These days, you can use just about any gaming controller on your computer. Even older controllers (like the one that came with your Xbox 360 and is now gathering dust) are compatible, so long as you’ve got the relevant hardware and a few minutes to spare. Learning how to connect an Xbox 360 controller to a PC might sound intimidating, but the process is actually pretty simple.
Whether you’ve got a wireless or wired controller, functionality is identical — though many players insist that a wired controller is a must, since there’s basically no input lag. Either way, we’ve got you covered below.
Plug in your wireless receiver
This section only applies to those with wireless controllers. If you’ve got a wired Xbox 360 controller, skip straight to Install software.
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 need to purchase a capable receiver, then run the proper setup wizard.
If you don’t already have a receiver, they typically cost between $10 and $20. The official Microsoft version will cost a bit more than that, but there are many third-party versions available that work perfectly well.
After purchasing the wireless receiver, connect it to a compatible USB port on your computer (see Figure A below). Once plugged in, a green light will appear on the receiver indicating the device is working properly.
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 (probably not, but it’s possible), insert it into your PC’s main optical drive and follow the on-screen wizard. You may need to restart your computer. If not, you can download from the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows link; if wired, select Xbox 360 Controller for Windows instead. Choose which version of Microsoft Windows you’re using — the Windows 7 drivers will work for Windows 8 and Windows 10 — select the operating system language, and click Download.
Once the download screen pops up, hit Run and allow the Xbox 360 Accessories Setup program to install the required files. Again, you may be required to restart your computer upon completion of the install.
Syncing the controller
If you’re using a wired controller, just plug it in. You’re good to go. Scroll down to Testing the Controller to make sure everything is working correctly.
If not, you’ll need to connect 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 (figure B) until it begins to flash green, then press the corresponding button on your controller (figure C).
The pairing process should only take a few seconds, after which the light on the receiver will return to solid green and one of the four corners around the controller’s Guide button will light up (figure D). If you’re still having issues, check Microsoft’s support page for more help.
Testing the controller
Once the necessary software is installed and the controller plugged in or synced, it’s time to test the connection. Open the Start menu on your PC, click the search menu, and look for “game controllers.” You should see an option that says “Set up USB game controllers.”
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. Don’t worry about which area is lighting up — as long as the system recognizes each button, you’re good. If the application does not recognize the controller, you can troubleshoot via Xbox’s support website.
That’s all you have to do. The Xbox 360 controller is the typical default configuration for modern PC games, so you shouldn’t have to do any special key bindings or settings tweaks in the vast majority of titles. Just make sure the controller is connected when you load the game and it should be detected. In fact, some games can switch to the 360 controller automatically, even in the middle of gameplay.