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How to fix joystick drift on PS5

It is very rare for a new console to release without some kind of issue. The best we as early adopters can hope for is that they are minor, possibly fixed with some tweaks in the settings menu, and not as severe as the infamous red ring of death that plagued the early version of the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, Sony’s PlayStation 5, or more specifically the DualSense controller, has been gaining a lot of negative attention for a fault in the joysticks. The issue of joystick drift is almost identical to the one seen with Nintendo’s Joycons, in that case called Joycon drift, except that it is showing up much sooner in the controller’s life.

If you’re noticing issues with your DualSense joysticks, there are a few methods you can try to repair them yourself. A drifting joystick essentially renders your games unplayable, and getting it repaired or replaced can leave you with no way to enjoy your console for days, and the cost of a new one can be steep. Before going through any of that, here’s how to fix joystick drift on PS5.

If you’re willing to pay a little extra, fixing this issue with Sony’s DualSense Edge controller is a breeze thanks to it having a modular design that allows you to swap out the control sticks. If you’re rocking an original DualSense, the following steps are your best bet.

What is joystick drift?

A close up shot of the DualSense.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, joystick drift is when your controller behaves as if you’re pressing one or both of the joysticks in a specific direction even when you are not touching the controller. In-game, it can manifest as your character spinning or walking in one direction constantly, or cycling through menu options out of your control. This happens with DualSense controllers because the sensors underneath the stick are either being triggered by something or are failing on a software or mechanical level. The former two you may be able to solve on your own with these tips, while the latter you cannot.

What NOT to do

A DualSense Edge sits on a table with its joystick module removed.

First off, do not attempt to open up your DualSense controller. Even if you do so as carefully as possible, opening it up will void your warranty, meaning that if none of the other fixes here work, you won’t even be able to return it for a new one. There’s also no reason to get inside unless the problem is mechanical, in which case you wouldn’t have the parts to fix it anyway, so set your screwdriver aside for now.

Also, we’ll mention it again when we get to the cleaning section, but make sure to clean your controller properly. By that we mean don’t saturate it with water, or get it wet at all really. This is an electronic device, after all, and you can easily end up doing more damage this way. Rubbing alcohol in small quantities, properly applied, is more than enough.

Finally, and this is a good rule to follow no matter what, be kind to your controller. We all have moments of gamer rage sometimes but never take it out on your controller. One bad toss or drop can permanently damage the interior or exterior. Even being too rough with the sticks can cause issues to crop up faster.

Reset your DualSense

Let’s start out with the easier fixes to hopefully solve the joystick drift issue quickly and easily. Resetting your DualSense isn’t done by turning it off and on; there is actually a hidden reset button that will completely refresh your controller. Look on the back of your DualSense for a small hole where the reset button is hidden. You will need something like a paperclip to gently insert and hold down the button for five seconds. After it has restarted, wire your controller back into the PS5 and see if the drift is still present.

Reset your Bluetooth

The DualSense settings menu on PS5.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If resetting the controller doesn’t work, you can try cycling the Bluetooth on and off. This is less likely to be the cause of drift but is still worth a try just in case there is some interference. To turn off your Bluetooth, go into Settings > Accessories > Controllers > Communication Method and then hit Turn Off Bluetooth. Once the connection is disabled, wait a few moments and then turn it back on and test it out.

Update your PS5 and controller

Consoles are updated most frequently close to launch to fix issues and bugs just like this, so it is possible your controller or console may have missed one that will remove the drift. Your controller will prompt you to update if you hardwire it into your PS5. To make sure your PS5 itself is on the current patch, go into Settings > System > System Software Update and Settings > Update System Software and choose Update Using Internet. Your console will then check to see if it has the latest update and apply it if it does not. If you do get an update, wait for it to install, reboot your console, and see if the drift is gone.

Clean your joysticks

A person plays Crash Bandicoot using a PS5 DualSense controller.

Cleaning your controller regularly should be a normal part of your routine to make sure it stays functional, but considering how new the system is you may not have done so yet. It is all too easy for dust, grime, and oils from our hands to seep in and cause havoc inside our controllers in a short amount of time. If the wrong-sized piece of debris ends up in the wrong place under your thumbstick, it can easily cause it to drift.

The best, and safest, way to clean your controller is with a cotton swab, some rubbing alcohol, and compressed air. Before you get into cleaning it, just make sure your DualSense is turned off. Give it a once over with the compressed air, spraying in short bursts as your spin the thumbstick in a full circle. Next, use your cotton swab and just a dab of alcohol and run it along the edges of your analog stick’s base. Let it dry off for a few minutes and then give it a shot.

Adjust the dead zone

This isn’t so much a complete solution as it is a minor, and conditional, remedy. Some games allow you to set what is called a “dead zone” in the controller settings. This is the range of motion you can move the stick where the game won’t register any movement. If the drift is not too extreme, you could fix it in specific games by adjusting the dead zone so that the amount the controller is naturally drifting isn’t picked up by the game. The downside is that this is going to go on a case-by-case basis depending on the game. Not all games offer it, and unfortunately, you can’t adjust the dead zone on the PS5 itself to apply to all games.

Return it or send it in for repairs

A Dualsense Controller laying on a wooden table.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If all else fails, you’re left with no choice but to either replace or repair your DualSense controller. Depending on the retailer you purchased your controller or console from, or if you did or did not purchase any kind of warranty, your best option is to try and get a replacement from that same retailer. If all is in order, you should be able to bring it in and get a replacement on the spot.

If you can’t get a replacement from the retailer, or you purchased it directly from Sony, then you will need to go to the official PlayStation Fix and Replace site. Sony offers a one-year warranty on the DualSense, but it does have a few drawbacks. After confirming that you have attempted to resolve the issue with the troubleshooting steps they provide, which we covered in this guide as well, you will need to pay to box and ship your faulty controller to them. Once they receive it, Sony estimates a 7- to 10-business-day timeframe for them to repair it, and then there’s the wait for it to actually get back to you as well. All in all, you could be without your DualSense for over two weeks, but it will be repaired and is cheaper than buying a replacement yourself.

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Jesse Lennox
Jesse Lennox loves writing, games, and complaining about not having time to write and play games. He knows the names of more…
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