I just wanted to add a couple other proggies to the list here as I never really liked the idea of turning off base features of windows.
I run Windows 7 64-Bit
Joy to Key found here:http://www.electracode.com/4/joy2key/JoyToKey%20English%20Version.htm
Joy to key allows you to assign multiple joystick buttons/Axis' to keyboard or mouse commands. The down side is you need to manually assign buttons to each button (or axis) on each device which can take time. The upside is for many of the mods for free space all the button assignments are the same so Going from Diaspora to Wing Commander Saga all the buttons stay the same and you don't need to remap in game. It allows you to assign mouse movement to buttons or axis. You can also assign a button to repeat X times per second. You don't need to turn off driver signature or of the other business associated with windows. Of course you can save different profiles for different games.
Currently I have:
A Logitech Extreme 3d - This is for my main (right hand) This is setup as the Default Joystick, so all the normal axis' are handled in the normal manner the buttons assign etc. I have better sticks but this one has a good amount of buttons right on the head of the stick so I never have to take my hands off the stick. I have the hat setup for targeting.
Logitech Nascar steering wheel - This is setup with Joy to Key, I use the pedals in place or rudders (NumPad 4 and 6) , and the arrangement of the buttons for power managment (sheilds, arms, and engine)
A Saitek Av8ter - This is for my left hand control, this is setup with Joy to key. This is mainly used as throttle and Aux movement. Buttons after burners, glide, reverse, auto pilot etc. Since the main pitch, yaw etc is assigned to the right I'm able to take my hand off this stick and adjust settings for energy managment etc.
See here: http://www.hidmacros.eu/
I'm mostly in single player campaigns at this point and haven't REALLY setup my Comms menu but I am looking at using either a seperate number pad with HID macros assigned to the various buttons. This program recognizes seperate keyboards as seperate devices so you can assign different functions to the same button on different devices. (NumPad * on Keyboard 1 = External View, Numpad* on Keyboard 2 is "Attack my Target").
See here: http://sdrv.ms/12ciVds
If I don't end up using HID Macros for the comms menu I will end up using the M$ Strategic Commander. There are 70 some button combinations for your left hand and can emulate a mouse with graduated movement, and the new setup tool works really well
If you want to use a console game pad, WIRED Xbox controllers work with Windows 7 as is. If your XBOX controller is WIRELESS you need to get a receiver specific to M$. Just plugging in the "charge cable" will not work. Its a charge cable it won't work and is silly.
I'm too cheap to buy the special receiver needed to make the M$ product work with my M$ product...
Motion in Joy
See Here: http://www.motioninjoy.com/
To use a PS3 Controller its best to install Motion in Joy. The controller will work either plugged in with the standard USB cable, or Bluetooth receiver.
See here: http://www.xpadder.com/
Xpadder is another really great program that works similar Joy to Key. The interface is a bit different but the core works pretty much the same. Its a bit more color full but I like being able to see the button/Axis Names and their assignments on the front screen.