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foldr Joysticks and Windows:
 
  Getting Joysticks to work in Microsoft Windows Tutorial:

"Joystics and Windows" Tutorial www.AtomicWARRIOR.com



"GETTING JOYSTICKS TO WORK WITH MICROSOFT WINDOWS"
.
By: [TiC]EVIL.
31 May, 2004
(also see other gaming tips at www.ticclan.com)

THE BEST JOYSTICK TUTORIAL ON THE INTERNET!!


TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Tips on buying joysticks (features/manufactures).
2. Installing joysticks.
3. Testing and calibration joysticks.
4. What is a driver.
5. What is a 3D joystick.
6. Joystick keys (JOY1-AUX32).
7. Connectors - types - which is better.
8. Troubleshooting Joysticks.
9A. Troubleshooting - joystick never worked.
9B. Troubleshooting - joystick used to worked.
9C. Troubleshooting - erratic joysticks - dirty pots.
9D. Troubleshooting - broke or sticky buttons.
9E. Troubleshooting - always moving - deadzones -"drift" -  Mechanical Centering Test.
9F. Troubleshooting - Microsoft DirectX.
9G. Troubleshooting - works in Windows tests, but not in game.

10. Joystick LINKs (Manufacturers - Venders - Info).


TIPS ON BUYING A JOYSTICK FOR A PC (personal computer):
If you are interested in buying a joystick for your computer. I would recommend figuring out what is THE most important feature to you. I like a joystick to WORK, to work with the all hardware and all software I have now, and will have in the future, I like it to have a lot of easy to press buttons, a stick "formed shaped" close to my hand, a hand rest, a USB connector, and no lag (doesn't cause hesitation in the game).

These are some of the better features a joysticks could offer:

1. 4-way hat switch (a multi-switch button on top of the stick).
2. 8-way hat switch (like a 4-way hat switch, except it has a total of 8 switches).
    (Some games only recognize 4 of the 8 switches though).
3. Buttons that are conveniently "right there" at your finger tips, but don't get accidentally pushed.
4. A LOT of handy buttons on the stick.
5. A stick that is formed to fit your hand.
6. A "hand rest" on the stick, to rest the bottom of hand on the your stick to steady it.
7. Software drivers that work today.
     (Be careful of buying "clearance Joysticks" that ONLY work with OLDER versions of Windows.)
8. Updates for the software drivers so the joystick also will work in the future too.
9. Non-laggy drivers, so that the game plays smoothly when you use the joystick.
10. A good wide "non-slip" base, so the joystick does slide around when you use it.
11. Cordless (wireless) (some joysticks are cordless now).
12. USB connecter vs. a Gameport connecter.
      (What type of connector does your computer have (see the Connectors Section below).
13. Force Feedback (its shakes the stick and is fun on some games).
14. A "throttle" or "Rudder" lever to control certain functions in some flight games
      (some people have a completely separate controls "throttle sticks" and rudder foot pedals" for these.
15. 2D vs. 3D joysticks if you like (need) the "twist" axis features of the 3D stick.
16. If you are playing "Flight Simulators" there are "Joystick Throttle Systems" out now.
      (These systems can have a joystick, throttle control, and may also have pedals, but are usually pricey).
17. Some joysticks offer "built-in joystick scripting" commands, but most won't work with most games.
18. Digital vs. Analog joysticks. Some analog joysticks loose calibration and "drift". 

BEFORE you buy a joystick, I would highly suggest visiting several joystick manufacturers' websites, look over and read up about each joystick you are considering buying. See if they offer a "Support" or "Troubleshooting" or "FAQ" section at their website to help you when you have troubles. See if they have a "Downloads" section to download: drivers, updates to drivers, and manuals. See if the joystick Manufacturers offers "Updates" for their older models of joysticks. If they don't support their older models, they won't support the new one you buy from them and when it comes time for an update to a new version of Microsoft DirectX, you will be stuck having to buy a new joystick that is compatible with the newer version of DirectX. (See the section below about "DirectX"). If you have several "Computer Stores" (like CompUSA, etc) or "Consumer Electronic Stores" (like BEST-Buy, Wal-mart, etc), go to several stores and actually try out the various joysticks, see our joystick Venders list. While you can't use the joystick in a game at the store usually (some stores do setup demos btw), you can compare them by putting your hand on the stick and checking out the buttons' locations and feel of the switches. Check to see if you like the stick's hand rest and the feel of the stick's movement.



I WARN YOU about buying "cool looking" joystick that looks cool, but might be the biggest hunk of junk you ever buy. Get a joystick that is comfortable TO YOU that works. A "flashy joystick" that doesn't work, will quickly end up in the trash can.

I have used several brands of joysticks over the years, Thrustmasters, Logitech, Microsoft, Gravis, etc. Now the joystick I use is a Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro2 USB digital joystick , because it works.  However, just because it is the best joystick for me, doesn't mean it is the best joystick for you and the games you play. ;-)  Note:  Microsoft has abruptly stopped supporting their older joysticks as of July, 05 ;-( .

BTW, there is NO PERFECT JOYSTICK, but you will be happier with the joystick you buy if you do a little shopping and comparing, you might shoot a lot more enemy and die less too. ;-)

What is "HOTAS", HOTAS is the abbreviation for "Hands On Throttle And Stick" and is term used in flight simulators (and real jet fighter aircraft) to describe their controls. It allows you to have all the controls at your finger tips on the stick and throttle.

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INSTALLING JOYSTICKS IN Windows:
First up, when I use the word "joystick" I mean a joystick that was designed to be used with a PC (personal computer) running Microsoft Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP operating systems, you can not un-bolt a joystick from a crane and expect it to work jumper-cabled to your computer ;-). While we have not tested all these tips with PC trackballs, gamepads, rudders, throttles, gravity sticks, steering wheels, or foot pedals, the general ideas might be useful to you.

Logitech's Coredless Joystick for PCs.

To "properly install a joystick" on a PC computer you will need to:
1. Physically installed the joystick on the proper connector on your computer.
2. Install all needed software "drivers" for the joystick.
3. Install any "application software" for the joystick (if needed).
4. Update all the joystick's software.
5. Calibrate the joystick (if needed) (see below).
6. FULLY TEST that the joystick works OK (outside the game) by testing it in Windows, "Control Panel", "Game Controller", "Properties" test.

NOTE:
All screenshot pictures were taken on a WinXP computer that is using the old "Classic Windows" style desktop theme (that's why they look like Windows 95). I use the "Windows Classic" Desktop Theme because it shows more details and is logically laid out, unlike WinXP's default layouts. I previously used Windows 98 and this tutorial can also be used as a "loose guide" to help you in Win98 and other plug and play Windows Operating Systems too.

You should have gotten a CD with your joystick that should have the driver software on it (the CD may also have application software that you may or may not need on it too). If you don't know how to install your joystick, read the instruction manual that came with it. The sequence for connecting USB hardware and installing the software is usually backwards from the way old gameport joysticks used to be installed, read your instructions. There should be a printed paper pamphlet for your joystick or a manual in electronic form as a file on the floppy disk or CD that came with your joystick. If you lost your CD or manual, go up to your joystick manufacturers web site and do a "Search" on the "model number" of your joystick in the "Products" section or try looking in their website's "Support" or "Downloads" sections (or named something similar). If your joystick is really old, you might be lucky and they might have a "Discontinued Products" section to their website. The joystick's model number is usually on a sticker on the bottom side of of the joystick. To "update" your joystick's driver or application software you will have to go up to your joystick's manufacture's web site and look for newer updates in the "Support" or "Downloads" section of their website. Sometimes manuals and drivers vary depending on serial numbers. Sometimes the drivers differ depending on the Operating system Windows XP vs. Windows 98, etc. Sometimes, computer hardware just will not work at all without the latest software updates, sometimes it fixes minor bugs, and sometimes it does not matter, because the update "fixes" something that could be installed on a computer, but you don't have it installed on yours. Getting updates is usually a very good idea.

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TESTING AND/OR CALIBRATING YOUR JOYSTICK IN WINDOWS:
To test the joystick is properly installed and works in Windows XP, click the Window's menu "Start" button, "Settings", "Control" (Control Panel), "Game Controller", then click on "Properties" on that menu. If the joystick has a "Calibration" procedure there, do it first, then do any "function tests" available there. Some newer joysticks are auto-calibrating and just have function tests. Some joysticks don't even have a function test, it varies depending on the joystick's software.

NOTE:
You can also open Window's "Game Controller" menu by typing this at a DOS Command Prompt:

control joy.cpl

 (Just type the red part at a DOS prompt, then hit your ENTER key.)

"Windows XP's "Game Controller" Menu:
(The borders of the screenshot look different from what XP normally looks like, because I am using the "Classic Windows" Desktop Theme).

Click to see a detailed picture of Window XP's "Game Controller" Menu.
(Click the picture to see a large detailed version of it.)

The things a "function test" tests varies from joystick to joystick. The function tests usually have a way to test that all the joystick's buttons work, that the stick's and rudder's movement works ok, and that the stick "re-centers" to about the same place each time, these types of test are usually called a function test.

The joystick might only have a "calibration test" button, which includes the function test after you "calibrate" the joystick first. To calibrate a joystick, click the link on the "Game Controller" menu for the "Calibration" procedure (usually in the "Properties" menu there). Follow the instructions there to do the calibration tests for the stick and/or rudder and/or hat switch as required (the tests will vary depending on the joystick's manufacturer's software). The calibration test will usually have a way to test that all the joystick's buttons work ok and that the stick's movement "re-centers" and works ok. If it has an option to SAVE the calibration after you do it, make sure you save it. If you mess up the calibration, just redo the calibration from the beginning. Old analog game port joysticks absolutely needed "calibration" done to them FIRST in the Window's "Game Controller"/"Properties" menu before you could use them in games, or you would have joystick movement and centering settings problems. If the joystick you have has had it's temperature changed a lot since it was last calibrated (like you moved it inside a warm house from using it in a cold garage during Winter time or vise a versa) it probably needs re-calibration. If it has been over a year since you last calibrated your joystick and it is acting funny, re-calibrate it to see if that fixes it. Doing the joystick calibration procedure usually takes less than 5 minutes. If you have to do the calibration every week or so, something is wrong, see the troubleshooting procedure below. I once had an analog joystick that would start to "drift" in the game after it had been on for over about 30 minutes of playing, it was very annoying.

WinXP "Calibration and Function Tests" menus for a Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro2 Joystick:

 Click to see a detailed picture of Window XP's "Game Controller" TEST menu looks like for a Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro2 Joystick.      Click to see a detailed picture of Window XP's "Game Controller" stick-TEST menu looks like for a Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro2 Joystick.

(Click the pictures to see a large detailed versions of them.)

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WHAT"S A "DRIVER":
"Drivers" are software that allows Microsoft Windows to recognize and talk to installed hardware like joysticks, printers, video cards, sound cards, etc, etc. Think of "drivers" as "interpreter" between your hardware and the various versions of Microsoft Windows Operating Systems (OS). "Application Software" are programs that add functions and features to your computer. Examples of application software are: picture editing software (PaintShop), game software (Half-life), instant messenger programs (ICQ), etc, etc.

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2D vs 3D JOYSTICKS:
There are "2D" joysticks and there are "3D" joysticks. "2D" joysticks have 2 axes (front-back, left-right) movement of the stick. "3D" joysticks have 3 axes of movement (front-back, strafe-left-right, "stick-twist"-left-right) and can be used as 3D or 2D joysticks. On a 3D joystick, you can actually "twist" the stick as well as move it forward-backwards and left-right. With a "3D" joystick you can have the front-back movement of the stick move you front-back in the game, you can have your left-right stick movement move you ("strafe") left-right in the game, and assign the "twist" (of a 3D stick) to "look" left-right in the game. -IF- you wanted, you could even assign the axes of joystick movement to a different directions than normal, but I don't know why you would want to. ;-) You can usually also disable the twist axis in games too if you like. I personally disable the extra "twist" feature in 3D shooter games like Half-life (that I also use a mouse in), I suppose it would be ok for flight simulator games or if you just like it.

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HOW JOYSTICK KEYS ARE IDENTIFIED:
The keys on most joysticks are usually named either "JOY" or "AUX" followed by a number in a "config.cfg" file. The numbering of joystick keys' names usually runs like this JOY1, JOY2, JOY3, JOY4, AUX5, AUX6, AUX7, AUX8, AUX9,,,thru,,AUX32. Notice that "JOY" and "AUX" are capital letters by default and I always use capital letters for them. If you only have 5 keys on your joystick, USUALLY (but not always) they are numbered like this: JOY1, JOY2, JOY3, JOY4, AUX5. Usually a joystick's 4-way hat switch is numbered from the top position of the hat switch's button going clockwise: AUX29, AUX30, AUX31, AUX32. Usually the trigger (fire) button on a joystick is named "JOY1". Usually the left click button on your mouse is named "MOUSE1" and the right-click button is named "MOUSE2".

Typical button locations on a joystick.
(Click the picture to see a large detailed version of it.)

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PC CONNECTOR TERMINOLOGY:
To start off here is some general "connector terminology". "Plugs" are a type of connector usually on the end of a cord. -Usually- plugs are "males". "Males" are usually connectors with pin(s) sticking out, well, like a male ;-). While a "female" connector usually has a hole for the protruding male pin(s) to be stuck into. "Jacks" (also called receptacles) are usually "female" and fixed on to something stationary. Why they named the female connector with a guy's name ("Jack"), I will never know 8-).


TYPICAL PC CONNECTORS found on the back of a modern PC computer:
(Your computer's rear connectors -PROBABLY- looks something like this)

Typical connectors on the back of a computer's motherboard.
(Click the picture to see a large detailed version of it.)

1. A "Gameport" connector for joysticks will have a 15 pin "DIN" style of connector (a rectangular like shape). The "Gameport" has 15 pins in 2 rows of 8 and 7 pins. The gameport usually plugs into the gameport that is either on the back of your PC's sound card or on the back of your motherboard or on an expansion port connector that plugs into your motherboard. Some new computer don't come with "gameports" anymore, they come with a lot of USB jacks instead. Gameports are also sometimes used on sound cards as a "midi input port". Midi ports are used to connect musical instruments with midi ports to your computer. See your sound card's, or motherboard's, or computer's manual for more info.

Click to see larger view of a typical connectors on computers sound card.
(Click the picture to see a large detailed version of it.)

2. A "VGA" monitor connector (a rectangular like shape) also usually has 15 pins, but in 3 rows of 5 pins per row. These connectors are used to connect VGA CRT monitors to your computer.

3. The new style LCD monitor connector (a rectangular like shape) usually have 28 pins (a weird 2 rows of 2, plus 3 rows of
8 pins.) You may or may not also have one of these on your computer.

4. A "Parallel" port connector (a rectangular like shape) usually have 25 pins ("DIN" style connector) in 2 rows of 13 and 12 pins. Parallel ports are also sometimes called "Printer" ports, because a lot of printers used to use the parallel port, although there were also serial printers and today there are USB printers too.

5. "Serial" port connectors (rectangular like shaped) usually have 9 pins ("DIN" style connector) in 2 rows of 5 and 4 pins. Usually you have none or 1 or 2 serial ports.

6. "PS2" (small round) jack for your mouse and another similar but slightly different jack for your keyboard. The PS2 mouse and keyboard jacks have a differently shaped center "key" pins.

7. "USB" jacks are very very popular, you could have anywhere from none to 6 or more. They usually are tiny square recessed jacks on the back of the computer's motherboard. There are generally 4 types of USB jacks: A, B, mini-A, and mini-B. Most computers and their peripherals use type "A" USB connecters. A lot of dummies at printer manufacturers however are using "B" type USB connecters then they rip you off by charging you 30$ for a 3$ adapter cable. Mini USB connectors are a miniaturized version of the USB connector and are sometimes seen on laptop computers and small peripherals that plug into PCs like cameras, PDAs, etc. Some computers have USB jacks on the front of the case under a little hidden door or inside of panels. Some new computers come with 8 USB ports (and VGA, audio, & ethernet ports of course), but no serial, no parallel, no PS2 or keyboard type connectors, all your peripherals would have to be USB, or you would have to buy pricey adapters. You can buy cheap "PS2-to-USB" adapters to use PS2 mice with USB jacks, some mice come with them. USB is by far the fastest growing computer connector and is replacing all the others: PS2, Parallel ports, Serial ports, Firewire. As of the time of the writing of this tutorial (5 June, 2004), USB was the preferred computer connector for peripherals, and I would highly recommend buying USB peripherals. If you are connecting to a network use ethernet, monitors use monitor jacks, for audio you use audio jacks, everything else it seems uses USB connectors (cameras, joysticks, printers, mice, keyboards, external drives, etc) is the way to go today. There is also a USB-1 and a USB-2 standard, USB-2 connectors are backwards compatible with USB1 connectors, USB2 connectors are about 40 times faster though. Some computers have a mixture of USB-1 and USB-2 jacks on the back of them. Try to save your USB-2 jacks for your high bandwidth items if you have them like cameras and external drives that are USB-2 compliant. Also USB items are "hot-swappable", which means that you can connect and disconnect USB cables to the computer with the power ON, which is the exact opposite of all the other connectors! The old style keyboard connecters were extremely terrible about blowing up keyboards if you plugged them in with the power on the computer or even sometimes even simply wiggling the connector could smoke them. Some USB devices can be powered over the USB bus and don't need a separate power cable. Even a USB-1 port is fast, it's faster than the old parallel port, serial port, PS2 mouse, and keyboard ports combined.

8. "Audio" connectors are little round (usually color coded) jacks for plugging your mic's input plug (usually red) to your computer, and to plug the output to your front speaker pair plug (usually green) and rear speaker pair plug (sometimes blue sometimes black). The jacks are about the diameter of a pencil. If the jacks are not color coded, usually if you look on the back of the computer closely, you will see engraved symbols for what type of jack it is (a picture of a mic, or speaker, etc). If you have Dolby 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 you will have other audio jacks for subwoofers and other speakers (orange and other colors). The audio jack color code is supposed to be standardized, but not all companies follow it. There are some special "digital audio connectors" for special purpose items too.

9. Telephone modem connectors (if you have one) are either on your "modem" card or on the back of the motherboard, you might have none or 1 or 2 connectors. It's just a regular old telephone jack like in your house. It is used to connect your computer to a phone line so it can connect the computer to an ISP, use the computer as a FAX machine, connect to dialup bulletin board, to remotely connect over phone lines to private computer network, and to simply dial phone numbers for you.

10. An Ethernet connector (if you have one) is either on your Ethernet card or on the back of the motherboard, you probably have none or 1 connector. Ethernet connectors are a small connector that looks similar to a telephone jack, but is physically larger and has 6 wires instead of 4. It is used to connect computers to computer networks, routers, DSL modems, Cable Modems, etc. A lot of computers are coming with Ethernet connectors built in. Ethernet is the preferred way to connect to a computer network, because it won't lag you. There is Ethernet10, 100, 1000 standards, Ethernet 100 is the most common.

11. And of course the computer's power supply should have a jack for the power cord plug to plug into.

12. Miscellaneous connectors. A long time ago there used to be "serial mice" that plugged into serial ports, also mice that used a "big round mouse connector" called "DIN-5" or something, and a serial port with 25 pins. They stopped making 25 pin serial ports, because people would improperly connect 25 pin parallel items to 25 pin serial items and blow them up (that's why the serial ports changed to 9 pins). USB connectors just solve so many of these problems now a days.

IF YOUR CONNECTORS FOR YOUR JOYSTICK AND COMPUTER DON'T MATCH:
If you have a joystick that has a different type of connecter than your computer's, you have several options. Sorry, all involve money.

A. If you have a old gameport joystick, but no gameport on your newer computer (which is running WinXP with spare USB ports), then your best bet is usually to simply buy a newer joystick that has USB. I can highly recommend the Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro 2 joystick (around 40-70$ US), it works, the software works well with XP, the buttons are not located "perfectly" (in my opinion), but it it works pretty good over all with no lag.

You say, "But man, I LOVE my old joystick, the buttons are EXACTLY where I want them, I must get it to work with my new computer!" (note, I feel your pain brother! ;-). To do this you would have to buy a new sound card that has a gameport on it (a the lower priced sound cards of the "Sound Blaster" family start at 30-60$) (off-brand sound cards are cheaper 10-40$, but you might have problems in compatibility and sometimes sound quality). Also cheap sound cards don't always have a main chip on them, but instead use the CPU of the computer's motherboard to do it's work, which slows the computer a little. You would have to have an empty card slot of the correct type (PCI vs EISA for a desktop computer) to install it. You would have to follow the instructions that came with your new sound card to physically remove the old card and properly and safely physically install the new card and any drivers or application software. If you have "on-board sound" on your motherboard, you would have to read your motherboard's manual (or computer's manual) to find which jumper(s) (if they supplied one) to jumper or un-jumper to turn off on board sound. You might even have to go into a special screen called the "BIOS" to turn something on or off. If you are NOT familiar with computer hardware you would be stuck taking it to a computer shop (usually expensive) to have this done. So, if you have a newer computer with Windows XP, and USB ports, your best bet is simply to usually to just buy a new USB joystick and adapt to the new button positions. I know, it sucks, but I have had to do it before too, "I feel your pain" ;-). Also, see the paragraph about "DirectX" -before- you buy anything.

NOTE:
There is another option for this problem, I would --NOT-- recommend it. You could buy a NEW Microsoft USB Joystick. Install it on your computer and make sure it works ok, then physically take the handle covers off the old joystick, and rig the new joystick's switches and wires into the old joystick's handle covers using: car body fiberglass, tie-wraps, epoxy glue, radiator hose clamps, files, dremel tool, drills, saws, a soldering iron, and whatever else it takes to modify and junk-rig it. Then mount the old joystick's handle covers (with the new joystick's switches and wires) on to the new joystick's base, but more than likely, if it ever works again, it will be very buggy and not work near as well as a new stock Microsoft Joystick.

B. If you have a NEW USB joystick, but -NO- USB ports at all on your computer you could buy a "USB port card" (30-50$) they come in PCI and PC cards (for laptops) and the cards have from 2 to 4 USB ports on them. You would have to have an empty card slot of the correct type to install it, and it would probably come with drivers. Make sure the card would work with your version of Windows before you buy it.

C. If you have a NEW USB joystick, but no -SPARE- USB ports on your computer, then you could buy a "USB hub" (they run 20-35$ US for a 4 port USB hub) that will give you extra USB ports, and usually simply plug into an existing USB port on the motherboard and usually comes with a little installation CD. Its quick and cheap.

NOTE:
Another possible option for this problem, that I do --NOT-- recommend is some (but not all) motherboards have (hidden internally on them) places to plug in a special aftermarket USB expansion connector adapter. However, you would have to open the computer's case to check and add them and opening a case VOIDS most computer warranties (if you have the computer's motherboard manual, you could simple check in the manual)!! Also, there is another problem with finding the correct type of special expansion adapter cable for your specific motherboard model as the adapters differ and are usually motherboard and manufacturer specific. If you use the wrong special aftermarket USB expansion connector adapter you could blow up everything. With all that said a USB hub is usually the best bet for fixing this problem. So I recommend going with the USB hub, it's quick and fairly cheap.

Also, see the "MY JOYSTICK's DRIVER DIED on the LATEST VERSION OF DirectX" in the Troubleshooting section of this tutorial before you spend any money on trying to revive an old joystick.

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TROUBLESHOOTING JOYSTICKS THAT WON'T WORK IN WINDOWS:

WARNING -- Turn off all power and unplug the computer from power before you plug in or un-plug or start disassembling anything. If something works a little bit and you take it a part and can't get it back together, you just ruined it unless it can be economically repaired by a service shop and you can pay for it, so don't mess anything up! If you do open up anything find -ALL- dropped screws (or loose metal objects) immediately as they can electrically short out your computer, put them in a little cup or something. If you make any changes to settings, write down the original settings, so if they don't work, you will know how to put the computer back to it's starting condition.

NOTE:
USB device are called "hot-swappable", they have SPECIAL electronic components inside that allow them to be connected and disconnected to the computer with the computer's power on, they are the EXCEPTION, as EVERYTHING else you should always turn OFF and unplug the computer's power cord before you plug other items into or unplug items from the computer, or you might blow it up. If disassemble anything ALWAYS disconnect it totally from power first (even USB items).

If you have an old gameport joystick (and even some USB joysticks) they MUST BE CALIBRATED FIRST before they will work properly!!

Types of symptoms of various joystick problems:
A. Totally dead joystick, nothing works, new installation, never did work.
B. Totally dead joystick, nothing works, but used to work previously.
C. Joystick erratically works, or movement acts "noisy".
D. One button does not work when pushed, everything else works ok.
E. Without moving the joystick's stick you are moving in a direction or in circles.
F. DirectX.
G. Your joystick works ok in the Window's Game Controller test, but not in the game.

A). Totally dead joystick, nothing works, new installation, never did work:
If you are getting frustrated and upset, my first rule of troubleshooting simply stated is "Don't let inanimate objects pi-- you off". ;-) So, if you are upset, go take a soda or water or tea or coffee break or go for a walk, and come back to it once you are cooled off. ;-) First make sure that you are not doing something obviously wrong to cause it not to work. Go back and start DOUBLE CHECKING EVERYTHING in a slow methodical (detailed) way, write down notes if it is overwhelming to you, write down what you have checked as you do it step by step and if it made things better or worst.

Always do the "quick checks" first when troubleshooting!

Are you sure that the joystick is EVER going to work on your computer with this operation system, are you sure that it's drivers are compatible with that version of Windows, check in the joystick's manual or web site? If you have more than one joystick, gamepad, etc connected to the computer, make sure you have the proper joystick "selected" in Windows Control Panels "Game Controller" menu. Did you install the correct driver for your version of Windows? Did you update the driver 9if there is an update available)? Did you install the application software (if there was any) -AFTER- (not before) you installed the driver software? If it is an old gameport joystick, did you calibrate it (even some USB joysticks need calibration done to them)? Is the joystick's connectors properly connected and properly seated (turn off your computer before connecting or disconnecting or jiggling connectors) use a flashlight to look closely and make sure. Did you re-boot your computer at least 1 time after you installed everything? Are you sure the gameport's (sound card  / motherboard) driver is properly installed and updated. Have you updated Windows?

To determine if your joystick and it's software are properly installing in Windows, go to Windows "Control Panel's" "Game Controller" menu to see if your joystick is listed and selected there. If it is listed, that usually means that it is properly connected and installed in Windows, and should past the little function "tests" you run there. You can do these tests by clicking the Window's menu "Start" button, "Settings", "Control" (control panel), "Game Controller", "Properties".

Click to see a detailed picture of Window XP's "Game Controller" Menu.
(Click the picture to see a large detailed version of it.)


To determine if you have some type of hardware or software "conflict" in Windows itself that might be affecting your joystick installation, you can go to Window's "Device Manager" menu to see if there are any little yellow question marks "?" symbols next to any items. The little yellow question marks means Windows is seeing some hardware, but the hardware's driver is not properly installed or working correctly for some reason. You might be having some type of internal IRQ Windows Conflict with your hardware. You can do this by clicking the Windows menu "Start" button, "Settings", "Control", "System", then on the "System Menu" click "Hardware", "Device Manager" and see if there are any little yellow question marks "?" there. If you double click on the yellow question mark it should show you the details of that item. Do you see yellow question marks, but are missing something else you know is installed besides the joystick? Old gameport style joysticks should show up under "Sound, video, and game controllers", USB joysticks should show up under "Human Interface Devices".

Have you still not figured it out, then re-read the joystick's manual start to finish, go to the manufacture's website's "Support" or "Customer Service" section and look for a "FAQ" (Frequently Asked Question") or "Service Tips" section and look for tips on your problem. You might have to try un-installing the joystick's software in the Window's "Control Panel", "Add Remove Programs".

If you are pretty sure the joystick SHOULD work on your computer and you have tried everything else, it is possible that the joystick or the sound card/motherboard's hardware is bad (but not probable though for new items, but it is possible). To test your computer, if you have another joystick (or access to a friends) try installing it on to your computer on that jack. To test your joystick, try installing and testing the joystick on another computer of yours or one of your friends.


B). Totally dead joystick, nothing works, but used to work previously:
It is possible that the joystick or the gameport jack on your computer just "died", but not likely. Did someone use your computer since the last time it worked and make changes you don't know about, ask ALL the people in your house? Was any new software installed (games maybe), and new hardware (maybe you don't know about it, ask everyone)? Since your joystick last worked, did you do a update to Windows (or did it auto-update itself, or did someone else)? Did you update your sound card or motherboard drivers? Also see the paragraph below about "DirectX" updates. Are you sure that the joystick's connector is plugged in all the way, double check it before you waste too much time, use a flashlight to look closely. Don't move your computer while it is on as this is hard on the hard drive. You might have a bad joystick or your sound card's or motherboard's gameport might have died. If it is a USB joystick, try it in another USB jack on your computer, preferably one you have tested with another USB item and know that it works. To determine if it is the joystick or the sound card-motherboard that is bad, swap them out. To test your computer, if you have another joystick (or access to a friends) try installing it on to your computer on that jack. To test your joystick, try installing and testing the joystick on another computer of yours or one of your friends. See section "A" above


C). Joystick works erratically, or movement acts "noisy":
If you have an old 2D analog gameport style joystick that starts acting really "funky" or "jumpy" it might have "dirty pots". Most old 2D analog gameport style joysticks usually have 4 potentiometers inside of them . "Potentiometers" are electronic components about the size of a screw-on soda cap (also so called "pots" by Electronic Technicians). These "pots" can "get dirty" (internally oxidize) and can cause jumpy movement in games even thought "It used to work ok". If your old joystick has not been used in a long time, this can quite possibly happen. To fix this, usually, simply "working" the joystick's stick back and forth and left and right about 20-50 times will "clean" the pots (it forces the pot's internal wipers over the internal resistor pad.) If that doesn't fix it, you would have to turn off the computer, disconnect the joystick from the computer, disassemble the joystick (some screws might be hidden under stickers and/or grip pads), and spray a little bit of WD-40 into each pot by it's stem, then work the stick, remove/wipe off excess WD-40, and re-assemble the joystick,,, or ,,you could buy a new joystick.

You could also have a bad joystick cord or an intermittent cord. Check the cord visually to see if it has been pinched really bad. If the joysticks cord has been pinched or crimped badly (like a chair's leg sat on it) it might be that some of the cord's the internal wires broken or are getting ready to break, thus the intermittent or erratic behavior, look for bad pinched places, see the bottom of this paragraph on how to test for intermittent problems. A lot of times cords start to go bad where they enter or exit cases. The electronics in your joystick or your sound card or motherboard could be acting up or over heating, is it Summer time there, is the room hot? You could also have electrically dirty connectors on the cord's connector or the jack of the computers gameport connector. Turn off the computer, stick the joystick's cord's connector in a plastic bag and spray it with a "light" blast of WD-40 (do not "soak it). Shake/wipe off the excess WD-40 and plug the connecter in the jack about 20 times. Don't get WD-40 all over the place especially not on the floor as it is slippery as all. While WD-40 is not conductive usually, it does attract dirt and dust which is conductive, that is why you try to use it only on the actual pins of the connectors. You could have a bad solder joint or a bad intermittent electrical connection on the cord or in the joystick. If you still can't find it, test the joystick using the Windows Game Controller tests (see the Testing and Calibrating Joystick section above) test it by moving the stick and holding it in one axes (one direction) at a time, while another person LIGHTLY taps the case then LIGHTLY twists and shakes the cord, look for changes, in the Windows Game Controller test's display for the stick as they tap and twist on the joystick and it's cord.


D). One button does not work when pushed, everything else works ok:
If the switch seems to "push" and "feel" like the other buttons, more than likely this is caused by a "dirty" (electrically dirty) contact inside that button's switch. Spray just a little bit of WD-40 into where the button is at (it is best to take the joystick a part and to spray it directly into the switch. Most joysticks use little plastic "pushers" that intern press the internally hidden electrical switches, you want to clean the switch not the pusher. Sometimes a switch problem is caused by the mechanical "pusher" sticking or binding on the sides against the joystick's case. If you have this problem just give it a little shot of WD-40 and wipe off the excess.

If the switch "feels funny" when you push it and there is no "click" like the other switches, and you already made sure it's not the "pusher" sticking, the switch is probably broke. Try cleaning it first just incase though. You played games until you wore out that switch "killing monsters" ;-). The work around is to just not use that button in the game. You could fix the bad switch by replacing it, -if- you have access to a solder iron and solder, a screwdriver, and are near by a Radio Shack Electronic Part's Store. You would have to turn off and unplug the power to the computer, disconnect the joystick from the computer, disassemble the joystick (some screws might be hidden under stickers and grip pads), take the switch out, take it to the store and they might be able to match up or order a replacement momentary push switch (or some substitute) that might work for 3-4$. If you or a friend have an another old broke joystick, you might be able to scavenge a button from it. Don't spend 50$ buying tools and parts to fix a 40$ old used joystick though, buy a new 40$ auto-calibrating digital USB joystick.


E. Without moving the joystick's stick you are moving in a direction or in circles:
There are 2 types of "centering problems" with joysticks. One is a "joystick mechanically centering problem" the other is a "joystick software centering problems". If your joystick's stick just doesn't return to the center point of it's movement automatically, it probably has a return-spring problem, see the "Joystick Mechanical Centering Test" below. If joystick seems to be physically centering ok, but without pushing any buttons you start moving in a direction in a game, you probably need to do a joystick calibration (see the Calibrating and Testing Joystick section above) or you need to increase the joystick's "deadzone" setting. If you move in only one direction, that means you have one axis messed up, if you are stuck going in circles in the game you have 2 or more axes messed up. If the joystick works ok right after a calibration, but then after you play for 30 minutes or and hour you start to take off in a direction with the joystick mechanically centered, what is happening is the joystick's electronics' are heating up and causing this to happen, the fix for this is to increase the joystick's "deadzone" setting a little until it stops. You may (or may not) have access to a way to increase the "deadzone" setting of the joystick in Window's "Game Controller"/"Properties" menu, if so adjust the deadzone setting there you may need to increase the joystick's deadzone setting in the game, or you may need to increase the deadzone setting in both places.

The Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro2 Joystick's deadzone setting is fixed in Windows (see the yellow square area), but still can be adjusted in some games (like Half-life):

Click to see a detailed picture of Window XP's "Game Controller" stick-TEST menu looks like for a Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro2 Joystick.
(Click the pictures to see a large detailed versions of them.)

If the joystick hasn't been calibrated in a very long time (like a year), its gotten really cold or really hot since you last calibrated your joystick, you have swapped out joysticks, simply try re-calibrating first before you go messing with deadzone settings. However, if your joystick needs calibration every week or every 2 hours or else you develop the "moving in a direction without touching the stick problem", it would then be best to try increasing your "deadzone" settings, increase the setting a little bit at a time then play the game for a while to see if the problem is fixed and keep tweaking it up until it works.

If the joystick's stick seems to have a problem with it's stick physically NOT returning to the mechanical center position every time or not at all, you probably have a spring related problem.

"Joystick Mechanical Centering Test":
To test if the joystick has a mechanical centering problem:
1. Jiggle the stick of the joystick and yet go of it, so it physically re-centers itself like it is supposed to.
2. Set your joystick on a flat surface like a table top, bracing your elbow on the table, hold a finger just above an imaginary reference point over the very top of your joystick's stick without touching the joystick with that finger. Now don't move that finger.
3. Now with the 2nd hand, move the joystick's stick to the extreme of one axis.
4. Now let go of the stick with the second hand.
5. The joystick's internal springs mechanisms should return the joystick to it's mechanical center automatically.
6. Check that the stick returns to its center within about a 1/4 of an inch (6-7mm) or so of your reference.
7. Repeat this test for the other axis of your joystick (if you have a 3D joystick test that the twist re-centers in both direction too).

If the joystick is working properly it's stick should physically re-center itself within ABOUT a 1/4 of an inch (6-7mm) or so. Most joysticks will have 2-3 inches of total travel in each direction from it's mechanical centering position to the extreme of each axis (4-6 inches for full travel over the complete front-back or left-right travel). If the joystick is "floppy" that probably means an internal spring has broken, worn out, come loose or broken loose. You could turn off the computer, unplug the joystick, and disassemble it, figure out how the centering spring mechanism is supposed to work, figure out what broke and fix it. Some joysticks use 4 metal springs, while others use 2 springs and special stops designed to re-center the stick, some use rubber centering devices instead of metal springs. You used to be able to get "rebuild kits" for some of old expensive +100$ joysticks for like 15-20$ plus 7$ shipping and when joysticks used to cost +100$ and were made of metal this made sense, but for a 40$ digital self calibrating USB joysticks it doesn't any longer, usually you just buy new joystick for 40$ if it's not something simple to fix.

If you are low on cash and have a mechanical centering problem on your joystick and can't afford to buy a new joystick, a "work-a-round" for the centering problem is to simply increase the deadzone settings and simply get used to holding the joystick centered to stop moving in games. I have heard of others putting 4 screws on the outside of the joystick case and using rubber bands wrapped around the stick to re-center it.


F). Your joystick's driver died with the latest version of DirectX:
(or when you re-installed or updated Windows)
Well first up if you have a VERY old gameport joystick it may or may not work with new Windows UPDATES, even if you install a new sound card with a game port on it, because of something called "DirectX" software that is part of Windows, even if it is a USB joystick, as updates come out for DirectXs for Windows, your joystick might simply STOP working. DirectX is basicly a part of Windows software that the software of your joystick, sound card, video card, etc and the game's software talks to. DirectX 9 is currently out (as of the writing of this tutorial 1 June, 2004), some joystick manufactures just do not update their drivers to be compatibly with the latest version of Window's DirectX as it is updated arrives, I know it sucks. I can no longer use my "Thrustmaster Topgun USB" joystick because of this problem. The strange part of it was, my joystick was working great, I lost my computer hard drive (because of bumping the computer's case too hard while playing games with my joystick next to it ;-), and when I re-installed Windows and updated, my joystick would not re-install. This was a really freaky problem, actually I found that if I installed the joystick drivers right after I installed Windows, but before I updated Windows (which updated DirectX (along with other stuff)) the joystick would work "sort of". The bottom line, is I went out and bought a new Microsoft Joystick, and it simply works, no lag. I know that there are people that say Microsoft is the devil, but hey, at least their joysticks work. ;-)

It is possible, but NOT likely that a joystick's problem is caused by mis-set DirectX "Input" settings (any type of joystick you have and any other USB items should show up there), but not likely. Window's Computers have a built in little "DirectX Diagnostics Test" to look at (and tweak if needed) video, sound, joystick, etc settings. If you do run the DirectX Diagnostic Test on your computer, be very careful, because DirectX effects MANY other things on your computer. Record the original settings BEFORE you tweak anything, if you do!!

The path to the "DirectX Diagnostic Test" that is on YOUR COMPUTER is:

For Windows XP:
C:\WINDOWS\system32\dxdiag.exe

For Windows 98:
C:\WINDOWS\system\dxdiag.exe

(If you click your Windows "START", then click "Run", then type in the above line, then hit your keyboard's ENTER, the "DirectX Diagnostics Test" will start on YOUR COMPUTER.)


G). Your joystick works ok in the Window's Game Controller test, but not in the game.
If all the tests of the Window's "Game Controller's" test works ok (see the instructions on how to do this in "A" above), but still the joystick doesn't work in your game, more than likely it is caused by a mis-setting or in-compatibility with your game. Make sure your game actually will work with a joystick and if possible will work with your specific joystick. Generally, if a game works with one joystick, it should work with all of them. Check your game's documentation and joystick's documentation to see if they are compatible or if there are "bugs" in the game or with the joystick's driver associated with this. Read the printed manual or manual in electronic form on the game CD, also look in the directory that the game is installed in for a "readme.txt" file, also visit the "Support" and or "FAQ" sections of your game and your joystick's manufacturer. If you are having trouble getting your joystick to work with the game of Half-life or one of it's Modifications ("Mods") (Counterstrike, Day of Defeat, TFC, Condition Zero, etc etc), go visit our "How to use Joysticks in Half-life" Tutorial. A lot of games have "Keyboard" or "Assign Keys" or "Advanced" menus where you can turn on the game's ability to recognize a joystick. Once you turn on the games ability to see the joystick (if it doesn't do it by default) you should be able to assign keys. A lot of games use the very popular Half-life-Steam, Quake, and Unreal game engines all 3 of these can be used with joysticks. Most Microsoft 3D shooter games recognize joysticks. Low end game engines are cheap on the programming side, one of the places these lower class game engines cut corners is not provide the programming in the game to enable them to use joysticks, but then again usually the game is buggy any never gets fixed 100% either. Another good tip on how to fix problems is to go to message board Forums (for games and computer hardware) and do a "Search" on "joysticks" and "the name of your game". Your could also post a detailed post in the  AtomicWARRIOR Forum saying what joystick you have, what version of Windows you have and what game you are having trouble with, check back every few days to see the answers. The bottom line is there are many games that can be used with joysticks and a lot others that can't be used you will have to read to find out and by simply "testing" you might figure out a way to make them work. While we do NOT have time to answer joystick questions by email, if you have or have heard of a good tip on joysticks not listed here, please post a message on at the AtomicWARRIOR Forum about it in detail and we will add it to this page.

Good luck and happy gaming to all!
;-)

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