How To Use Xbox Controllers On PC

Some PC games require (or just play better with) a controller, and few controllers beat Xbox when it comes to PC gaming. Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S controllers can all be used to play games on Windows 10 PCs–for the latter two, you can even connect them to your machine wirelessly.

There are actually a few ways to connect an Xbox controller to your PC. A wired connection is the easiest to do, though the two wireless options aren’t that difficult to pull off either. It really just comes down to your personal preference.

Connect an Xbox controller to your PC via wired cable

You can buy wired Xbox 360 controllers, but if you’re using an Xbox One controller, you’ll need a micro-USB cable, and if you’re using an Xbox Series X|S controller, you’ll need a USB-C cable. For Xbox One controllers, we recommend using the cable included in the Xbox One Play and Charge Kit. And for Xbox Series X|S controllers, you should buy the Xbox Rechargeable Battery + USB-C Cable bundle. That said, in our experience pretty much any micro-USB or USB-C cable will do, so you may already have a cable you can use lying around your home–some of us use our old cellphone charging cables to connect our Xbox controllers to our Windows 10 PCs.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Simply connect your Xbox controller to your PC via the cable, and Windows 10 will automatically begin installing the necessary driver.
  2. When the Xbox button on your controller lights up, you’re good to go. And that’s it! You don’t even have to worry about batteries–the micro-USB or USB-C cable will pull a charge from your PC, keeping your controller constantly juiced.

Connect an Xbox controller to your PC via wireless adaptor

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Connecting your Xbox controller to your PC via an adaptor isn’t much harder than using a wired connection, but it does incorporate a few more steps. The process isn’t all that different from syncing an Xbox controller to a console, so if you’ve done that before, you have an idea of what to do here.

As an added note: This process won’t work with Xbox 360 controllers. You’ll need an Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S controller to make this work.

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To connect an Xbox controller via an adaptor, you’ll (obviously) need an adaptor–specifically, the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows 10. It will plug into a USB port on your PC.

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Here’s what you do:

  1. Put batteries into your controller and turn it on. The Xbox button will start blinking, signaling that the controller is on but not synced to anything. Press the sync button on the top of the controller, which will cause the Xbox button to start rapidly flashing.
  2. Once the Xbox button has begun flashing, go to your adaptor and hold down the identical sync button. Hold it down for a few seconds (like three or four). If the Xbox button on your controller eventually stops flashing and remains on, then the controller has successfully synced to your PC.
  3. If the flashing slows down and goes back to the slow blinking from before, just repeat the process. It shouldn’t take more than two or three attempts. If the controller hasn’t successfully synced after that, something may be wrong with your controller and/or the adaptor.
  4. And that’s it. Remember: Since you’re connecting your controller wirelessly, you’ll need a steady supply of AA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack to keep your controller working.

Connect an Xbox controller to your PC via Bluetooth

Controllers with the design on the top do NOT have Bluetooth, while those with the bottom design do.
Controllers with the design on the top do NOT have Bluetooth, while those with the bottom design do.

Connecting your Xbox controller via Bluetooth requires the most steps, but it’s also the only method that doesn’t ask you to buy anything other than the controller–no cables or adaptors are needed. That said, you will need to buy a specific controller.

This method will not work for Xbox 360 or original Xbox One controllers. You will need an Xbox One controller that entered production alongside the Xbox One S (so the newer version of the controller) or an Xbox Series X|S controller. So basically no Xbox controllers that were made prior to August 2016.

The easiest way to know whether you have an Xbox controller that supports Bluetooth is to read the supported features listed on the side of the box it came in. If you no longer have the box, you can tell just by looking at how the controller is designed. The original Xbox One controllers have a larger plastic molding along the top. The newer Xbox One controllers and Xbox Series X|S controllers incorporate bumpers with a wider click range and feature a smaller top plastic molding.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Once you have the correct controller, you can start the process of connecting it to your PC. First, go into your PC settings and turn on Bluetooth.
  2. Next, turn on your controller by holding down the Xbox button. The button will blink to signal it’s not connected to anything.
  3. Hold down the Xbox button until it starts quickly flashing, signaling that the controller is now searching for something to connect to.
  4. Now go back to your PC. In the Bluetooth settings menu, click the option to “add Bluetooth or other device,” and then make sure Bluetooth is selected. Your computer should then start searching for devices to connect to via Bluetooth–you’ll know you’re on the right track if syncing with your Xbox controller appears as an available option. It should only take three to four seconds to appear. If it doesn’t, repeat this process until it does.
  5. Once it does, just click on the option and your controller should sync to your Windows 10 PC. And there you have it.

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