How to use an external controller on the Steam platform

what to know

  • Wired: Plug in a compatible controller via a USB-C hub and the Steam Deck will automatically recognize it.
  • Wireless: Steam button > Settings > Bluetooth . Put your controller into pairing mode and select it on the Steam Deck.

This article explains how to use an external controller with the Steam Deck. Instructions for all models of Steam Deck.

The Steam Deck has built-in, highly customizable controls, but they're not always the best for long gaming sessions. Thankfully there are other options.

The Steam Deck is compatible with both wired and wireless controllers, so you can even connect multiple controllers at the same time for couch co-op gaming with friends.

You can use wired or wireless controllers with the Steam Deck:

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

The built-in Steam Deck controls are very similar to the Xbox controls, with the face buttons named and arranged the same way, and the share and menu buttons having the same icons, so the Xbox controller works well with the Steam Deck and most controllers - Get Ready Steam game.

To connect an Xbox controller to the Steam Deck, the controller needs to support Bluetooth. Bluetooth-enabled models include the Xbox Series X/S controller and the third-generation Xbox One controller that first shipped with Xbox One S.

If your Xbox controller won't connect, make sure it supports Bluetooth. If so, try connecting it to your Xbox or PC to update the firmware.

Here's how to connect your Xbox controller to your Steam Deck:

  1. Press the steam button .

  2. Select Settings .

  3. Select Bluetooth .

  4. If the Bluetooth switch isn't already on, tap it to turn on Bluetooth.

  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.

PlayStation controllers sometimes require third-party applications or additional configuration to work with Steam in Windows, but both PS5 and PS4 controllers work fine in Linux. Both the DualSense and DualShock 4 controllers pair via Bluetooth and work without any additional configuration or third-party apps, but the icons you see on the screen in some games may not match the buttons on the controller.

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

  1. Press the Steam button on the Steam Deck and select Settings .

  2. Select Bluetooth .

  3. Check the Bluetooth switch and tap it if it's not already on.

  4. Press and hold the PS button and the Share button (DualShock 4) or Create button (DualSense) simultaneously until the light on the controller flashes.

  5. Select the wireless controller on the Steam Deck.

    Unlike the Xbox controller, your PlayStation controller will display the generic name Wireless Controller. This does not affect the functionality of the controller.

  6. Your controller will connect.

The process for connecting other Bluetooth controllers, such as the Switch Pro Controller and Valve's own Steam Controller, is the same as connecting Xbox and PlayStation controllers.

The only difference is the method used to put the controller into pairing mode. For Switch controllers, press the sync button next to the USB-C port. For the Steam Controller, hold down the navigation buttons and the Y button .

Steam Deck supports connecting multiple controllers simultaneously via USB and Bluetooth, so you can connect multiple controllers at the same time to play with friends. Connecting too many devices via Bluetooth can cause problems, as can local wireless interference, but it works well for playing co-op games with up to four controllers without any issues.

An issue that can arise when connecting multiple controllers to the Steam Deck is that it will only recognize one controller as the primary input. If you want to play a single-player game and your controller doesn't seem to be working, you can usually solve the problem by switching it to your primary controller

Here's how to switch primary controllers on the Steam Deck when you have multiple controllers connected:

  1. After opening the game, press the quick access button .

    The quick access button looks like three dots (...) on the Steam Deck, but you can also use button combinations on your controller:

    • Xbox :Xbox+A
    • Game console : PS+X
    • Switch : Home+B
  2. Select Rearrange Controller Order .

  3. Select the controller you want to use and press the Select button (Reorder) .

  4. Use the arrow keys to move it to the top.

  5. Press the select button again (to stop reordering) to complete the order.

In addition to popular controllers like Xbox and PlayStation, many third-party and generic controllers work with the Steam Deck. The controller needs to have USB or Bluetooth, and also needs to be compatible with the Steam Deck, but the standards are pretty broad.

Here are some controllers that work with the Steam Deck, and the type of connection you should be able to use with each controller:

controller USB Bluetooth
Dual sense (PS5) Yes Yes
Dual Shock 4 (PS4) Yes Yes
steam controller Yes Yes
Switch to Pro Yes Yes
Xbox 360 Yes No
Xbox One Yes Yes (3rd generation)
Xbox Series X/S Yes Yes

You may also be able to use XInput and DirectInput controllers, but compatibility may vary.

  • Steam Deck is available in three versions, each with a different price. The 64GB version is priced at $399, the 256GB version is priced at $529, and the 512GB Steam Deck is priced at $649.

  • Which Steam Deck is right for you depends largely on what you want to get out of it. If you're looking to install a larger library of games, it's worth considering the different internal storage options (64GB, 256GB and 512GB). But beyond that, both the 256GB and 512GB models use solid-state drives (SSDs) for storage, which means they can access data faster.

  • You can find Steam Decks for sale on secondary markets like eBay, but they often come with a markup. Currently, the only official place to purchase Steam Deck is from Valve itself.