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In this paper, a new and practical real-time gain-tuning method for proportional plus integral (PI) controllers has been formulated and implemented, using the speed control of a permanent-magnet synchronous motor drive system as a testbed. While the novel strategy enhances the performance of traditional PI controller greatly and proves to be a completely model-free approach, it also preserves the simple structure and features of PI controllers. The essential idea is as follows: (1) according to the system dynamics to step variation, define a performance index to evaluate the system response; (2) based on the monotonous relationship between the performance index and an intermediate PI gain parameter, this latter parameter is estimated with a modified binary search algorithm in order to improve the performance index; and (3) finally, PI gains are calculated and renewed according to the estimated intermediate gain parameter. Experiments have been thoroughly carried out to test the proposed method under different conditions. Besides being simple and easy to implement for real-time applications, the proposed method also possesses features such as versatility, stability, and effectiveness.