Xbox Wireless Controller FAQ: How to Connect a Controller, and Which Controller to Buy

By Sam Quirke,
How to connect a controller to xbox one

In among the flurry of Xbox Series X news that came out of The Game Awards 2019 was confirmation that the next generation console will arrive with a brand new Xbox Wireless Controller. The redesigned controller will also be compatible with current generation Xbox Ones as well as PC. For the consumer, this makes things confusing – the launch of the Series X controller will result in five different Xbox Wireless Controllers being available to Xbox One owners. To help you work out which one you want to get – heck, even to work out which one you already have – we've put together a guide to the Xbox Wireless Controller. Whether you're trying to sync or pair your Xbox controller to your console or you're looking to compare the standard controller with the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, we have you covered.

This guide is part of a series aimed at first time Xbox owners. TrueAchievements is the largest Xbox community site on the internet, allowing players to track their gaming achievements, discuss strategies and compete in contests and leaderboards. Once you have set yourself up on Xbox, you can register with us for free using your gamertag.

What is the Xbox Wireless Controller?

The Xbox Wireless Controller is the catch-all name of every standard controller compatible with the Xbox One. At the time of writing this appears to be true of the new Controller revealed with the Xbox Series X, referred to only as the "new Xbox Wireless Controller" in press releases. It can be a little tricky to work out which one you have because of this.

Which Xbox Wireless Controller should I get?

While we're waiting for the Xbox Series X to launch with its new Xbox Wireless Controller, we recommend that players pick up a third-generation or later standard Xbox Wireless Controller – model number 1708. Don't worry if you're buying a brand new Xbox One console or controller – all new Xbox Wireless Controllers purchased in 2016 or later are actually from the third generation, unveiled alongside the Xbox One S.

Why is this important? Firstly, controllers released prior to June 2015 don't have a headphone jack, meaning that you can only get audio output direct from the controller using a chat headset. The third generation Xbox Wireless Controller from 2016 and later had a design overhaul, with improved textures and Bluetooth connectivity. Along with the 3.5mm jack, these small features add up to a lot of extra convenience – more importantly, it's much easier to sync and update your controller with that Bluetooth connectivity.

Microsoft Image

You can tell if you have a 2016-onwards Xbox Wireless controller by looking at the Guide button in the centre. If it's embedded in a shiny, smooth-textured panel that wraps around the shoulder buttons, you have a pre-2016 controller. If it has the same, slightly rougher texture as the front of the game pad, it's the third generation.

How do I connect a controller to my Xbox One?

If you're starting up your console for the first time, the startup procedure will talk you through connecting your Xbox Wireless Controller to your Xbox One. However, if you go round a friend's house to play, or they bring their controllers to your place, you need to know how to sync up a new controller on the fly.

You may see the words "syncing" and "pairing" mentioned in the Xbox world – it all amounts to the same thing, connecting the controller to the gaming device.
The process is really simple – there's a little sync button on the top of the controller, next to the micro-USB slot. Hold that in for a few seconds until the Xbox Guide button starts flashing. While that is still flashing, you want to press the corresponding button on your Xbox console. On an older Xbox One, that's on the left side of the box next to the USB ports. On the Xbox One S and X, it's on the front, beneath the power button. Hold it until the power indicator is flashing. While the controller and the console are both flashing, they are able to find each other. After a few moments you should get a solid light on both, indicating that the controller is paired.

If that doesn't work, try using a micro USB cable. Connect the Controller to the Xbox with it and your Xbox should register the controller. At this point you can unplug the USB – once the controller is synced it should work wirelessly.

How do I charge my Xbox Wireless Controller?

Out of the box, your Xbox Wireless Controller will take two AA batteries. To avoid any mad scrabbling for a new pair, though, we recommend you get a rechargeable pack. I'm a fan of the simple, official Play and Charge Kit, which is basically just an enclosed battery pack that slots into the AA battery compartment on the back of the controller. It comes with a useful long micro-USB cable which you attach at the top of the controller, between the shoulders. You can use the controller wired in this way by connecting the USB to your Xbox, or you can just leave it charging.

There are loads of third party options available if you don't want to pay out for the official charge kit, but your mileage may vary in terms of build quality and reliability.

Alternatively you could get yourself a fancy charging stand, if you'd like a way to store your Xbox Wireless Controller as well as charge it. There are a bunch of stands made by official partner Controller Gear, whether you're after block colour Charging Stands to match the colour of your controller or a special edition stand for the game you love, such as the Gears 5 Armor Special Edition Stand. If you want to get really economical, there's also the PDP Ultra Slim Charging System that can comfortably charge two Xbox Wireless Controllers, including Elites. Whether it'll acommodate the newer controller remains to be seen.

How do I sync or pair by Xbox Wireless Controller to my PC?

The Xbox Wireless Controller can be used to play games on your PC, and generally it's considered to be one of the best PC gamepads available even if you aren't a traditional Xbox gamer. The process is a little more complex, so we've written a separate guide for connecting your Xbox Wireless Controller to your PC.

How do I update my Xbox One controller?

Update controller Xbox One

On the Xbox One console, press the Xbox Guide button (the big lit button in the centre of your controller) to get to the Xbox Guide menu. From there, head right to the gear icon (System) and then choose Settings. Tab down to Devices & Streaming and then Accessories. You will then be taken to the controller configuration screen.

Tab down to the three dots to see further options. The top option will allow you to update the firmware on the controller. The controller must be connected via USB in order to update the firmware and you must take care to keep the cable connected throughout the process.

How can I change the button mapping on my Xbox One controller?

Map buttons xbox one controller

Head to Devices & Streaming and Accessories as above to get to the controller configuration screen. Hit Configure, and you can choose to create a new button mapping profile.

On the next screen, you can now assign each major button on the controller to a different button if you need to. Perhaps you prefer to shoot or drive things in the old-school way before controller triggers were invented – you could reassign the right trigger, the customary shoot / drive button of the modern age, to one of the face buttons (A, B, X, Y). To reassign a button either pick it from the drop-down list or hold the button down to identify it. The next button you press will be the button that input is reassigned to. You can restore the button mapping to default at the bottom of this screen, and there are also options for swapping the analog sticks, inverting the axis on the sticks, and disable vibration.

Head back one page and you can edit, rename, delete and copy your custom mapping profiles by highlighting the profile and using the options at the top of the screen.

Back on the controller configuration screen, you can test the function of all of the buttons on the controller in case you're worried that one or more of your inputs aren't registering. Once you are done, press the two buttons either side of the Xbox Guide button together to exit the menu.

There are further options behind the three dots – you can change which account the controller is assigned to, who gets signed in automatically when the controller turns on, and the volume in any connected headsets. You can Buzz to test the controller's vibration function too.

Which console is my Xbox Wireless Controller compatible with?

Every generation of Xbox Wireless Controller and Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is compatible with Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox One S, Xbox One S All-Digital Edition and the Xbox Series X. The new Xbox Wireless Controller announced with the Xbox Series X will also be compatible with all of the listed consoles. The latest generation Xbox Wireless Controllers are also compatible with your PC and with your Android phone if you are looking ahead to using xCloud.

What is an Xbox Elite Wireless Controller?

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is essentially a pro gaming controller, designed to help dedicated players stay precise and quick when competing. There have been two Elite controllers – the current model, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, is the only one available new on the Microsoft Store. The Elite 2 boasts "30 new ways to play" thanks to its customisation options. There are interchangable thumbsticks as well as paddles on the back of the controller, and players can map three custom profiles and one default profile to it depending on what they are playing. Hair trigger locks are shorter allowing for faster fire and the controller has a firmer rubberised grip. Using the accompanying app, players can adjust deadzones and bind certain actions to voice commands too. The controller is packed in with a charging kit and boasts 40 hours of play time instead of the standard 30.

Should I buy an Xbox Elite Wireless Controller?

An Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is a big investment, especially to a new Xbox owner, and probably provides more customisation than the new player is going to know what to do with. We'd recommend sticking with the standard Xbox Wireless Controller, at least until the next generation of controllers is fully revealed.

What is the new controller bundled with the Xbox Series X?

Xbox Series X release date

The new controller shown alongside the Xbox Series X announcement is just called the "Xbox Wireless Controller", and it will be compatible with all Xbox One devices as well as PC (and presumbly xCloud on Android). As with previous iterations of the Xbox Wireless Controller, it will likely become the new standard edition, with older models being discontinued on the Microsoft Store.

All we know about the new Xbox Wireless Controller so far is that the shape has changed a little – there's a little more room to move on the controller now, which makes sense as the design has apparently been updated to allow wider access to different kinds of people. The other significant change is the addition of a Share button, right in the middle of the controller face.

Is there a new Xbox Elite Controller for the Xbox Series X?

As of yet, there have not been any announcements about a new Xbox Series X Elite Controller – The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 only came out in 2019 after all. However, we think the naming is significant – the Xbox Elite controllers started using the "Series" label even before the Series X was revealed. Don't be surprised to see an upgraded Series X controller in the future, and possibly other Series labelled controllers depending on what other consoles Microsoft chooses to release.

What is the Xbox Adaptive Controller?

Adaptive controller

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is a revolutionary and award-winning device designed by Microsoft and partners at The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, SpecialEffect and Warfighter Engaged. Its primary purpose is to accomodate players with a variety of disabilities or impairments. Each charity has worked for years on building custom rigs for players in need, and the Adaptive Controller is a culmination of that work.

The adaptive controller itself is effectively a hub, with ports corresponding to each controller button on a standard controller. A player can attach a variety of input methods into each port corresponding to a button depending on how they need to operate it. As well as space for various input devices, the two large pads on the top of the device can be used as buttons for those with limited dexterity. The entire Controller can be mapped to a custom profile to cater to various needs. It has been awarded by TIME Magazine twice, as one of the best inventions of 2018 and the whole decade.

You can see the latest official Xbox controllers and devices, and any official discounts, on our Hardware page. Here, we scan the official Microsoft Store for the latest Xbox devices as well as pick up any new discounts Microsoft posts.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016 and is now the Editor for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.