PC gamers often cite the precision of a mouse and keyboard as an advantage over playing on a console. While a valid argument, there is something familiar about gaming with a controller. I do it when I play Halo Infinite on my desktop, and though I could probably score a slightly better kill-to-death ratio with a mouse and keyboard, using a controller feels more comfortable to me. Then there are the many games that simply play better with a controller (Halo, I recognise, isn’t one of them).
Now, Microsoft is adding another reason to use a controller on PC, and it’s taking a page from the Xbox Series X. As outlined in a blog post, Windows Insiders can now test an early preview of a feature called “controller bar,” which surfaces when you press the centre Xbox button on the controller. A new view of the Xbox Game Bar, controller bar shows the three most recent games you played alongside three launchers (Stream, Origin, etc.) installed on your system.
While it won’t pick up where you left off, the new interface is reminiscent of the Xbox Series X game switcher in that you can quickly jump from one title to the next without opening a launcher or pulling out a mouse and keyboard to click on a shortcut. If you do use a mouse and keyboard, the feature appears to be accessible in the Xbox Game Bar (Windows + G).
I can see myself using this feature quite often, especially when I connect a gaming laptop to my TV to play in the living room. This would, in theory, prevent me from having to connect a wireless mouse and keyboard to navigate around Windows 11.
Microsoft says the controller bar opens when you pair or connect a controller to your Windows 11 PC that’s running the latest Insider Preview build in either the Dev or Beta channels. You can activate the interface manually when you aren’t in a game by pressing the Xbox button.
Because Microsoft specifies the feature works by pressing the Xbox button, this suggests it won’t work with other controllers, like the PS5 DualSense. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to confirm and will update this article if we learn more.
How to use the controller bar on PCs
If you’re a Windows Insider wanting to give this experimental feature a shot, download the latest Insider Preview Build (225xx) from the Dev or Beta channels. Next, download the Xbox Insider Hub from the Microsoft Store using this link.
Once downloaded, open the app and sign in to your Microsoft account. After signing in, go to “Previews” and join the Windows Gaming preview. Check for updates in the Microsoft Store and make sure you’re running version 5.722.5022.0 or later. Reboot your PC and the new interface should appear after you’ve paired your controller.