How to Sync Your PS3 Controller

You can easily connect PS3 controllers to your PS3 console

PlayStation 3 controllers are designed to work wirelessly, which means you don't need to be tethered to the console to play. However, because they do not work wirelessly by default, you need to sync your controller to your console to take advantage of its wireless capabilities.

In addition to working wirelessly with a PlayStation 3, you can sync PS3 controllers to Mac or Windows PCs. This requires a Bluetooth connection, but it works with most computers running Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, as well as most Macs running macOS.

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 are not.

How to Sync a Controller to a Playstation 3 Console

To sync a PS3 controller with a PlayStation 3 console you will need a mini USB cable. Sony recommends using the cable provided with the system. If you have trouble syncing with a third-party cable, try using a different cable. Most third-party cables work well, but there are some that do not.

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. Your PS3 controller is now ready to use.

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

    Unplugging a PS3 controller that has been synced

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 does not work. This can usually be fixed by resetting the controller and then attempting to sync it again. If it still does not 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. Hold it down 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 do not feel a click, you may have missed the button.

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

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

How to Connect a PS3 Controller to Windows

While PS3 controllers were designed for use with PlayStation 3 consoles, you can also use them with Windows PC. 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 the controller to your computer.

Using the SCP ToolKit to connect a PS3 controller to a Windows computer takes over the Bluetooth connection. 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 the 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. Select Next.

    The scptoolkit driver installer
  9. Wait for your controller to show up, select Initialize all connected devices, then select Next.

    The scptoolkit driver installer
  10. Select initialize all connected devices, then select Next.

    The scptoolkit driver installer
  11. Select Install virtual Xbox 360 controller driver, then select Next.

    The SCPToolKit driver installer
  12. Select Install Windows Service, then select Next.

    The scptoolkit driver installer
  13. Select Finish. Once the installation procedure is complete, your PS3 controller will be ready to use with your Windows computer.

    The scptoolkit driver installer

    PS3 controllers are old, and the SCP Toolkit program is no longer in active development. If it does not work with your particular configuration, there may be a compatibility issue that is unlikely to be fixed due to the age of the hardware.

How to Connect a PS3 Controller to a Mac

You can also use a PS3 controller with your Mac. You must be running macOS Snow Leopard or later and have Bluetooth enabled. You do not need any additional software or drivers, 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 are not sure how to do this, consult 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 select Pair or Accept. Your PS3 controller is now connected and ready to use.