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How to use a DualShock 4 on PC

PS4 controller on PC

(Image credit: PlayStation)

The Playstation 4's DualShock 4 controller wasn't built for the PC, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming one of our favorite PC gaming controllers. It feels great in your hands and retains the classic shape of the DualShock with joysticks and triggers better suited to modern shooters and action games. Unfortunately, using the PS4 controller on PC isn't quite as easy as plugging in an Xbox gamepad. That's because the PS4 uses a generic driver called "DirectInput" instead of the now-popular XInput the Xbox controllers use.

It takes a little bit more work to get the DualShock 4 working on PC in all your games, but Steam, the PC community, and an official (but optional) Bluetooth dongle all make it pretty easy.

If you're mostly interested in using the controller on Steam, the good news is that native Steam support makes it just as plug-and-play as an Xbox gamepad.

To start we'll walk you through the basics of getting your PS4 controller working on PC, either with a USB cable or via Bluetooth. If you want to play games that aren't on Steam with your DualShock 4, jump ahead for our in-depth guide to getting your PS4 controller working with an open source tool called DS4Windows.

Setup

What you need 

Hardware 

  • Dualshock 4 and micro-USB cable 
  • Optional: Dualshock 4 USB wireless Bluetooth adapter  

Software 

PS4 controller on PC

(Image credit: PlayStation)

DualShock 4 in Steam

Using the DualShock 4 in Steam

Thanks to official Steam support, there's almost no setup involved in getting your controller working in Steam. To set it up, Simply plug in a USB cable (or connect via Bluetooth, which we talk about more below) and open Steam's Big Picture mode.

Open Settings, then Controller Settings, and you should see your controller listed there. You can click on Preferences to tweak a few options like Rumble and the light bar color, and also click Calibrate to fine-tune the joysticks. One important tip: click the check box next to "PlayStation configuration support" if you want to be able to do extra configuration of the controller on a per-game basis.

To access that customization, boot up a game in Big Picture mode, then press the PlayStation button on the controller. You'll see this screen where you can tweak the controller to your heart's content—even play around with the gyro sensor!

Installation

Installation guide  

Remember, if you're just playing Steam games, you don't need the instructions below. Simply plug in the controller, open Steam, and go to Settings > Controller settings to configure it. If you want to use the DualShock 4 for non-Steam games, continue on.

1. Download the software linked above, starting with the Microsoft .NET Framework. If you're running Windows 7, install the Xbox 360 controller driver next. This driver is included with Windows 8 and 10.

2. Important step: plug your Dualshock 4 into your PC using a micro-USB cable. (If you run into any issues, try using a USB 2.0 port instead of a USB 3.0 port. DualShock 4s are weird like that.) Now we can get DS4Windows to do its stuff. 

Bluetooth installation note: if you want to use your DualShock 4 wirelessly, take a moment to plug in your USB wireless adapter and pair it with your controller. Simply hold the small Share button and the central circular button simultaneously until the controller's backlight starts flashing, then push on the end of the adapter until it starts flashing. Once both are flashing, they will automatically pair after a few seconds. 

3. If you only want to use your DualShock 4 to play games through Steam, congratulations, you're officially done! Steam added native Dualshock 4 support in 2016, so once you're paired or plugged in, you're good to go. Go into Steam's Settings > Controller menu to configure the controller.

Be sure to pair or plug in your controller before opening Steam or any Steam games, otherwise your controller may not be recognized. If you run into any connection issues, closing and reopening Steam should do the trick.

Read on to learn how to use DS4Windows to use your controller with games outside of Steam. 

DS4 Windows installation

4. Download the newest DS4Windows .zip file, save it to a fresh folder, and extract its contents using 7-Zip or whatever file archiver you prefer. You'll see two applications: DS4Updater and DS4Windows. You already have the latest version, so you can ignore the updater for now. 

DS4 Windows

5. Open DS4Windows and you'll see the Controllers tab. This tab displays the controllers you have connected. Since you've already plugged in your controller (or paired it via Bluetooth), it should be listed here. If it's not, close DS4Windows, reconnect your controller, then reopen DS4Windows. Don't worry about your controller's ID number; we won't be needing it.   

DS4 Windows configuration

6. Open the Settings tab in DS4Windows to configure a few things. Make sure the Hide DS4 Controller box is checked. This will prevent DS4Windows from conflicting with any game's default controller settings. For the same reason, make sure Use Xinput Ports is set to one. 

Now that it's installed, DS4Windows will show up as an icon in your system tray. From the Settings tab, you can also set it to run at startup or remain active in the background. You can also update DS4Windows directly from this tab by clicking Check for Update Now at the bottom left. Above that, you'll see Controller/Driver Setup. If you run into any issues, open this setup and follow the prompts to install any missing drivers. 

Playing with DS4Windows

Using your Playstation 4 controller  

DS4Windows works by reading your DualShock 4 as though it were an Xbox 360 controller. By default, it offers a great one-size-fits-all button setup. So now that it's installed, your DualShock 4 should behave like an Xbox 360 controller, meaning it will work with any game with Xinput support—which is to say, most every modern PC game that supports gamepads. That also means you won't get the correct Square/Cross/Triangle/Circle button icons by default in most games. Some games will give you the option, though. Look for that in settings. 

You do not need to remap anything, but if you want to change some buttons or adjust sensitivity without relying on in-game options, you can. Open the Profiles tab in DS4Windows. I do not recommend making a profile from scratch, but if you really want to, click New to start one up. Otherwise, select the DualShock 4 profile and click Edit.  

DS4Windows key mapping

This screen looks complicated, but it's actually pretty simple. Let's say you want to swap your bumpers and triggers. First, find L1/R1 and L2/R2 in the scroll wheel in the Controls section, or just click them on the virtual controller. You want to swap L1 with L2 and R1 with R2, so start by clicking L2. 

DS4Windows keyboard mapping

This opens another intimidating but simple page. Just click the button you want L2 to act as—in this case, L1. Voila, your left trigger will now act as your left bumper. Repeat this process with the other triggers and bumpers to complete the change and prevent redundancy. You can save this button setup as a separate profile and swap between profiles in the Controllers tab.  

How to use your PS4 controller Bluetooth

Bluetooth

How to connect your PS4 controller via Bluetooth  

If you followed the Bluetooth installation steps above, you should be able to use your controller wirelessly. Luckily, you don't have to pair your controller every time you want to use it. As long as you don't unplug the adapter, it will save its last connection, so you can just tap your controller's central PlayStation button to reconnect it. 

The official Sony DualShock 4 USB wireless adapter is the simplest Bluetooth option. You may have to hunt for it or spend a little more than you would on a standard Bluetooth dongle, but it's worth it for its out-of-the-box functionality. 

Not a controller person? Here's a round-up of the best gaming keyboards, and best gaming mouse.