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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Comments (21)

21 responses to “Living with Windows 10 S: Hardware Devices”

  1. Simard57

    wouldn't supporting HyperV provide a means to encapsulate these kind of issues in a VM -- or is it MS strategy to not provide a path and force Window Store apps to get created?

    • wright_is

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Also, correct me if I am wrong, but the host can only emulate / pass-through hardware it knows about, it can't pass through a connection to a device it doesn't know exists, therefore the VM won't see it.

      I had that problem with Windows 7 and XP mode; our home ISDN system from Siemens only had Windows XP drivers and software (it was still being sold in 2014, and the software hadn't been updated) , it crashed Windows 7 and under XP Mode the drivers couldn't find the hardware, because Windows 7 didn't know about it and couldn't pass it through. I had to keep an old laptop kicking around with XP on it, just to configure the blasted ISDN telephone system!

      We switched in 2014 to a VOIP system, using a very good AVM Fritz!Box router, which does router + VOIP + Wi-Fi + USB Printer/HDD + Ethernet + DECT for cordless telephones + ISDN and analogue ports for wired telephones / telephone exchanges.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to wright_is:

        Hyper-V is designed for servers, so the only hardware that is "pass-through" is virtualized hardware, such as direct-connect pass-through drives/volumes, and network controllers (depending on configuration). Everything else is emulated in software, sometimes with hardware acceleration (like video), sometimes without (like virtual drive controllers and chipsets).

        Your situation is different though. Windows 7 doesn't "pass through" any hardware to Virtual PC - it's all emulated. It's just a simulated computer, not partitioned through a low-level hypervisor. Virtual PC would never see that hardware even if Windows 7 had working drivers.

  2. mikiem

    >>"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."

    Yeah, I would have bet that you got a minimal WIA dialog. In a side note, on the download page I see MS advises that you have all hardware working before side [err... down] grading 10 Pro, EDU, or Ent. to 10 S, rather than attempt a fresh install.

  3. Winner

    Really, what is the purpose of 10s. Does Microsoft actually think this is going to get any mainstream volume use?

    I just don't see it happening.

  4. wright_is

    Kyocera/Utax/Triumph Adler printers and multi-function devices have also had a Windows Store app (since Windows 8), which installs automatically, when you install one of their devices. I haven't seen that on our Epson though.

    (Kyocera is the "normal" name for their products, "Utax" the "discount" brand and TA is an old name, having made typewriters and office equipment, including some of the first dot-matrix printers and seems to be a brand reserved for business leasing (at least in Europe).)

  5. UbelhorJ

    You should try giving Windows 10 S to a normal person to try out. I already know it's way too limited for me, but I bet my wife wouldn't notice the difference. She uses Edge (doesn't even know what extensions are) to access Facebook and some news websites, and I've occasionally seen her use Office. ...and this is really only when she can't be bothered to figure out where she left her iPhone.

    It'd also be interesting to see how someone who primarily uses a Chromebook does with 10 S.

    Windows 10 S seems like it'll make a ton more sense when it's available on the cheap low end machines these kinds of users buy.

  6. hrlngrv

    With respect to printers, it sounds like anything which works with Google Cloud Print should work with Windows 10 S.

  7. Waethorn

    Do INF drivers still install?

  8. bryan1up

    How were you able to install windows 10 s on your surface pro?

  9. Waethorn

    I prefer newer printers with web service options. Makes scanning a breeze. Most of the time they're Brother inkjet all-in-one devices (best cost per page for any brand) that I end up setting up for customers. I set them up with Scan to Google Drive and create Home Screen shortcuts to just say "Scan Document (PDF)" and "Scan Photo (JPG)". I'll set the source input tray as automatic and DPI to something decent like 300 so that it's always a good scan quality, and always in colour since you can easily change a print to black & white in printer options. It's pretty much 2 button operation for users (Shortcuts -> Scan shortcut). And you don't need a computer to do it, but of course, you can get the scan on any device.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Yes, the Brothers are fairly cheap and economical. We had an A3 version a few years back at work. I use Epson WorkForce at home, which are very good, but a little pricier.

      If they would scan to OneDrive, I might be interested, I don't use Google Drive.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to wright_is:

        Epson printers have some of the highest cost per page, which is why I don't use them. The only ones that aren't expensive per page are the ones with refill options, but they're a mess to deal with. Brother has models with something called INKvestment, which are cheaper-per-page cartridges than their regular XXL sizes, which are already pretty good.

        The way I figure out cost per page is this:

        Take the biggest cartridges that are supported on any given printer. If they have discounted multi-packs (all colours together, or dual blacks, etc.) use that price as your base. Divide by the ISO number of rated pages. All print cartridges are rated the same (5% coverage for text and business class graphics on letter size).

        Then do the same for the black cartridges and add the figures together.

        Here's an example:

        One of my printers is an older MFC-J6510DW wide format all-in-one. It takes LC79 cartridges. Cost for LC79 colour multipack (all 3 colour cartridges) is $59.57CAD and they're rated for 1200 pages. Cost per page in colour is about 5 cents.

        LC79 Black cost is $37.56CAD and rated for 2400 pages. Cost per page for black is about 3 cents per page.

        So total cost per page in full colour is about 8 cents per page.

        If I did an Epson Workforce Pro WF-6530, which takes 748XL cartridges, the costs come out like this:

        748XL cost is $101.54 per colour cartridge. They're rated for 4000 pages. Multiply by 3 cuz you need all 3 colours. So that's ~7.5 cents per page for colour.

        748XL Black is $126.93 per cartridge and rated for 5000 pages. That's right about 2.5 cents per page.

        Total is 10 cents per page. This is one of their most current business models that doesn't do ink refills (neither does the Brother described above), compared to a 5+ year old Brother. And it's a 25% higher cost per page.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to wright_is:

        Brother models scan to OneDrive. They also support Dropbox, and

  10. SvenJ

    I expect there is one thing that will be an issue. Logitech has their Unifying Receiver tech which lets you connect multiple peripherals to the same little receiver dongle. Each device you get from Logitech is already 'paired' to the receiver that comes with it. If you want to pair a new device with a receiver you already have, you need to do it from Logitech's software, which of course is Win32. You could set up the pairing relationships on a 'regular' PC, and then move the dongle to the Win 10 S box. The relationship is non-volatile. I've paired a keyboard and mouse to one dongle, and moved that dongle from PC to PC, and the keyboard and mouse just follow along. They are tied to that dongle, until you change it via Logitech's software.

    It would seem that Logitech might be advised to port at least the Unifying Receiver app to the store, not just for Win 10 S, but for general convenience. The control panels for some of their more sophisticated products, mice with 100 configurable buttons and gestures, is another story.

    • wright_is

      In reply to SvenJ:

      Except the Logitech drivers, including Unifying pairing, is downloaded through Windows Update automatically, so this should work. It is only the installation of the driver using a manually downloaded .exe installer that causes problems, if I am reading Paul's articles correctly.

      Certainly on the last 4 PCs I installed and plugged Unifying keyboards into, Windows 10 automatically installed the full Logitech Setpoint Suite in the background.

      • mikiem

        In reply to wright_is:

        >>"Certainly on the last 4 PCs I installed and plugged Unifying keyboards into, Windows 10 automatically installed the full Logitech Setpoint Suite in the background."

        Hmmm... interesting... that's not what's happened for me on 3 devices [(2) 10 Home - (1) 10 Pro] with their MK 520.

  11. IanYates82

    This compatibility is pretty similar to what I get on the surface et. Surprisingly good. Being able to access mapped drives and so on from the "spare round the house tablet" is handy for movies, etc. Then letting the kids draw on it, fiddle with word or PowerPoint and hit print is great.

    Admittedly I can do a lot of the same now from my android phone but still not as easily and certainly couldn't a few years ago.

    Windows 10s will get there eventually. It's going to come down to whether the compromises are worth it. I reckon it's akin to someone switching to Mac years ago,pre OSX, when software support on the Mac for most things (not everything...) was lacklustre. I know some who switched out of fear of viruses and encouragement from enthusiasts. Some stayed there happy and others were frustrated by the missing capabilities despite, in my view, them requiring similar stuff from their Mac at the time. Win 10s will be like this for a while...

  12. bbold

    Yep. Totally agree. What I don't get, though, is why the new Microsoft Surface Arc Mouse (the new colored redesigned ones) can't install the app that you would use to activate personalization features (won't work in Windows 10 S, but will in Pro), and this is a Microsoft app! I mean, the mouse works great, but there are extra features in the app (such as assigning button clicks, etc) that you can't use without switching to Pro.

  13. LemonJoose

    Microsoft needs to start a Windows 10 S certification program with logos/stickers for peripheral hardware.  Microsoft should only give the certification to peripherals if the full-service drivers AND the full-functionality bundled software (equivalent functionality to any Win32 software that is included) is made available through the Windows 10 Store.  The stickers/logos on products would read something like "Certified Windows 10 S Compatible - All supporting software is installable free through the Windows 10 Store".  Reviewers of new peripheral hardware need to start taking into account whether new peripheral devices meet Windows 10 S certification criteria. 

    This is really not a different situation than it ever has been for the majority of transitions between operating system versions, and in this case the change from the old way of doing things also brings with it a significant set of benefits for end users by having all software installed and updates managed through the Windows 10 Store (greater ease finding and automatically updating drivers and other supporting software, better security, greater system stability, cleaner and easier uninstallation of software, etc.). Anytime there's a transition like this, software developers and peripheral manufacturers whine and resist for no good reason than their own laziness and resistance to changing how they have always done things in the past.  In the end they either adapt or they become irrelevant and go out of business or otherwise get replaced.  Most of the time, those that successfully adapt end up appreciating how the new way of doing things is actually better and wonder why they resisted the change in the first place.