Once upon a time, Microsoft didn't support its own controllers on its own PC platform. You needed hacked drivers and workarounds to use the excellent Xbox One controller with PC games. That's no longer the case, with official drivers built right into Windows 10. So, while it's easy to do, there's more to it than just plugging it in. Here's a complete guide. (You might also want to check out our pick for the very best Xbox One controller.)
Products used in this guide
- The controller: Xbox One controller ($65 at Microsoft)
- The cable: Rampow micro USB cable ($7 at Amazon)
- Going wireless: Xbox Wireless Adapter ($28 at Amazon)
- For USB-C PCs: AmazonBasics USB-C adapter ($10 at Amazon)
- The app: Xbox Accessories for Windows 10 (Free)
How to use a micro USB cable with the Xbox One controller
By far, the simplest way to use an Xbox One controller is to use a micro USB cable. Attach to the connector on your controller and any free USB port on your PC, and it'll automatically recognize it's there, and you're good to go.
Any decent cable will do the trick, even the one that you used to use to charge your phone.
However, it's not just desktop PCs that you can use an Xbox One controller with. It's entirely possible to use it with a tablet or laptop, and in those cases, you may only have USB-C connectors available.
The easiest thing to do is get a USB-C to USB-A dongle, allowing you to use a regular micro USB cable through the USB-C connector on your laptop or tablet.
The Xbox Wireless Adapter
Microsoft also has an official wireless dongle for Windows PCs that allows you to go wire-free. The first-generation controller and the original Xbox Elite controller don't support Bluetooth, so to go wireless on your PC, you'll need the dongle.
It isn't expensive, and the redesigned model is much smaller than the original. Simply plug it into your PC and connect your controller to is as you would the Xbox One, by holding down the pairing button on the top.
The Bluetooth controller
The current generation Xbox One controller from Microsoft, as well as the second-gen Elite Controller, supports Bluetooth. Any currently on sale, or that came with the Xbox One S or Xbox One X have Bluetooth capabilities. That means you can connect it to any Windows PC, laptop, or tablet that has Bluetooth built-in.
- Open settings on your PC.
- Go to devices.
- Make sure Bluetooth is turned on.
- Turn on the controller by pressing the large round X button.
- Click on the controller in your discovered devices to pair.
This is particularly handy if you're taking a controller on the road with you and your laptop. One less cable to pack!
Taking advantage of the Xbox Accessories app
This is particularly handy if you're using an Xbox Elite Controller, as the Xbox Accessories app allows you to customize the buttons and paddles to a layout of your choice.
It's in the Windows Store to download to your PC, all you need to do is connect the controller to the PC to get started. There's a bunch of things you can do to customize your controller for your favorite games, and you can save two profiles to the Elite Controller at any one time.
All the gear you need
Exactly which piece of equipment you need will depend on which controller you want to use with which type of Windows PC. The list below covers everything you might need to get your hands on.
Xbox One Controller ($65 at Amazon)
The Xbox One Controller is officially supported by Windows 10, and it's also the best around!
Rampow micro USB cable ($7 at Amazon)
This braided cable from Rampow is reliable, braided for durability, and plenty long enough to reach your gaming PC.
Xbox Wireless Adapter ($28 at Amazon)
The official wireless adapter from Microsoft, this is what you need if you're using an Elite or first-gen controller to go wire-free.
AmazonBasics USB-C adapter ($10 at Amazon)
For laptops and tablets without regular USB ports, pop this into the USB-C connector and use a regular micro USB cable with your controller.
Xbox Accessories app (Free at Microsoft)
Particularly useful for Elite Controller owners, this app allows you to customize button layouts, paddles, and save your favorite profiles for easy use.
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