How to Check for Controller Deadzones in Windows

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Have you ever experienced a problem where a controller doesn’t seem to fully register when you push the analog stick in one direction? You may be suffering from a deadzone, but there’s no easy way to figure out what the problem is. Let’s explore what a deadzone is and how to detect one in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

What Is a Deadzone?

When your analog stick has a deadzone, it doesn’t fully register input when you push it in a specific direction. No matter how hard you push the stick, the controller acts as if you’re not fully pushing it – if at all.

This creates some annoying issues while playing games. When you try to move your character or the camera around, it doesn’t feel as if your actions are properly translating to the game.

How to Detect a Deadzone

I came across this problem with a PS4 controller. I noticed that, over time, my controller’s left analog stick didn’t respond as well as it could.

Every time I pushed it straight up, my character would act as if I only pushed it halfway. This was annoying when trying to run away from my threat, only for my character to take a leisurely stroll instead!

To fix this, I found Gamepad Tester. It’s a web app that can automatically detect controllers plugged in to your PC and automatically bring up diagnostics for it. If you plug in your controller and nothing happens, try pressing buttons to “wake it up.”

Once the diagnostics engage, you’ll see two crosshairs with white dots in the middle. These are the analog stick testers, and the white dots move as you move the sticks.

It’s okay if the dots “jitter” a little bit when they’re stationary; just move the sticks around and see if the dots match up with your movements.

When I tested my faulty controller, I saw what’s depicted in the following image.

Deadzone Sticks

The left dot doesn’t like going straight up, which means my left stick didn’t register a full push upward. This is why my characters slowly ran away from threats; from the controller’s point of view, I wasn’t fully pushing the stick forward.

How to Fix a Deadzone

One great way to quickly fix controller deadzone is to use Windows’ Game Controllers window (best accessed by typing “controllers” into the Start menu search bar then clicking “Set up USB Controllers” – your controller doesn’t actually need to be a USB one).

The new window will display all connected controllers. Select the one with deadzone problems then click “Properties”.

Fix Deadzone Windows Properties

In the new window, click the Settings tab then “Reset to default” then OK. You won’t actually get a prompt saying anything has happened but trust us, it has!

Fix Deadzone Windows Reset To Default

If you use Steam, you can tell it to compensate for the controller’s deadzones. To do this, open Steam, then click “Steam -> Settings.”

Deadzone Settings

Click “Controller” on the left, then “General Controller Settings.”

Deadzone Controller Settings

Select your controller on the list, then click “Calibrate.”

Deadzone Calibrate

This works similarly to the above tool but includes sliders that let you set deadzone compensation. This makes the Steam method a great way to “fix” a deadzone without shelling out for a new controller.

Deadzone Calibration

If you are a Windows user, you can also calibrate your controller using the Calibration Wizard in Windows 10.

Having a Deadeye for Deadzones

If it feels like your controller isn’t obeying you as well as it should, it may not be your imagination. Plug your controller into your PC and run it through the above tests to ensure everything is alright.

If you are having this issue in XBox One, one way to fix it is to switch your Xbox One controllers. Here are some of the best third-party Xbox One controllers you can check out.

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