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I've owned two USB gamepads for PC now. The first was some noname pad I got really cheap in a supermarket. The second was (and is) Logitech Rumblepad 2. In both cases I've had the same problem: When I first bought the gamepad I played with it and for a while all was well. Then I moved on to other games and the gamepad was put away in a drawer. After a year or two I came again upon a game which played better on the gamepad. But now the joysticks seem to have heavily deteriorated. They are wildly inaccurate and sometimes even jump around randomly without any action from myself. Calibration makes things a bit better, but it can do only so much to compensate, and the end result is still unsatisfactory.

Is this inevitable? Are gamepads supposed to be changed every two years? Or perhaps I should have stored them in some special way? Is there anything that can be done now perhaps?

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It depends on the quality of the device, but some devices might detoriate over time, as the springs lose their strength.

However, most of the time, the cause of detoriation during storage can be traced back to improper storage for extended time.

When gamepads are stored, it is not uncommon to find the stored "upside-down" or below other stuff. In both cases, there is a continues force applied to the joystcks which strains the springs unequally.

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  • The physical position of the joystick is actually fine. It's just that the numbers it reports to the PC are way off. But I don't think that any springs are to blame.
    – Vilx-
    Commented Sep 11, 2010 at 6:06
  • On most game controllers, the "springs" are actually made of silicone rubber. Unless you're talking about analog controllers, and then they are springs. Commented Sep 11, 2010 at 16:53
  • @Denilson Sá - anyway - in this case the joystick should feel different, right?
    – Vilx-
    Commented Sep 12, 2010 at 11:44
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I'm answering my own question 13 years later! Necromancy badge, here I come!

But it's for a good reason - during this time I've gotten older and wiser and now know what was actually going on.

The thing is - most (but not all, see below) game controllers use a slider potentiometer (or something similar) to measure where a joystick is. That's a small piece of a metal rail and a contact that slides along it. The metal is chosen so that it has a fairly high resistance, so when you change the point where the contact touches it, the resistance of the whole circuit noticeably changes, and that can be measured.

The problem is - when you don't use the joystick for a while, the rail tends to slowly oxidize. And oxide wreaks havoc with resistance measurements, since it has a very high resistance of its own.

Fortunately there is a simple solution - just move the joysticks around for a bit. This will rub off the thin oxide layer and restore normal operation. That Logitech Rumblepad 2 is still alive and kicking even today without any issues!

Now, there are alternatives. Just recently I got a fancy controller for my birthday that uses contactless magnetic sensors. Theoretically the joysticks should last forever with ideal precision. Will see how that works out.

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