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

Illustration of an Xbox One controller without a connection
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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.

The best way to figure out why your controller isn't working right is to ask yourself the following questions, and then read on to find the solution that's most likely to work:

  1. Did the controller go out of range?
  2. Did you leave the controller inactive for more than 15 minutes?
  3. Are you trying to connect more than eight controllers?
  4. Are the batteries weak?
  5. Do you have a mic or headset plugged into the controller?
  6. Could another wireless device be interfering?
  7. Have you connected your controller to a different console?
  8. Does the controller need to be resynced?
  9. Does the controller need to be updated?
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Controller out of Range

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The Problem: Xbox One controllers are wireless, but there's a limit to how far away any wireless device can get before it loses 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.

The Fix: 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.

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Controller Inactivity

child playing video game

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The Problem: In order to prevent the batteries from going dead, Xbox One controllers are designed to shut down after 15 minutes of inactivity.

The Fix: 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.

Preventing your Xbox One controller from shutting off, or taping down an analog stick, will cause the batteries to die more quickly.

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Too Many Controllers Connected

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

The Fix: If you already have eight controllers connected, you need to disconnect at least one of them by pressing the Xbox button on the controller and selecting Controller off on the TV screen.

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The Batteries in the Controller Are Almost Dead

Full Frame Shot Of Batteries
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The Problem: 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.

The Fix: Replace the batteries with brand new batteries or fully charged rechargeable batteries.

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Your Headset Is Preventing the Connection

xbox one controller headset


The Problem: In some cases, a headset or mic can prevent your Xbox One controller from syncing up.

The Fix: 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.

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Another Wireless Device is Interfering

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The Problem: 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.

The Fix: 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.

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Controller Synced to the Wrong Console

Xbox One X and Xbox One S consoles, Xbox Controllers, Xbox 1, XB1


The Problem: Xbox One controllers can only be synced to a single console. If you sync to a new console, the controller will no longer work with the original console.

The Fix: 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.

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Controller Needs to Be Resynced

Original Xbox controller

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The Problem: The controller has lost its connection through some fluke, or any of the previously mentioned issues.

The Fix: When there's no real underlying cause, or you have already fixed the problem, then the next step is to simply resync your controller.

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.
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Controller Needs to Be Updated

update xbox one controller

The Problem: Your Xbox One controller actually has built-in firmware, and if the firmware is corrupt or out of date you may experience connection issues.

The Fix: The solution to this problem involves updating your controller hardware.

The easiest way to do this is to turn your Xbox on, connect to Xbox Live, 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.

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Using a Wireless Xbox One Controller With a USB Cable

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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.

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.