface hardware, this, too, wasn’t a surprise.

Long story short, if the in-box drivers (or what Microsoft calls class drivers) are enough, you should be OK. But this works a bit like the application issue, meaning that any one shortcoming could scuttle the entire experiment. So it will vary by peripheral, and by personal need.

But fittingly, given the state of Windows 10 S and Microsoft’s perceived target market, your basic needs will be met. And that’s sort of the goal at this point, I would think.


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