What do you get if you use a gaming PC from Alienware, a keyboard from Cooler Master, a headset from HyperX, and a mouse from Razer all at the same time? You get four different programs and interfaces to control all those blinking RGB lights. Sorry, that wasn’t a punchline, it’s just the annoying reality of different proprietary software to control a bunch of different PC gaming gadgets. But according to the code of the latest Windows 11 test build, it might be getting a more practical solution soon.
Twitter’s prolific Windows analyst Albacore (via The Verge) spotted RGB lighting controls for USB accessories in Windows 11 build 25295, the latest Insider Preview Build that hit the servers just yesterday. There’s no mention of lighting controls in Microsoft’s official changelog, but such is often the case for features the company is somewhat iffy on. According to the screenshots posted to Twitter, this build of Windows 11 can change basic lighting modes and settings for keyboards, mice, headsets, and even more esoteric gadgets like the Stream Deck.
Using a bunch of different driver programs to control lighting on every single component has long been a headache for PC gamers. (You might be familiar with these lamentations if you’re a regular viewer of our Full Nerd podcast!) There have been a few examples of cross-compatibility like Asus and Corsair gadgets working together and a few can now connect to smart home systems like Google Home and Alexa.
Controls in the preview are pretty basic with only four patterns, brightness, and speed sliders, as well as a selector for solid colors. But there’s an option to instantly match up a specific gadget with the Windows accent color the user specifies in the Personalization menu, which is a smart touch. Microsoft has been working on a universal lighting system since at least 2018, but this is the first time we’ve ever seen it being implemented.
Windows 11 build 25295 is a pretty major jump forward, according to the release notes. We might have to wait until the yearly update sometime in the latter half of 2023 to see most of its changes. And to be honest, it’s a bit of a coin flip as to whether Microsoft will actually keep this feature around — I suspect it will hinge on how many accessory manufacturers it can convince to conform to the standard. But the dream of a universal controller for a half-dozen rainbow accessories remains alive.
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.