The good thing about modern gaming PCs is that most of your favorite controllers are now plug-and-play. Just plug it into a USB port or connect it via Bluetooth, and you should be away. (If you need some extra help, see our guides on how to connect a PS4 controller and Xbox controller to Windows 10.)
But you may want to do some fine-tuning, making sure the analog sticks work without drift and have the right levels of sensitivity and deadzones. There are a couple stages to this: using the Windows calibration tool, then fine-tuning your controller in Steam. Here we show you how to calibrate your controller in Windows 10.
First, we’ll use the old but still viable Windows calibration tool. Press the Win key, type “controller” into the search bar, then click “Set up USB Controllers” (whether your controller is actually USB or Bluetooth).
In the new window, select your controller, then click “Properties -> Settings -> Calibrate.” Follow all the steps in the wizard, then click OK.
While the Windows calibration tool works for controllers, the users that most benefit from it are joystick users. You may need to play around in Steam to get your controller really working the way you want.
Open Steam, then open Big Picture. (Either double-press the Xbox or PS button on your controller or click the Big Picture icon at the top-right corner of Steam.)
Next, click the “Settings cog -> Controller Settings,” then select your controller under “Detected Controllers” and click Calibrate.
Click “Lock Out Joystick Navigation,” then “Start Full Autocalibration.” Here you’ll be asked to move the analog sticks in different directions 10 times each. (The number will count down as you do it) Follow the instructions, and your controller should be calibrated.
After that, go back to the main Controller Settings screen and again go to “Calibrate” for your controller. This time, don’t select “Lock Out Joystick Navigation” and adjust the Left Stick and Right Stick Deadzones until you’re comfortable with them.
The next part is fun. In Controller Settings, if you check the “Configuration Support” box for your controller, you’ll be able to fine-tune the controls, sensitivities, etc. on a by-game basis even if that game doesn’t support gamepads. So you can play your favorite strategy games or older keyboard-and-mouse games using your shiny modern controller.
Once you’ve checked the relevant Configuration Support box, open a game in Big Picture, press the PS, Xbox or equivalent button (or Alt + Tab on your keyboard), then Controller Configuration.
Here you can really micro-manage your controller for the game you’re playing, including your analogs. Click the boxes pointing to the analog sticks to change things like style of input and output axis.
From here, click “Additional Settings” to dig into deadzones and sensitivity. Some of the settings here have explanations, but for others, you may need to experiment.
Alternatively, on the Controller Configuration screen, you can select “Browse Configs” and use controller layouts that the community has come up with. The community configurations are voted on by users, so the best-rated ones are listed at the top. Just click a configuration, then “Apply Configuration” to use it.
And with that, you should have everything you need to calibrate your controller in Windows 10 and fine-tune it per game. For more gaming-related guides, see our GPU buying guide for 2021, as well as our list of the best SideQuest games you can get for your Oculus Quest or Quest 2.