Sony’s DualSense pad is a nice little peripheral design; it’s a shame, then, that knowing how to use the PS5 controller on a PC is an old pain in the thumb. Without the Microsoft designed plug-and-play sensitivities of Xbox controllers, the PS5 controller often needs help working on a Windows machine. Everything is doable, however, and this guide here will walk you through the setup process as well as how to get the most out of the different games.
As is so often the case with hardware concerns, the underlying reason for the PS5 controller’s lack of natural affinity with the PC is the driver software. Sony has not produced official PC drivers themselves, and although the DualSense can interface with Windows’ DirectInput driver, many modern games do not recognize it. They can instead use the new XInput driver, which was created by Microsoft with Xbox controllers in mind. Unless a game recognizes both types of drivers, your PS5 controller will not work unless Steam steps in to close the gap.
As tough as the Steam Controller failed, it left a legacy of very extensive controller support on Valve’s platform. You can even connect a pad without official Windows drivers – like the PS5 DualSense – and Steam will translate the inputs so games can understand them. It’s basically emulating an Xbox controller, which is why some games will continue to show Xbox button prompts when you have a PlayStation controller connected.
Speaking of which, you will need to connect the PS5 controller to your PC first. You can do this with a wired connection or via Bluetooth.
How to connect a PS5 controller to a PC (wired)
For this you will need a USB-C cable to plug into the controller’s data / charge port. The other end of the cable can be USB-A or full-size USB-C; it doesn’t matter which, as long as your desktop or laptop has the correct backup port. If you purchased an entire PS5, a suitable USB-C to USB-A cable will be provided, but if you purchased the controller alone, you will also need to acquire a cable separately.
To connect, you literally just need to plug in the cable on both ends, and it’s the physical side sorted. All that’s left is to configure on Steam, so skip the next section to see how it’s done.
How to connect a PS5 controller to a PC (wireless)
The PS5 controller can connect to PCs via Bluetooth, so naturally you will need some sort of Bluetooth receiver for wireless connection. All gaming laptops and a number of motherboards have built-in Bluetooth, as do some Wi-Fi cards. If your rig does not have Bluetooth capability, you can find USB receivers on Amazon from around £ 7 / $ 10. Once you’re ready, follow these steps to sign in:
Step 1: See the little upward pointing arrow near the right edge of the Windows taskbar? Click on it, right click on the bluetooth symbol, then click on “Add bluetooth device”.
2nd step: Make sure Bluetooth is turned on, then click “Add Bluetooth or other device”. In the next window, tap on “Bluetooth”. Your PC will begin to search for devices to pair with.
Step 3: On the PS5 controller, hold down the PS button (the PlayStation logo between the two analog sticks) and the Share button at the same time. After a few seconds, the onboard lights will begin to flash. Back on your PC, you should now see the controller listed among nearby devices, so just click on it to connect. You can turn off the controller later by pressing and holding the PS button.
How to set up a PS5 controller on Steam
You can start trying to play games right away, but configuring the PS5 controller through Steam will at least ensure basic compatibility on Valve’s platform. Start by opening Steam, then in the upper left corner click on “Steam” followed by “Settings”.
Under the Controller tab you will find the “General Controller Settings” menu, so open it and Steam will list the PS5 pad among its detected controllers. Also be sure to check “PlayStation Setup Support”; when you return to the Controller tab, this will allow you to create custom button layouts, including separate layouts for the Steam desktop and Big Picture modes.
One last thing: once your controller is connected, double-check your Windows sound settings. The PS5 controller has a built-in speaker that Windows may mistakenly select as the primary audio output device. It would look terrible if the speaker worked on Windows, which it doesn’t, but you may need to swap out the output device with your desktop speakers or headphones if you want to hear any sound.
What PC games support the PS5 controller?
Since the PS5 controller can effectively piggyback on Steam for controller support, it should work with all of the games in your Steam library, including the ability to link button inputs. However, not all games will actually understand that this is a PlayStation controller. While some games will display the appropriate and Sony specific button prompts – Square, Triangle, R1 and R2 etc. – others will rely on Steam emulation and therefore believe you are using an Xbox controller. So display prompts and link settings will appear if they were Microsoft’s controller buttons.
Fortunately, Steam handles all of this so that a press of a button on your PS5 controller is treated as a press of the corresponding Xbox controller. The Circle button on the PS5, for example, will be treated like the B button on the Xbox controller, so you can still play games without any missing entries. You’ll just need to remember which PS5 button is which Xbox button, so here’s a quick guide:
- Cross = A
- Square = X
- Triangle = O
- Circle = B
- L1 = TL
- L2 = LB
- R1 = RT
- R2 = RB
Outside of Steam, support for PS5 controllers is… inconsistent. Again, this is usually a question of whether a game recognizes the DirectInput driver or whether it relies on Microsoft’s XInput alternative. For example, Apex Legends recognizes both and works great, with all the proper button symbols and standard vibration support. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Control, which is only interested in XInput and as such doesn’t even recognize that the PS5 controller is connected.
How to use a PS5 controller on PC with emulation
Now, there is a workaround that doesn’t involve too many hoohah techniques. This involves using Ryochan7’s DS4Windows app, which can emulate the most widely supported Xbox 360 controller using inputs from your PS5 controller. Here’s how to install it:
Step 1: Make sure your PS5 controller is already connected to your PC, then download DS4Windows from GitHub and extract the folder.
2nd step: Open the extracted folder and run the executable “DS4Windows” and choose to install the application files in the program folder or in Appdata. Choosing Appdata will make things a little easier.
Step 3: Click on “Step 1: Install the ViGEmBus driver”. Read and accept the terms, then wait for the driver installation to finish. If you are using Windows 7 rather than Windows 10, you will also need to click “Step 2: If you are using Windows 7, install 360 driver” after installing ViGEmBus.
Step 4: Back in DS4Windows, click “Done” at the bottom.
With DS4Windows up and running, you should have a much better chance of using your PS5 controller in games that don’t natively support, even if they use the Xbox 360 controller prompts (again, check the list above. for the corresponding PS5 buttons). I haven’t tested this on all of the existing PC games, but the previously uncooperative control worked quite well with a PS5 controller once DS4Windows was in the game.
Which PC games support DualSense features?
Two reasons to endure the DualSense controller’s uneven PC gaming support are its haptic feedback vibration and adaptive triggers. The latter is a particularly marked improvement over Sony’s older DualShock controllers: their resistance increases or decreases dynamically contextually with in-game actions. Shooting an arc, for example, can make the trigger heavier, while F1 2021 – which uses the triggers for acceleration and braking – increases and decreases resistance depending on the weight of your car and the surface of the track you are driving on.
Unfortunately, F1 2021 is one of only three games that fully support adaptive triggers and haptic feedback on PC. CODBLOPS: Cold War works with triggers, but not with haptic feedback. The full list is just below, and for now is pretty short, but in all fairness it’s likely to grow. Both Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Cold War added support for the DualSense feature after release, so in addition to any upcoming games that might benefit from it, we might see more fixes from existing games in these PS5 controller goodies.
- Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (haptic feedback and adaptive triggers)
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (adaptive triggers only)
- F1 2021 (haptic feedback and adaptive triggers)
- Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (haptic feedback and adaptive triggers)
Oddly, for games that launch through Steam, you may need to turn off Steam’s PlayStation controller support (on the “General Controller Settings” screen) before you can use these features – apparently because the emulation that Steam uses to maximize compatibility overrides their native support in these specific games. I tried Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition and all kinds of weirdos overtook it: aiming was controlled by the controller’s gyroscope, on-screen button prompts toggled between keyboard and Xbox, and neither DualSense features did not work. Unchecking PlayStation controllers in Steam’s controller settings fixed everything, and haptic feedback and adaptive triggers worked as expected.
If you’d rather wait for more games to make full use of the PS5 controller party tricks and stick with more conventional PC peripherals, be sure to check out our pick of the best gaming keyboards and gaming mice.