close
close

Will my accessories work with Windows on ARM devices?

I have been a traditional Windows desktop user for decades and stick to 32-bit and 64-bit applications with standard Intel and AMD processors. Compatibility has never been an issue with my endless stack of USB-powered accessories and peripherals because most of the world runs Windows 10 and 11 and manufacturers prioritize their drivers for x86-64 systems. However, after purchasing a used Surface Pro X to check the progress of Windows on ARM, it seems necessary to check all about the compatibility of everyday accessories.

Some Windows fans may find it unusual that physical accessories should be incompatible, especially since all apps will run on Windows 11, whether they’re natively built for ARM or run via emulation. Any trace of the ARM controversy involves hardware drivers, which are the key components that allow a computer to understand and communicate with an attached device. Microsoft has even warned of potential headwinds as it expands its own ARM product range, but how does this hold up in real-world use?

Wireless keys and Bluetooth connectivity

Wireless microphones and headphones do not require special treatment in ARM devices. (Photo: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

Most wireless keyboards and mice use a dedicated USB-A or USB-C dongle that uses 2.4 GHz signals or the same Bluetooth technology that smartphones use. I’m certainly not short on peripherals, as my office is overrun with wireless devices competing for my affection, so let’s test some of the Surface Pro X. First up is the previously reviewed SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini Wireless Gaming Keyboard, which: rather appropriately, supports both 2.4 GHz and Bluetooth connectivity. When I plug in the USB-C dongle, the Windows Settings menu automatically identifies the model and everything works as expected.

It works alongside an already connected third-party wireless Bluetooth keyboard, which replaces the expensive Surface Signature Keyboard add-on on my device. This keyboard also has an (admittedly crappy) touchpad, and both communicate with Windows 11 on the ARM-based Surface Pro X, along with a battery life readout in Settings. An identical experiment with the Corsair Katar Elite wireless mouse also showed no problem, regardless of whether it connects via Bluetooth or USB-A. Eagle-eyed Surface fans know that the Pro X doesn’t have USB-A ports, but the $80 Targus dock from Amazon solves that problem, also without compatibility issues.

RøDE Wireless ME microphones are a fancy solution with a simple connection. (Photo: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

For audio, I grabbed a pair of ultra-cheap Bluetooth-powered in-ear headphones to test out the wireless audio output and microphone input. The Windows 11 Bluetooth menu easily recognizes the $25 Moondrop Space Travel headphones because they don’t require third-party drivers to support unusual features. A recurring theme is that Microsoft provides generic drivers for commonly used peripherals, so that even a very basic set of wireless headphones can connect to a Windows on Arm device via Bluetooth without special software.

Microsoft provides generic drivers for commonly used peripherals, so you can connect wireless headphones without special software.