How to Use External Controllers on Steam Deck

Using external controllers on the Steam Deck allows you to enhance your gaming experience by utilizing a variety of input devices beyond the built-in controls. The Steam Deck, a handheld gaming device, offers support for a wide range of external controllers, including gamepads, joysticks, and even keyboard and mouse setups. By connecting compatible controllers to the Steam Deck, you can enjoy greater comfort, precision, and customization while playing your favorite games.

To use external controllers on the Steam Deck, you may need to configure the button mappings, adjust sensitivity settings, or utilize specific software tools provided by game developers or Steam itself. Whether you prefer a wireless controller or a wired one, integrating external controllers with your Steam Deck opens up new possibilities and allows you to tailor your gaming experience to your liking.

How to Use External Controllers on Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck offers gamers a versatile handheld gaming experience, and one of its notable features is the ability to use external controllers. By connecting compatible controllers to the Steam Deck, players can enhance their gaming sessions, enjoy precise controls, and customize their experience to suit their preferences. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of using external controllers on the Steam Deck, providing step-by-step instructions, useful tips, and optimization techniques to elevate your gaming prowess.

Understanding Controller Compatibility

  • Overview of supported external controllers for the Steam Deck
  • Differentiating between wired and wireless options
  • Exploring controller connectivity options (USB, Bluetooth, etc.)

Connecting External Controllers

  • Step-by-step instructions for connecting wired controllers to the Steam Deck
  • Pairing wireless controllers via Bluetooth or other wireless methods
  • Troubleshooting common connectivity issues

Configuring Controller Settings

  • Mapping buttons and adjusting controller layouts for optimal gameplay
  • Using Steam Big Picture Mode for controller configuration
  • Game-specific controller settings and profiles

Advanced Customization and Optimization

  • Exploring advanced controller customization options in Steam
  • Utilizing third-party software to enhance controller functionality
  • Fine-tuning controller sensitivity and dead zones

Exploring Motion Controls and Special Features

  • Leveraging motion controls with compatible external controllers
  • Understanding haptic feedback and adaptive triggers
  • Unlocking the potential of touchpad controls

Popular External Controllers for the Steam Deck

  • In-depth reviews and recommendations for popular controller options
  • Highlighting the pros and cons of various controllers
  • Factors to consider when selecting the right controller for your needs


  • Common issues with external controllers and their solutions
  • Frequently asked questions regarding controller usage on the Steam Deck
  • Troubleshooting connectivity, button mapping, and other common problems

Mastering the use of external controllers on the Steam Deck opens up a world of possibilities for gamers. By following this comprehensive guide, you’ll gain a deep understanding of controller compatibility, learn how to connect and configure external controllers, explore advanced customization options, and take advantage of motion controls and special features.

Use External Controllers on Steam Deck

Best external controllers for Steam Deck

While the Steam Deck features built-in controllers similar to traditional gamepads, some users may prefer external controllers for a more customized gaming experience. Here are a few options considered to be among the best external controllers for the Steam Deck:

  1. Xbox Series X/S Controller: The Xbox Series X/S controller is a popular choice for its ergonomic design, familiar layout, and excellent compatibility with PC gaming. It offers precise controls, a comfortable grip, and features like haptic feedback and Bluetooth connectivity.
  2. PlayStation DualSense Controller: The DualSense controller, designed for the PlayStation 5, is another highly regarded option. It boasts adaptive triggers, enhanced haptic feedback, and a unique design. While it requires additional software for full functionality on PC, it offers an immersive gaming experience.
  3. 8BitDo Pro 2: The 8BitDo Pro 2 is a versatile controller that supports multiple platforms, including the Steam Deck. It combines retro aesthetics with modern features like customizable profiles, motion controls, and rear buttons. Its compact size and wireless connectivity make it a convenient choice for portable gaming.
  4. Razer Kishi: The Razer Kishi is a smartphone controller that connects directly to the Steam Deck via USB-C. It transforms the device into a handheld console, providing a familiar button layout and ergonomic grip. The Kishi offers low latency and minimal input lag, ensuring a seamless gaming experience.
  5. Nintendo Switch Pro Controller: The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is a high-quality controller with excellent build quality and a comfortable feel. It connects to the Steam Deck wirelessly via Bluetooth and provides responsive controls, motion sensing, and a long-lasting battery life.

These are just a few examples of external controllers that can enhance the gaming experience on the Steam Deck. Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preference, game compatibility, and desired features.

Optimizing settings for external controllers on Steam Deck

When it comes to optimizing settings for external controllers on the Steam Deck, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind to ensure a smooth gaming experience. Here are some recommended settings and tips:

Controller Configuration:

Steam offers a robust controller configuration tool that allows you to customize button mappings, sensitivity, and other settings. To access this, go to Steam’s “Big Picture Mode” by clicking on the controller icon in the top-right corner of the Steam client. From there, navigate to Settings > Controller Settings > Base Configurations. Here, you can choose existing community configurations or create your own custom settings.

Button Mapping:

Take advantage of the controller configuration tool to map the buttons to your liking. Customize the layout based on your preferences and the specific game you’re playing. You can also assign additional functions to the extra buttons or triggers available on some external controllers, giving you more control options.

Sensitivity and Dead Zones:

Adjusting sensitivity and dead zones can greatly impact the responsiveness and accuracy of your controls. Use the Steam controller configuration tool to fine-tune these settings to your preference. Decreasing dead zones can eliminate any unwanted lag or delay in button inputs, while adjusting sensitivity can make movements more precise or less sensitive, depending on your playstyle.

Controller Profiles:

Steam allows you to create and save different controller profiles for individual games. This feature lets you have specific settings for each game, ensuring optimal control and button mapping. To create a new profile, go to the game’s properties in your Steam library, click on “Controller Configuration,” and select “Browse Configurations.” From there, you can create a new profile or import an existing one.

Gamepad Emulation:

Some older or non-native controller-supported games may require gamepad emulation to work properly with external controllers. Steam’s controller configuration tool has an option to emulate a mouse or keyboard input as a gamepad, enabling you to play games that don’t have native controller support. Experiment with different emulation settings to find the most suitable configuration for each game.

Updates and Firmware:

Ensure that both your Steam Deck and the external controller you’re using have the latest firmware updates installed. Regularly check for updates from the respective manufacturer’s website or through the Steam client to stay up-to-date with the latest features, bug fixes, and improvements.

Use External Controllers on Steam Deck

Using wireless controllers with Steam Deck

The Steam Deck, developed by Valve Corporation, is a handheld gaming device designed to run PC games on the Steam platform. It features built-in controls, including thumbsticks, buttons, and triggers. However, if you prefer to use wireless controllers with the Steam Deck, you have a few options available.

Bluetooth Controllers:

The Steam Deck supports Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to pair various Bluetooth-enabled controllers with the device. You can connect popular controllers like the Xbox Wireless Controller or the PlayStation DualShock 4/5 to the Steam Deck wirelessly. To connect a Bluetooth controller to the Steam Deck, you’ll need to put the controller in pairing mode and then go to the Steam Deck’s settings to initiate the pairing process. Once paired, the controller should work seamlessly with the Steam Deck.

USB Controllers:

In addition to wireless options, you can also connect USB controllers to the Steam Deck. The device has a USB-C port, so you can use USB adapters or cables to connect compatible controllers directly. Whether it’s a wired Xbox controller, a fight stick, or any other USB-based controller, you should be able to plug it into the Steam Deck and use it without any issues. Just make sure the controller is supported by the Steam Deck and has the necessary drivers.

Steam Controller:

The Steam Deck is developed by Valve, the same company behind the Steam Controller. The Steam Controller, although no longer in production, can still be used with the Steam Deck if you happen to have one. It connects via Bluetooth and is designed specifically to work with Steam games, providing customizable controls and touchpad-based input. The Steam Deck’s built-in controls are inspired by the Steam Controller, so using one with the device should provide a familiar experience.

Troubleshooting external controllers on Steam Deck

If you encounter any issues with external controllers on your Steam Deck, here are some troubleshooting steps you can try:

Ensure Controller Compatibility:

Make sure the controller you’re trying to use is officially supported by the Steam Deck. Check the Steam Deck’s documentation or Valve’s support resources to confirm compatibility. Some controllers may require additional drivers or firmware updates to work properly.

Update Firmware/Drivers:

If your controller requires firmware or driver updates, visit the manufacturer’s website and download the latest version. Install the updates on your controller and ensure it’s running the most recent software.

Pairing Issues:

If you’re using a Bluetooth controller, verify that it’s in pairing mode and within range of the Steam Deck. On the Steam Deck, go to the system settings, select the Bluetooth menu, and follow the instructions to pair the controller. If the controller fails to pair, try resetting it and repeating the pairing process.

USB Connection:

If you’re using a USB controller, ensure it’s properly connected to the Steam Deck. Try using a different USB cable or port to rule out any connection issues. Some controllers may require specific drivers to be installed on the Steam Deck before they can be recognized.

Controller Configuration:

Launch Steam on your Steam Deck and go to the Big Picture Mode by clicking on the controller icon in the top right corner of the Steam client. From there, navigate to the settings and choose the “Controller Settings” option. Make sure your controller is recognized and configured correctly. You can customize button mappings, sensitivity, and other settings to suit your preferences.

Controller Firmware Update:

Some controllers have their own firmware that might need to be updated. Visit the manufacturer’s website and check for any available firmware updates specific to your controller. Follow the instructions provided to update the controller’s firmware.

Steam Beta Updates:

If you’re experiencing persistent issues, consider opting into the Steam client beta updates. Sometimes, beta updates include controller-related fixes and improvements. To do this, go to Steam settings, select the Account tab, and under the Beta Participation section, choose “Steam Beta Update” from the drop-down menu.

Community Support:

If none of the above steps resolve your issue, it can be helpful to reach out to the Steam community for assistance. The Steam Community forums and subreddits dedicated to the Steam Deck can be valuable resources for troubleshooting, as other users may have encountered similar problems.

If the problem persists and none of these steps help, it’s advisable to contact Steam Support or Valve directly for further assistance. They will have the most accurate and up-to-date information on troubleshooting external controllers specifically on the Steam Deck.

How to Use External Controllers on Steam Deck

Advanced controller customization options on Steam Deck

The Steam Deck provides advanced controller customization options through the Steam Input API, allowing you to tailor the controls to your preferences. Here are some advanced customization options available on the Steam Deck:

Steam Input Configurator:

The Steam Input Configurator allows you to create and modify controller configurations for specific games or applications. You can access it by launching Steam in Big Picture Mode and selecting the “Controller Configuration” option. From there, you can customize various aspects of your controller, such as button mappings, analog stick sensitivity, and gyro controls.

Action Sets:

Action Sets let you define different sets of controls for different in-game situations. For example, you can create one action set for regular gameplay and another for menu navigation or specific game modes. Switching between action sets can be done manually or automatically based on certain conditions.

Radial Menus:

Radial Menus are circular menus that can be assigned to specific controller inputs. They allow you to access a variety of commands or actions with just a single button press. Radial Menus are useful for games with complex control schemes or when you want quick access to multiple functions.

Chorded Inputs:

Chorded Inputs enable you to assign secondary functions to buttons or triggers by combining them with other buttons. For example, pressing a specific button while holding another can trigger a different action. This feature allows you to expand the number of available inputs without cluttering the controller layout.

Gyro Controls:

The Steam Deck is equipped with gyro sensors that can be used for motion controls. You can customize the sensitivity and behavior of gyro controls, allowing for precise aiming or steering in compatible games.

Haptic Feedback:

The Steam Deck’s controllers support haptic feedback, providing tactile sensations for more immersive gameplay. You can configure the intensity and pattern of the haptic feedback to suit your preferences.

Community Configurations:

Steam’s community-driven controller configurations allow you to access and use custom controller setups created by other Steam users. You can browse and download configurations shared by the community, and even contribute your own configurations if you wish.

These are just a few examples of the advanced controller customization options available on the Steam Deck. The Steam Input Configurator offers a wide range of tools and settings to fine-tune your controller experience, giving you greater control over how you play your games.

Popular controller layouts for Steam Deck

The Steam Deck offers a versatile handheld gaming experience, and users have adopted various popular controller layouts to suit their preferences. Here are a few common controller layouts for the Steam Deck:

Traditional Console Layout:

Many users prefer a layout similar to traditional console controllers like the Xbox or PlayStation controllers. This layout places the thumbsticks at the bottom, with the face buttons (A, B, X, Y) positioned above them. The shoulder buttons (L1, R1) and triggers (L2, R2) are placed on the top, with navigation buttons like the D-pad and menu buttons in the center.

Customized Layouts:

With the Steam Input Configurator, users can create and customize their own controller layouts tailored to their preferences. This allows for unique configurations, such as moving buttons around, adjusting sensitivity, or utilizing advanced features like gyro controls. Customized layouts can cater to individual playstyles and accommodate specific game requirements.

Hybrid Layouts:

Some users combine elements from different controller layouts to create hybrid configurations. For example, they might prefer the thumbstick placement of one console controller and the button positioning of another. Hybrid layouts offer flexibility and allow users to adapt the controls to their liking.

Accessibility Layouts:

The Steam Deck’s controller customization options also make it accessible to players with diverse needs. Accessibility layouts can include modifications like remapping buttons, creating alternative input methods, or utilizing additional assistive devices to enable more inclusive gaming experiences.

It’s important to note that the Steam Deck’s controller layouts are highly customizable, and users can experiment with different configurations based on their personal preferences, comfort, and the specific games they play. The Steam Input Configurator provides a wide range of options to adapt the controls to individual needs, ensuring an enjoyable and personalized gaming experience on the Steam Deck.

How to use an external controller on Steam Deck
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is the Steam Deck?

A: The Steam Deck is a handheld gaming device developed by Valve Corporation. It allows users to play their Steam library of games on the go.

Q: Can I use external controllers with the Steam Deck?

A: Yes, you can use external controllers with the Steam Deck. It supports a wide range of external controllers, including Xbox and PlayStation controllers.

Q: How do I connect an external controller to the Steam Deck?

A: To connect an external controller to the Steam Deck, you can either use Bluetooth or connect it via USB-C. If your controller supports Bluetooth, you can pair it with the Steam Deck through the device’s Bluetooth settings. If your controller has a USB-C connection, you can directly plug it into the USB-C port on the Steam Deck.

Q: Do I need to install any additional software to use external controllers on the Steam Deck?

A: In most cases, you don’t need to install any additional software. The Steam Deck runs on SteamOS, which has built-in support for various controllers. However, if you encounter any issues or want to customize controller settings, you can use Steam’s Big Picture Mode or Steam Input configurator to make adjustments.

Q: Can I use motion controls with external controllers on the Steam Deck?

A: Yes, some external controllers, like the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, have built-in motion controls that can be used on the Steam Deck. However, not all controllers support motion controls, so it depends on the specific controller you are using.

Q: Can I use multiple external controllers simultaneously on the Steam Deck?

A: Yes, the Steam Deck supports multiple external controllers. You can connect and use multiple controllers for local multiplayer games or cooperative gameplay.

Q: How do I switch between different external controllers on the Steam Deck?

A: When multiple controllers are connected to the Steam Deck, it will automatically recognize and assign them to player slots. Each controller will be assigned a player number (e.g., Player 1, Player 2, etc.). In most games, the player number corresponds to the controller’s connection order.

Q: Are there any limitations or compatibility issues with using external controllers on the Steam Deck?

A: While the majority of popular controllers are compatible with the Steam Deck, some less common or specialized controllers may not work out of the box. However, Steam’s extensive controller support and community configuration options often allow users to find workarounds and customizations for such cases.

Q: Can I use external controllers to navigate the Steam Deck’s user interface?

A: Yes, external controllers can be used to navigate the Steam Deck’s user interface. The Steam Deck’s operating system, SteamOS, is designed to be controller-friendly, allowing you to navigate menus and perform various actions using a controller.

Q: Can I customize the button mappings and configurations for external controllers on the Steam Deck?

A: Yes, you can customize the button mappings and configurations for external controllers on the Steam Deck. Steam’s Big Picture Mode and Steam Input configurator provide options to remap buttons, adjust sensitivity, and customize various controller settings to suit your preferences.

Q: Are there any additional resources or guides available for using external controllers on the Steam Deck?

A: Yes, Valve provides official documentation and support resources for using external controllers on the Steam Deck. You can visit the official Steam Deck website, check the Steam Community forums, or refer to Steam’s support documentation for detailed instructions and troubleshooting tips regarding external controller usage.