How to Fix It When Your PS3 Controller Won't Connect

Don't let connection problems get in the way of your gaming

PlayStation 3 and Dualshock 3 controller

 Michel Ngilen//Wikimedia/CC by 2.0

If your PS3 controller won't connect with your PlayStation 3 console, it could be due to a few different issues. How to troubleshoot connection problems with PS3 wireless controllers.

Controllers made for other Sony systems, such as the PS2 and PS4, cannot be used with the PS3 without the assistance of an adapter. Make sure the controller you're using is compatible with your console.

Why Won't My PS3 Controller Connect?

There are two official variations of the wireless PS3 controller: the Dualshock 3 and the older, discontinued Sixaxis.

Sony Dualshock PS3 controller on a white background
Evan-Amos

Both versions can be connected directly to the console via a micro USB cable, and both include Bluetooth capabilities that enable wireless play. Each controller also has an internal battery that charges when connected to the PS3. The only major difference between them is the Dualshock 3 features vibration capability.

For the vibration feature to work, it must be enabled, and the game you're playing must support vibration/rumble.

Additionally, there are dozens of PS3 compatible controllers made by third-party manufacturers. Some unofficial PS3 controllers only work when plugged directly into the console, and some come with a Bluetooth adapter you must plug into the console to play wirelessly. Nonetheless, they all rely on the same underlying technology, so they are prone to the same problems. PS3 controller connection issues can be caused by:

  • Syncing errors between the controller and the PS3 console.
  • Problems with the controller's battery.
  • Issues with the controller's internal hardware.

What to Do When Your PS3 Controller Won't Connect

  1. Do some basic troubleshooting

    Before you start disassembling your PS3 controller, here are some steps you can take to identify the source of your connection problems:

    • Turn off your PS3 console, then turn it back on to see if that fixes the issue.
    • If possible, try connecting your controller to another PS3, or connect a different PS3 controller to your PS3 to make sure the problem isn't with the console itself.
    • Make sure the USB cable connecting your controller to the console works.
    • Remove any other USB devices you have plugged into your PS3 while trying to sync your controller.
    • If using a wireless controller, make sure the controller's battery is charged and is within 30 feet of the console.
    • When trying to sync a wireless controller, make sure you don't have more than six other Bluetooth peripherals already paired with your console.
  2. Replace the battery

    If the controller won't turn on at all, the problem likely lies with the battery or the internal hardware. First, try removing the battery and re-inserting it:

    1. Use an eyeglass repair kit to unscrew the back of the PS3 controller.
    2. Look for a single small watch battery. In official Sony PS3 controllers, it's located near the upper-left side of the motherboard.
    3. Gently remove the battery and set it aside for 30 seconds.
    4. Re-insert the battery and try turning on the controller again.
    5. If that didn't work, try replacing the old battery with a fresh one. Any standard watch battery will do.
  3. Reset your PS3 controller

    If your controller works while plugged in, yet you can't play wirelessly, you can try resetting the controller:

    Dualshock 3 reset button diagram
    Sony
    1. Turn off your PS3 console.
    2. Plug the controller into the USB port on the console.
    3. Turn on your PS3.
    4. Look for a small hole on the back on the controller near the L2 shoulder button. Use an unfolded paper clip to push down the tiny reset button inside the hole.
    5. Press the PS button on the controller to re-pair it with the PS3.
  4. Clean the motherboard

    If your controller still won't connect, the issue likely lies with the device's motherboard or other internal hardware. You can attempt to clean the motherboard using compressed air, but be very careful not to cause further damage to the device.

  5. Contact the manufacturer

If you have an official Sony controller that's still under warranty, you can contact PlayStation support for additional help. If you're unsure which type of controller you have, check the model number located on the back. If your controller was made by a different manufacturer, contact them for further assistance.