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How to connect your Xbox 360 controller to a PC

Typical keyboard and mouse got you down while gaming on your PC? Does that Xbox 360 controller you have sitting on your coffee table look more appealing? Fret not, many PC games allow for the use of a controller instead of just a standard keyboard and mouse, and we’ve put together a simple how-to guide on setting up your wireless, or wired, Xbox 360 controller to a PC. 

The functionality is identical whether using a wireless or wired controller, with both controllers touting same button layout, trigger and joystick location, along with exact same D-pad. However, the performance you get from a wired Xbox 360 controller sets it apart from the wireless version. Since you are able to plug the wired controller directly in to your PC, as opposed to syncing to a device you’ll need with a wireless controller, you don’t run as big a risk of experiencing connectivity lag. That’s a negligible concern for most, but for serious gamers this aspect alone would be enough to convince them of choosing to go with a wired Xbox 360 controller. Also, check out our choices for the best Xbox 360 headsets on the market if you’re looking for a solid headset to game with.

Skip ahead to how to connect your wired Xbox 360 controller to a PC.

For PS3 users, we covered how to connect a PS3 controller to a PC here.

How to connect your wireless Xbox 360 controller to a PC

For those of you that own wireless Xbox 360 controllers, connecting to a PC isn’t as straight forward as simply plugging the device in. First off, you’ll want  to purchase a capable receiver, then running the proper setup wizard.

Step 1: Plugging in wireless receiver

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Xbox 360 gaming receiver

You’ll need to obtain an Xbox 360 wireless gaming receiver, typically found for just under $15. New Egg sells a black version for around $9, as well as a white, slim version for$11, with the latter touting all necessary software. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, however, you can head over to fancycost.com and pick up a pink version for $14.

After purchasing the wireless receiver, plug it in to a compatible USB port on your computer. The receiver then syncs the controller to the PC in the same way the  Xbox 360’s internal receivers sync controllers to the console. Once plugged in, a green light will appear on the receiver indicating the device is working properly.plugin

In some cases the Add New Hardware Wizard may start automatically once you’ve plugged the wireless gaming receiver in. If this is the case, you’re set. If not, proceed to Step 2 to learn how to download the required software using an installation CD or the necessary, online drivers.

Step 2: Installing software

In order for the wireless gaming receiver and the wireless Xbox 360 controller to properly sync with one another, users must download the necessary software via Microsoft’s website, or the bundled installation disc packaged with their receiver. 

If you have the aforementioned installation CD, insert it into your PC’s main optical drive and follow the on-screen wizard. You may need ot restart your computer. 

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For those without the installation CD, you can easily access the software download online by visiting the Microsoft Hardware website, and navigating to the Software Downloads section. Once there, click on the Gaming header, select the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows link, choose which version of Microsoft Windows you’re using, select the operating system language, and click Download. Once the download screen appears, hit Run and allow the Xbox 360 Accessories Setup program to install the required files. Similar to the installation CD route, you may be required to restart your computer upon completion of the install.

Step 3: Syncing the wireless controller

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Once the necessary software has been installed, you’ll need to connect your the wireless Xbox 360 controller with the receiver plugged into your computer. To do so, first turn on the controller by holding down the Xbox Guide button in the center of the controller and wait for the green backlight to turn on. Afterward, press the connect button on top of the wireless receiver until the it begins flashing green, then press the connect button on top of the Xbox 360 controller. The pairing process will then begin, and when finished, both lights will remain on signaling the connection. If the devices do not properly sync with one another however, you can always reference Xbox’s support website, or double check the required software was installed successfully.

How to connect your wired Xbox 360 controller to a PC

No two syncing processes are the same, regardless of how similar they may appear. That being said, connecting a wired Xbox 360 controller to PC slightly differs from the wireless version. 

Step 1: Installing software

First off, find and insert the installation CD that came with your wired Xbox 360 controller into your PC’s optical drive. Follow the on-screen installation wizard that appears, or run the setup program manually. Regardless of how you bring up the installer, click Install and the software will automatically install the required files to your PC. In some cases, you may be required to restart your computer upon completion of the install; if so, go ahead and restart your PC.

Now, for those without the installation CD, you can easily download the software online. You’ll want to visit the Microsoft Hardware website, and go to the Software Downloads section. Once there, click on the Gaming header, followed by Xbox 360 Controller for Windows. When prompted, select the version of Microsoft Windows you are using, your operating system language, and click Download. Click Run when the download screen appears, and the Xbox 360 Accessories Setup will begin installing the required files. Just like with the installation CD, you may be required to restart your computer once the install is complete. 

Step 2: Plugging in

Once the software is installed, plug in your wired Xbox 360 controller to one of the USB ports on your PC. 

Step 3: Testing the controller

Once the necessary software is installed and the controlled plugged in, it’s time to test the connection. Open the Start menu on your PC, open the Run utility, and type “joy.cpl” in the entry field before clicking OK. Next, select Xbox 360 Controller and click Properties. Now press the controller’s buttons, pull the triggers, and move the joysticks to ensure the controller is functioning properly. If it is, you’ll see the correlating action highlighted in the application. If the application does not recognize the controller, you can troubleshoot via Xbox’s support website, or double check the required software was installed successfully.

Still having trouble with our simple guide on how to connect an Xbox 360 controller to a PC? Voice your issues in the comments section below and we’ll do our best to help you out.