When Windows 10 Screws Your Game Night

When Windows 10 Screws Your Game Night

I was so proud on Friday evening, walking out of the Microsoft Store. I’d just bought three wireless Xbox One receivers. “Finally,” I thought, “those bloody cords will be gone.”

The cords were micro-USB cables running across the floor of my living room, a solution designed at a time when you couldn’t buy a wireless dongle for Xbox One controllers, and the Xbox 360 wireless receivers wouldn’t work with the newer pads.

But a trip to the Microsoft Store, I hoped, would change all that. I asked the store assistant how many receivers I might need, although I already had the intention of buying three: my unit already has two gaming PCs up and running, and there’s a plan to build a third in the near future.

Of course, if you’re just playing on the one PC then you only need the one adapter. Here’s Microsoft Support on the features of the Xbox Wireless Adapter:

With the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows, not only can you connect your Xbox One Wireless Controller to your Windows 10 device, you can also connect up to eight wireless controllers and up to four chat headsets or two stereo headsets without any cables between your controller and your Windows 10, 8.1, or 7 device.

Naturally, the store assistant told me a different story: only one controller per dongle, apparently. But since the long-term plan was to have a wireless adapter for each PC, I didn’t press the point. (For reference, the clerk said he was only a month into the job, so I understand the need to upsell. Retail isn’t easy.)

So, three adapters. At worst, one controllers pairs to one adapter, with a fourth wireless adapter for the Steam Controller. Plug the adapter in, hit the button, power the Xbox controller on, pair the Xbox pad, and away you go.

Simple, right?

Of course it bloody isn’t.

Before everyone arrived, I grabbed fresh batteries just in case. The setup: two Xbox Elite controllers, a dinky standard Xbox One controller, a Steam Controller, and a PS4 controller on standby just in case. (I know the PS4 can work via Bluetooth, but it’s never been 100% reliable.)

Following the sage upselling advice of the fellow in the Microsoft Store, I plugged in all three of the Wireless adapters and began syncing controllers one at a time. Press the sync button, power on a controller, sync the two together, repeat.

The standard Xbox One controller ended up proving a bit of a challenge – for some reason, it was being picked up as a duplicate controller of one of the Elites. But after some trial and error, the Devices page in Windows 10 registered four separate controllers.

Brilliant. Everything was going to work just fine. My nightmare of people tripping over cables was finally over.

And then I fired up a bunch of games to test. Sportsfriends picked up four pole vaulters without fault. VIDEOBALL did the same. Four ducks quacked happily in Duck Game.


Then the first guest arrived.

Image: Kotaku

I like being a good host, so I greeted people at the door. Sorted their drinks into the fridge. Offered nice whisky as an aperitif. Asked if they wanted anything to eat. Basically make people comfortable, doing all the sorts of things you would expect when someone arrives at your house.

Everything except occasionally check that the Xbox One controllers were still turned on.

So when people started sitting down, the Xbox controllers were turned off and, consequently, no longer appearing in the Devices page.

No problem, I thought, I’ll just turn them back on.

But while the controllers turned on, they were no longer syncing to the wireless receivers they were paired to. When I fired up Duck Game, the Xbox One and Elite controllers were all picking up as the same controller. Inversus refused to see more than two controllers.

It’s the most furious I’ve ever been at Windows 10, and that includes the time I tried to upgrade the same machine from Windows 7 – only for Windows to rollback the entire install at the last moment. Fortunately, Fibbage and Use Your Words were enough to tide people over until they got hungry enough for some flat Lebanese chicken, affording me an opportunity to get everything working again.

Thinking the receiver for the Steam controller could have been the culprit, I promptly unplugged it. The other dongles were unplugged, and I restarted the process one at a time. But instead of going one receiver per controller, I tried to sync up as much as I could on a single receiver before moving forward.

The two Elite controllers sync just fine to the one receiver, but the regular Xbox One pad didn’t. No problem: I plugged in a second, and it syncs to that just fine. Two receivers, two solid white lights on those, three Xbox One pads detected in Devices. The Steam Controller is next, and that works without a problem.

So sure enough, not long after everyone left I had four ducks quacking happily once more. Feeling triumphant, I relayed the good news to Tegan:

Behold, my hubris.

Right, I thought to myself, I’m not going to let the Xbox controllers power down. So I kept moving the sticks and pressing buttons, hoping that would keep everything active and going.

Everyone arrived, chicken, snack packs and wraps in hand. Drinks, cutlery and plates were assembled in the living room. Four controllers, four solid white lights. Everything seems to be working so far.

Food consumed, drinks absorbed, the focus begins to turn to games. Four controllers are still lit up.

So I fire up a game … and only three controllers appeared.

What the fuck?

A quick check revealed the wireless adapters were still alive and well. So were the Elite and Steam controllers. But the regular Xbox One pad vanished, God only knows why, and there was only one solid white light on one of the Xbox wireless adapters.

At this point my failures have become the evening’s entertainment, with someone cheekily joking “no wonder you didn’t win Best Gaming Coverage”.

Harsh, but fair.

Jokes aside, you have to wonder why this process is so difficult. As far as the Steam Controller is concerned, you plug the receiver in, hit the button, and that’s it. It’s not complicated at all, and Valve doesn’t have the advantage of being able to hardcode drivers into Windows 10.

But having complete control over the hardware and software isn’t much of an advantage at all. And this was before installing the Windows 10 Creators Update – having had a miserable experience with last year’s Anniversary Update screwing with controller support, I wasn’t going to risk the evening by going through that process hours beforehand.

On the bright side, there were enough board games to carry proceedings. If you’re ever stuck with several people and four misbehaving controllers, Geek Out! is a top nerdy spin on Trivial Pursuit that fans of games, comics, anime and movies will get into. Seven Wonders isn’t bad either, provided most people have played it before, and Codenames is still an absolute cracker for large groups.

Everyone Should Own Codenames

You know how some games are so well designed that they're almost perfect? That's Codenames, the game that every gamer should own.

Read more

The night ended well enough, although a good night’s sleep wasn’t enough to quell my stubbornness and damaged pride. So after a coffee and some yoghurt (with more coffee), I ran the Creators Update and had another crack at the controllers.

Sure enough, they all worked.

https://twitter.com/dippizuka/status/866125591912751105 https://twitter.com/peterzmedia/status/866198789366833152



  • Yeah… you really do only need one, that store guy straight up scammed you out of your cash.

  • The more recent Xbox One controllers work over Bluetooth much better than they do via the dongle I’ve found.

  • Had nothing but trouble since I upgraded to Xbox One controller from xb360 (which is a shame as I much prefer to use the xb1 cont)

    My main issue is the controller losing sync about once a fortnight. Only fix is to uninstall and reinstall the receiver.

  • Eh… I play Monopoly on my PS4 with four PS4 controllers. It just… works.

    Yeah, Windows can die in a fire.

  • I think you’re describing every single LAN game I have ever organised. Every. Single. One.

    There is a reason why I don’t LAN anymore.

  • I recently did Knight Squad on one PC with 8 players, and all 8 controllers connected to one adaptor. Whether you blame the sales guy or not, these things are still brilliant.

  • Starting with multiple Xbone dongles sounds like the first mistake: the console manages to talk to all controllers with a single radio, so your PC should too. In fact, I’d expect that running multiple dongles would increase the chance of interference, as each tries to set up its own network with its paired controllers in similar frequency bands.

    • I did give it a crack afterwards with just the one dongle, which on Sunday post-Creators Update seemed to work just fine. I say work just fine, but I was the only person in the room, which apparently is a prerequisite or something 😐

      • Are any of your friends evil enough to bring a 2.4 GHz RF jammer with them to a party?

      • Xbox one stand controllers are the worst. Mine doesn’t even sync with my Xbox. I have to plug it in corded, wait till it is recognised then unplug it. There a known issues with them. I’d be blaming the controllers for most of your issues. Though multiple blutooth adaptors wouldn’t help.

  • In a nutshell why I don’t bother with PC gaming. I don’t get why its just this difficult for things to work

    • Sort of agree when it comes to lounge room gaming. For all the progress we’ve made, couch PC gaming is a continual compromise. My solution is a Xbox One controller and a tiny media keyboard/trackpad, because something will end up needing KB/M input at some point.

  • I discovered that things tends to go fking crazy (in-game/s) when you try syncing a 360 controller to the wireless dongle & a PS4 controller over Bluetooth both connected to a MacBook Air ,played over the projector mind you. Hyper Light Drifter’ll have none of it. Moon Hunters bugs out! & Dungeon of the Endless is a hot mess.

    The only thing worse is if I’d tried to launch a Nintendo game through Emulation. Then Id’ve come full circle.

    Feel your pain Bro!

  • Now try changing the time on windows 10, it’s a feat no one has yet managed.

  • Youre raising your middle finger all wrong !!
    Thumb *inside* your fingers?? What is this?

  • I’ve spent hours on troubleshooting the wireless controllers since the anniversary update. I’ve spent well over an hour with Microsoft support removing and replacing drivers and even more hours following other troubleshooting ideas that I’ve read online. Essentially if my PC sleeps or the controllers are left for too long they become desynced and cannot be synced again without restarting. The only other solution I have found is to close Steam and reconnect the controllers but this isn’t always possible if you’re mid-game as closing Steam will also close the game you are playing. To date I’ve yet to see any real recognition from Microsoft about this issue and at this point I’ve got zero faith there will be a fix anytime soon.

    On a side note I was told the same thing about the wireless adaptor only syncing a single device which is definitely untrue.

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