How to Sync Your PS3 Controller

You can easily connect DualShock controllers to your game console

A woman uses her PS3 controller, which has been synced for wireless play.
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PlayStation 3 controllers are designed to work wirelessly, which means you don't need to be tethered to your console by a USB cable. They don't work wirelessly by default though, so you have to sync your PS3 controller to your console if you want to take advantage of this feature.

In addition to working wirelessly with the PlayStation 3, you can also sync a PS3 controller to a Windows computer or a Mac. This requires a Bluetooth connection, but it works with most computers running Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10, and most Macs running MacOS Snow Leopard or newer.

The following instructions apply to official PS3 controllers from Sony. Support for third party controllers is mixed, especially controllers that require a separate dongle. Controllers that use a separate dongle have pairing instructions that differ from one device to the next. Some of these controllers are compatible with Windows and Mac, and others aren't. For more information, contact the manufacturer of your controller.

How to Sync a PS3 Controller to a PlayStation 3 Console

To sync a PS3 controller with a PlayStation 3 console, all you need is a mini USB cable. Sony recommends that you use the cable provided with the system. If you have any trouble getting your controller to sync, and you're using a third party cable, try a different cable. Most third party cables work just fine, but there are some that don't.

The following instructions apply to all PlayStation 3 models.

Here's how to sync a PS3 controller to a PlayStation 3 console:

  1. Turn on your PlayStation 3.

    A PS3 power button.
  2. Connect a mini USB cable to your controller.

    A PS3 plugged in with a mini USB cable.
  3. Connect the other end of the cable to your PS3.

    A USB cable plugged into a PS3.
  4. Push the PlayStation button in the middle of the controller to turn it on.

    PS Button on PS3 controller
  5. Wait for the lights on the controller to stop flashing.

    The sync lights displayed on a PS3 controller.
  6. Once the lights have stopped flashing, unplug the mini USB cable from the controller.

    Unplugging a PS3 controller that has been synced.

    If the controller isn't charged, leave it plugged in to finish charging.

  7. Your PS3 controller is now ready to use.

What to Do When a PS3 Controller Won't Sync

In some cases, you may try to sync your PS3 controller and find that it doesn't work. Most issues that cause this problem can be fixed by resetting the controller and then attempting to sync it again. If it still doesn't sync after a reset, you may have a battery or hardware problem.

Here's how to reset a PS3 controller:

  1. Turn the controller over, so the buttons and analog sticks are facing down.

    The back of a PS3 controller.
  2. Locate the reset button access hole.

    Reset hole on PS3 controller
  3. Insert a paperclip, pin, or thin nail into the reset button access hole to push the reset button, and hold it for at least two seconds.

    A tool inserted into the reset button access hole on a PS3 controller.

    When the reset button is depressed, you should feel a click. If you don't feel a click, you may have missed the button.

  4. Remove the paperclip, and attempt to sync the controller again.

  5. If your controller still won't sync or turn on, it may be defective, or the battery may be bad.

How to Connect a PS3 Controller to Windows

While PS3 controllers were designed exclusively for use with PlayStation 3 consoles, you can also use them with Windows. To connect a PS3 controller to a Windows computer, you need to install several software packages and drivers from Microsoft, and use a free program called SCP ToolKit.

While SCP ToolKit is no longer in development, it works with Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10.

The following frameworks, packages, and runtimes are required:

If you have Windows 7, you also need to download and install the Xbox 360 controller driver.

You will also need a mini USB controller to connect your controller to your computer.

When you use the SCP ToolKit to connect a PS3 controller to your Windows computer, it takes over your Bluetooth connection entirely. You will be unable to connect any other Bluetooth devices. If you use other Bluetooth devices, you should consider buying a separate Bluetooth dongle for your PS3 controller to use.

  1. If your PlayStation 3 is located anywhere near your computer, unplug it so your controller doesn't accidentally connect to it.

  2. Reset your PS3 controller by inserting a paperclip into the reset button hole located on the back of the controller.

  3. Press the PlayStation button on your controller to turn it on.

  4. Using a mini USB cable, connect your controller to your computer.

  5. Download and install the Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5, Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable Package, Microsoft Visual C++ 2013 Runtime, Microsoft DirectX Runtime, and the Xbox 360 controller driver if you have Windows 7.

  6. Download and install the SCP Toolkit.

  7. Launch the SCP Toolkit Driver installer program.

  8. Click Next.

    A screenshot of the scptoolkit driver installer
  9. Wait for your controller to show up, click Initialize all connected devices, then click Next.

    A screenshot of the scptoolkit driver installer.
  10. Click initialize all connected devices, and click Next.

    A screenshot of the scptoolkit driver installer.

    

  11. Click Install virtual Xbox 360 controller driver, and click Next.

    A screenshot of the SCPToolKit driver installer.
  12. Click Install Windows Service, and click Next.

    A screenshot of the scptoolkit driver installer.
  13. Click Finish.

    A screenshot of the scptoolkit driver installer.

    PS3 controllers are very old, and the SCP Toolkit program is no longer in active development. This method still works with most Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 computers. If it doesn't work with your particular configuration, there may be a compatibility issue that is unlikely to ever be fixed due to the age of the hardware.

  14. Once the installation procedure is complete, your PS3 controller will be ready to use with your Windows computer.

How to Connect a PS3 Controller to a Mac

You can also use a PS3 controller with your Mac, if you're running MacOS Snow Leopard or newer and have Bluetooth-enabled. You don't need any additional software or drivers to get it working, but you do need a mini USB cable to connect your PS3 controller to your Mac.

Here's how to connect a PS3 controller to a Mac:

  1. If your PlayStation 3 is located anywhere near your Mac, unplug it to prevent your controller from accidentally connecting to it.

  2. Reset your PS3 controller by inserting a paperclip into the reset button hole located on the back of the controller.

  3. Make sure that your Mac has Bluetooth turned on. If you aren't sure how to do this, check out our guide to using Bluetooth on a Mac.

  4. Connect your PS3 controller to your Mac with a mini USB cable.

    If your controller isn't charged, leave it plugged in for a while to charge before you proceed.

  5. Press the PlayStation button on the controller to turn it on.

  6. Unplug the controller.

  7. Look for your PS3 controller in the list of Bluetooth devices on your Mac.

  8. When prompted, enter the code 0000 and click pair or accept.

  9. Your PS3 controller is now connected and ready to use.