How to fix joystick drift on PS5 controller

Lately, some PlayStation controllers have gotten a lot of negative attention due to joystick drift. This is especially true on the PS5 DualSense controller, but drift can also appear on the PS4 controller. A controller with a floating joystick essentially makes your games unplayable, and repairing or replacing it can keep you from enjoying your console for days. Before we get into all that, here’s how to fix controller drift on your PlayStation joystick.

If you’re willing to pay a little extra, fixing this problem with Sony’s DualSense Edge controller is easy because it has a modular design that allows you to swap control sticks. If you’re using the original DualSense, or an older PS4 controller, these steps are your best bet.

What is joystick drift?

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Joystick drift is when the controller behaves as if you are pressing one or both joysticks in a certain direction even though you are not touching the controller. It is also known as a ‘drift controller’. In games, this can manifest as your character turning or walking in one direction constantly, or navigating through menu options outside of your control. This happens with the DualSense controller because the sensor under the stick is triggered by something or fails at a software or mechanical level. You may be able to solve the first two problems yourself with the following tips, while you can’t.

What not to do

The DualSense Edge is placed on a table with the joystick module removed.

First, do it No try opening your DualSense controller. Even if you do it carefully, opening it will void your warranty, meaning if no other repairs work, you can’t even return it for a new one. There’s also no reason to go inside unless the problem is mechanical, in which case you don’t have the parts to fix it, so put your screwdriver aside for now.

Additionally, we’ll mention it again when we get to the cleaning section, but make sure to clean your controller properly. By this, we mean that it should not be saturated with water, or completely wet. After all, this is an electronic device, and you can easily cause more damage this way. A small amount of rubbing alcohol, when applied properly, is more than enough.

Lastly, and this is a good rule to follow, no matter what, be nice to your controller. We all experience moments of gamer rage sometimes, but never take it out on your controller. One bad throw or fall can permanently damage the interior or exterior. Even using a stick that is too rough can cause problems to appear more quickly.

Reset your DualSense

Let’s start with an easier fix to solve the joystick drift problem quickly and easily. Resetting your DualSense isn’t done by turning it off and on; there’s actually a hidden reset button that will completely refresh your controller. Look on the back of your DualSense to find the small hole where the reset button is hidden. You need something like a paper clip to insert slowly and hold the button for five seconds. Once restarted, reconnect your controller to the PS5 and see if the drift is still there.

Reset your Bluetooth

DualSense settings menu on PS5.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder

If resetting the controller doesn’t work, you can try turning Bluetooth on and off. This is unlikely to be the cause of irregularities but is still worth trying just in case there is a problem. To turn off your Bluetooth, go to Settings > Accessories > Controller > Communication Method then hit Turn off Bluetooth. Once the connection is disabled, wait a few moments then turn it back on and test.

Update your PS5 and controller

Consoles are most often updated leading up to launch to fix issues and bugs like these, so perhaps your controller or console is missing something that could eliminate these irregularities. Your controller will ask you to update if you connect it to your PS5. To make sure your PS5 is on the current patch, sign in Settings > System > System Software Update and Settings > Update System Software and select Update Using the Internet. Your console will then check if there are any recent updates and apply them if not. If you get an update, wait for it to install, reboot your console, and see if the irregularities go away.

Clean your joystick

Someone plays Crash Bandicoot using a PS5 DualSense controller.

Regularly cleaning your controller should be a normal part of your routine to ensure it stays functional, but considering how new the system is, you may not have done it yet. Dust, dirt, and oil from our hands are very easy to seep in and cause damage inside our controllers in a short time. If a flake of the wrong size ends up in the wrong place under your thumb, it can easily cause it to float.

The best and safest way to clean your controller is with a cotton swab, some rubbing alcohol, and compressed air. Before you start cleaning, make sure your controller is turned off. Give it another shot with compressed air, spraying in short bursts as you rotate your thumb in a full circle. Next, use a cotton swab and a drop of alcohol and run it along the edge of the base of your analog stick. Let it dry for a few minutes and then try it on.

Adjust dead zones

This is not a complete solution, but rather a minor and conditional solution. Some games allow you to set so-called “dead zones” in the controller settings. This is the range of motion you can move the game stick won’t register any movement. If the drift isn’t too extreme, you can fix it in certain games by adjusting the dead zone so that the controller’s natural amount of drift isn’t taken up by the game. The downside is that this will happen on a case-by-case basis, depending on the game. Not all games offer it, and unfortunately, you can’t adjust the dead zones on the PS5 itself to apply across all games.

Return it or send it for repair

Dualsense controller lying on a wooden table.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder

If all else fails, you have no choice but to replace or repair your controller. Depending on the retailer you purchased the controller or console from, or if you did or did not purchase any warranty, your best option is to try and get a replacement from the same retailer. If everything is in order, you should can bring him in and get a replacement right then and there.

If you can’t get a replacement from a retailer, or you bought it directly from Sony, you’ll need to go to an official store. PlayStation Repair and Replace location. Sony offers a one-year warranty on the DualSense, but there are some drawbacks. After confirming that you’ve tried to resolve the problem with the troubleshooting steps they provide, which we also cover in this guide, you’ll have to pay to package and ship your faulty controller to them. Once they receive it, Sony estimates a time frame of 7 to 10 business days for them to fix it, and then there’s a wait until the device is actually shipped back to you as well. Overall, you may not have your DualSense for more than two weeks, but it can be repaired and is cheaper than buying a replacement yourself.

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