How to use your game controllers with your computer

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If you’re planning on using one of your gaming controllers on PC (whether you’re an Xbox or PlayStation stalwart), you’re probably looking for a specific experience, like a driving game or a third-person adventure.

But I know why you’re here, you don’t know how it’s done. It’s actually quite easy and there are several ways to do it. For this article, we’re going to focus on the Xbox and PlayStation layout controllers.

The easiest way to connect your gamepads to a PC

The easiest way to connect your game controllers to your computer, whether it’s an Xbox controller or a PlayStation controller, is to use a wired connection – usually a USB-A to USB cable -C (or whatever connector your controller uses).

Simply plug the controller into your computer, turn it on and play. Your controller will work in supported games, although if the game you’re playing doesn’t support the controller, you may need to download an additional app.

Wiring your controller to your PC reduces the need to connect it via a wireless or Bluetooth signal and also removes the need for a battery, as you will be able to use the controller without a charge or battery inserted.

Of course, it’s actually the only solution for some controllers. Some third-party controller manufacturers, such as Power A, develop game controllers without batteries, so they must be plugged in at all times.

You might want to consider going cordless as well. Dragging the cord at an inconvenient time is never good, so if you have the luxury of using your wireless controller, we’ll walk you through how to do that below.

How to Use an Xbox Wireless Controller on PC

Connecting an Xbox One or Xbox Series X controller wirelessly to a Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC is incredibly easy, with two options available: wireless (via Xbox’s proprietary wireless signal) or Bluetooth. Yes, there is a difference.

As it is no longer supported, we will exclude Xbox 360 controllers from this game guide. These controllers can be connected via a wired connection but not wirelessly.

Let’s start with the Xbox Wireless way.

Connect your Xbox controller to your PC wirelessly

On some laptops and prebuilt PCs, Xbox Wireless support is native, but on most gaming PCs you’ll probably need an additional dongle. These cost around $30 for the official dongle, however, it’s required for wireless functionality (again, separate from Bluetooth). You can buy one from Amazon or directly from Microsoft.

On your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC, go to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and other devices. Click on Add Bluetooth or another devicethen click Everything else. It will start searching for your controller, which should enable pairing mode.

Turn on your Xbox controller and press and hold the pairing button ((( on the back, just above the port. The light will start flashing as it searches for computers to connect to.

Back on your computer, one of three things will happen:

  • You will see the Xbox controller appear in the settings menu, which you will then need to click to connect to
  • You’ll see the Xbox Controller appear via a notification in the corner of your screen, which you’ll then need to click to connect to
  • It won’t work, in which case keep trying or check for issues.

You’ll also need to install the Xbox Accessories app on your computer, which will apply updates to the controller.

Connect your Xbox controller to your PC via Bluetooth

It’s a little easier to connect your Xbox controller to your PC via Bluetooth, just make sure your computer supports Bluetooth. If not, buy a dongle.

On your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC, go to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and other devices. Click on Add Bluetooth or another devicethen click Bluetooth. It will start searching for your controller, which should enable Bluetooth mode.

Turn on your Xbox controller and double-press the pairing button ((( on the back, just above the port. The light will start flashing as it searches for computers to connect to.

Back on your computer, you should see the Xbox controller appear, which you’ll then need to click to connect. That’s it, really.

Keep in mind that if you’re using your Xbox controller via Bluetooth, you won’t be able to use controller vibration or wired audio through the controller’s AUX port. These are available via wired connection or Xbox wireless connection, but not via Bluetooth.

How to connect a PlayStation controller to your PC

For the PlayStation section of this article we will be focusing on the PS4 Dualshock 4 controller and the PS5 Dualshock 5 controller. Although these controllers are not developed by a Microsoft subsidiary and therefore do not have the same level of PC support as Xbox controllers, they work well on PC in a wide range of games.

The simple solution is, as mentioned earlier, to connect your controller to your PC via a wired connection. If the game you chose to play supports the controller, it will work just fine. If not, you’ll probably need to download something like DS4Windows or use native Steam support (Steam games only). Also, keep in mind that the improved haptic feel of the Dualsense controller isn’t available on PC – it’s only on PS5, I’m afraid.

To wirelessly connect your PS4 or PS5 controller to your Windows 10/11 PC, start by going to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and other devices. Click on Add Bluetooth or another devicethen click Bluetooth. It will start searching for your controller, which should enable pairing mode. Note that you will need Bluetooth support or a Bluetooth dongle.

Next, press and hold the PS button and the Share button (the Create button on the Dualsense controller) until the controller LED begins to flash (welcome to pairing mode). Once you’ve done that, click on the PlayStation controller (“Gamepad” or “Wireless controller”) as it appears in your settings. You have now paired the controller and can now play games with it.

Easy! Most console games released on PC (such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed) also come with controller support, so nowadays there is no need to have an extra program running in the background.

Which controller should I buy for PC?

Honestly, it mostly comes down to sentiment these days, given that most games come with some level of controller support, even partial. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Xbox Series X and Xbox One controllers come with removable AA batteries, while PS4 and PS5 controllers are all internally charged (you can charge them from your PC).
  • Xbox and PlayStation controller layouts are very different, giving you more thumb room in different places.
  • The functionality of the controller in games largely depends on the game you are trying to play, although nowadays this is hardly an issue.
  • If there’s a problem with your controller layout or if the game you’ve chosen doesn’t support PlayStation controllers, try DS4Windows.

Personally, I went from a PS4 controller to an Xbox Series X controller based on Xbox PC functionality and the feel of the controller, but it’s all up to you.

If you want to connect your controller to a non-PC device, we have a guide on that here.

This article has been updated since it was first published.

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