To complete this project, being comfortable with a soldering iron is recommended. Even if you are not experienced in soldering but would like to learn, read up on these guides and feel free to do this mod.
How to Solder
How to Wire LEDs
This guide teaches with words as well as pictures, almost all of which have comments to help clarify what is going on during the install.
This can be a tedious install, as tolerances inside of a Xbox controller are relatively tight, the pieces are small, and expect each controller to take anywhere from 2-3 hours depending on how skilled you are. In this guide I use slow-fading RGB (Red, Green, Blue) LEDs, though any combination of colors can be used for your lighting choice.
I hope you enjoy this instructable, and are able to modify your Xbox controller to light up many nights of gaming.
*** I am not liable for any personal damage or injury that occurs from following this tutorial. You will be working with electricity (Very low voltage) and hot tools (soldering iron & hot glue gun). If you destroy your controller you will just have to spend $10 on a new one ***
Step 1: Getting the Supplies
3mm LEDs - There are quite a few options for color selection. White for all four buttons. Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow: one color per button. All four a single solid color. Or in the case of this instructable: all RGB Slow Fade. The more colors you have, the more difficult it can become to manage the wires as each species of led can require its own voltage, and thus its own resistor. You will also want LEDs of at least 5,000mcd for this project, the brighter the better.
Buying LEDs from retail stores is very expensive with inferior light capacity and quality. Through the internet, namely eBay, you can purchase large amounts of high quality LEDs for extremely low prices. I bought 50x 3mm RGB LEDs for $15 including shipping and tax. Excellent sellers are hktaiyuen, jledhk, and LED HK. After completing this mod multiple times, I now recommend using either 4 white LEDs for the buttons, or if possible, four separate colors, one for each matching colored button (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow/Amber). The slow-fade RGBs become de-synced with time in their color switching, and end up looking ugly due to color opposites canceling out light (red light emitting and being absorbed by its opposite color in the green button for example).
Resistors (Cheap) - This project will require resistors. You will need to calculate the level of resistance needed (in Ohms) based upon how you wire your LEDs to the controller mainboard. As I have four identical LEDs, I have opted for parallel wiring which requires only one resistor. Use ledcalc to determine your solution.
Soldering Iron (15-30 watts, ~$15) - Any cheap heat based soldering iron will do.
Solder ($5) - I recommend silver solder with a rosin core, the silver helps create a strong joint while the rosin helps flow into a clean connection.
Needle nose Pliers ($8) - Used for bending the legs of LEDs and assisting in holding parts.
Wire Clippers ($6) - Used to cut the legs of LEDs, resistors, and lengths of wire.
Electrical Tape ($3) - Protects exposed wires from connecting to anything else in the controller.
Power Drill with Drill Bits - Necessary for creating holes in buttons for LED legs, and shaping the controller casing to fit the modified buttons.
Hot Glue Gun and Sticks ($10)- Used to electrically insulate connections and keep parts from moving around. Works great for small electronics as it doesn't conduct electricity.
Wire - This depends on preference. For this guide I used 30 AWG (extremely fine) wire purchased from the llamma store. Looking back now (Jan 2009), and having experience with using these controllers and the wires snapping, and having to reinstall them, I now recommend using 22-24 AWG wire. As a bonus, 24 AWG wire is easily found in the common ethernet cable. Since not much is needed for a single controller, you can simply cut off the sheathing of any CAT5e and take out the insides; the wires are far more durable than 30AWG.