Never Be Limited to a Keyboard Again, Learn How to Use a Gaming Controller on PC

Never Be Limited to a Keyboard Again, Learn How to Use a Gaming Controller on PC
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If you’re thinking about using one of your gaming controllers on PC (be you an Xbox or PlayStation loyalist), you’re probably after a specific experience, such as a driving game or third person adventure.

But I know why you’re here, you’re not sure how it’s done. It’s actually quite easy and there are a few ways that you can do it. For this article, we’re going to be focusing on Xbox and PlayStation layout controllers.

The easiest way to connect your gaming controllers to a PC

The easiest way to connect your gaming controllers to your computer, be it an Xbox controller or a PlayStation controller, is through a wired connection – typically a USB-A cable to a USB-C cable (or whatever connector your controller uses).

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

Wiring your controller to your PC cuts down on needing to connect it over a wireless signal or Bluetooth and also removes the battery requirement, as you’ll be able to use the controller without a charge or an inserted battery.

Of course, this is actually the only solution for some controllers. Some third-party controller manufacturers, such as Power A, develop gaming controllers without a battery, so they need to be plugged in at all times.

You might want to consider not using a cord as well. Having the cord slip out at an inconvenient time is never good, so if you have the luxury of using your controller wirelessly, we’ll walk you through how to do that below.

How to use an Xbox controller wirelessly on PC

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

As it’s no longer supported, we’ll be excluding Xbox 360 controllers from this gaming guide. These controllers can be connected through a wired connection but not wirelessly.

Let’s start with the Xbox Wireless way.

Connecting your Xbox controller to your PC wirelessly

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

On your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC, navigate to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and other devices. Click Add Bluetooth or other device, and then click Everything else. It’ll begin scanning for your controller, which needs pairing mode activated.

Turn your Xbox controller on and hold down the pairing ((( button on the back, just above the port. The light will begin to flash as it scans for computers to be connected to.

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

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

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

Connecting your Xbox controller to your PC through Bluetooth

It’s a little bit easier to connect your Xbox controller to your PC through Bluetooth, just make sure your computer supports Bluetooth. If it doesn’t, purchase a dongle.

On your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC, navigate to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and other devices. Click Add Bluetooth or other device, and then click Bluetooth. It’ll begin scanning for your controller, which needs Bluetooth mode activated.

Turn your Xbox controller on and double press the pairing ((( button on the back, just above the port. The light will begin to flash as it scans for computers to be connected to.

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

Just keep in mind that if you’re using your Xbox controller over Bluetooth, you’ll be unable to use controller vibration or wired audio through the controller AUX port. These are available via a wired connection or a Xbox Wireless connection, but not over Bluetooth.

How to connect a PlayStation controller to your PC

For the PlayStation section of this article, we’ll be focusing on the PS4 Dualshock 4 controller and the PS5 Dualshock 5 controller. Though these controllers aren’t developed by a Microsoft subsidiary, and therefore don’t have the same level of PC support that Xbox controllers do, they work fine on PC in a wide range of games.

The simple solution is, as noted earlier, to connect your controller to your PC via a wired connection. If the game you’ve chosen to play supports the controller, then it will work just fine. If it doesn’t, then you’ll likely need to download something like DS4Windows or use native Steam support (Steam games only). Also, keep in mind that the enhanced haptic feeling of the Dualsense controller isn’t available on PC – that’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 Add Bluetooth or other device, and then click Bluetooth. It’ll begin scanning for your controller, which needs pairing mode activated. Note that you’ll need Bluetooth support or a Bluetooth dongle.

Then, press and hold the PS button and the Share button (the Create button on the Dualsense controller) until the controller light starts flashing (welcome to pairing mode). Once you’ve done this, click the PlayStation controller (“Gamepad” or “Wireless controller”) as it comes up in your settings. You’ve now paired the controller and can now play games with it.

Easy! Most console games that release on PC (such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed) also come with controller support, so these days there’s little need to have an additional program running in the background.

Which controller should I buy for PC?

Honestly, it mostly comes down to feeling these days, considering that most games come with some level of controller support, if only partial. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The Xbox Series X and Xbox One controllers feature removable, AA batteries, whereas the PS4 and PS5 controllers are all internally charged (you can charge these from your PC).
  • The layouts of Xbox and PlayStation controllers are vastly different, giving you more thumb room in different spots.
  • Controller functionality in games is largely dependent on the game you’re trying to play, although these days it’s hardly an issue.
  • If there’s something wrong with your controller layout or your chosen game doesn’t support PlayStation controllers, try DS4Windows.

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

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

This article has been updated since it was first published.