How to use a PlayStation 4 controller on PC

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One of my favorite things about PC gaming is that you can play with whichever controller you like best. There are controllers made specifically for PC, but if you want to, you can just use a Playstation or Xbox controller. You can even use controllers for older consoles like Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64.

My personal favorite is the DualShock 4 wireless controller for Playstation 4. It’s a form factor I’ve used since the first PlayStation. They haven’t changed it much over the years, so it’s good for both modern games and older classics. It’s also wireless, which is nice for playing on a TV, and the touchpad can be used as a mouse.

Here’s how you can use it on your PC.

1. Download DS4Windows

DualShock 4 controllers don’t work out of the box. You need some sort of software running on your machine that can translate the DualShock 4 signals into XInput, which is something Windows can understand. There are a few programs that do this, but I’ve been using one called DS4Windows. Not only does it make your controller work like any other XInput device, it also lets you configure what the touchpad does, what the gyro does, and lets you customize keys and switch profiles easily. You can grab it here.

Download DS4Windows.zip and unzip it. This program doesn’t install, so you will need to find a place for it. You can make a folder at C:\Program Files\DS4Windows, or put it somewhere else. I like to keep programs like this in a folder I created at C:\Opt.

The first time you open DS4Windows.exe, you might get a security warning telling you the publisher could not be verified. This isn’t a problem in this case, so uncheck the box that says Always ask before opening this file, and click Run.

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2. Install the driver

The first time you open DS4Windows, it will open a special window to help you install the system drivers it needs to recognize the controller.

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Click the button that says Step 1: Install the DS4 Driver. Another Windows security prompt will appear, asking if you want to install the device software. Click Install.

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After it’s done installing, the button will read Install Complete.

If you are on Windows 7 or earlier, you will also need to install the Xbox 360 controller drivers. This is because DS4Windows is making the PlayStation controller appear as an Xbox controller.

Windows 8 and later is already equipped to handle Xbox 360 controllers, but on Windows 7 you have to download drivers from Microsoft’s website. Click on the button that reads Step 2: If on Windows 7 or below, Install 360 Driver.

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It will open a browser window to Microsoft’s website where you can download the drivers. Select your operating system and click Download  next to the text that says Xbox 360 Accessories Software. This will download a file. Open the file and follow the on-screen instructions to install the drivers.

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3. Connect your controller

The easiest way to use this controller is to plug it into your computer using a micro USB cable, but to get the best experience, you’ll want to connect it wirelessly using Bluetooth. Not all Bluetooth adapters will work, so make sure you have a modern Bluetooth 4.0 LTE adapter if you want to go this route. This is the one that is officially recommended by DS4Windows, but any modern adapter from a good brand should work.

Go to the Bluetooth settings on your computer. In Windows 10, you can do this by opening the Settings app, clicking Devices, and then clicking Bluetooth. On your controller, hold the PlayStation button and Share button at the same time until the light on the back of the controller starts blinking. The controller will go into pairing mode, and you should see it in the Settings window on your computer under the name Wireless Controller. Click on the controller to pair it.

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After it’s done pairing, you should see it in the main DS4Windows window, under the Controllers tab.

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You can also check the controller in the Windows control panel to make sure it’s working. Open up the control panel, and search for game controller.  Click on Set up USB game controllers to open up the Game Controllers settings.

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You should see an entry that says XBOX 360 controller. This is the XInput device created by DS4Windows to map your DualShock 4 controller to the Xbox 360 controller that Windows can better understand. If you click Properties, you can open up a window that will let you test if everything is working. Move the joysticks or press buttons on the controller and you should see the buttons on the screen light up or move.

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4. Set up profiles

DS4Windows allows you to customize what the keys on your controller do on the PC. This means you can use the touchpad on the controller to move the mouse on your PC, or map the buttons to keys on your keyboard for games that do not have built-in controller support. You can even tell the controller to switch profiles automatically when you open a certain game.

To get started, open DS4Windows and click the Profiles tab. You’ll see a screen like this:

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There are a lot of options here, but my favorite use of profiles is to remap the buttons to keyboard keys. This is useful for using your DualShock 4 controller to play games designed to be played with a keyboard and mouse. For example, you could set the left joystick to press the W, A, S, and D, and the right joystick to move the mouse.

Using different profiles allows you to switch between controller schemes quickly for different games. You can also set the color that the light on your controller will be when this profile is active, so you can quickly tell what profile you are using by looking at your controller.

Press any key on your controller, and a window will open allowing you to select a function for that key.

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Press the key on your keyboard, or click on it in this window, and the button will be bound to that key. When you are done, give your profile a name, and click Save Profile.

You can activate a profile automatically when you launch a game. To do this, click on the Auto Profiles tab. Next, click Add programs -> Add start menu programs.  From the Add programs menu, you can also select a program manually.

You’ll end up with a screen like this.

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Check the game you want to set a profile for, and then select the profile from the drop down menu on the right side of the window. Finally, click Save. Now when you open that game, your controller will map to the correct keys automatically. To change profiles manually, go to the Controllers tab and select the profile you want to use.

DualShock 4 is my favorite controller to use on PC. It might take some work to set up, but once you do it, it will be a more powerful controller than it was on the PlayStation and easily beat most controllers sold for PC.

mike

Michael Day is a web engineer, javascript junkie, video game enthusiast, and blogger. Hating how the big console makers were taking advantage of gamers, he made the switch to PC and set it upon himself to make a machine that did everything the more popular consoles wouldn't.