The Joy-Con and Pro Controllers for the Nintendo Switch work just like modern Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers. They support Bluetooth, so you can pair them with your PC without any special hardware.
There’s one catch here: The two Joy-Cons are seen as separate controllers by your PC. You can use them as separate controllers, but you can’t combine them and use them as a full controller at the moment.
Connecting the Controller to Your PC
First, ensure Bluetooth is enabled on your PC and open the Bluetooth interface. On Windows 10, head to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth > Add Bluetooth or other device > Bluetooth. On Windows 7, head to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Add a device.
Next, get your controller. If you’re using Joy-Con controller, disconnect them from the Switch or the Joy-Con grip first. Long-press the “Sync” button, which you’ll find located between the SL and SR buttons on the Joy-Con. The lights next to the Sync button will begin to blink.
If you’re using a Pro Controller, you’ll find the “Sync” button at the top of the controller, to the left of the USB-C charging plug. Long-press it.
The controller will be in pairing mode after you long-press the Sync button. You’ll see the Joy-Con or Pro Controller appear in your computer’s Bluetooth menu. Select it in the menu to connect it to your PC.
Oddly enough, the lights on a Joy-Con will continue to blink even after it’s connected to your PC. However, you can clearly see that a Joy-Con is connected to your PC from the Bluetooth window, as it’s displayed in the list of connected devices.
Repeat this process if you want to pair more than one controller—for example, if you want to pair both Joy-Cons. You’ll see each controller appear in the Add a device screen when you long-press its Sync button.
This trick also works on Macs and Android devices. Just open the Bluetooth interface and long-press the Sync button on the controller to pair it like any other device.
Configuring Your Controller
You’ll be stuck using the Joy Con controllers as separate small controllers, just as you use them in two-player mode in various games on the Nintendo Switch. An enterprising geek may one day make a program that can combine them and allow you to use them as a single controller, but sadly, right now we’re stuck waiting.
The Pro Controller will work better in many PC games and emulators, as it has all the standard buttons a typical full controller would have, including two analog sticks and an D-pad.
Whichever type of controller you use, you can configure it to function in many games or emulators. Go into the program’s input menu and configure the controller however you like.
Whether you use a Joy-Con or Pro Controller, one problem you’ll find is that the controller uses the older DirectInput method instead of the newer Xinput input method, which is used by Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers. Many modern games only support Xinput, while others may just have better support for Xinput than DirectInput. That’s why Xbox controllers are the most widely supported option for PC gaming.
You can fix this by using a program like x360ce, which you can set up to convert input presses on your Switch controller to Xinput button events. This effectively allows you to emulate an Xbox 360 controller, giving your Nintendo Switch Controllers the ability to function in games that only support Xbox controllers. You have to do something similar when setting up a PlayStation 4 DualShock controller for maximum compatibility with PC games.
Pairing Your Controller With Your Switch
When you’re done, you can easily pair your Joy-Con controllers with your Nintendo Switch once again. Just physically connect the Joy-Cons to the sides of your Switch. They’ll automatically pair with your Nintendo Switch.
If this doesn’t work for some reason—or if you want to pair your Pro Controller with the Switch console once again—you can use the Switch’s normal controller-pairing process. Select Controllers > Pair New Controllers on your Switch’s home screen to get started. Follow the instructions on your screen. You’ll be prompted to press the Sync button on your controller to continue.
When you want to use your controllers with your PC again, you’ll have to return to the Bluetooth menu and pair them using the Sync button once again. But, once you know where to look, the pairing process is fast.