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How to connect an Xbox controller to a Steam Deck

Only select Xbox controllers are compatible.
By
February 21, 2024

It should go without saying that most of the time, there’s no need to pair an external gamepad to a Steam Deck — the handheld is its own controller. But if you’ve hooked your system up to a TV or monitor using a dock, here’s how you can connect an Xbox controller to enjoy a lean-back gaming experience.

QUICK ANSWER

To pair an Xbox controller to a Steam Deck:

  • On your Steam Deck, press the Steam button.
  • Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
  • Make sure the Bluetooth toggle is on.
  • On your Xbox controller, press the Xbox button.
  • Press and hold the pair button on the controller's rear. The Xbox button should start flashing.
  • Back on your Steam Deck, select Xbox Wireless Controller from the Bluetooth menu.

How to pair an Xbox controller to a Steam Deck

Xbox Series S controller top view
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

We’re going to assume here that you’re using a wireless Bluetooth controller. Anything you can connect via USB doesn’t need to be paired — it should be detected automatically.

Only some Xbox controllers support Bluetooth, though. Those include any model for the Xbox Series X or Series S, as well as third-generation Xbox One controllers. You might be able to use an Xbox 360 controller if you can get Microsoft’s Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows, which bridges the 360’s native wireless format with Bluetooth. We haven’t tested that combo with a Steam Deck however, and both devices are out of production, so you can probably assume you’ll need a more recent controller model.

When you’re ready, here’s how to start the pairing process:

  • On your Steam Deck, press the Steam button.
  • Navigate to Settings, then Bluetooth.
  • Make sure the Bluetooth toggle is on if it isn’t already.
  • On your Xbox controller, press the Xbox button.
  • Next, press and hold the pair button on the back. The Xbox button should start flashing.
  • Back on your Steam Deck, select Xbox Wireless Controller from the Bluetooth menu.

FAQs

There are several potential troubleshooting steps for this:

  • Repeat the pairing process, paying attention to the timing of button presses. It’s unlikely you did something wrong, but this can’t hurt.
  • Make sure the Xbox controller isn’t still paired to a console or PC if you’re repurposing it.
  • Check battery levels. If the controller is low, it might not pair.
  • Update the controller’s firmware. To do this, you’ll need to download the Xbox Accessories app on an Xbox or a Windows PC, and connect your controller via USB. Use in-app options to trigger the update.
  • Reboot your Steam Deck. Sometimes devices glitch out, and rebooting can clear up faulty caches and processes.
  • Disable other connected Bluetooth devices. The Steam Deck should be able to handle multiple pairings, but interference isn’t impossible.

Yes you can, and the process is pretty similar. We cover the details in a separate guide.

Yes. You’ll mostly be following the same steps, except for putting a controller into pairing mode. On the Switch Pro Controller, for example, you have to press and hold the sync button next to the USB-C port.