How to fix stick drift on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S: What should you do when analogue drift, aka controller drift, kicks in?

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Do you suffer from stick drift on Xbox? Picture this: you’re toddling off to find your next side quest, and suddenly your character veers off to the right instead of forwards. Or maybe you’d like to stand still for a second to take in your surroundings, but your in-game protagonist has other ideas. Annoying, right?

Don’t worry – your pixelated hero hasn’t become sentient. The more likely explanation is a phenomenon known as ‘stick drift’. While more commonly associated with the PlayStation 5's DualSense or the Joy-Cons, this can also happen to the Xbox controller, as the three controllers all use essentially the same joystick design. This is where your controller’s analogue stick fails to centre itself properly after a directional push, resulting in involuntary camera or character movements. 

This issue is generally caused by wear and tear, and shouldn’t happen with a new controller. But the good news is that it can be fixed. There are two ways of doing this – one is easy and doesn’t involve opening your controller up; the other does.

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So, here’s how to fix stick drift on your Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S controller.

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How to fix stick drift on Xbox One and Series X|S controller with pressurised air

This is the first port of call when combatting that pesky stick drift, which is likely to be caused by a build-up of dust, grease and dead skin cells (nice) after many hours of playtime. Step one is to buy some pressurised air.

Once you’ve got your hands on that, you can start the process of fixing your Xbox One controller. Turn it off first, of course, then use the air tube to blow at the bottom of your analog sticks. Move them around a bit as you do so, but make sure to not do it constantly as it can damage the controller if used too much. Short, sharp bursts should do the trick.

After this is done, carefully wipe away any excess dirt and wiggle your sticks around the full range of motion for a couple of minutes. Hopefully, this will have fixed your issue.

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stick drift on Xbox: Xbox Elite Halo Infinite Limited Edition
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Credit: Microsoft

How to fix Xbox stick drift by taking your controller apart

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The more extreme way of fixing stick drift on your Xbox One or Series X controller is to take it apart. 

However, we don’t recommend this course of action, especially if your controller is still under warranty. Opening up your controller will void its warranty. If you mess up, you could end up having no controller at all. Which is probably sub-optimal.

If none of that deters you, then we recommend you watch and follow along with this video:

Again, this method is not advised. If you’re really worried about stick drift on your controller, it’s probably worth taking it to a Microsoft-approved repair specialist. However, this will cost you if it’s out of warranty. If you are still in warranty, contact Microsoft Support in the first instance.

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That being said, if your controller is out of warranty, this method could cure the issue you’re having. Meaning you can go back to being in complete control while gaming.

What Causes Stick Drift?

While most of us will be well aware of stick drift, but why does it happen in the first place?

Simply put, it is frequently down to wear and tear. The more you use your joypad, the more likely you are to experience drift. And in addition, if you treat your controller badly, then you run a greater risk of prematurely experiencing drift.

So don't toss it on the floor or smash it against a wall when things go badly. Treat it with care, and it will last longer.