You may think your xbox one or ps4 controller will always stay true to the console it’s paired with, but that’s not always the case. Thanks to the wonders of bluetooth and other wireless technologies, you can also use these input devices with windows and macOS, and setup isn’t too difficult either.
If you’re looking for an upgrade to your laptop or desktop gaming experience, or just a change, here’s how to connect your xbox, playstation or nintendo controllers to a pc or mac. though in order to keep the length of this article manageable, we’re going to focus on the latest xbox one, ps4 and switch consoles.
connection to windows
Let’s start with the easy one by connecting an xbox one controller (made by microsoft) to the windows operating system (made by microsoft). are you ready? you need… connect your controller to your pc via usb. you can connect up to eight controllers at once, or four with chat headsets, or two with stereo headsets.
if you prefer the freedom of wireless, you can try bluetooth, although you need a newer version of the controller, the one that was released with xbox one s, with a headphone jack. if that’s yours, go to windows settings, then choose devices and bluetooth & other devices: Make sure bluetooth detection is enabled.
Turn on your controller with the guide button, then press and hold the pairing button (at the top) until the guide button flashes. In windows, choose add bluetooth or other device, then bluetooth, then xbox wireless controller. you can only connect one controller this way and headphones are not supported.
There is another option to get connected (perhaps useful for older controllers that want to connect wirelessly), which is to buy an xbox wireless adapter ($20 or more). With these connected to a spare usb port on your pc, you can press the sync button on your xbox controller and the sync button on the adapter to connect.
Next, connect a ps4 dualshock 4 wireless controller to a windows computer. as with the xbox one controller you can use a usb cable – this will work with steam without any additional software, if you right click the steam icon in the system tray and choose overview. Go to settings then controller settings and make sure compatibility with ps4 settings is turned on.
If you’re not playing a steam game, or if you want to go wireless, you need open source software called ds4windows. once you’ve installed ds4windows on your machine (just follow the on-screen instructions), it should recognize a ps4 dualshock 4 controller as soon as it’s plugged in (a reboot or restart may be required the first time).
you can also connect via bluetooth with ds4windows installed. from windows settings, tap devices and then bluetooth & other devices, making sure the bluetooth detection toggle switch is turned on. on the controller, press and hold the ps button and the share button until the light on the controller starts flashing; then you can go back to windows and choose add bluetooth or other device, then bluetooth, then wireless driver to complete the job and see the driver in ds4windows .
There is another option, but it will cost you: Sony’s official dualshock 4 usb wireless adapter, which will set you back around $60. then you can connect wirelessly to a pc or mac, without the ds4windows program and with a bit more reliability and stability… which you may or may not think is worth the cost.
last but not least, we have the nintendo switch joy-cons. with these, it’s simply a matter of adding them as controllers via bluetooth, using the process we’ve already outlined above. in case you forgot, the sync button on the joy-cons is located between the sl and sr buttons on the top of the gamepads.
In many cases, it will already be up and running. For some additional configuration options, or to use two Joy-Cons together as a single controller, download and install the excellent open source tool VJoy and JoyCon Driver that enables seamless operation between your Joy-Cons and your PC. both come with instructions to get started.
to the mac then, and this time we’ll start with the ps4 dualshock 4 wireless controller. remember that official sony adapter we mentioned earlier? Well, surprise surprise, it’s the easiest (and also the most expensive) way to get your ps4 controller to work on macos, if you don’t mind spending $60 or so.
If you don’t get the official adapter, you can choose between wired or wireless options, with no additional software required. connect the dualshock controller to your mac with a microusb cable, and it should connect in a few moments. to verify, open the apple menu, choose system report, then usb – there should be an entry for “wireless controller” (although actually is wired).
bluetooth connections are almost as easy to set up. open the apple menu, then system preferences, then bluetooth: make sure bluetooth is turned on, then put your ps4 controller in standby mode pairing by pressing the ps button and the share button together until the light on the controller starts flashing. on your mac, click connect to make the connection. that’s it, though keep in mind that not all games are compatible with console controllers.
As for connecting an xbox one controller to a macos computer, to do so you need a microusb cable and some additional software. bluetooth is out, as the xbox one controller doesn’t use standard bluetooth, it uses a proprietary wireless connection developed by microsoft, which is fine for windows but not so much for macos.
if you like to play with a wired connection, the setup process is not too difficult. you need to go and download the open source 360controller program; once you have it up and running on macos, if you open the apple menu and choose system preferences, there should be a new xbox 360 controller entry there (don’t worry , covers xbox one controllers equally well).
plug in your xbox one controller via usb, open the xbox 360 controllers utility and you should be in business. you can configure and adjust various aspects of the controller settings, invert joysticks, change vibration options, etc.
and finally, there are the joy-con controllers that come with the nintendo switch. just like on pc, it’s relatively easy to connect them to your mac using the magic of bluetooth. As before, open the apple menu, then system preferences, then choose bluetooth and make sure bluetooth is turned on.
press and hold the pairing button on the joy-con you want to connect (between the sl and sr buttons) and you should see a “joy-con” entry will appear in the list of available bluetooth devices. click connect to complete pairing and start using your joy-con controller to play games on macos.
At the time of this writing, there is no way to pair two left and right joy-cons to use together, which means you could be limited in the types of games you can play with the tiny nintendo controllers. you can enhance the experience by using a $57 nintendo switch pro controller, which connects via bluetooth like before.
as is the case on a windows pc, some trial and error may be required to get games to work with these drivers, or to make them work properly and intuitively. however, given the relative simplicity of the setup, it’s worth making the connections.