One reason that so many gamers appreciate the Nintendo Switch is that its Bluetooth technology easily hooks up and connects to nearby PCs. You can even do this with the Joy-Con and Switch Pro controllers if you have one.
Before connecting your Nintendo Switch controller to your laptop or another Android device, you should ensure that you’ve got a Bluetooth receiver and both objects are relatively close together.
How to connect Joy-Con controllers to your PC
You can easily pair Joy-Con controllers with a Windows or Mac computer directly within the Bluetooth menu. Follow the steps below to do so.
Step 1: Turn on Bluetooth on your computer.
Step 2: Disconnect the Joy-Cons from the Switch.
Step 3: Hold the Sync button on the Joy-Cons, located between the SR and SL buttons, until the LED lights start flashing. Use the image below if you need clarification.
Step 4: Look for the Joy-Con in your computer’s Bluetooth menu, and select the option to pair it with your device.
There are some quirks to watch out for, such as when the pairing lights on the Joy-Cons won’t stop blinking. However, you can confirm that the controller is connected by looking at your computer’s Bluetooth settings. If you see the error message below, move the controller around to ensure no other devices interfere with the signal. Then try again.
Unfortunately, the two Joy-Cons will be treated as separate controllers by default. That’s great for two-player games, but it makes them useless for playing anything complex, like a first-person shooter.
There is a reasonably elaborate workaround to sync a pair of Joy-Cons together as a single controller, and it involves multiple external programs and some intensive tinkering. We think the process we’ve described is the best way to go but if you’re interested, follow the steps outlined by Reddit user Jayzizzle1234.
How to connect the Switch Pro Controller using Steam
The Steam client now officially supports the Switch Pro Controller, which was previously only available in the beta client. This allows you to use it with all your games and even remap its buttons, should you see fit.
Step 1: Head to the Controller Settings menu in Steam. You can check support for the Switch Pro Controller and enable the Use Nintendo button layout option, which changes all your games’ button prompts to match the Pro Controller. If you leave this unchecked, the A/B and X/Y buttons will be swapped, like they are on the Xbox One.
Step 2: Next, plug in your Switch Pro Controller with a USB cable, and you’ll be asked to register it and calibrate the built-in gyro sensor for motion control in certain games.
Step 3: Once you’ve done that, select “controller configuration,” You can set the function of every button and stick it on the controller, make preset configurations for specific games, or choose a community member’s configuration by pressing the X button. If you like, you can even bind the gyro sensor to a particular function, enabling you to be nearly as accurate as mouse-and-keyboard players in certain games.
How to connect the Switch Pro Controller via Bluetooth
If you aren’t using Steam, you can connect the Pro Controller directly to your Windows or macOS machine via Bluetooth. This way is a little trickier than connecting via USB, so we only reserve this method when you plan to use the Pro Controller with games on a different platform, such as EA Origin, Ubisoft’s UPlay store, and Battle.Net.
Like with the Joy-Con controllers, you will use Bluetooth to connect the Pro Controller to a desktop PC or an alternative device. The steps are essentially the same as connecting the Joy-Cons, so check the bullet points above for the exact method. The sync button for the Pro Controller is located at the top of the controller, directly to the left of the USB-C plug.
The Pro Controller should prove more viable for a broader range of games than the Joy-Cons because it touts a more traditional layout, although it’s not compatible with everything. That’s due to the controller APIs in use; the Pro Controller uses DirectInput rather than the newer API XInput, making it incompatible with many newer games.
One method to get around this is to download the freeware program x360ce, which translates DirectInput commands for XInput games. It was specifically designed for Xbox 360 controllers, so x360ce does recognize the Switch Pro Controller.
Using it requires some gaming savvy, which, to be fair, you probably have if you’re attempting this in the first place. It’s an imperfect solution — not every game will work, no matter what you do. We’ll have to wait for the homebrew community to devise their methods.
One more thing to remember if you connect the controller wirelessly: You can’t charge the Pro Controller while paired via Bluetooth. If you plan to connect it for non-Steam gaming, plug in the Pro Controller before and after, especially if it’s your controller of choice for marathon sessions. The Pro Controller has exceptional battery life — 40-plus hours on a full charge.
Other things to keep in mind
If you’re using the Joy-Cons, keep in mind that if you’ve had connectivity issues with your left Joy-Con on the Switch, you may run into similar problems on other devices. The Bluetooth connection can be iffy and is quickly interrupted by interfering devices. Keep the line between the Joy-Con and your PC clear, and if it’s getting inconsistent, try adjusting where you hold the controller.
Shortly after the Switch launch, Nintendo said it had corrected future shipments’ connectivity issues. If you didn’t buy your console when the console launched in 2017 or bought another Joy-Con recently, you’d likely encounter fewer issues.
The Joy-Cons and Pro Controller — outside of Steam — are best used with older games that support simple controls and the older DirectInput API. They may even be the best option for emulating old Nintendo games on your PC or another device — after all, what could be more fitting than using the newest Nintendo controller to play the oldest Nintendo games?
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