How to Connect a Nintendo Switch Controller to Your PC or Mac

One of the reasons why so many gamers love the Nintendo Switch is its Bluetooth technology, which easily connects to nearby PCs. If you already own a Switch, you can even connect the Joy-Con and Switch Pro controllers. While it may require a bit more effort compared to connecting an Xbox controller, it’s a fantastic option. Just ensure that you have a Bluetooth receiver and that both devices are close together. Once you have that sorted, here’s how you can get connected.

Connecting Joy-Con Controllers to Your PC

You can effortlessly pair Joy-Con controllers with a Windows or Mac computer directly from the Bluetooth menu. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Enable Bluetooth on your computer.

Step 2: Disconnect the Joy-Cons from the Switch.

Step 3: Press and hold the Sync button on the Joy-Cons, located between the SR and SL buttons, until the LED lights start flashing.

Joy-Con Controllers

Step 4: Look for the Joy-Con in your computer’s Bluetooth menu, and select the option to pair it with your device.

Keep in mind that the two Joy-Cons will be treated as separate controllers by default. While this is perfect for two-player games, it renders them useless for more complex games like first-person shooters. However, if you’re interested in syncing a pair of Joy-Cons together as a single controller, there are elaborate workarounds available online.

Connecting the Switch Pro Controller using Steam

The Steam client now officially supports the Switch Pro Controller, allowing you to use it with all your PC games and even remap its buttons. Here’s how:

Step 1: Open the Controller Settings menu in Steam. From there, you can check for Switch Pro Controller support and enable the “Use Nintendo Button Layout” option. This option changes all button prompts in your games to match the Pro Controller layout. If left unchecked, the A/B and X/Y buttons will be swapped, similar to the Xbox One controller.

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Step 2: Plug in your Switch Pro Controller using a USB cable. You’ll be prompted to register and calibrate the built-in gyro sensor for motion control in certain games.

Step 3: After completing the setup, select Controller Configuration. From here, you can customize the function of every button and stick on the controller. You can also create preset configurations for specific games or use community member configurations. Additionally, you have the option to bind the gyro sensor to a particular function, which can provide a level of accuracy comparable to mouse-and-keyboard players in certain games.

Switch Pro Controller

Connecting the Switch Pro Controller via Bluetooth

If you’re not using Steam, you can still connect the Pro Controller directly to your Windows or MacOS machine via Bluetooth. Here’s how:

Connecting the Pro Controller is a bit trickier through Bluetooth compared to USB, so we recommend this method only if you plan to use the Pro Controller with games on a different platform, such as EA Origin, Ubisoft’s UPlay store, or Battle.Net. The steps are similar to connecting the Joy-Cons, so refer to the above instructions for the exact method. The sync button for the Pro Controller is located at the top of the controller, to the left of the USB-C plug.

The Pro Controller is more compatible with a wider range of games compared to the Joy-Cons, thanks to its traditional layout. However, the controller APIs it uses differ. The Pro Controller utilizes DirectInput instead of the newer XInput API, making it incompatible with many newer games. To overcome this limitation, you can use the freeware program x360ce, which translates DirectInput commands for XInput games. While it requires some gaming savvy, it’s a solution that recognizes the Switch Pro Controller.

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Keep in mind that if you connect the controller wirelessly, you won’t be able to charge the Pro Controller at the same time. For non-Steam gaming, we recommend plugging in the Pro Controller before and after playing, especially for longer gaming sessions. However, the Pro Controller boasts exceptional battery life, lasting over 40 hours on a full charge.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

If you’re using Joy-Cons, be aware that any connectivity issues you may experience can also affect other devices. Connection challenges with the left Joy-Con on the Switch were prevalent during its early days. If you encounter lag or other quirks with either Joy-Con, expect pairing with a PC to be more finicky. Additionally, Bluetooth connections can be unreliable and susceptible to interference from other devices. While this is a problem that affects many accessories, it’s not a significant fault on Nintendo’s part. To ensure the most straightforward pairing, keep a clear line between the Joy-Con and your PC. If you experience inconsistencies, try adjusting your grip on the controller.

If you haven’t had any issues with Joy-Con problems, consider yourself lucky to have a functioning unit. Nintendo addressed the connectivity problems in future batches after the Switch’s launch in 2017, resulting in fewer issues for consoles purchased after that time. Additionally, if you recently bought a Joy-Con, it’s likely free from any previous bugs.

Although there may be some connectivity concerns, the excitement and innovation of connecting new technology with PC gaming make it easy to overlook these minor issues. While emulators for game consoles on PCs have been around for years, each new gaming console launch presents challenges in adapting the latest technology for PC gaming. With most controllers now wireless, ensuring compatibility across different games is more challenging. Currently, the popular option is to use Bluetooth technology.

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Most Mac and Windows PCs come equipped with Bluetooth cards. However, older computers may lack Bluetooth connectivity, limiting your ability to play computer games with updated controllers.

Outside of the Steam realm, both the Pro Controller and Joy-Cons are excellent for playing older games compatible with the DirectInput API and simple controls. These controllers are also ideal for playing games using your PC’s emulator, especially if you enjoy playing old-school Nintendo games on modern technology. Adapting to upgraded controllers for your classic favorites may require some adjustment, but it’s a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.

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