top of page

How to connect a Kinect to a computer

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Back in 2010, the Nintendo Wii was selling like hotcakes. With millions of units sold each year, it overtook the sales of the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. Microsoft saw the success of Nintendo´s motion controls and decided they wanted in on the market. So, unlike Sony which copied the Wiimotes with their Move controllers, Xbox got the Kinect.

The Kinect was a camera, a bit like the Eyetoy before it, that tracked the position of your body and translated it in-game. It enjoyed moderate success, selling 35 million units before being discontinued by Microsoft.

While the Kinect no longer works for the Xbox Series X and Y, the device didn't die there. So,

Can you connect a Kinect to a PC?

While the Xbox might no longer be compatible with the Kinect, the same is not true for your computer. You can connect a Kinect to your PC and use it to play a variety of games or to interface with other types of software. Its RGB cameras and infrared sensors are useful for more than gaming.

There are broadly two types of Kinect models on the market. The classic model and the Azure model.

The classic Kinect was released in 2010 to serve as a gaming accessory. It has since been discontinued, and you can only find it second-hand or renewed. In theory, it is only compatible with Windows 7 (but more on that later).

There are several versions of the regular model of Kinect, there is the Kinect for Xbox (version 1), the Kinect for Xbox One (version 2), the Kinect for Windows 7, and the one for Windows 8.

The Azure Kinect is geared towards a more "professional" public. It no longer supports any Xbox console, being computer exclusive. This Kinect is sold with a developer kit for businesses who want to use their cameras for specialized software. As a result, it tends to be more expensive than the classic Kinect.

Unless you are a business, you don´t need to buy an Azure model to connect the Kinnect to your PC, as we´ll soon show you.

How to connect a Kinect to a PC

Ok, so you have a Kinect. How do you connect it to your computer and make it work? Regardless of what kind of Kinect you own, you are going to need some other accessories. Unless you bought the Kinect second-hand, you might already have these accessories.

You´ll need a power supply one like this one to connect the Kinect to a power source. You´ll also need this USB cable to connect it to your computer. Luckily, you can usually buy both the power source and the cable in a bundle.

Before installing the Kinect, you have the install the drivers. You´ll need to download the Software Development Kit (SDK) and the Developers Tool Kit for Kinect. You can find them both on this page.

You´ll see that the SDK software has several versions. The 1.7 version works for the 360 Kinect version and only on Windows 7. The 1.8 for the Xbox One Kinect and only on Windows 8.

This is the original Kinect model for the Xbox 360.

Now, connect your Kinect to your computer using the USB cable and wait a couple of minutes for the device to install itself. When your computer tells you that the Kinect is ready, open the search bar and look for the SDK program to start the Kinect and adjust its settings.

But what happens if you have Windows 10 or if you want to use the Kinect on the Series X and Y? Or if you want to use the Kinect on the Series X and Y? Then you need something else to make it work, an adapter. The aptly named Kinect Adapter, to be more specific.

Installing the Kinect with the adapter is practically the same as doing it without it. The only thing to remember is that the adapter needs a USB 3.0 port. You can tell if your computer has a 3.0 port by counting the little metal pins inside it. If it has 9 pins, then it´s a USB 3.0 port.

Even with the adapter, you will still need to download and install Windows Run Time 2.0 and Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0. If you have these two drivers installed, your computer should recognize the Kinect as a webcam when you plug it in using the adapter.

It doesn´t matter which version of Windows you own, if you want to configure or use the Kinect on or use the Kinect Studio, you can do so by searching the Kinect SDK driver on your search bar and clicking on it.

Sadly, for now, there doesn´t seem to be a way to use your old Kinect on Windows 11 unless you have the "professional" Azure Kinect. The drivers don´t work.

If you are on a Mac or Linux machine, then you can´t use the official drivers to install Kinect. Luckily, there is a project called OpenKinect that fixes this issue.

You can download custom-made drivers for both operating systems. The instructions are a bit more complex, but OpenKinect should be able to get a Kinect working on your computer.

What can you use the Kinect on PC for?

You installed the drivers, connected the Kinect, and everything works... what can you do with it?

Well, the most obvious use is for gaming, but you will find few games coming out nowadays that use the Kinect, save for ver special exceptions like Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator.

So, your most likely option is to play old Xbox games that had Kinnect support, either because they have been updated to work on modern PCs or through an emulator. Bear in mind that you will likely have to toy with the Kinect´s configuration to find the settings that best allow you to play with it.

The most common use for the Kinect outside of gaming is as a webcam. Its advantage over the other webcams is that it comes with motion tracking, theoretically allowing you to use it to track your movement. This can be useful if you are an animator trying to do some motion capture or a v-tuber that needs some way for your avatar to mimic your movements.

However, the Kinect is quite old, and it´s not the best solution on the market if you are looking to do either of the aforementioned things. You should only consider using it if you already have one and don´t have the budget to buy a more "professional" camera.

That said, there are a lot of other uses for the Kinect, but most are professional requirements. The Kinect still has its fans who keep it up to date, and there are even drivers to use it with OBS, for example. GitHub has a whole gallery with over 11,000 programs developed for the Kinect, so it´s not like it has zero support in the community.

As you can imagine with that level of development, there is a whole slew of apps that use Kinnect for different purposes. Like 3d scanning objects, translating sign languages, virtual clothes shopping, etc. The problem is that most of these applications are for professional use only (which is why Microsoft launched the Azure model), so they are unlikely to be of use to you.

Still, there is plenty of use for the old Kinect. If you have one lying around, try to plug it in, you might find it more useful than you thought. If you want to play with motion controls on your computer, check out our guide on how to do just that. While motion controllers don´t have tracking as the Kinect does, their gyros still work pretty well.


bottom of page