Owning a console has its own set of problems. One of the most common problems that console owners will surely face is controller drift or analog stick drift, or thumbstick drift.
This issue causes the stick to move in one particular direction without even touching it. The problem is not limited to just the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controllers.
It occurs even in the latest generation of consoles, i.e., Xbox Series X | S, PlayStation 5, and even Nintendo Switch owners face this problem.
The problem can occur at any time in the controller’s life. You may face the issue as soon as you have bought the console, or your control may die before you face the problem.
It can occur randomly at a random time. Controller drift can single-handedly ruin the gaming experience. It is one of the most common issues related to controllers.
Luckily, it can be fixed by following a couple of workarounds that have worked for several people.
What Are The Causes Of Analog Stick Drift?
If you have ever faced ghostly input that caused you to miss the goal, or you failed to make the precision jump in a crucial moment, or fall from the edge of a cliff into a dark pit with no end, or you were one strike close-in killing the boss that is giving you a hard time, you are the culprit of controller drift.
Many users have reported that dirt and debris are the cause of analog drift. You can clean the dust, but debris can stick to the stick, which can cause these unwanted inputs while playing a game.
Another common reason for causing analog stick drift is due to using the controller vigorously. These things are fragile, and if you are a passionate gamer who would pour a lot of energy during your gaming session, it can also cause the stick to drift.
Several other reasons can cause the obnoxious issue, like a faulty controller or damaged potentiometer. It is nearly impossible to tell what is the cause behind the culprit.
General wear and tear can also cause the fragile potentiometer to stop working. A potentiometer is a small electrical component that registers the inputs from the thumbsticks and makes your character do precise actions in video games.
Though the problem is annoying and irritating, it does not mean you will have to buy a new controller. Keep following the guide, and you might be able to fix your issue by yourself.
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How To Confirm That Your Controller Is Drifting?
The earliest indications of a controller that drifts are your controller will act without touching the controller directly.
You feel like a 2nd player in a single-player game. Telling the cause behind the drift is nearly impossible but identifying the issue is relatively easier.
During playing a game, you are in a tough spot and need to make a precise jump over the cliff to reach the other platform, but instead, while you are running, your character suddenly decides to move in another direction.
So instead of making the jump, your character falls to the bottomless pit, for me, it was a roll into the bottomless pit of the Underground Temple in Demons Souls.
You can also confirm this by playing a racing, or a shooting game and keep your character in one place for some time. If it moves in a random direction without you doing anything, indicating you are a victim of analog stick drifting.
If your character does not start moving in a random direction, instead it starts to look in a particular direction, it means your other analog stick is victim to controller drift. How do thumbsticks generally work?
It happens due to two small wheels beneath the analog sticks called a potentiometer. We can make the character move and look at any angle is due to these potentiometers.
These electric components are used for varying the amount of current generated by the user using the thumbsticks.
It is a very long discussion of how a potentiometer works. We use these little guys to achieve precision in our games. Drift happens one way or another.
Even the latest gen consoles controllers are not safe from this issue. The reason is that the potentiometers used in these controllers are manufactured by the same company.
Fix Stick Drift In Few Minutes:
We will be exploring several potential fixes that you can follow to fix the issue in no time. Our focus is to attempt to resolve the drift in controllers of Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Series X | S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.
If you are facing controller drift on a different controller like the Razer controller for PC, or you are using Logitech’s controller for gaming, you can follow the guide for any controller, whether it is Xbox or PlayStation for your controller.
Without any further ado, let us get to the fixes.
How To Fix Stick Drift On Xbox Controllers?
If you try to search for how to fix controller drift on your browser, Google will show you at least 10 results from multiple websites and even videos instructing how to fix the issues.
Judging from a large number of articles represents how common and widespread this issue is. Feel free to skip this part if you are using a Dualshock controller or trying to fix the Joy-Con drift problem.
If your Xbox’s controller is in warranty, there are some methods which you should not attempt to fix the issue as they may void the warranty of your controller. There are manufacturer-approved methods that you can try which will not void your controller’s warranty.
You can download and install a program named “Game Controller Tester” on your PC. The software is available to download from the Microsoft Store. Connect your controller with your PC and run the program.
It will point out the exact issue with your controller.
Method 1 – By cleaning the thumbsticks
This method is the most common and easiest method that you can follow to fix the irritating controller drift. By following this method, you will not void your controller’s warranty if it is new.
- Take your Xbox controller, which is the cause behind controller drift.
- Take a cotton swab and dip the tip with isopropyl alcohol.
- Make sure that the tip of the swab is soaked with alcohol.
- Press the corners of the thumbsticks with the soaked tip.
- Now turn the analog stick in different directions and thoroughly clean the thumbsticks.
- Repeat step – 2 and clean the thumbsticks at least three times.
Connect the controller with your PC and run the “Game Controller Tester” shortcut from the desktop. Check if the analog sticks perfectly align with the white crosshair on the screen or play any game to check if cleaning the thumbsticks fixes the issue or not.
Note: After you remove plastic from your controller, make sure to tap the motors of your controller so that they would not fall and break the connection from the controller’s PCB.
Method 2 – Checking for loose or worn out thumbpads
If your controller is relatively older, chances are due to worn-out thumbpads, you are facing controller drift. If such is the case, you can follow the steps down below to replace the worn-out thumbpads:
- Take a pry tool and T8/T9 tamper-proof Torx driver to disassemble your Xbox controller.
- Check if the thumbsticks are positioned correctly.
- Try rotating them into different directions to check if they are loose.
- If they are loose, remove the thumbstick and replace it with new thumbsticks.
- Reassemble the controller to check if the issue is resolved or not.
Method 3 – Replace thumbstick wipers
- Disassemble your Xbox controller by using a pry tool and T8/T9 tamper-proof Torx driver.
- Pry the turquoise-colored plastic around the thumbstick mechanism using a flat blade screwdriver (be extra cautious while removing the plastic, if you break either plastic cap, you will have to replace the entire analog stick module)
- Use tweezers to remove the small black part called the wiper behind the plastic and replace it with new wipers. You can also use a wiper from other controllers.
- Re-assemble your Xbox controller and test it in games if the drift is fixed or not.
Method 4 – Replacing the analog stick module
Now, if nothing has worked for you so far, replacing the analog stick is your best bet. This method requires a lot of care and focus. If you think replacing the analog stick will be a problem for you, ask for any friend or professional to help you.
You will need the following before you can follow this step:
- T9, T10 safety Torx drivers.
- T7 Torx.
- Soldering tool
- De-soldering tool
- New analog stick module
Here is how you can replace the analog stick module:
- Disassemble your Xbox controller using a pry tool and T9/T10 Torx driver.
- Use the de-soldering tool to remove the analog stick that you wish to replace.
- Place the new module onto the circuit board using a solder and soldering tool, attach the new module.
- Assemble the controller back again and test it via the “Game Controller Tester” or by playing a game.
How To Fix Stick Drift On PlayStation 4 Controllers?
Just like an Xbox controller, the Dualshock 4 controllers are not safe from analog drift. You will face this issue early or later, depends how good your luck is.
I have mentioned many methods that you can follow to fix the drift problem with your Dualshock controller.
Method 1 – Reset your PlayStation 4 controller
Some people have reported that resetting the Dualshock 4 controllers has resolved the drift problem with their controller. Sounds really unconvincing but is worth a try. Here is how you can reset your Playstation 4 controller:
- Turn off your PS4 and unplug Dualshock 4 from your console.
- There will be a small reset button on the back of the controller, it will be located near the L2 shoulder button.
- Grab a small pointy tool and insert it into the hole to press the little button inside. Hold the button for around 5 seconds.
- Now, turn on your PS4, and using a USB cable and connect your controller with your PS4.
- After connecting, press the PS button on the middle of the controller.
- Check the light behind the controller. If the light turns blue, the controller is successfully paired with the console.
- Try running any game to check if it resolves the drift issue or not.
Related reading: How To Sync A PS4 Controller – In 60 Seconds!
Method 2 – Clean your PlayStation 4 controller’s thumbsticks:
If resetting your PlayStation 4’s controller did not help, the second easiest workaround that can potentially fix the issue is to clean the thumbsticks thoroughly. To do that:
- Take a cotton swab and soak the tips with isopropyl alcohol.
- Make sure that the tip is completely soaked with alcohol.
- Press the corners of the thumbsticks with the soaked tip.
- Now turn the analog stick in different directions and thoroughly clean the thumbsticks.
- Repeat step – 2 till step – 4 and clean the thumbsticks at least three times.
- Try using the controller in a game to check if the controller is still facing analog drift or not.
Try using the controller in a game to check if the controller is still facing analog drift or not.
If your controller is new, you might be able to fix the drifting after just by cleaning. If not, keep following the article for more fixes.
Method 3 – Get your controller repaired or fixed by Sony
You can officially get your Sony products fixed by the company itself, unlike Microsoft, if your controller is new and under warranty.
If you cannot disassemble the controller or simply do not have enough time to spare, send it to Sony, and they will repair or fix it for you.
If you are interested in getting your controller repaired or replaced by Sony, do the following:
- Head over to this website from your browser on your computer or laptop:
- Follow the on-screen instructions to check if you are eligible for a free repair or replacement of your Dualshock 4 controller.
Method 4 – Clean your PS4 controller thoroughly by disassembling the controller
Dirt and debris are one of the most common causes behind a controller’s drift. The same could be the case with your controller. Here is how you can clean your PS4 controller thoroughly by disassembling it:
- Use a T8 or T9 Torx screwdriver to remove the outer plastic from the controller.
- Make sure to remove the plastic carefully, as applying too much pressure may break the connection between the controller and the motherboard.
- Carefully remove the back plastic after removing the screws. Carefully remove the small connection on the top right side of the motherboard to disconnect it from the rest of the controller.
- Take out the top cover of the controller.
- Remove the thumbpads and deep clean the analog stick module with a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water.
- Carefully pry the turquoise-colored plastic and clean the inside of the thumbstick module with the isopropyl alcohol and water mixture.
- Use a WD-40 and spray it inside the analog stick module.
- Assemble the controller back and test it out to check if the drift is still there or not.
Method 5 – Replace the analog stick module with a new module
If, after following the workarounds that I have mentioned in the article, you are still facing analog stick drift, there is one potential fix that you can still try but at your own risk.
The method involves de-soldering the old analog stick module and replacing it with a new module.
Here is how you can do that:
- With extreme caution, remove the plastic from the controller using a T8 or T9 Torx screwdriver.
- Unplug the battery with caution.
- Unplug the battery plate on the motherboard and remove it.
- Remove any other connection from the controller’s motherboard.
- Using a desoldering tool, remove the analog stick module.
- Attach a new module by using a solder and soldering tool.
- Assemble the controller back and test it for drift.
If you are still somehow getting the controller drift, you might have to get a new controller.
How To Fix Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Drift?
Out of all controllers, people are reporting that the thumbstick drift on Nintendo Switch is way higher. These reports have been increasing as the console is getting older.
After a series of complaints and articles by publishers highlighting the issue has caused the company to offer free repairs for users Joy-Con drift issues even if the controller is out of warranty.
Despite a change in the company repair policies, the users are not happy about the controller’s frequent drift issues. Even the pro-controllers are not safe and tend to become a victim of drifting at the same time as normal Joy-Con drift.
If you are one of the users who are caught in the Joy-Con drifting case, I do have some issues for you, though I cannot guarantee that they will surely fix the drift problem.
Anyways keep reading if you want to try the fixes yourself instead of sending the controllers to Nintendo.
Related reading: Is the Nintendo Switch worth it?
Method 1 – Recalibrate the Joy-Con
To rule out the possibility of a software bug, try recalibrating the Joy-Con by following the steps mentioned down below:
- Start Switch and head over to the Home menu. From the menu, select “System Settings”.
- On the left, scroll down, find and select “Controllers and Sensors”.
- Select “Calibrate Control Sticks”.
- Check both analog sticks by following on-screen instructions. Verify that the controller’s stick is working as intended.
- Complete calibration. If it is not reflected immediately after testing the control sticks, do:
- Set the console in sleep mode. Press the power button to wake up the console.
- Reset the Joy-Con by pressing the “SYNC” button once, and then press any button to turn it back on.
Method 2 – Cleaning the Joy-Con’s joystick
It is highly likely that after calibrating or re-calibrating the Joy-Con’s thumbsticks, you will still experience the controller drift during games.
The other method which may or may not work that does not require disassembling the Joy-Con controllers is by cleaning.
- Disconnect the Joy-Con controllers from Switch.
- Take a cotton swab and soak the cotton tip with isopropyl alcohol and water mixture.
- Clean the analog stick thoroughly and from the edges by pressing the soaked tip firmly and with a little pressure.
- Move around the stick and clean any residue.
- Repeat step-3 and step-4 at least three times.
- Connect the controllers back to the console and test if the drifting is fixed or does it still persists.
The success of eliminating drifting varies from person to person. It may fix the issue for you, or it may be just a waste of time. It is still worth a shot as it takes a few minutes to perform.
Method 3 – Get Nintendo to fix the Joy-Cons for you
I have mentioned before that due to a lot of complaints and even lawsuits, Nintendo is willing to fix your Joy-Con for free. It does not matter if they are new or out of warranty for a long time. Though sending your faulty Joy-Con controller
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the factories are currently in lockdown, and it will take a lot of time to get your Joy-Con fixed if you are willing to wait:
- Head over to this website from your browser on a PC, or a laptop, or your mobile phone:
- Fill out the necessary details on the page and press the “Submit Help Ticket.”
Method 4 – Replace the faulty Joy-Con analog stick by yourself
If you are a technical guy and know your way around hardware, you can replace the faulty Joy-Con analog stick module by yourself. Here is how you can do that:
- Purchase a left and right Joy-Con replacement kit containing all of the necessary equipment or get the following:
- Tri-point Y00 screwdriver.
- A pry tool.
- New Joy-Con replacement analog module.
- Open the screws of the controller using a Y00 screwdriver and using a pry tool. Be extra careful as you try to disassemble the controller.
- Use a spudger and pry the battery connector gently from its socket.
- Remove the battery from the controller, do not use force to take out the battery as it may damage the battery.
- Remove the five 3.5mm Phillips screws from the mid cover, take out the midframe gently as it has a wire that connects the ZL button on the midframe with the motherboard.
- Use tweezers or a spudger to flip the ZIF connector lock in the opposite direction of the cable.
- Carefully take out the wire by using tweezers.
- Flip the minus button ZIF connector and remove the cable from the socket over the back of the joystick.
- Remove the 3.5mm Phillips screws from the analog module and remove the faulty module.
- Attach the module back and reconnect the wires back with the help of tweezers.
Attach the Joy-Con back to the console to test if you are still facing the drift issue.
How To Fix The PS5 Controller Stick Drift?
It hasn’t been long since Sony released the PlayStation 5, and yet people have already started to complain about experiencing controller drift on their DualSense controllers.
In a very recent article, an American e-commerce company iFixit has released a detailed article about PlayStation 5 controller. To many people’s surprise, it was built to last for a couple of hundred hours.
Now that is a debate for another time. If you have recently got yourself a PlayStation 5 and already facing the drift issue, do not worry, I have got your back. You might fix the problem before getting back to Sony for repairs.
Method 1 – Reset your DualSense controller
The PlayStation 5 is an impressive piece of hardware in all ways, including its DualSense controller. The hardware and software are extremely complex and as advanced as the tech can get. Sometimes a bug and glitch can cause issues.
It is also possible that due to some bug, you are facing the PS5 controller’s drift. It might be the fix that can resolve the issue without trying any other circumventions from this list. If you are not familiar with how you can reset the PS5 controller, please follow the steps down below:
- Turn off your PlayStation 5 console.
- Take the controller and on the backside, find a small reset button.
- Take a small pin and push the button inside the little hole. Hold the button for at least 4-5 seconds.
- Turn on your console and attach the controller with the USB cable that came with the PlayStation 5, and press the PS button on the middle of the controller.
- Go to the “Settings” of your PS5 and scroll down and select “Accessories.”
- Select “General” and then select “Bluetooth Accessories.”
If you do not have a cable with you, then:
- Press the PS and Share buttons together for a couple of seconds.
- Your console will detect the controller. If you have another controller, connect it with your PS5 console and register the “Wireless Controller” appearing under the “Accessories found” section.
Method 2 – Clean the DualSense thumbsticks
The most common method people try when they face controller drift is by cleaning the sticks. You can clean the thumbsticks by:
- Take a cotton bud and soak it with a mixture of isopropyl and water mixture.
- Rub with some pressure and move it to the edges of the stick.
- Move the thumbstick in different directions and clean any dirt or debris.
- Clean the sticks at least three times and make sure that the cotton is completely soaked with the alcohol and water mixture.
- Run any game on your PS5 and test if you are facing the DualSense drift.
Method 3 – Check if your console is up-to-date
The PlayStation 5 is a very recently manufactured machine. The system software can have multiple bugs, and one of them could be causing your console to act up, and as a result, you are facing the analog stick drift.
You can check for PS5 system updates by:
- Go to “Settings” and select “System”.
- Select “System Software” and then select “System Software Update and Settings.”
- Lastly, select the “Update System Software.”
- The console will check for pending updates.
- Download and install them for your console.
You can also toggle the “Download Update Files Automatically” and “Install Update Files Automatically” buttons on.
Method 4 – Send your controller to Sony for repair
If you have tried the method listed above and are still facing the issue nonetheless, and you do not want to rip open your controller to attempt to fix the potentiometer as it may void the warranty, you can contact Sony for repairs and will most likely get a new one or the existing one repaired.
Also, before contacting Sony, make sure you have followed the steps mentioned in this section because if you decide to give Sony a call, their representative will most likely ask you for these details.
Follow the steps down below:s
- I Head over to this website from your browser on your computer or laptop:
- Follow the on-screen instructions to check if you are eligible for a free repair or replacement of your DualSense 5 controller.
- You can also call “(800)345-7669” and follow the instructions to let the representative about your issue.
Note: Take note that if you decide to send your controller to Sony due to the pandemic, your controller may take weeks or months to repair.
Bonus tip: Adjust the Input Threshold on Your Dualsense Controller (Black Ops: Cold War)
If you have been facing a light controller drift on your DualSense controller, there is one way that you can completely fix the issue without doing anything physically. This fix only works for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War or a game that has the option to adjust.
Adjusting the Input threshold means if the game received the input from the PS5 controller below the set threshold, the game will ignore the input.
It means if you have light drift, you can increase the value of the minimum input threshold in the settings of games having this option to stop facing the issue permanently. Here is how you can adjust
- Open the game with adjustable input threshold settings. I am using a screenshot of the Black Ops Cold War.
- Head over to the Settings and go to the Controller settings.
- Find the “Left Stick Min Input Threshold” or the “Right Stick Min Input Threshold” depending on the stick which is causing the issue.
- Adjust the values for the left or right analog stick that is causing the issue.
- Test different values, and when the game will stop registering the input from your controller due to the drift problem, stop adjusting the minimum threshold values.
How To Prevent It From Happening!
Controller drift is an issue that is related to the hardware side of the controller. Hardware tends to degrade over time, and it is something you and I cannot prevent from happening. The same goes for the controller drift issue.
What we can do is we can delay it from happening. It will happen to one controller or another one way or another unless you barely touch your controller or it dies just by other hardware failures.
There are a few tips that you can follow to keep your controller in top-notch condition:
Occasionally clean your analog sticks: Try cleaning your analog sticks once in a while by using a cotton bud and a mixture of water and isopropyl alcohol.
Do not give a chance to the dirt and debris to make their way inside the potentiometer or thumbpads to prevent them or making the joystick stuck in one location.
Do not throw or put your controller forcefully: It is easier to get triggered and tilted in online games. Make sure not to take out your anger on your controller.
Do not use the joysticks vigorously: Some people have hard hands, and they tend to use some extra force on the joystick. That puts extra pressure on the potentiometer and may cause it to malfunction way earlier than your expectations.
My Final Verdict:
Owning a console may sound like an easy task than building a gaming PC by assembling individual parts yourself.
Getting a decent gaming PC is a pain and expensive. Getting the console is not. You pay only once, and the next thing you need is games to play.
However, the console owners have their own sets of problems like the obnoxious control drift, which is something unpreventable. It can occur sooner or later but will occur during the lifespan of the controller.
Many reasons can cause controller drift. If you are one of these people, fortunately, with this article, you can resolve the drift issue in no time.
I have gathered some of the workarounds that people have followed and fixed the drift in their controllers. With the help of this article, you can potentially fix the issue in a couple of minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1: How do I get rid of controller drift?
There are multiple ways that you can try to fix the irritating controller drift issue. The quickest way that you can try, if your controller is relatively new, is by cleaning the analog stick with a cotton swab soaked with isopropyl alcohol and water mixture.
Question 2: What causes drift in a controller?
One of the most commonly reported causes behind the controller drift is dust and debris making their way under the stick and causing the joystick to get stuck in one location.
Sometimes, due to a soft drink spill, the residue can cause the thumbstick to move in one direction. It is nearly impossible to tell the exact reason that causes drift in controllers.
Question 3: How do I fix my controller drift without opening it?
You can try cleaning the joysticks using a cotton swab soaked with alcohol (isopropyl) and a water mixture. Thoroughly press the swab against the edges of the thumbstick and move it around the boundary.
Then move the analog stick in multiple directions and clean the analog sticks at least three times. Make sure the cotton sticks are fully soaked with alcohol.
Question 4: Can you fix Joy-Con drift?
Yes, you can fix the drift in Joy-Con by cleaning the sticks by using an alcohol and water mixture soaked on a cotton swab.
Nintendo also offers free repairs for Joy-Con controllers for free, even if they are out of warranty. You can also replace the Joy-Con joystick by purchasing the joystick module online.
Question 5: How do I stop my controller from drift switching?
You cannot stop the controller from drifting. However, you can delay it from drifting. If you take enough care of your controller by cleaning the thumbsticks with the alcohol and water mixture or using the sticks gently while playing video games, your controller should last long.
Question 6: Does Nintendo fix controller drift?
Despite facing lawsuits, users have still reported the drifting issues in their normal and Pro joy-con controllers.
In the future, the company might fix the obnoxious issue by replacing the potentiometer with a new component. As of now, the companies have no answer for drift.
Question 7: Does the Pro controller drift?
Multiple users have reported that have faced the controller drift issue even after getting the pro controllers. These controllers use the same potentiometers in their normal or pro controllers. If you use the pro controller carefully, chances are you may still face the drift at any random time.
Question 8: What causes PS4 controller drift?
The common reasons behind the PS4 controller drift are dirt and other nasties getting stuck to the thumbpad and making the joystick stuck in one particular direction. Other issues include worn-out thumbpads, faulty hardware, and vigorous use of thumbsticks.
Question 9: How long do PS4 controllers last?
It highly depends on how much time do you spend with your PS4 every day. A rough usage can make the control last for one or one and a half years.
If you do not play games on your PS4 often, you can extend the life span to even three or more years.
Question 10: What causes PS5 controller drift?
According to the latest iFixit PS5 controller tear down, it is given a lifespan of almost 417 hours. As per the report due to using the same and old parts in building the controller, like potentiometers, are the main cause behind the PS5 controller drift.
Some users have also reported that software bugs also caused their PS5 controllers to misbehave.