What to Do When Your Xbox One Controller Won't Connect

Try these fixes before you throw that controller out

Wireless Xbox One controllers are great, but experiencing a disconnect in the middle of a game sucks all the fun right out of the room. The good news is that most of the problems that can cause an Xbox One controller to not connect, or cause a connection to fail, are pretty easy to fix. And even in a worst-case scenario, you can always turn your wireless controller into a wired controller with a micro USB cable.

When an Xbox One controller won't connect, it usually manifests in one of the following ways:

  • Ring light flashes on the controller and never goes steady.
  • You are unable to control games or menus with the controller.
  • The please reconnect the controller message appears on your television.

These problems may occur when you first turn on your controller, or while you're playing.

Causes of Xbox One Controllers Not Connecting

Illustration of an Xbox One controller

Lifewire / Derek Abella

When an Xbox One controller won't connect, there are a handful of root problems that may be in play. At the most basic level, your controller and your console aren't talking to each other. This can be caused by too much distance between them, too much interference, weak batteries, sync issues, and actual hardware failures.

How to Fix It So Your Xbox One Controller Connects

The best way to figure out why your controller isn't working right, and to fix it so that it will connect to your Xbox One, is to go through the following troubleshooting steps one by one. Attempt each fix, in order, and check to see if your controller connects after each step.

  1. Make sure that your Xbox One controller isn't out of range. Xbox One controllers are wireless, but there's a limit to how far away any wireless device can get before it has a dropped signal or sloppy connection

    The maximum range of an Xbox One controller is about 19 feet, but placing objects between the console and the controller can greatly reduce that range.

    If your controller disconnected unexpectedly, and you weren't right next to the console, try moving closer and resyncing. If it loses connection again when you move away, then try moving any objects that are getting in the way or just sit closer to your Xbox.

  2. Check to see if your controller turned off due to inactivity. In order to prevent the batteries from going dead, Xbox One controllers are designed to shut down after 15 minutes of inactivity.

    Press the Xbox button on your controller, and it should reconnect and sync up. If you don't want it to shut off in the future, push at least one button on the controller every so often, or tape down one of the analog sticks.

    Methods like taping down an analog stick to prevent your controller from shutting off do work, but they cause the batteries to die more quickly.

  3. Disconnect extra controllers. An Xbox One can only have eight controllers connected at any one time. If you try to sync additional controllers, it won't work.

    If you already have eight controllers connected, you need to disconnect at least one of them. Choose a controller you don't want to use anymore, press the Xbox button on that controller and select Controller off on the TV screen.

  4. Try fresh batteries in the controller. Weak batteries can cut down on the signal strength of your wireless Xbox One controller, which can cause connection issues. When this happens, the Xbox button on the controller will periodically flash when it loses the connection, and the controller may even turn off.

    To eliminate this as a possible culprit, replace the batteries with brand new batteries or fully charged rechargeable batteries and then sync your Xbox controller with the device again.

    Don't use batteries from a remote or other device even if that device seems to work fine, as that device may not require as much power to run as an Xbox One controller.

  5. Disconnect your headset temporarily. In some cases, a headset or mic can prevent your Xbox One controller from syncing up.

    If you have a headset or mic hooked up to your controller, remove it and try to reconnect. You might be able to plug your headset back in after a successful connection, or there could be a problem with the headset that will prevent you from doing so.

  6. Remove sources of wireless interference if possible. Your Xbox One uses the same part of the wireless spectrum that's used by a lot of other electronics in your home, and even appliances like your microwave can cause interference.

    Try shutting off all other electronics that use a wireless connection, like phones, laptops, tablets, and even your Wi-Fi router. Also shut off appliances, like microwaves, fans, and blenders, that might create interference. If that isn't possible, then at least try to move any such devices away from your Xbox One.

  7. Verify that your controller isn't already synced to a different Xbox One. Xbox One controllers can only be synced to a single console at any given time. If you sync to a new console, the controller will no longer work with the original console.

    If this is your problem, the solution is to resync to the console you want to use the controller with. You will have to repeat this process every time you want to use the controller with a different console.

  8. Try resyncing even if it isn't connected to a different console. Controllers can unsync for other reasons, and you may just be dealing with a fluke occurrence. To rule it out, just try to resync.

    To resync an Xbox One controller:

    1. Turn on your Xbox One.
    2. Turn on your controller.
    3. Press the sync button on the Xbox.
    4. Press and hold the sync button on your controller.
    5. Release the sync button on the controller when the Xbox light on the controller stops flashing.
  9. The easiest way to do this is to turn your Xbox on, connect to the Xbox network, and then navigate to Settings > ​Kinect & devices > Devices & accessories, and then select the controller you're having trouble with.

    If you have a newer controller, which you can identify by the presence of a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, you can perform the update wirelessly. Otherwise, you'll have to connect your controller to your console with a USB cable.

Xbox One Controller Firmware Problems

If your Xbox One controller still won't work, you may have a hardware or firmware problem. Before you reach for a USB cable, send your controller in for servicing, or throw it away, you should try to update the firmware. If the built-in firmware is corrupt or out of date you may experience connection issues.

The solution to this problem involves updating your controller:

  1. Turn on your Xbox One, and open the Settings menu.

  2. Navigate to Kinect & Devices > Devices & Accessories.

  3. Select the controller you're having trouble with.

  4. If the controller needs and update, you'll see a message to that effect.

What to Do If Your Xbox One Controller Still Won’t Sync

If the controller still doesn't work after trying all of the possible fixes, then there may be a physical problem with either your console or your controller.

You can further narrow this down by trying to sync your controller to a different Xbox One. If it works just fine, then the problem is in your Xbox One console and not the controller. If it still doesn't connect, then you have a broken controller and it might be time to buy a new one.

In either case, you may be able to use the controller by simply connecting it to the console via a USB cable. This is less convenient than using the controller wirelessly, but it's less expensive than buying a new controller.

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