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Windows 11 could replace bad gamer apps with built-in RGB lighting controls

If your PC looks like this, you're probably used to bad software.
Enlarge / If your PC looks like this, you’re probably used to bad software.

Andrew Cunningham

RGB lighting isn’t for everyone, but a quick glance at PC-builder Reddit or the legions of glass-sided PC cases suggests it is for some people. If that’s you, you’re probably used to dealing with sub-par RGB control apps from the company that made your motherboard, keyboard, mouse, and/or fans. Not all of this software is awful, but it usually includes all kinds of features you don’t need or want, and it’s often difficult to use.

Microsoft may be working on a fix for this in a test build of Windows 11, according to Twitter user @thebookisclosed. They discovered a hidden screen in the Settings app in Windows 11 build 25295 dedicated to basic RGB lighting controls for connected accessories, providing a consistent and unified interface for assigning colors and lighting patterns that doesn’t require the installation of third-party software.

We don’t know if this feature will ship in Windows 11 or what form it will take if it does—Microsoft tests all kinds of features in its Windows Insider builds, and the company doesn’t always end up shipping to regular consumers. If the feature ships in anything like its current form, it may have limitations. Third-party apps will probably still offer a wider array of lighting patterns and effects, plus other features like the ability to sync all the RGB accessories in a given room. It’s also unclear whether the UI can control RGB accessories connected to a motherboard’s 3- or 4-pin RGB header or RAM slots, in addition to things connected to external USB ports or your motherboard’s internal USB headers. Those 3- and 4-pin headers are physically and electrically compatible, but programming the lights at a software level is handled slightly differently by each motherboard maker.

To date, the closest we’ve gotten to a universally compatible RGB control app is OpenRGB, an open source and cross-platform control app. But it supports some accessories better than others, it doesn’t consistently detect everything in a given PC (at least in my experience with it), and it can go a while between major updates. A built-in control for these lights in Windows could help standardize the experience for the less technically inclined, while also saving them from downloaded gigabytes’ worth of competing RGB control apps from different accessory makers.

Other features Microsoft is said to be testing in Windows beta builds include a tabbed UI for Notepad, a revamped version of File Explorer, and a search bar for Task Manager.

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