Do you want to play games on your computer, but don´t like to use the keyboard? Do you also don´t want to buy a new controller? If you have a Nintendo Switch, you already have a pair of, admittedly unconventional, controllers.
Can you use the Joy-cons to play on your computer?
Yes, you can. Albeit with a bit of setup beforehand.
How to make your computer detect a Joy-con
Before doing anything else with them, you need to let your computer pair up with the Joy-con, to let it know that they exist. To do so, you need to use Bluetooth. If your desktop computer doesn´t have Bluetooth, you´ll need to buy a small adapter like this one.
The first step is to turn on Bluetooth on your PC. Go to Start, Settings, Devices, and then Bluetooth (or you can try typing Bluetooth in the search bar for a shortcut). If the toggle is switched off, turn it on. Your computer will scan the area for any compatible Bluetooth devices.
Next, click on Add Bluetooth device. Now, take your Joy-Cons and make sure that they don´t have the rail-handle thing on them. In the middle of the side of your joy-con, you will find a small button. Press and hold it until the lights start blinking. The controller will have entered pairing mode.
Back to your computer, the Joy-con should now appear on the list of available Bluetooth devices. Click on it to pair it with your computer. That´s it, your PC should now be able to detect the Joy-con and register its commands. You can put back the handle thing to play with it more comfortably.
Keep in mind that if you want to use the plus and minus joy-cons together, you will have to repeat the process with the other corresponding joy-con.
Your joy-con is now connected to the computer, but you still can´t use it to play games. You will need to install a driver for them beforehand, There are two ways to do so...
The easy way, play with your joy-cons using Steam
As we mentioned in our other guide about connecting a Pro Controller to a PC, one of the big advantages Steam has, is that it comes with drivers for pretty much every controller from all modern gaming consoles. The joy-con was the exception, until now.
Valve has added a driver for the joy-con and updated their software for all other compatible Nintendo controllers in their last Steam update. This lets Steam detect and set up the controller automatically when you play any games on their platform.
Granted, it´s still in Beta. If you want access to it, you need to go to your Steam settings and opt-in for Beta participation. You will need to restart Steam, but once it boots up again, you´ll be ready to go.
The joy-cons should be working as intended. If they aren´t, go to the Controller menu in the Steam settings and enable Joy-con support. You can also tweak the controllers a bit while on this menu. For example, you can choose if you want to play with two joy-cons paired up or just use one as a gamepad.
Next time you launch a Steam game, you should be able to use the joy-cons to play it as if they were a regular controller. If the game you want to play isn´t on Steam, remember that you can still launch it from Valve´s platform. Go to the Games tab, and in the menu choose the option to add a "Non Steam Game", then simply choose the game you want to play.
Afterward, you should be able to launch that game from Steam. This workaround should make the game compatible with the Steam joy-con driver without having to resort to...
The harder way, installing a Joy-con driver manually
If you don´t want to use Steam or want to use the controllers for an emulator, then you will have to install their driver manually. As you can imagine, Nintendo hasn´t released any sort of official driver for PC for their joy-con, so you will have to find a third-party alternative as we did in our guide to connect them to a phone.
BetterJoy is one such driver that you can use to connect the joy-cons to your PC. It was originally programmed for the CEMU emulator but it now works on "normal" games as well. Joy-Con Driver is another more generic alternative but it hasn´t been updated in years and requires more setup.
BetterJoy has instructions on how to install and run it on their Github page, but to recap, download, run, and install the files on your computer. After the installation is done, restart the PC. Run BetterJoy as an administrator and pair up your Joy-cons using Bluetooth as we explained in the first part of the post.
Select your joy-con and the software should take care of the rest. This should be enough to use your joy-cons to play any non-steam game, but if you want to use it for an emulator, there is a bit more setup to do depending on which one you are using.
And that´s it, now you should be able to use your joy-con on your PC. If you want to learn something useful for a Mac instead, check out our article on how to optimize your storage space here.