How To Use A Console Controller On Your PC

Though it's a platform that began with the joystick the dominant control method, over the past 20 years the keyboard and mouse overtook it to become the only way to play most games on the PC. Which is a shame, because there are a lot of them that play better with a control pad.

This has become especially true over the past 3-4 years, as the PC has started to get a lot more ports of console titles, thanks to both the relative ease of bringing code over and the increasing popularity of Steam leading to a bigger market.

While the keyboard and mouse remain the best means of controlling many titles, especially PC staples like FPS and strategy, there are plenty of other options - from Dark Souls to Remember Me to DMC to Dirt 2 - that are really crying out for a pad.

You could go and buy a custom PC control pad, but that would be stupid. Chances are you already own a control pad you can use on the PC: the ones that came with your Xbox 360, PS3 or Nintendo console.

XBOX 360

Most of you will probably be aware of this, but just in case you're not: you can use Xbox 360 control pads on a PC. With a little help.

Standard wireless pads won't automatically connect to a PC, since your computer won't be able to read the controller's proprietary wireless tech. Microsoft do, however, offer a dongle you can buy, which plugs into a USB port on your PC. They run about $US20 officially, though you can of course get third-party alternatives for less (though your performance results may vary). If you want to go down this path, Microsoft has a handy guide on configuring your controller here.

The better option, though, is to spend the cash on a custom "Xbox 360 Controller For Windows". It's a wired controller with the same 360 design that's custom-made for the PC (though it also works on your Xbox 360 if you feel like disconnecting it and moving it around). I bought one when they first came out and it instantly became my primary controller, even on console, because occasionally having to move it between platforms was worth never again having to deal with 360 pad's woeful battery life.

With one of these, all you need to do is plug it in and you're set. Many games are even coded these days to automatically switch your control method from keyboard+mouse to control pad the instant the PC detects you plugging the pad in.

PS3

Let's say you prefer the PS3's DualShock 3, though. Or don't already own an Xbox 360. The good news is you can get it running on a PC as well. The bad news is it's a little more complicated.

The DualShock 3 communicates via Bluetooth, which your PC will be able to understand, but only if it's got some means of Bluetooth connectivity. Laptops will probably have this already, but if you've got a desktop, you'll need to go get a Bluetooth dongle (you can get decent USB ones for around $US10-20).

Once your PC has a means of talking to the DualShock 3, you'll need the software to get things actually running. That software is called MotioninJoy, and if you've never messed around with this kind of stuff, before, it can seem a tiny bit complicated.

Download MotioninJoy from here.

After you've downloaded MotioninJoy, you've got some setting up to do. This video by IndeedGaming is probably the best available showing you every step you need to follow.

When that's done, you should be good to go!

WII U

This isn't exactly an ideal option, but if you've only got a Wii U, you can get the big Wii U controller working on a PC using a download that one of our readers, Chris, put together a few months back.

You can download the files necessary here.

A better option for Wii U owners, though, at least if you've got one, is to use the Wii U Pro Controller. TeHaxor69 made a good one earlier in the year that you can download here, while Screptilez's tutorial video below should guide you through the process.

I've left the Wii off because the Wii Remote's usefulness for the kinds of games you'd be playing on PC is limited, but if you absolutely must try it out, Instructables has a good tutorial here.

If you own more than one console, you've got a choice to make. It should be an easy one, as the Xbox 360 controller has emerged as almost the default option for the PC; most games that support pads, for example, will show button prompts for Microsoft's controller.

But, hey, in case you want to try something else, at least you now know how to do it!


Comments

    I've got a wired 360 controller and it is great for playing both console and PC games

      Yup.. same.. I was going to by a wireless controller at first in the PS3 styling.. and then I saw the XBox for PC wired controller.. the cord is around 3m long anyway and the setup is so minimal... best decision I made..

      Same, I just wish they had a working chatpad driver for the wireless version as well.

      It's not officially supported for the wired controller and can be a little clunky to install but it's handy for MMOs that you want to play with a controller as well as type without having to put the controller down.

      I know the PS3 chat attachment works but I find its placement awkward and odd to use without readjusting your grip completely to type.

      Eg:

      http://gadgets.boingboing.net/filesroot/keypads.jpg

      versus

      http://www.billboardleb.com/images/thumbs/0000277.jpg

        Oh my. Just did some googling to see if there was any update on the chatpad drivers for wireless and found... this !

        https://code.google.com/p/xbox360wirelesschatpad/

        Definitely trying this out when I get home.

    For anyone thinking about doing this with a PS3 controller, consider going out and picking up a windows Xb360 controller or a Logitech F710. MotioninJoy is a nightmare of a program/driver and could practically be considered malware. Not to mention once its been installed its quite difficult to get rid of entirely, it is well known to cause system instability (BSODs) and to be finicky and unstable way to use a controller.

    I don't even own an Xbox and ended up buying a controller so that i could do away with Motioninjoy

      Or you can get "Better DS3", which is an alternative to motioninjoy. It doesn't have any of the problems and if you used motioninjoy first and converted (as I did), you can use the same drivers. It's basically designed to be 'not motioninjoy'.

      You need a driver first though I think.

      Last edited 25/07/13 10:31 am

        Thats only if you can get the driver to work. Better DS3 requires motioninjoy driver version 7.1 which most people find gives them a BSOD under Win7 as soon as the controller is connected.

      This.

      MotionInJoy is spyware

      For using a DS3 on a PC, use this XInput wrapper:

      http://forums.pcsx2.net/Thread-XInput-Wrapper-for-DS3-and-Play-com-USB-Dual-DS2-Controller

    Still use an old Logitech gamepad - with x360ce, I've been able to use it with pretty much every game I've thrown at it.

    Appreciate the heads up on Motionjoy. I already have basic PC controllers that mimic the dualshock layout (can't stand offset sticks, just a personal preference), but the 360 controller emulator software I have refuses to let me re-map the left stick away from the top left position on the pad (which is the directional buttons on my pad). Hopefully I'll have more luck with Motionjoy and a PS3 controller.

    i use motion joy, its great, and has great support for pcsx2, wonderful program

    Can you still buy the dongles for Xbox controllers? I was under the belief they were no longer selling them - I bought one that I thought was genuine from ebay about a year ago only to find it was a dodgy third party one that required extensive manual driver configuration as well as dropping out every two minutes or so.

      I tried that, too. The thing wouldn't work at all. I had to resort to getting a whole new controller with the adapter form Microsoft's store, because I couldn't find the adapter on its own anywhere. That said, there are a couple of games in my library that still crap out with the wireless controller, so I use a cheap wired one as a backup.

    I bought a wired 360 controller (not even a 'PC' labelled one) years ago and it just automatically installed the drivers and worked. Most multiplatform games support it and even configure the buttons up to what they were in the 360 version of the game. 360 arcade sticks also work automatically.

    Hopefully the Xbone controller will offer the same ability.

    You can get USB adaptors for the Wii Classic Controller, Gamecube controller and even Playstation2 controllers. I have the PS2 one and it works pretty well, especially on the older GTA3/VC/SA games which don't recognise the 2nd analogue stick or triggers on the 360 controller for some reason.

    Last edited 25/07/13 10:53 am

      Pretty sure XBone controllers have been confirmed as unsupported. IT sucks, the 360/PC Sharing of products was nice, you could also use the wireless Headsets and remote controls worth the wireless dongle. Even the Kinect works. None of these, as far as I am aware, will work with the XBone, which is a shame.

    You don't need to buy a bluetooth dongle to use a PS3 controller on a PC, just plug it in with a USB cable.

    "...over the past 20 years the keyboard and mouse overtook it to become the only way to play most games on the PC. Which is a shame, because there are a lot of them that play better with a control pad."

    It's not a shame that keyboard and mouse is the only way to play games on the PC. It's a shame that some (even one is too many) games reputedly play better with a control pad. It's a sign of either laziness or dissent, and neither should be tolerated.

    All games should be designed to work primarily with keyboard and mouse, with controller support as an afterthought.

    LONG LIVE THE MASTER RACE!

      I actually own a pretty kick-arse PC exclusive gamepad: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MJTVZ95NL.jpg So I almost never need to worry about hooking up my console's controllers. The only times I ever need to is when a game uses all 12 buttons on the PS3/X360 pad (as my PC controller only has 11 buttons) and it's impractical to hook the last button up to a keyboard stroke, but that's actually very rare. I've only ever needed to use my PS3 controller for one game due to the amount of buttons used and that was Resident Evil 5.

      As a retro/indie platformer fan, I challenge you in a fight to the death.

      All games should be designed to work primarily with keyboard and mouse, with controller support as an afterthought.

      Preferably provided as a patch 6 months after release.

    I used to use my Dualshock 3 with MotionInJoy but found the software to be so bad I ended up buying an Xbox controller, despite not owning an Xbox.

    It was the best thing I ever did, not only did I get rid of all the software headaches I was having, but compatibility is great.

    I did spend money on a third party keymapping program to setup keybinding for 'classic' games (mainly some stuff from GOG.com).

    By the way, the Wireless USB Receiver that is mentioned in the article works with pretty much all Xbox wireless devices. I've had four Xbox controllers connected to it, Wireless Speed Wheel (works as standard driving wheel in games that support it)..

      Yeah, I haven't come across a 360 controller that hasn't worked with the wireless receiver. I even had my guitar hero guitar hooked up to my pc once for some game. I use 4 controllers quite a bit for some split screen action in Sonic Racing Transformed & Serious Sam 3

    xpadder is a pretty nifty program if you're having trouble getting controllers to work because you just map each button as a keyboard button or mouse button/action

    otherwise, xbox360 controller is totally the easiest way to go, you just plug it in and it works

    MotionJoy was more trouble than it was worth, in my experience.

    Plus I kept forgetting to unplug my PS3, so every time I tried to use my DS3 in my study it turned on the PS3 in the living room.

      You just have to select "disconnect" on motionjoy before unplugging the controller.

    I have been PC gaming with an xbox controller for years, most games now days have native support for the 360 controller but for the odd game that doesnt I have used Pinnacle Game Profiler.

    Its good as you can download other peoples profiles so if you're like me and too lazy to sit their mapping out every button for a game you just download the profile, load it in pinnacle and you're good to go. It's not a free app but well worth it IMO.

    I've tried other mapping programs and found this to be the easiest and best to use. It even launches your games from its interface when you choose the profile you want. Also you can get profiles to control windows so if you want to control your HTPC while laying on the couch with your controller you can.

    The MotionInJoy software is pretty dodgy, but there are better alternatives now I believe.

    The best thing about PS3 controllers is you can use them wired without any extra things. So if you're just trying shit out, it'll work, no need to go buy a new controller or dongle to see how it works or feels.

    I'd love to use the 360 controller the same way, but I'm far too cheap to pay for it. I've already paid for the controller, why pay more?!?!

    I have a wired 360 controller, plugged into the PC and windows loaded drivers immediately, no screwing around. I originally bought it for an adapter I got for using Xbox controllers on PS3 and PS3 controllers on xbox, needs an original controller to authenticate the driver first before switching.

    I bought a wireless receiver kit off ebay only to discover that it was a crappy chinese knockoff, but surprisingly it works really well - you just have to manually specify the driver. But I think I prefer the wired controller I bought last week though.

    Either way it's awesome - I'll be skipping the xbox one and going with a decent gaming pc this time around

      My tax return will be converted to my first gaming pc this year.
      I'm disappointed that the xbone controllers aren't compatible.

      Last edited 25/07/13 6:12 pm

    Durnit. Error message put my reply to the back of the bus. :(

    Yo, @beardshamans : BOOM HEADSHOT!!!!11

    Er. Or something. c.c

    Last edited 25/07/13 1:22 pm

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/PC-Wireless-Gaming-Deluxe-Controller-USB-Receiver-Adapter-For-XBOX-360-HS-/190827977886?pt=US_Other_Video_Game_Accessories&hash=item2c6e3bdc9e

    $10.50 and you can use your wireless controllers on the xbox 360.

    MotionJoy hard to set up? It took me 2 seconds.. It's great though, I've been using it with my ps3 controller for pc games and emulators for over a year now.

    Last edited 25/07/13 6:13 pm

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