Zapp's Guide to Revitalizing the Sidewinder 3D Pro

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This page presents a method I have used to "revitalize" old Sidewinder 3D Pro joysticks. As these 'sticks age, they develop quite a bit of slop in the dead zone, making centering difficult and decreasing your small movement control. Because M$ refuses to produce or repair the 3D Pro, home-brew repairs such as this will become the only means of keeping your Sidewinder functional. I hope you find this helpful. Please send any comments here.

"Not connected" error?
An updated sw3dpro.vxd that is supposed to fix the dreaded "not connected" error with newer systems. I have not tested this, since I don't use the Sidewinder drivers (I use the 3D pro as a Thrustmaster Flight Control System w/ pedals and thus don't have any problems), but it appears to work on some systems from posts in Update: This fix only appears to work w/ ME, and not very often. The latest official Sidewinder drivers can be found here, The original drivers can be found here. So far the only sure way to fix the "not connected" problem is to upgrade to Win2k or XP, which have the drivers built-in. Note that you must add the joystick in the game controllers control panel, it does not appear automatically. Also, "not connected" can occur if you have too many game ports listed in the device manager, causing a game port conflict. If you only have one game port, make sure you have only one listed in the device manager.

Update 8/03: This was pointed out to me by Daniel Nerf- From an XP help file-"If the controller is connected and still not recognized, while the computer is on, unplug the controller from the port and plug back in several times... It says that the Sidewinder 3d Pro has a problem with static buildup. Static buildup for some reason keeps the system from recognizing the joystick". If anyone can confirm this, let me know.

Update 9/22/04: I have finally upgraded from Windows 98SE- I did a clean install of Windows XP with integrated SP2 and DID NOT install any extraneous Sidewinder drivers. My 3d pro was detected (after adding it as a new game controller in the control panel) and works with no problems- 8-way hat, base buttons, throttle, etc. I am using the game port built into my Asus A7N8X deluxe rev.2 mobo (1008 bios). I have gotten quite a few e-mails from people who have problems w/ XP detecting the 3D Pro- but it appears to work fine with XP SP2 on my hardware.

Update 9/8/05: Yes, almost one year later, there is finally more news on this issue! Appears someone might have actually found a real fix!

Update 10/20/05: Had another person forward some helpful info on how he fixed his "not connected" problem.

Go into control panel- system -device manager. Under sound & video controllers click on your game port. Click on driver then update driver. This brings up the hardware update wizard. Select no to windows search / next. Select install from specific list. Select 'don't search choose driver', click to uncheck 'show compatible hardware'. This gives you the option of thrustmaster, creative, ess and many other products . Select thrustmaster, then selected game port for thrustmaster ACM (port one).

If this works for you, please let me know the make/model of your sound card/game port. So far this appears to work for SB Live 5.1 cards, no word on other makes.

Update 3/18/06: For those who still have “not connected” problems, OR you upgraded your motherboard and no longer have a game port, there is hope! Check out this thread on the Descent BB about Grendel’s 3D pro to USB adapter!

Update! Something I have suspected but have been unable to verify until now is that apart from the mainboard, there is no difference between the Mac and PC versions of the sidewinder. This means that you can use parts from the Mac version to fix any problem related to hat, button functions or worn hardware. If you are really good w/ a soldering iron, you can also use many parts off the mainboard of the Mac version (optical pick-up, many resistors/capacitors, the main processor, those 4 extra fire buttons, etc.) Speaking of buttons, you can now order replacements direct from Omron.

WARNING! DO NOT use a power screw driver unless the torque is set very low. You will strip the screw holes.

While you are up to your elbows in Sidewinder guts, why not add an extra fire button to your 3D Pro? Read about the Frankenstick here.

This requires you to be somewhat mechanical and able to use tools. It can also completely screw up your stick if you mess up, so be careful! This will of course void your warranty, but since Microsoft will only replace your 3D pro with a Precision Pro (a fate worse than death!) instead of repairing it, I don't count that as much of a deterrent. Not to mention the warranty period has expired for all 3d Pro owners.


Tools you will need:

  1. Medium Phillips screwdriver
  2. Very small Philips screwdriver
  3. Some small flathead screwdrivers, or butter knives (for wedging and levers)
  4. Scissors/sharp razor
  5. Mylar- 50 mm X 50 mm (thickness needed is variable, depending on how much wear there is, usually the thin or medium thick Mylar sheet)
  6. Fine grit sandpaper
  7. Flat/needle-nose pliers
  8. Silicone grease (opaque/white)
  9. Ruler or compass for measuring diameter (a baby bottle lid like the one shown has the right inner diameter)
  10. Sharpie marker
  11. Thread-loc (optional, but recommended)

*WARNING* Any grease containing lithium or mineral oils can damage plastic! Be sure to use ONLY Silicone. You should be able to get this from an electronic supply store (However, Radio Shack didn't have it in my area).

Note on the Mylar- You can get non-melt Mylar from stores that sell craft or quilting supplies. It is used to make templates for drawing and quilting, and comes in several colors and finishes... you need the smooth, shiny finish (this is the stiffest), in any color you want. It also comes in several thicknesses. Unless you have extreme amounts of wear in your sidewinder, thin or medium thickness should be fine. Unfortunately, the only way to determine what thickness you need is by experimentation, so you might end up making several washers before you get it right. If you can't find thin mylar, you can use the clear, stiff plastic that is used as a "window" in product packaging.

The two hardest things to find...

(you can click on any image in this site to get an enlarged view)

Note on washer construction- The easiest method is to use a compass to trace a washer on the square piece of mylar. Simply trace an inner diameter of 22 mm and an outer diameter of 44 mm, then cut it out. My son took my compass to school, so I ended up using a baby bottle lid as the template for the inner diameter (it's exactly 22 mm) and then tracing around the actual joystick base for the outer diameter. I've included instructions for both methods, but I suggest you avoid the hassle and use a compass.

Next: Removing the base