Hardware Compatibility: A Look Into Microsoft’s Approach

A quest to improve how we provide information about what hardware works well with Ubuntu took me to research how Microsoft does it. It seems that for Server hardware compatibility the solution is fairly standard for everyone – you create a compatibility table. Hey, we have our own one!

However, for consumer hardware I have been struggling to find something that works. Clearly, Microsoft problem is a bit different, but there are some commonalities. For example:

  • How do you know what component works with the latest release
  • How do you know if your PC works with the latest release

What Component works?

We recently launched the Ubuntu Component Catalog as a tool that allows you to browse what components have been tested with Ubuntu for different releases. It is a validation of this use case that Microsoft has very similar site for Windows components.

When displaying compatibility information, it is important to allow the user to have their say. Microsoft has an “Is this accurate” question, while we have a ” Give feedback” button.  Although it is a step in the right direction, at the moment it means that you need to have a launchpad account to provided feedback on the page. Maybe a simpler approach, like Microsoft’s, will be better?

Will My Laptop Work?

At the Ubuntu Certification team, we are currently discussing how to deal with the different variants (SKUs) and changes to hardware after production that manufacturers release under the same model name.  The problem is how to display all this information in a meaningful and useful way. Most of the solutions that we have looked at tent to burden the user with unwanted information.

I suppose that Microsoft faces a similar problem when trying to tell their users if their system will work or not with the newest version of Windows. It seems that Microsoft have gone for a more dynamic solution. Their website recommends you to: “Download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to see if your PC is ready for Windows 7. It scans your hardware, devices, and installed programs for known compatibility issues, gives you guidance on how to resolve potential issues found, and recommends what to do before you upgrade.”

Maybe a “Check My Ubuntu Compatibility” programme, linked to the Ubuntu Component Catalog, is the way forward?

4 thoughts on “Hardware Compatibility: A Look Into Microsoft’s Approach

  1. In terms sharing the information with the user, it’s important that all the information they need is available in one way or another, but the most important thing is to give the user the way to filter the information in the way it wants because everybody is looking at the information in a different way depending who you are and what you do.

    This means that all the information should be in one bag with one id for each element and the user could chose the column he wants and the keyword he wants to look for.

    It’s a little bit like a DB with SQL Requests.


  2. Maybe have a bootable usb stick that quickly and easily check all hardware issues automatically on bootup.. Or it can be a boot option on the default ubuntu images..

    1. We have the option to try Ubuntu from an USB stick but this has some limitations. The first one is that it might not contain all the drivers or that might not be the latest image. But I agree that could be a cool feature to have in the try Ubuntu sticks

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