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Troubleshooting 5 common PlayStation 4 controller issues

Put that credit card away and try these steps to fix what's ailing your PS4 controller.

We would all love to live in a perfect fantasy world where everything works exactly the way it was intended. But we don't, and our tech lives by the same gnarly rules of life that everything does.

PlayStation 4 gamers know all too well how a bad controller can ruin their days off, but you don't have to put your gaming on hold or go out and buy new hardware whenever your DualShock 4 is on the fritz. Here are some common issues you may run into with your PS4 controller, as well as suggestions on how you can fix them.

Looking to replace your controller? These are our favorites!

PS4 controller won't connect

This is a classic problem that likely has plagued many-a gamer at least once. Sometimes, the controller just fails to sync with the console. As odd as it may be for a connection to work fine days on end only for it to suddenly fail, it happens. In most cases, a quick run around the reset mill should correct any issues:

  1. First, try plugging your DualShock 4 into the PS4 using your USB cable. This should attempt a resync and in most cases will get you going again.
  2. Try restarting your console.
  3. If neither of those worked, look on the rear of the controller for a tiny hole located next to the L2 button. You'll need a pin, paperclip, or some other type of thin poking device to jam in there. Push the button on the inside for a couple of seconds and then release, then attempt to resync the controller to your PS4 by plugging it in with your USB cable.

It's worth noting that the PS4 uses a standard Bluetooth connection, so if you use your controller with multiple devices -- such as your PC, smartphone, or tablet -- you'll want to make sure it's not connected to anything else while you're trying to connect it to your PS4.

PS4 controller won't charge

If your controller won't charge by plugging it into the PS4, it may be due to a number of different factors. We're going to employ the process of elimination to see what, exactly, is broken. Here are some things you should try:

  • Your USB cable could be damaged. Try a different one.
  • Try plugging the controller up to a different USB port on the PS4.
  • If possible, try charging another controller with the same cable on the same port.
  • Try plugging it in while you're in safe mode. To enter safe mode on the PS4, first turn the console off, and then when you turn it back on be sure to press and hold the power button for 7 seconds. You'll hear a second beep and you should arrive at the safe mode screen.
  • See if Windows will recognize your controller by plugging it into your PC's USB port.

By the end of the trial you will have figured out what has failed on you. If it seems the USB cable is to blame then it's time to buy a new one. If the controller charges normally in a different port then your PS4 may be malfunctioning. If a different controller works on the same port or USB cable then it may be the USB port on the controller itself that's broken.

Try every combination you can and write down the results of each test. Hopefully, you'll find that you just need to use a different cable or replace the controller and not have to send your entire PS4 in for repairs.

PS4 controller trackpad is not working

The PS4 controller is unique in that it has a trackpad on it. You can use it to navigate menus or type words, but it's also used in some video games for controlling certain mechanics.

Try these steps if you find that your trackpad is being unresponsive: 1. Turn it off and back on again. 2. Clean the trackpad with a 50/50 solution of isopropyl rubbing alcohol and water.

Beyond that, a broken trackpad is cause for a repair or replacement. It won't do you any good to try and replace it as the part is not readily available, and you'd also be potentially compromising your controller's USB port as the trackpad is connected by the same ribbon that powers it.

PS4 controller buttons are sticking

Sticky buttons can be a problem even if you try to keep your controller as clean as possible. Sometimes buttons can become unstuck or lose their stickiness with repeated use, but if you aren't having any luck then you may need some chemical help.

  1. Take a microfiber cloth and dab it with a bit of isopropyl rubbing alcohol.
  2. Use the cloth to wipe around the exterior of the buttons. Make sure you cover each affected button thoroughly.
  3. Try pressing the buttons now.

If it still doesn't budge, you may need to take the controller apart for a deeper cleaning. There's a handy guide on YouTube that shows you exactly how to go about it.

Note: You may void your warranty if you take your PS4 controller apart yourself. Be sure that your warranty is no longer valid and no other means to repair or replace the controller can suffice before attempting this.

PS4 controller can't hold a charge

While we love the PS4 controller, one downside that we can't get over is its lack of a user-replaceable battery. This is because batteries have a tendency to degrade over time, and some of them degrade so harshly that they can fail to hold a charge more than an hour.

If your controller is dying too fast -- or worse yet, it simply won't turn on -- it could be due to a bad battery. Replacing it is pretty easy, thankfully. All you'll need to do is buy a replacement battery for around $10, grab some screwdrivers and open the controller, and swap out the old one for the new one. iFixIt shows us just how easy that process can be.

Note: You may void your warranty if you take your PS4 controller apart yourself. Be sure that your warranty is no longer valid and no other means to repair or replace the controller can suffice before attempting this.

Check your warranty

If none of the above worked or if you are uncomfortable performing some of these troubleshooting steps, then perhaps it's time to give Sony a call. Check to see that your PS4 and its controller are still under warranty, and if they are then Sony will be able to repair or replace them for free. If not, you can still likely pay for a repair, and that's still going to be much cheaper than replacing the thing outright.

As a general rule of thumb for any problems you have with your PS4, call Sony to see your less risky options before deciding to take on any of these repairs yourself.

Any other tips?

Here, we tried to cover the most common issues that you are bound to come across when playing your PS4. The controller gets the most mechanical wear out of all your components, after all, and no amount of tender love and care can stand up to the long-term effects of regular usage.

Think we missed anything here? Let us know of any other PS4 controller issues that seem to be plaguing you and whether you've been able to fix them!

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