Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro joystick overhaul
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Thread: Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro joystick overhaul

  1. #1
    Senior Administrator Willy's Avatar
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    Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro joystick overhaul

    I've been using the old Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro joysticks since I bought a Force Feed Back version about mid 1999. Liked it enough that when I caught a regular one (non-FFB) on sale a couple of months later, I bought it for a back up. These sticks haven't been made since about 2001 at the latest, but because of the infrared technology they use instead of pontentiometers, unless you physically break one, it has the potential of an unlimited working life. You never have to calibrate them, since XP, I haven't had to load drivers for them and they have plenty of programmable buttons (9). They're kind of plain looking, but they work.

    The FFB versions had a serious issue with the power supply connector in the stick base failing. And with without the power supply, they just wouldn't work. When mine initially failed after about 6 months of use, I hated to throw away a stick that I paid over $100 for, so I took the base apart, removed the connector from the board, clipped the end off of the power cord and soldered it to the mother board. That got me another couple of years of use out of it before the PS failed all together. By that time, I couldn't find another ps without buying a whole new stick, so the almost new regular non-FFB stick was put into use. This was about 2002. I have used that stick ever since. That thing's like the energizer bunny, it just keeps going.

    A couple of nights ago, during our nightly flights, I was reaching for something and accidentally knocked it off my desk. It landed on the hat switch and when checking it out, I couldn't go left when moving the view about. (made for an interesting rest of the flight).

    When my FFB Sidewinder quit years ago, I put it up thinking I might eventually find a power supply for it. Never did. Mrs Willy bought another regular non-FFB one at a yardsale about 04 and I found a FFB one without the power supply at Goodwill a couple of years later. I've kept all 3 with the idea of using the FFB ones for parts sticks and the regular one as a backup stick.

    So, yesterday after lunch, I took them to the shop to replace the hat switch on the one I've been using. I found out a few things about the parts interchangeability between FFB and regular Sidewinder Precision Pros. While a lot of the guts will interchange, the actual stick mechanism will not nor will the circuit boards. Not that I was going to use the FFB circuit board anyway as I don't have a power supply for one (and they're not USB compatible).

    When I got the regular stick apart, along with both FFB sticks, I found that the handles, the infrared bits, and the buttons were the same. The FFB handles have a pair of leds that the regular ones don't have but figured that just makes reassembly easier not having to mess with them. The wiring harness for the upper switch board in the handle goes through a hollow central shaft and it's a pain to get the connector through it. I ended up having to put the shaft into a vise to hold it while I used a pair of screwdrivers to align and push it on through.

    During this I realized that I couldn't remember how the regular stick mechanism went together and I really didn't want to take the backup stick apart, so I got the idea of putting the regular circuit board into a FFB housing minus the FFB bits. I got a ways into it before I figured out that while the switches on the board lined up just fine, the circuit board itself mounted different between the two types. So as that was a "not happening thing", I went back to the smaller regular housing.

    I played around with the stick mechanism pieces for a bit and decided to just take the base off the backup stick for comparison. That was probably my smartest move of the afternoon. Although I did end up having to partially disassemble the mechanism (and lost the damn spring for it when it launched across the shop), it did show me where I was mucking things up. From there it was easy to put it all back together.

    I ended up using the base casing and stick mechanism from the stick I've used for years. The handle plus it's switches from my original FFB stick (I knew those were still working when I quit using it). Also used the buttons from it in the base. The throttle mechanism and infrared sensors & associated bits came from the Goodwill stick. I was still needing to replace the cord to the stick as a mouse had chewed up the old one some years ago and I'd just put some electrical tape around it. The FFB cords look the same and the wire color coding is the same at the circuit board connector, but I know enough about those boards to not really trust that. So I ended up using the circuit board and cord from my ex backup stick now that the spring was somewhere in orbit in the shop and I couldn't find it. The button switches in the base are integral with the board so those are "new" too.

    The first functional test had me a little worried. Everything worked but I'd hit a button and it would be a second or so for what it was programmed for to work. But the more I used it, the better it got. Probably from the switches not having been used in about 15 years. Last night's online flight was the test for it and it is like a brand new stick now. I'd been having problems with a couple of the buttons not wanting to work for a while and they're all first time, every time now.

    Oh, and I still stay on the lookout for these sticks at yard sales and second hand shops. Now if I could figure out a way to put a standard USB cord on them instead of having to use that gameport to USB adapter.
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    Kinda reminds me of Clint Eastwood's Marine Gunny in Heartbreak Ridge: "Improvise ..... Adapt ..... Overcome !!"

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    Sidewinder Disassembly

    What you describe doing would of taken me a week or more to do. I have a Sidewinder Precision 2 and it still works 'like new' even tho it's 12 years old. You can get this stick on Amazon. And Ebay I guess. Cheap too. I have 3 of them. One of them ($5, 2009) doesn't work (no elevator). So it's spare parts. Reading your post gives me idea to fix the bad one. Might learn something. It takes guts to get in there. I would be sweating bullets. You make it sound like a walk in the park. Nice post.
    Chuck B
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    Senior Administrator Willy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by napamule View Post
    What you describe doing would of taken me a week or more to do. I have a Sidewinder Precision 2 and it still works 'like new' even tho it's 12 years old. You can get this stick on Amazon. And Ebay I guess. Cheap too. I have 3 of them. One of them ($5, 2009) doesn't work (no elevator). So it's spare parts. Reading your post gives me idea to fix the bad one. Might learn something. It takes guts to get in there. I would be sweating bullets. You make it sound like a walk in the park. Nice post.
    Chuck B
    Napamule
    One of the things I do comes from having worked on precision mechanisms years ago is when I take something with a lot of little parts apart, I line the bits up in a line in the order they came off. And with smart phones these days, it helps to take pictures of the disassembly as well. I didn't bother with the pics on the joysticks as I've had them apart for cleaning a few times.

    I still haven't found that blasted spring that launched itself into orbit.
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  5. #5
    Senior Administrator Willy's Avatar
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    And a couple of links for those who have lost the gameport/usb adaptor to these sticks. Keep in mind that the FFB version is NOT usb compatible. Only the regular stick is.

    First link shows a different stick, but it's a drawing so, it might be worthwhile just fyi.

    http://www.wikihow.com/Transform-You...a-USB-Joystick

    Now this is with an actual MS Sidewinder Precision Pro.

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    Willy,
    Guess what I've been doing all morning? I love stuff like this. Watched a few videos on topic at YTube. And the WIKI article is good. But I don't know why I bother. I found a Sidewinder Precision 2 at 2nd hand store for $4.99 (looks NEW - worked perfect) on August 12, 2 days after I posted here last. I am lucky that way. Always finding bargins. So now I have 3 working SWP2 sticks. I'll never use them up either. But it is interesting to know how you can mod it from port to usb. Cheers.
    Chuck B
    Napamule
    [SIGPIC]i7 2600K @ 3.4 Ghz, Asus P8H67 Pro, Super Talent 8 Gb DDR3/1333 Dual Channel, Sapphire Ati Radeon HD-5700 1 Gb DDR5, Corsair 650 W PSU, Acer 23 in LCD, Windows XP SP2, MS Sidewinder Precision 2 Joy, Logitech K-360 wireless KB & Mouse[/SIGPIC]

  7. #7
    I have three of them two MS Sidewinder Precision 2 and one Precision Pro. The power cord broke inside the Pro so called Microsoft for a replacement and they sent me a Precision 2 at no cost and a week later they sent me a second one. Called them up about the second one and they said keep it, the sticks are discontinued soon. Still using the Precision 2 till this day or should say until a new system is built.

    The Pro works fine just not FFB. They are built like a rock! Never had a problem.





  8. #8
    Senior Administrator Willy's Avatar
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    And that spring is still somewhere in orbit..... But the stick still works like a new one.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Willy View Post
    And a couple of links for those who have lost the gameport/usb adaptor to these sticks. Keep in mind that the FFB version is NOT usb compatible. Only the regular stick is.
    Hello Willy,

    I just found this thread way after the discussion has been going a while and perhaps I have an explanation for what is really going on.
    The MS SideWinder Precision Pro and the FFB version are NOT really Game Port devices.
    They are intended to work off the MIDI Port of a Sound Card but will fall back to Game Port compatibility (or at least the Precision Pro will) though it will lose most of the switches. To have all of its features, it needs a MIDI Port.
    Apparently as you discovered, the FFB will not fall back to simple Game Port settings.

    If you look at the specifications of the "Game Port", you will find that it has about 4 control axes but runs analog and doesn't have enough contact with a 15 pin connector to drive all the possible switches that can be configured on the SideWinders.
    The SideWinder gets around this by operating as a MIDI device in digital mode.
    That is my understanding of what is really going on.

    I have tried to use the USB to Game Port adapters and was wondering why I could never get the majority of the buttons to work until I started to look at the Game Port specifications.

    I actually have found a few Precision Pro for not much money at the local Thrift Stores and even bought a few 3D Pro and a FFB though without the power supply and currently have two Precision Pro operational and either a 3D Pro or a Precision 2 on another machine that doesn't get powered up very much. There is a FFB on yet another machine but it hasn't been powered up in a few years.

    These joysticks do seem to last but I found that the 3D Pro sometimes develop a squeak which is annoying even though they don't seem to actually affect functioning. I also found that one of the Thrift Store Precision Pro was much better centered than the one I bought brand new when I first started flying flight simulators.

    Take Care.
    - Ivan.

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