How to Take Advantage of Steam Deck's External Controllers

How to Take Advantage of Steam Deck’s External Controllers

This article explains how to use external controllers on a Steam Deck. The controls on the Steam Deck are built-in and extremely modifiable, although they aren’t always the most comfortable option for extended gaming sessions. Fortunately, there are various alternatives. The Steam Deck supports both wired and wireless controllers, and additional controllers can be plugged in at once for couch co-op. The Steam Deck supports both wired and wireless controllers:

  • Wired: This method requires a wired USB connection. If you plug any compatible controller in via a USB-C hub or dock, your Steam Deck will automatically recognize it.
  • Wireless: This method requires a compatible Bluetooth controller, and you have to pair it to your Steam Deck. Common options include Xbox controllers, PlayStation controllers, and Switch controllers.

How to Connect an Xbox Controller

Xbox controllers work exceptionally well with the Steam Deck and the vast majority of controller-ready Steam games since the native Steam Deck controls are nearly identical to Xbox controls, down to the iconography for the sharing and menu buttons.

All you need is a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox controller and a Steam Deck to get started. There are a few different Xbox controller models, including the third-generation Xbox One controller that was introduced alongside the Xbox One S, and the Xbox One controller from the Xbox Series X.

Learn how To Link Your Xbox Controller to Your Steam Deck Below!

  1. Press the Steam Button.How to Use External Controllers on Steam Deck

  2. Select Settings.
  3. Select Bluetooth.
  4. If the Bluetooth toggle isn’t on already, tap it to turn Bluetooth on.
  5. Press the Xbox button on your controller.
  6. Press and hold the connect button until the Xbox button starts flashing.
  7. Select Xbox Wireless Controller.
  8. Your controller will connect.

How to Take Advantage of Steam Deck's External Controllers

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How to Connect a PlayStation Controller

However, while PS4 and PS4 controllers do work well under Linux, using them with Steam on Windows can be a bit of a hassle and may require additional software or tweaking. The DualShock 4 and DualSense controllers are both Bluetooth-enabled and may be used with no further setup or third-party software, however the on-screen button iconography may not always coincide with the buttons on your controller.

Here’s how to connect a PlayStation DualShock 4 or DualSense controller to your Steam Deck:

  1. Press the Steam Button on your Steam Deck, and select Settings.
  2. Select Bluetooth.
  3. Check the Bluetooth toggle, and tap it if it isn’t already on.
  4. Press and hold the PS button and Share button (DualShock 4) or Create button (DualSense) at the same time, until the lights on the controller flash.
  5. Select Wireless Controller on your Steam Deck.
  6. Select Wireless Controller on your Steam Deck.

How to Connect Other Bluetooth Controllers

Attaching an Xbox or PlayStation controller is identical to connecting a Switch Pro controller or Valve’s own Steam Controller, both of which use Bluetooth.

The only variation is how you initiate pairing mode on the controller. You can sync your Switch controller by pressing the button adjacent to the port’s USB-C plug. Hold down the Steam Controller’s guide button and Y button simultaneously.

Can You Play Multiplayer on Steam Deck With Multiple Controllers?

The Steam Deck allows for the connecting of up to four controllers at once by USB or Bluetooth, so you and your friends can play together with ease. It’s possible that if you connect too many devices through Bluetooth or if there’s wireless interference in the area, multiplayer with more than four controllers won’t work, but for small groups of players, it should be alright.

Connecting numerous controllers to a Steam Deck can be problematic because the device will only prioritise the input from one controller. If your controller is acting strangely while you play a single-player game, try designating it as the primary controller.

  1. Here’s how to switch the primary controller on a Steam Deck when you have multiple controllers connectedHow to Take Advantage of Steam Deck's External Controllers
  2. With a game open, press the Quick Access button.
  3. Select Rearrange controller Order.
  4. Select the controller you want to use, and press the selection button (reorder).
  5. Use the d-pad to move it to the top.How to Take Advantage of Steam Deck's External Controllers
  6. Press the selection button (stop reorder) again to finalize the order.

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What Controllers Are Compatible With Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck is compatible with a wide variety of gamepads, including popular brands like Xbox and PlayStation as well as many third-party and generic alternatives. The controller needs USB or Bluetooth, and it also needs to be compatible with the Steam Deck, but those are the only hard requirements.

How to Take Advantage of Steam Deck's External Controllers

Following is a list of controllers that should be compatible with a Steam Deck, along with the sorts of connections that should be supported:

  • XBox 360: USB
  • Xbox One: USB and Bluetooth (3rd gen)
  • Xbox Series X/S: USB and Bluetooth
  • Switch Pro: USB and Bluetooth
  • PlayStation DualShock 4: USB and Bluetooth
  • PlayStation 5 DualSense: USB and Bluetooth
  • Steam Controller: USB and Bluetooth
  • Generic XInput controllers: Varies
  • DirectInput controllers: Varies

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