The gaming controller that came with your PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S can do double-duty on other devices, too. This means you can take advantage of your next-gen controller’s ergonomics and adaptability to play games on your computer, your smartphone, your tablet, and other devices, too. Here’s how to set it up.
Your two choices for making connections are wired via USB or wireless via Bluetooth. The first one is fairly self-explanatory, but for the second one you’re going to need to do some simple Bluetooth pairing to get everything working together. There are some differences between devices, but on the whole the pairing processes are all very similar.
On the DualSense Wireless Controller than comes with the PS5, press and hold the PS5 button (between the analog sticks) and the Create button (to the left of the trackpad) for several seconds to enter Bluetooth pairing mode. The area around the trackpad will start flashing blue when you’ve done it successfully.
On the Xbox Wireless Controller, there’s a dedicated pairing button on the top, just next to the USB-C port. If you press and hold this, after a few seconds you’ll see the Xbox button start to flash, which indicates that the controller is in pairing mode. You can then complete the process on the other device.
Connecting a Controller to Your Computer
For connecting to Windows and macOS, your best bet in terms of stability and convenience is a USB cable. Plug one end into the USB-C port on the DualSense or Xbox controller, and the other end into your desktop or laptop. The cable you’re going to need will depend on whether your computer has USB-A or USB-C ports—just pick the cable that fits (or buy an adaptor as well as a cable).
Both Windows and macOS should automatically detect the controller once it’s plugged in, whether you’re using the Sony or the Microsoft one. There’s no extra software or specific drivers that you need to install, though of course not all the applications on your computer are going to be able to work with the gamepad you’ve just hooked up.
If you prefer the wireless freedom of Bluetooth, you need to do some pairing first. From Settings in Windows, head to Devices, then pick Bluetooth & other devices and Add Bluetooth or other device to start looking for your console controller. From System Preferences in macOS, choose Bluetooth to start the connection process. If your controller is in pairing mode, it should show up in the list of devices you can connect to.
As we’ve said, gamepad support is going to vary between applications and games. A lot of titles running on the Steam platform offer support for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S controllers. From Steam, select Steam, then Settings (Windows) or Preferences (macOS), and Controller to configure the device (there will be separate settings inside individual games, too).
Connecting a Controller to Your Phone or Tablet
For connecting either the DualSense Wireless Controller or the Xbox Wireless Controller to your phone or tablet, you’re going to want to go wireless and rely on Bluetooth connectivity. This will get your gamepad connected, although it’s up to individual apps and games whether they recognize and support the input device.
On Android, head to Connected devices then Pair new device to look for your console controller. Once it’s been paired, you can tap the cog icon to the right of it on the same screen to manage a limited number of settings, and to remove the input device if you no longer need to keep it connected.
The process is similar on iOS and iPadOS. From Settings, choose Bluetooth and your Apple device will begin looking for your controller, which you’ll need to put in pairing mode. If you want to remove a device from the list in future, tap the blue info icon to the right, then select Forget This Device.
You’ll need Bluetooth enabled on your phone or tablet to maintain the connection. If you’re having problems hooking up the two devices, turning Bluetooth off and on again might be enough to solve them. You should also make sure you’re running the latest version of Android, iOS, or iPadOS to minimize compatibility issues.
Connecting a Controller to Other Devices
A variety of other devices can accept input from PS5 and Xbox Series X/S controllers, including set-top streaming boxes such as the Apple TV. From Settings on the Apple TV, choose Remotes and Devices and then Bluetooth to establish the link—your controller should show up if it’s in pairing mode. Once connected, you should be able to use the gamepad to navigate your Apple TV as well as play supported games.
Then there’s the Nvidia Shield TV devices, which are excellent gaming boxes as well as run all the streaming apps you’re likely to need. From Settings you need to pick Remote & Accessories and then Add accessory to start a scan for nearby Bluetooth devices. Once your controller is in pairing mode, it’ll appear in the list so that you can select it. Currently, there’s no support for plugging your controller directly into the Nvidia Shield TV with a USB cable.
Those of you with an Amazon Fire TV device can connect a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S gamepad for better control of your games by going to Settings and choosing Remotes & Bluetooth Devices, Game Controllers, and Add New Game Controller. That will initiate the Bluetooth pairing process. As with all of these devices, compatibility with individual apps and games can vary.
As we mentioned with phones and tablets, Bluetooth doesn’t play nicely all of the time, and a system restart or a controller restart might be necessary to get everything working properly again. Make sure you keep your streaming boxes updated with the latest software as well, because support for third-party controllers is being refined and improved on a fairly regular basis.