Windows 11: Microsoft shows off new 'controller bar' shortcut to Xbox games

Microsoft integrates Xbox game controllers with Windows 11 PCs.

Windows 11: Everything you need to know

Microsoft's latest preview build of Windows 11 brings a new "controller bar" menu for quickly launching recently played Xbox games. 

The controller bar is the headline feature update in Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22616 for the Dev and Beta Channels for Windows Insiders, which also comes with numerous bug fixes. 

The bar is a preview of a new view of Xbox Game Bar that opens when users pair or connect an Xbox controller to a PC. The bar displays a row of icons for up to three games the user has recently played on a local device as well as installed game launchers. 

SEE: Microsoft upgraded 190,000 PCs to Windows 11 (but even they couldn't upgrade everything)

The controller bar can be brought up when not playing a game by pressing the Xbox button on the game controller. If you're in a game already, the Xbox buttons take you directly to the Xbox Game bar and the standard gaming widgets. 

To use the feature on a Windows 11 PC, users need the relevant preview build, plus have the Xbox Insider Hub installed from the Microsoft Store. Users need to sign into the Xbox Insider Hub and join the Insider program and then navigate to "Previews" and join the Windows Gaming preview. 

Users need to check they have have the Xbox Game Bar version 5.722.5022.0 or higher, and then pair the controller or plug it in. Microsoft has also set up a Game Bar preview page on Reddit for testers to share feedback and bug reports with Microsoft.   

Windows 11 is an important release for Microsoft's plans to integrate Xbox, thanks to the built-in Xbox app, which provides easier access to Game Pass – a service that hasn't caught on widely yet but could be bolstered through Microsoft's $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard.    

This build also drops – for now – changes to the system tray in Build 22581 from March 23 due to feedback from Insiders. 

At the time of its release, Microsoft warned Insiders that the system tray would no longer support drag-and-drop to pin and unpin these items. It also introduced an optional setting to hide the "show hidden icons" button completely, aiming for a simpler taskbar.  But Insiders immediately complained that after installing it they were unable to move system tray icons and that tray icons persisted after closing an app.

"The system tray and specifically the "Show hidden icons" flyout will now function the same way it did with the original release of Windows 11, including the ability to rearrange icons in the flyout," Microsoft says in a blogpost announcing Build 22616.  

Microsoft plans to bring these system tray changes in the future "after further refinement of the experience by addressing some of the feedback we have received."

There are also bug fixes for Taskbar, Input, Widgets, Settings, windowing, Task Manager, and Windows Sandbox. There is one known issue affecting live captions that don't display when apps like video players are in full-screen mode.   

Microsoft warned Insiders that the window for switching from Dev Channel to the Beta Channel is closing soon. 

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