How to Use a Game Controller as a Mouse in Windows

Windows Controller Keysticks.jpg

Game controllers (also known as gamepads) are the most popular way to play video games, but that’s not all they’re good for. You can use a controller to act as a mouse, opening up a range of interesting possibilities, as we shall see in this article.

Why Use a Controller as a Mouse

The most obvious reason to turn your controller into a mouse is if you want to use your computer like a console. While it’s perfectly acceptable to control your Windows PC using a wireless mouse and keyboard from the couch, it’s not the most elegant solution. If your gamepad can also act as a mouse, it means you can navigate the operating system between games without putting the controller down.

Even if you aren’t a gamer, you may have an HTPC and would prefer the more compact nature of a controller to a wireless mouse and keyboard. There’s also an accessibility use case to consider. Since the Xbox Adaptive Controller simply appears as a standard Xbox controller for your PC, it’s one more way someone with special needs can control their computer.

Gamepads are also a great alternative to the numerous devices used to remotely control presentations. You don’t have to go buy a special remote for your work, conference, or school presentation. If you already have a game controller handy, you can use it to control a presentation, teleprompter, or any other utility for free.

1. Using Steam’s Solution

Steam is the most popular digital gaming storefront on PC and if you’re a gamer, you probably already have their client installed on your computer. If you aren’t one, however, you can still simply open an account and install the client without having to actually buy anything.

  1. Once Steam is installed on your computer, go to “Steam-> Settings”.
Windows Steam Settings View
  1. From the side menu, select “Controller”.
Windows Controller Steamsettings
  1. Now, click on “General Controller Settings”
  1. Tick the box that matches the type of controller you are using. In this case, we’re using an Xbox controller, so we’ll select “Xbox Configuration Support”. Close the Window.
Windows Controller Xbox
  1. Go back to Settings, and under “Controller” click on “Desktop Configuration” this time around.
Windows Controllersteamdesktop
  1. Here you can customize what key press or mouse action the buttons and sticks of the controller will emulate. Click on each control you want to customize and give it a function.
Windows Controller Steamx
  1. In this particular case, we’ve made the right trigger right-click, the left trigger left-click and the right stick has been set to “Joystick mouse” under “Style of Input”. This means that the right stick now makes the mouse pointer move around.

Of course, you should choose a configuration that’s most comfortable and intuitive for you.

If you have a Sony DualShock 4 controller or PlayStation 5 DualSense controller, you can configure the controller touchpads to act as a mouse.

  1. Go back to “General Controller Settings” like we showed you above.
  2. This time, check the “PlayStation Configuration Support” option.
  3. Go back to “Desktop Configuration” to start mapping out the new controls.
  4. Now select the touchpad from the diagram in Steam.
Windows Controller Ds4
  1. Simply change the input style to “Mouse”.
Windows Controller Ds

2. Alternatives to Steam

If you don’t want to install an entire digital storefront to have access to this feature, there are a number of alternative utilities that do the same job.

Gopher 360

Gopher360 is a popular free utility that instantly turns any Xinput controller into a mouse. Xinput is the native standard that all Xbox controllers use and Gopher360 works with the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series family of controllers. It is possible to use it with PlayStation controllers, but you need to use another application that translates those inputs to Xinput format (as shown below).

Windows Controller Gopher360

Using Gopher360 is as easy as downloading the .exe file and running it. Once you do, the DOS-like Terminal window will open. Simply minimize it and grab your controller. These are the default controls:

  • A: Left Mouse-Click
  • X: Right Mouse-click
  • Y: Hide terminal
  • B: Enter
  • D-pad: Arrow keys
  • Right Analog: Scroll up/down
  • Right Analog Click: F2
  • Left Analog: Mouse
  • Left Analog Click: Middle mouse click
  • Back: Browser refresh
  • Start: Left Windows Key
  • Start + Back: Toggle Gopher360 off for when you want to play games
  • Start + DPad Up: Toggle Gopher360 vibration setting
  • LBumper: Browser previous
  • RBumper: Browser next
  • Bumber + RBummper: Cycle speed
  • LTrigger: Space
  • RTrigger: Backspace

Gopher360 generates a “Config” file in the same folder where you’ve saved the executable before running it for the first time. You can edit this file to customize the default controls. If you break the “Config” file, just delete it. A new default one will be created when you run the applications next.

Keysticks

You may also be interested to try Keysticks, which is a more polished application than Gopher360, with an intuitive graphical interface. You can use Keysticks to control your PC overall or to play PC games that don’t natively support controllers.

Once you’ve installed Keysticks, you’ll see a helpful picture of an Xbox controller (for a DualShock one you’ll need to install a translator application first) appear at the bottom-right of the desktop. This shows which buttons on the controller will emulate which mouse or keyboard input. You can customize these key assignments in the software settings.

Windows Controller Keysticks

However, by default, you can move the mouse pointer using the right analog stick. Left-clicking is assigned to the left trigger and the right-click is assigned to the start button. That’s the small button to the right of the large Xbox button in the middle of the controller, known as the “Guide” button.

To activate Keysticks, double-click its icon in the notification tray. If you see the control Window and you have an Xinput (Xbox-compatible) controller connected to your PC, then you can do all the things you normally do with your mouse, except now you’re using a gamepad!

How to Emulate Xinput With DS4Windows

The DS4Windows application lets you emulate Xinput from a DualShock 4 or Dualsense controller, making Windows (and games) see an Xinput controller where there is none.

This allows you to use a PlayStation 4 or 5 controller as if it were an Xbox controller. Specifically, both of the programs outlined above will work if you also run DS4Windows at the same time. Here’s how to get it set up.

  1. First, download the application and install it. If you don’t already have it on your Windows computer, you’ll need the .NET Desktop Runtime.
  2. Don’t use the link that the DS4Windows app suggests, instead download it from this page under the “.NET Desktop Runtime 5.0.17” section. Choose the version that matches your Windows installation, which should be x64 for most people.
Windows Controller Dotnet
  1. Once you have DS4 Windows running, you’ll see the first-time setup. Only “Step 1” is mandatory.
Windows Controller Ds4win1
  1. Once you’ve completed the ViGEmBus installation, click “Finished”.
Windows Controller Ds4win2
  1. Then, on the main DS4Windows screen click on “Start” in the bottom right corner.
Windows Controller Ds4winstart
  1. You should see your PlayStation controller pop up in the “Controllers” tab.
Windows Controller Ds4windowson

You can now use your controller with Gopher360 and Keysticks!

Frequently Asked Questions

Will games still work normally when using my controller as a mouse?

Using the Steam method, your controller should automatically switch between normal mode and mouse mode, but only for Steam games. If you want this to happen for other games, go to “Games-> Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library” in the Steam client. Then look for the game’s executable file and add it. If you launch it from within Steam, the auto hand-over should happen.

How do I turn the controllers off?

It’s not really obvious how to turn these controllers off without a console. To do so, just hold the Xbox Guide button or the PS button until the controller lights go out. You may have to hold them in for more than 10 seconds, but don’t let go until the lights go out.

What if my computer doesn't have Bluetooth?

If you have a computer without Bluetooth and you don’t want to use a wired connection with your controller, you can purchase a USB add-on dongle (usually USB-based) or in the case of official Xbox Controllers, you can use the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows. You’ll get a virtually lag-free controller experience and access to audio through the headphone jack of the controller.

All screenshots by Sydney Butler

Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler

Sydney Butler is a technology writer with a background in Psychology who has written for a wide variety of technology outlets including How-To-Geek, Online Tech Tips, Helpdesk Geek, 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, and many more. He has 25 years of technology troubleshooting experience as a technician and user-education practitioner.

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