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How to sync a PlayStation 4 controller

If you’ve been gaming for more than a couple of years, you probably remember what it was like to deal with wired controllers on your PlayStation 2 or Xbox system (or — to date some of our writers — NES, SNES, or SEGA Saturn). We can’t overstate the convenience of having wireless controllers, but to play with them, you’ll need to sync them to your system. 

For owners of a PS4 or PS4 Pro system, syncing up your controllers shouldn’t be an issue, but we’re here to clear up any confusion you might have.

Further reading

  • The most common PS4 problems, and how to fix them
  • These are the must-have PlayStation games we want to see on PS5
  • The best PS4 controllers for 2020

Get a USB to Micro-B cable

Syncing a PlayStation 4 DualShock controller to a PS4 is extremely easy, but it does require one piece of hardware: A USB to Micro-B cable. There’s no wireless workaround for pairing controllers via Bluetooth, so to sync new controllers with your PS4, you’ll need a cable (though you can connect a PS4 or Xbox controller to your smartphone or tablet). Your DualShock 4 controller comes with one cable packaged in it, but any USB 2.0 Micro-B cable will work. Plug the USB cable into the controller, then into the USB port in the PlayStation 4.

Fire up the PS4

When you turn on your PS4, your controller should automatically connect with your PlayStation, thanks to the USB cable. You’ll need to push the PlayStation button in the center of the controller to activate the controller. When you do that, the PS4 should take you to the login screen to choose a player account to go with that controller.

You’ll be able to tell the controller is working because the LED light bar on the top of the controller will turn blue (or another color, if it isn’t the first controller connected — red for player 2, green for player 3, and pink for player 4). That cable will also recharge your controller, with the light turning yellow when the controller is charging but not turned on.

Make sure the controller is charged

When you’re having trouble with a controller not working wirelessly with your console, the usual issue with pairing is that the controller’s battery is undercharged. If it sounds like the “unplug it and then plug it back in” solution to the problem, it is.

Make sure the controller is charging when you plug it in — when it’s not in use, you’ll see the light bar on the top turn yellow. If it’s not charging, you might have another issue, like a damaged controller port or a bad cable.

Reset your controller by telling the PS4 to “forget it”

If your pairing issues aren’t related to power or your cable, you might need to reset your controller and your PlayStation 4 to pair it again. If you’ve got a controller that still works, you can do that in the PS4’s Settings menu. It’s on the home screen on the far-right side, represented by a Suitcase icon.

Navigate down to the Devices menu, and then choose Bluetooth. You’ll see all your controllers there, as well as any other Bluetooth devices that are compatible with your PlayStation, such as wireless headphones and the greatly-improved PDP PS4 Bluetooth Remote. Choose the one you’re trying to reset (it can be difficult to tell, and you might need to turn on all your controllers if you have more than one), select it, and hit the X button.

Now hit the Options button on your controller to bring up a contextual menu, and select Forget Device. Doing so will cause your controller to unpair with your PlayStation 4.

Once that’s done, you should be able to just plug the controller in with your USB cable to pair it to the console again, as mentioned toward the start of this guide.

Perform a hard reset on your controller

If re-pairing the controller doesn’t work, the issue might be with the controller itself and not the PS4. In that case, you’ll need to reset the controller. You’ll need an unfolded paper clip (or something similarly thin and sturdy) with which to push a hidden button on your PS4 in order to reset it.

Turn off your PS4 and unplug both it and your internet router or modem so that your controller won’t receive any network signals when you reset it. When that’s done, flip the controller over and look for a small hole on the right side. Push the paperclip in the hole and push the button inside for three to five seconds. It’s best to hold it down for a count of 10 to be sure.

When you’ve done that, plug in both your router and your PS4 again. Turn on the PS4, then plug your controller into the USB cable. That should re-pair the controller from scratch. If it doesn’t work, you may have a broken controller on your hands.

Alternative: Go USB-only

It’s also possible to skip over the Bluetooth wireless connection and play with your DualShock 4 controllers on an entirely wired, USB-enabled connection. That’s obviously not ideal when you could potentially play wirelessly, but it’s a potential workaround when connectivity and signal issues persist. You can set a controller to only communicate with the PS4 via USB when it’s plugged in by changing the settings in the Devices menu, as noted above. Under Devices, navigate to Controllers, and then set any controllers to only communicate via USB when they’re plugged in. That way, signal issues or Bluetooth problems shouldn’t affect the controller, so long as you’ve got a wired connection.

Need to factory reset your PS4? Check out our handy guide.

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