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How to use your Xbox or PlayStation controller on your PC

There's no need to go out and buy a separate controller for gaming on your computer. Here's how you can use the controller that comes with your Xbox 360, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4.

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Using a mouse and keyboard is usually the most optimal solution for playing PC games, but sometimes a controller can make for an even more enjoyable experience. There are numerous controllers out there from a variety of different companies, but there is no need to purchase one if you already own one of the current game consoles. Here's how you can set up your Xbox 360, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4 controller to be used on your PC.

Xbox 360

Microsoft made it extremely easy to use the Xbox controllers for PC gaming. Head over to the company's website, select the operating system you are running, download the drivers, and install them. Then you can simply connect your controller to your PC and begin playing your favorite controller-friendly game.

The drivers officially support both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, although the latter should also work for Windows 8.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

To check which operating system you are running, open the Control Panel, select System and Security, and click on System. This information can also be viewed by right-clicking on My Computer and selecting Properties in the popup menu.

Xbox One

Microsoft's Larry Hryb, also known online as Major Nelson, last week released device drivers that make the Xbox One controller compatible with Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers. He noted that the drivers will come bundled with a future Windows software update, however they can be manually installed now.

To download the drivers, visit Major Nelson's website and choose the one that corresponds with your system -- x86 is for 32-bit systems, while x64 is for 64-bit systems. After you install the drivers and agree to Microsoft's Licensing Agreement, all you need to do is connect the controller using a microUSB cable and start gaming.

PlayStation 4

It's a little more difficult to use the PlayStation controllers with your PC. With the help of a program called DS4Tool, you are actually going to trick the computer into thinking that the PS4 controller is really one for an Xbox 360. The first thing you must do is download and install the Xbox 360 drivers from Microsoft. You will also need Microsoft .NET 4.0, Visual C 2010 Runtime, and the latest DirectX Runtime on your computer, in addition to having administrator rights.

Download the latest version of DS4Tool (at the time of writing that is version 1.2.2) and unzip it to your desktop. Open the folder titled "Virtual Bus Driver" and double-click the ScpDriver application to install it. If the program was installed properly, Bus Device and Bus Driver will be listed under the install summary.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Make sure to close any open games or software such as Steam before you connect the PS4 controller to your PC using a microUSB cable. Once the controller has been connected, open the ScpServer application located in the main DS4Tool folder. The program should automatically detect the controller, but if it doesn't there are two things you can do: click the Stop button, followed by the Start button to restart detection; or ensure the Xbox 360 drivers and ScpDrivers were installed properly.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

The PS4 controller can also be used wirelessly if your computer has Bluetooth or if you purchased an adapter, which must be compatible with Bluetooth 2.1 or higher. The first thing you have to do is enable the controller's Bluetooth pairing mode. This can be done by holding both the Share and PlayStation buttons on the controller until the LED light begins flashing.

Open the Control Panel on your computer and, under Hardware and Sound, choose to add a new device. Select the game controller, and open the ScpServer application after pairing is complete. The software should automatically detect the controller.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

If you would like to customize the light bar color, adjust the controller's rumble, create custom controls, or enable the touchpad, which can be used to move the mouse cursor, click on the Options menu inside of the DS4Tool.