Picture of Light up a Xbox Controller with LEDs
This instructable sets out to light up the four A,B,X,Y buttons and jewel of an original Xbox Controller-S.

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 ***
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 Few quick questions: 1) Are the buttons transparent enough to let a white led shine through, but opaque enough so that it looks like it's lighting up the correct color? 2) On a wireless xbox 360 controller, is it possible to hook up the leds to a power source other than the rumble power? 3) If not, which prong for the rumble power (the prongs on the opposite side of the controller as the rumble adapter) is positive and which is negative?

QuackMasterDan (author)  SabreLightning5 years ago
 Yes, using a white LED will shine through the button itself and take on some of the plastics color. So putting a white LED in a red button will take on red tint, but be more of a very light red (not pink though). For a strong effect, I would recommend one color LED per color button, so red to red, blue for blue, etc.

Yes, you can access power from the 360 controller without using a rumble motor, in fact you should be taking your power from the mainboard. There are five or six solder pins going through the mainboard, they hold the power and you should solder directly to them.

I believe you would be interested in this guide: www.llamma.com/xbox360/mods/xbox%20360%20Controller%20LED%20Mod.htm

 I didn't exactly know how to say it, but when I said the rumble power, I meant the prongs on the mainboard that you attach it to to make them 'rumbled activated leds' as the llamma.com guide said. I'm interested in making them lit at all times, is there a power supply on the mainboard I can tap into (excluding the previously mentioned prongs)?
QuackMasterDan (author)  SabreLightning5 years ago
No, that's exactly it, soldering to the mainboard power (directly where the USB cable attaches, which is only for wired controllers) will leave the LEDs lit as long as the controller is on. Soldering to the rumble packs means soldering to the red and black wires that go to the rumblers, in which case they would only light up during vibration being activated.

The llamma guide at the bottom with the rumble activated LED is a completely separate step that is optional.

To access power pins on the wireless controller, you can tap into the play and charge kit/headset connector. Have the controller sitting normally on a table, with the sticks pointing in the air. Looking at the controller the direction you normally hold it, there are 4 pins and a center alignment hole on the base of the controller. Number the pins in your head with the one on the far left being pin 1 and all the way on the right being pin 4. Here are their specs:
Pin 1: Ground, Pin 2: Microphone Receive, Pin 3: Microphone Send, Pin 4: Power 3v.

So quite simply, you can solder your resistors to the 3v power pin, and the negative end of your LEDs to pin 1 (ground). I hope that is what you were wanting. You wouldn't want to tap power from the microphone pins, since they transmit data and can cause problems if you tap into them.
 Hate to keep bothering you, but I'm considering getting a four pack of leds. They have a 1200-2000 mcd, is that adequate? And a 100 ohm resistor is needed for a 5 volt supply. Since I'm tapping into the the 3V supply, a) will the leds be bright enough? b) Will a resistor be necessary (parallel wiring)?
 *update* The best I've been able to find without buying almost 50 is only 3k mcd.
QuackMasterDan (author)  SabreLightning5 years ago
If you want high brightness, just buy a pack of 50 off eBay, that's just how these things work, as brick-and-mortar stores only like to sell absolute junk. The LED will use the exact same amount of electricity whether your 5mm 3.4v 20mA LED is rated for 1kmcd or 15kmcd, it's all a question of electrical efficiency per LED. 1.2kmcd is pretty dim, you could see it at night with the lights off as a very subtle glow. I'd recommend aiming for 5k-7kmcd. For your suggestion of 3k, I think it would be acceptable. It's all personal preference really.

As far as your resistor, this is where LEDs are awesome. You can have your numbers wrong and they still work, just maybe not at the optimal brightness. Let's say you are using a blue LED, which is rated for 3.4v, yet we only have a 3.0v supply. Indeed, the LED will be underpowered and it's brightness reduced by about 30%. I think the minimum limit for a blue/green LED lighting up is around 2.4v or so (which would be extremely dim), so you're in the clear. LED specs always have a variable rating, something like ~3.2-3.4 volts, feel free to go over or under at your leisure.

If you use a red LED, which is rated for 1.9v, and overvolt it to 3.0v, it will be extremely bright, around 40% brighter. That extra brightness comes at a cost though, the LED will now last only about ~20,000 hours of constantly being on (which is still a ton) than the normal 80,000 hours. The reverse is true as well, undervolting an LED will add more life. Lots of pocket LED flashlights use this trick to the extreme, two 2032 button cell batteries in series (3v * 2 = 6v) for a 3.4v White LED. I personally swapped out the white LED for a red, with an extreme overvolt of 6 volts onto the 1.9v standard red. Granted, it's bad for the LED, but it's a cheap $1 flashlight.

To measure your resistor, go to ledcalc.com, put in your numbers, and find your result. Since we can't go higher than 3.0 volts, I put in 2.9v, and got a 5.6 Ohm 1/8 W resistor. Thats for a single blue/greem LED mind you, but you can figure it out with series or parellel.
 It says the LED's voltage norm is 3.0 volts, so is a resistor necessary? 
QuackMasterDan (author)  SabreLightning5 years ago
From my experience, you always have to have a resistor, no matter what the juice being given to the LED is. LEDs are current powered, but voltage dependent. Basically, as the voltage increases, so does the current (the mA) to the LED increasing brightness. While your voltage may be fine, a 3v supply for a 2.9v LED, the current will not be regulated. If whereever you are tapping the power from (in this case the microphone power plug) doesn't let the current go over 20mA, then yes you wouldn't need a resistor. I don't have measurements for how much current that pin is running, only the voltage, so I have to tell you to use a resistor or something could fry. Resistor calculations take into account both current and desired voltage. The only exception is button cell batteries, because the way the batteries are made they have current regulation.
 Ok. I used ledcalc and I put in a voltage drop of 2.9v, a supply voltage of 3v, 4 LEDs and for 15 mA it said a 6.8 ohm, and for 20mA it said 5.6 ohm, that sound about right?
QuackMasterDan (author)  SabreLightning5 years ago
Stick with 20mA rather than 15mA, you aren't facing severe power requirements, and dropping the current that low makes the LEDs far less bright.

I believe you used the default ledcalc.com Guru to calculate your resistor, which in most cases is fine. There are three other options, single, series, and parallel wiring. I recommend using parallel for this install, since only a single resistor is needed, which becomes very important inside of a cramped Xbox controller. Note that using parallel requires all your LEDs be the same type (white 2.9v draw for example). Using different colors like red,green,blue, and yellow would each require their own resistor. Note that green/blue/white LEDS are all 2.9v (minimum, at optimal they are 3.4v, but that isn't possible in this install due to the 3.0v source), and red/amber LEDs are both 1.9v, meaning these color pairs could be in parallel, making for a total of two resistors.

Calculating a 3.0v source, with 2.9 draw @ 20mA and four LEDs wired in parallel makes for a single 1.5 Ohm 1/8W resistor in the case of four blue/green/white.
 The resistor I found in 1.5 ohms, but 1W.
QuackMasterDan (author)  SabreLightning5 years ago
I searched "1.5 ohm" on eBay, and found a 100x pack of 1.5 ohm 1/4 W resistors in less than 10 seconds for a total cost including shipping $2.50.

Wattage rating is only a minimum, you could power a LED with a 5 W rated resistor, which would be excessively large. The wattage rating means how much electricity can be converted to heat before the resistor fails (read: melts). Just never go lower than the ohm rating require, and I don't think common resistors are made below 1/8W, so you're fine.
Would this work on an xbox 360 controller? I haven't opened it up yet, but im wondering if anyone knows where i can get the power source from? I'm about to open mine up now and i'll let you know how it goes
QuackMasterDan (author)  SgtSlaughter6 years ago
The process is practically identical for a 360 controller. Flood the existing LEDs (add solder), touch back and forth between the two connections until the LED floats away and you can pick it off. Positives are marked by white paint on one side of the LED, so player 1's positive terminal would have a D1 or white dot close to it. Look up llamma's guide for modding a 360 controller for help.
Ok cool thank you. I need to go buy a T8H as my current one wont fit so I wasn't able to open it up.
QuackMasterDan (author)  SgtSlaughter6 years ago
You can either buy a legitimate T8H torx screwdriver (I would suggest from llamma.org), or you can do what us modders had to do the day the 360 came out. We took an awl or very small chisel, and smashed it with a hammer onto the center pin. If you do it correctly the center pin will break off, and a normal T8 driver will unscrew it. Saves you $20 (minimum) and a week of shipping.
Ah, thats not the problem. Problem is that I have bits, not drivers. So it wont fit in 4 of the holes. :~(
 I bought my T8H from amazon.com for $2.99+$5.00 shipping. It's a small screwdriver and the handle's comfort leaves alot to be desired, but it gets the job done.
QuackMasterDan (author)  SabreLightning5 years ago
If you didn't want to buy a T8H, you could just open it the old fashioned way, back when the 360 first came out and nobody knew what a T8H was. Take a thin flat-head screwdriver or small chisel, insert it into the hole and place one edge into the inside of the torx, smash it with a hammer and crack off the security pin. Then a normal T8 driver can turn the screw. I'm glad the T8H from amazon worked for you, enjoy the mod.
 Can you make it so an XBox 360 controller has LED buttons? Not just the XBox button but A, X, B, and Y.
QuackMasterDan (author)  SabreLightning5 years ago
Indeed you can. I could write up a guide on this one, but llamma.org has already written one up. It's essentially the exact same process as the Xbox 1 controllers.

can u do this to a 360 controller?
QuackMasterDan (author)  origamiperson165 years ago
lukeman30006 years ago
What kind of viewing angle should the 3mm LEDs have? I am looking at a 3000 mcd red led (highest I can find on unique-leds.com) with a 30 degree viewing angle.. Is that good enough if I want to evenly light up the dome on my xbox 360 controller? What would you suggest?
QuackMasterDan (author)  lukeman30006 years ago
30 degree viewing angle is the standard for cylindrical LEDs, and you should be able to find far brighter than 3kmcd, at the Light of Victory eBay store you can get 50x 3mm Reds @ 15kmcd for $10. If you can, put in two or three LEDs into the dome, wire them in series, and plug them in there with super glue.
Wow really? So would one 3000 mcd LED not even hardly be visible at all? I want the "X" to light up when my rapid-fire mod is on, but I'd rather it not be super duper bright.. but not so dull that you can't see it you know.. I kind of want it to be the same brightness, or slightly less bright than the ring of light itself.
QuackMasterDan (author)  lukeman30006 years ago
It will be visible then, 3kmcd isn't very bright as far as LEDs go, but if you just want the X dome to be visible then it should be fine. Each of the stock green ring LEDs run at around 200mcd, the dome will be quite a bit brighter, but not enough to ruin the mod.
Well, that's another question I was thinking about asking but didn't know if you'd know or not.. The mod I'm installing is a rapid-fire mod and it uses a PIC12F683 pre-programmed chip. One of the pins of the IC is supposed to be wired to the 4th player's LED (to serve as a status indicator of sorts), but I'd like to wire it to the 3mm red LED that I'm planning on burying in the dome and use it as the status indicator. Do you have any idea if this should work or not? The thing is that I have no idea how much voltage that IC outputs from the pin that gets wired to the LED.. Here is the instruction manual for the mod I'm installing if you have any interest in taking a look at it: http://www.mediafire.com/?wgwzkuydum2

Do you know what I mean about the 4th player LED being used as a status indicator? For example, the IC will light up the 4th player LED when you turn the rapid-fire on. It will also flash at different intervals to show you what mode of rapid-fire you are in. I would just like to make a 3mm 3000mcd red LED do that instead of the default smd 0603 LED that is soldered to the controller board already. Will that work?
QuackMasterDan (author)  lukeman30006 years ago
Lucky you, most LEDs use similar amounts of power. A 5kmcd 5mm and a 70kmcd 10mm LED both use 3.4volts at 20mA. It should work.
Awesome. You are the man, Dan. Great instructables by the way. You have some of the best tutorials I have seen on the internet. Keep it up.
nice work
derfman246 years ago
how do you play atari 2600- playstation 1 games on your xbox
QuackMasterDan (author)  derfman246 years ago
I opened up my Xbox casing, installed a Xecuter 3 Modchip which lets you run unauthorized software on the Xbox. I used the Xbox operating system XBMC (Xbox Media Center), and run various emulators on the system. Surreal64XXX for Nintendo 64, XSNES for Super Nintendo, etc.

Modding my Xbox is one of the best things I've ever spent my money on, as I have all of my TV shows, movies, Xbox games (about 70 of them) and limitless other games all on one box.

Video Explanation

Text Beginners Explanation
what emulators do you use?
QuackMasterDan (author)  derfman246 years ago
I use the AEON beta skin for XBMC as my dash, and for emulators: MAMEdOX for Arcade Games Mednafenx for NES NeoGenesis for Sega Genesis Surreal 64 XXX for Nintendo 64 (But it crashes a lot if you don't tweak the settings) XBoyAdvance for GBA Z26X for Atari 2600 ZsnexBox for SNES
QuackMasterDan (author)  QuackMasterDan6 years ago
Err sorry, make that the AEON alpha, the developer has gotten lazy and hasn't released a full version which looks amazing!

You don't need to put in a modchip to get XBMC though. Just need splintercell and the usb connector for the xbox. I heard you can also burn a custom DVD but I haven't tried that.
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