Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wireless Xbox One Controller on Windows 7

FYI for any Googlers out there.  I recently bought the wireless dongle for the Xbox One controller (I was using a microUSB cord, but it started to get a bit touchy).  It didn't work at first on Windows 7.  I got the adapter to be recognized by manually installing a driver, but the controller wasn't recognized. The problem appeared to be that I had Windows Update turned off, therefore didn't get the drivers I needed, even though I downloaded and installed the official drivers individually.

Microsoft was very little help.  They don't link directly to driver files anymore, they direct you to their download site (which requires Internet Explorer, ugh) and tell you what to search term to use to find the files.  Really Microsoft?  A bit rinky-dink isn't it?  Also the bulk of their advice was for the Xbox One or Windows 10.

Here are a few things you need to know if you'd like to troubleshoot the controller:

If the wireless adapter is plugged in but not responding, check in Device Manager under "Network adapters" (that placement threw me for a loop).  If it's not identified or not working correctly, you may need to search the drivers yourself and install them manually (but I'd recommending looking for Windows updates first).

Note that Microsoft's troubleshooting advice is for Windows 10 only, even though it's been said Windows 7 and 8 officially support the device now (but not the audio streaming features) they don't have a troubleshooting guide for those platforms that I could find.  Do not (as MS says) return the device as defective if it doesn't work after a restart.  I had to manually install the adapter driver.  This thread has some instructions on finding that driver.

I got the adapter to start working and I even got it to sync to my controller, but no joy as far as being able to use the controller.  The next place to look is in Device Manager under "Human Interface Devices".  There was an entry for me, "XINPUT compatible HID device".  It had an exclamation mark on the icon because the driver couldn't be digitally signed.  Whether this was caused by manually installing the network drivers I don't know, but a found a handful of drivers online, I tried them all, I changed the type of driver to use (from XINPUT to generic controller) and I could get Xpadder to recognize some of the buttons (not the triggers though) and neither Steam nor any games would let me use the controller directly.

I have Windows Update turned off.  This isn't because I don't like updates, it's because the update system is deceptive in it's design and tries to trick people into restarting in 15 minutes vs postponing warnings.  I don't know anyone who's used Windows 7 that hasn't had it shut down on them when they didn't want it to (in the middle of doing work, no less) due to the poorly labeled update prompts we're in the habit of clicking away distractedly because our PCs are for performing tasks, not ceaselessly updating.

I re-enabled Updates, fiddled with that for a half hour to get it to actually check for and then be able to download updates.  I downloaded critical and optional updates.  With no other messing or fiddling the controller worked fine. So the drivers you need are probably embedded in an update.

And as a final note, if you currently don't have updates enabled and temporarily enable them to get the controller working, you will probably find a new nag icon trying to get you to download Windows 10 permanently embedded into your taskbar.  More rinky-dink shit courtesy of Microsoft.

Not only will the icon nag you and cause pop-ups, MS may also soak up your bandwidth and eat your hard drive space by downloading Windows 10 in the background whether you intend to upgrade or not.  Use this tool to disable all that.

I considered upgrading to Windows 10 when it looked like this controller wouldn't work.  However, my biggest problem with Windows 10 is that you can't disable automatic updates.  I understand from a  security standpoint why Microsoft wants to force regular updates (though really, isn't it on me and not them if I stay insecure?  Isn't it my ass hanging out and not theirs, if I choose to ignore their security updates?  So why force me?).

However there's a fairly large amount of trust involved with giving a third party that much control over your computer, letting them install or amend software at their whims.  We can see how MS has used that trust in Windows 7: by put a nagging icon on my taskbar, with popups, trying to get me to upgrade to their new OS, without providing any settings panel providing the option to disable, hide or uninstall it.  For some people, downloading the update in the background without their permission.

I'm sorry Microsoft, your presence on my computer wasn't an invitation to turn it into an advertising platform for your bright shiny new thing.

I immediately turned Updates back off.  I used that tool linked above to remove any traces of the Windows 10 nags.  I'm sure that my next computer will have Windows 10 installed by default.  I'll either find a hack to disable automatic updates, and/or I'll be installing SteamOS on it, only booting into Windows for those games which won't work in Linux.  And guess what?  I'll probably play Windows exclusive games a lot less as a result.

Okay, here ends the rant disguised as technical support.


PS: the controller is pretty great, and the wireless works flawlessly, once it actually worked.  Props to Microsoft for not putting the dongle on a twelve foot cord this time.

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