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How to use an Xbox 360 wireless controller on a PC

Play PC games with an Xbox controller

We're big fans of the Xbox 360 controller, but we're also fond of the odd PC game or two. The good news is that you can play Windows games using your wireless Xbox 360 controllers. All you need is Microsoft's Xbox 360 Wireless Receiver for Windows.

The receiver costs less than £20, but don't be tempted by cheaper third-party versions which have hit and miss success and require their own special drivers. You can buy the receiver on its own, or if you don't already have an Xbox 360 controller, Microsoft also sells a version with the Wireless Receiver and controller together for around £35 (you can use the controller with an Xbox 360 as well as a PC). You can buy both versions from Amazon.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows

How to set up the Xbox 360 Wireless receiver for Windows

Step 1. Plug in the USB receiver and press and hold the power button on the Xbox 360 wireless controller (the one with the Xbox logo, Microsoft calls it the Guide button).

Xbox 360 controller Guide button

Step 2. The controller and receiver should pair automatically, but if not, press the button on the receiver. When paired, a green light will show on the controller and the receiver. The controller auto powers off if you don't use it for a while.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless USB Receiver for Windows

Step 3. If you're running Windows 7, the drivers should install automatically but if not, install them from the included CD or download them from Microsoft's website for all versions of Windows back to XP. Note that the drivers on the CD (or Microsoft's website) add a feature so you can check the battery level by pressing the Guide button. Plus, you'll need the drivers to manage extra hardware such as the optional Xbox 360 headset which plugs into the controller.

Step 4. Load a game, and locate the controller options, and select the Xbox 360 Wireless controller instead of the keyboard. You may find that you have to manually assign buttons to game functions if there's no native support for the controller. Games which do support it should tell you what each button does in the manual.

If you find that your game doesn't support the controller, you can use a third-party utility such as Xpadder to remap keys to the controller's buttons.

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