Introduction: Add a Real Guide Button to Homebrew Xbox 360 Arcade Stick

The first arcade sticks I made for the 360 used wired controllers and didn't really need to provide any feedback on the status of the controller connection, so my "Guide Button" was always just a standard green pushbutton.  But wired controllers stink and I've since graduated to using only wireless boards.  But, with those, you really need to know what's going on (sync status, battery level, etc).

Enter perfect solution:  Add a Real Guide Button to the Arcade Stick!

Step 1: Gather Parts

Parts needed:

  • One Xbox 360 controller that is either broken or you otherwise don't care about anymore (which in my case, and for the purposes of this guide, is an old wired controller)
    • This will be destroyed and used to create the other parts needed
  • 30 AWG Insulated wrapping wire (can be found at Radio Shack in a pinch)
  • Electrical tape and/or hot glue
  • Your favorite epoxy
  • 3 eyelets for mounting
No special instructions are needed for taking apart the wired controller since they have standard phillips screws, not Torx.  So open it up and separate out the PCB.  You should remove the entire right thumbstick assembly.  Cutting is a bit easier if you remove the trigger assemblies, but not really necessary.  I also snip the connection wire off up at the board just so it is out of the way as well.  You should really desolder that whole connector and remove it now too (you'll see why later).  That is easier to do before trimming the board down.

Set aside the Guide button and sleeve/light pipe as well as the rubber button contact pad, we'll be needing those shortly.  I also save the rumble motors for use in some other project down the road.  The rest of the controller pieces can be tossed. 

Time to cut apart the PCB!

Step 2: Create Parts From Parts

A band saw makes real quick work of the board, but you can use a rotary tool with a cutting wheel as well, it just takes longer.  Use the two U-shaped areas on the board as a guide for where to cut it, just go down the middle of those on each side.  Then cut to lengh just after the metal part (capacitor?) in the middle, you want to keep that on there.  You might also want to trim and nicely keep the part where the headset plugs in.  It can be useful if you want to make a headset extension, but that's outside the scope of this guide.

Trim down the back/guide/start area until you have something that looks about a 1.5" x 1.5" square.  The most important part is to make sure you don't damage the button contacts or LEDs.

You should also trim down the rubber button contact piece so that it fits the width of your new board.  Also, remove the black conductive pad that sits above the Start button location.  When you have all wires attached, you'll also want to mark the locations of the 3 & 4 LED wire and cut a notch for them in the rubber piece.

Finally, with a very small bit (I used 1/16"), drill out three mounting holes.  Conveniently, the perfect locations are already there, you just need to make them a little bigger so it is easier to screw the eyelets through.

Prep work is done, now the fun part!

Step 3: Solder the Ground Leads

I know the 30AWG wire is tiny, but it really is what you should be using for this application.  Anything else is way too big for what you will be soldering to here.

On the front of the board, attach a wire to the Cathode (-) side of each of the LEDs, being careful not to lift them off the board.  I find the easiest way to do this is to first tin the wire, then get a little drop of solder on the tip of your iron, hold the wire in place against the cathode and then briefly touch it with the iron.  It's a lot easier than it may look.

Also, attach the ground for the Guide button to the common side of the Start button contacts.  Unfortunately, there isn't a better location to attach this wire, so you have to scrape the pad coating down and solder to the copper underneith.  And you don't want to attach it to the guide button side because it will always be in contact with the rubber pad contact, which isn't good.  This is also why we removed that piece from the start button side in the previous step.

Step 4: Solder the Postitive Leads

So the ground leads were pretty easy, but the positive leads are little more challenging.  The positive lead for the Guide button attaches to one of the pins on the chip on the back and the LED requires scraping the solder resist off of a trace.

For the Guide
With the piece oriented as you see in the first picture below, solder the Guide wire to the top pin on the right side of the chip.  Attach it using the same method I described for soldering to the LEDs in the previous step.

For the LED
Scrape the trace between the two vias as seen below and then solder the lead to it.  make sure you get all of the solder resist off or you'll never get the solder to stick.  But, don't scrape so much that you rip the trace off.  Once it starts to look shiny, you're good.  The best way to solder to these is to touch your iron to the trace and then add solder to let it flow over all of the exposed copper.  Don't hold it there very long though or you'll melt it off!  Then, tin the wire and attach with the same method as you have everything else.

PS-  I know, I'm improperly using Green wire here here, but I like my + leads to be Green when working on Xbox stuff.  Don't know why, I just do.  :)

Step 5: Finish and Prep for Mounting

When all the wires are set, you need to make sure they don't move around, so either put some good electrical tape on them (as seen below) or dab them all with hot glue.  Either works, I just chose tape this time so I didn't have to get the glue gun out.  Hot glue is probably a bit more secure though.  Just make sure you route the wires in such a way that they won't be in the way of the rubber contact piece or mounting holes.

Test fit the rubber piece and mark where the 3 & 4 LED wires come out and cut a notch for them so the piece can sit flat against the board.  Then tack it in place with a drop or two of super glue.

Also, note how in the picture below the metal part on there is just about the same height as the top of those rubber button contacts?  That's why we keep it on the board, it provides a good standoff when mounting so you can't mount it so tight that the button is always pressed in!

That's it, ready for mounting!

Step 6: Drill and Mount the Button Assembly

The outer sleeve/light pipe that the Guide button fits into is just slightly under 11/16" diameter, so grab a bit of that size and drill a hole in your arcade stick where you want it to be placed.  Depending on the thickness of the box you're using, you may need to trim down the thickness a bit for everything to work properly.  The idea is to have the top of the sleeve flush with the outside of the cabinet (be sure to account for extra height if you are mounting on a top that has a lexan cover!!).  Then, you want just a little bit protruding from the inside of the cabinet.  The pictures used in this guide are all of a converted X-Arcade stick, and the sides are almost the perfect thickness already. 

The sleeve has a orientation tab at the top and bottom which stick out a bit, so a little extra space needs to be trimmed away for them.  Also, the sleeve gets a little larger at the bottom, so may need to cut a little around the edge as well. 

Important:  The guide button only fits in the sleeve one way, so make sure you mount it in the desired orientation.

When the hole is all ready, make sure you put the sleeve in the right way and tack it in place with some super glue, ensuring that the top it flush with the outside of the box.  Once it is set, fill around the inside edges with epoxy so it won't come loose.  Don't go too crazy with the expoxy though, otherwise it will be really tough to mount the board.

The final step is to screw the eyelets into the board.  Before putting the guide button in the sleeve, place the board up against the sleeve and align the LEDs with the light pipe portion to make sure the light shines up properly.  Then press down on all the eyelets to leave a little impression and help you do the final mounting.  Insert the button and then screw on the board!

The reason for the eyelets is that most cabinets are pretty small, and in my case, I usually work with existing X-Arcade there isn't any room to fit a screwdriver in to screw the board to the box.  Even if you you're building your own box, you don't want to mount the board before everything is assembled.  Eyelets can be easily turned by hand!

Step 7: Final Connections

The final step is connecting the new Guide button extension up to the 360 PCB which is powering your arcade stick.  This is pretty straightforward and works about the same as what you've just done.  The biggest differences are that the LED orientations are slightly different on the wired controllers (see the picture), so just be sure you match cathode to cathode and pick one anode to hook the positive lead to.  You should already have wires for the guide button, so match those up and you're set.

That's it.  Game on!