Contrary to what some people might tell you, you can definitely have a good gaming experience on your Mac. However, if you want to use a controller to game your options might be limited, as the market isn’t exactly flooding with decent, Mac-compatible controllers. But you’re in luck, because your tried-and-true Playstation 3 controller can be connected to your Mac via Bluetooth.
What You’ll Need
Mac with OS X Snow Leopard or newer
Before You Start
Please note that the connection method described in this article is for OS X Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion. From Mavericks and onwards the process is different and significantly easier, with fewer steps.
If your machine runs OS X Snow Leopard or newer, the drivers that support the PS3 controller are already included. Once you’ve connected your controller you’ll be able to play any games that support the use of a Bluetooth gamepad. Let’s get to it!
The first thing you need to do is make sure Bluetooth is disabled on any Macs or other devices nearby, as well as the one you’re connecting to. Otherwise, they’ll all try to connect to the controller at once.
Turn off Bluetooth by going into the Apple menu, select ‘System Preferences’, then ‘Bluetooth’, and finally ‘Disable Bluetooth’.
You should also reset your PS3 controller by putting the end of a paperclip into the small hole near the L2 button. You’ll especially want to do this if you’ve used it with your actual PS3 as the controller can only be connected to one device at a time and if it’s not ‘disconnected’ from the PS3 before you try to connect it to the Mac, you might run into problems.
Plug your controller into the Mac via the USB cable. Once connected, turn Bluetooth back on and press and hold the ‘PS’ button on your controller. After a few seconds, red lights should flash, and you can let go of the button and unplug the USB cable from both controller and computer.
Navigate into System Preferences -> Bluetooth again and click the little ‘+’ icon, which will open the Bluetooth Setup Assistant. In the window that appears, enter the numbers ‘0000’ as the access code requested. Then hit ‘Accept’ and exit the Bluetooth Setup Assistant.
Your regular Bluetooth window should now show ‘PLAYSTATION3 Controller’ as an item in the left-hand column. Select it, and then click ‘Add to Favourites’. After this you need to click the little gear icon at the bottom of the column and select ‘Update Services’.
As a final step, disable Bluetooth and enable it again after about five seconds. Check that your controller shows up as connected in your Bluetooth preferences and if it does, you’re good to go!
What if it Doesn’t Work?
There could be a few reasons why it’s not working for you. The first thing to do is to turn Bluetooth off and on again a few times, with the controller still plugged into the Mac, as it can sometimes take a moment for them to play nice.
You could also be having issues because you’re using a counterfeit or 3rd-party controller, as the USB chips in them have been known to not always be up to par. That is not to say they’ll never work, but they’re definitely less reliable.
It could also be because a nearby device still has Bluetooth enabled and is confusing your poor controller, not letting it connect to the Mac properly. Double-check everything! And if you run into any other problems, let us know in the comments.
You might need to boot up a gamepad-compatible game to confirm that it works, but after following these steps it should. If you launch Steam and hit the ‘PS’ button, it should pop into Big Picture straight away.
As a final note, as mentioned above this process is much smoother in OS X Mavericks and later, as you do not need to enter an access code or add the controller as a favourite. Mavericks and later also seems to be better in general at consistently and reliably accepting the controller’s connection. Happy gaming!