Joy-Con© Nintendo Life

If you're new to the world of Nintendo Switch, you may have found connecting wireless controllers such as the detachable Joy-Con or the official Pro Controller a bit of a faff. Pairing them in the first place is usually easy enough, but what do you do if they connect in the wrong order or the two Joy-Con you're using decide to pair with the console as separate pads?

Fear not - re-syncing all the controllers connected to the Switch is easy if you know how. In this Switch 101 guide we'll take you through the procedure for pairing (and re-pairing) Joy-Con and other controllers with your Nintendo Switch so that in future it'll be a super-quick process.

Note: While these instructions show the process for the standard Nintendo Switch model, the process is identical if you're pairing wireless controllers with a Switch Lite console. Obviously, the Switch Lite doesn't output to a TV screen, but the procedure for pairing controllers with a Switch Lite in 'Tabletop' mode is identical to a standard Nintendo Switch.

How do you pair Joy-Con controllers with a Nintendo Switch?

The simplest way of pairing Joy-Con with a standard Nintendo Switch is to simply slide them only to console itself - you'll have to do this if you're unboxing a Nintendo Switch for the first time. This automatically syncs the controllers with the base console, so if you detach the Joy-Con simply pressing any button to power them on (you'll know the Joy-Con is functioning because the lights on the side will begin cycling) should link them to the console they were just attached to. You can do this in any mode, including if the console is docked to the TV - just take care that you don't pull and drop the Switch console itself when detaching the Joy-Con while it's docked.

Pairing wireless controllers to Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite:

If you don't want to physically attach the Joy-Con to the console (maybe you're comfortable on the sofa, for example) that's no problem. Simply follow these steps with a previously paired controller or via the touchscreen:

1. From the main home screen, navigate to the fourth icon along the bottom ('Controllers') and select it.

The controller icon highlighted on the Home menu screen.
The controller icon highlighted on the Home menu screen.

2. Select the first option ('Change Grip/Order').

Selecting 'Change Grip/Order' will take you to this screen.
Selecting 'Change Grip/Order' will take you to this screen.

3. On the following screen you'll be asked to press 'L' and 'R' on the controller you want to pair - these are the buttons on the 'shoulders' of the controller (named after the side of the controller they are on - Left or Right). If you've never used the controller with the Switch before, locate a small black button on the top (it's 'embedded' in the black railing on every Joy-Con) and hold it for a few seconds. This will pair it with the Switch.

Remember, if you're using two Joy-Con as 'one' controller - whether you're using the Comfort Grip cradle or not - you'll need to hit the corresponding shoulder button on each Joy-Con for it to register as a 'single' controller.

The White and Yellow Joy-Con are paired as two 'halves' of a single controller (the Grip is not required for this).
The White and Yellow Joy-Con are paired as two 'halves' of a single controller (the Grip is not required for this).

If you want to use a single Joy-Con, hold the Joy-Con sideways and press the two smaller buttons 'embedded' in the rail that attaches it to the Switch console (these are named 'SL' and 'SR' and function as the standard 'L' and 'R' buttons do during gameplay with a single Joy-Con).

The 'SL' and 'SR' buttons, with the small pairing button on the right.
The 'SL' and 'SR' buttons, with the small pairing button on the right.

4. Pressing 'L' and 'R' (or 'SL' and 'SR') will register the controller with the console - you'll feel it rumble to confirm the link. Once the controllers are linked appropriately, press 'A' (or the button on the right of the diamond if you're using a single Joy-Con - either the 'right' D-button or 'X') and you're ready to go.

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5. If the controllers link incorrectly, simply tap 'B' (or the 'down' D-button/'A' on a single Joy-Con) to return to the previous screen and then hit 'Change Grip/Order' again to return and retry.

How do you reconnect controllers after waking your Switch from Sleep Mode?

If you're waking the Switch from Sleep Mode (by pressing the power button on the top left edge of the console), simply pressing any button on the controller should pair it with the console. The lights will cycle as it briefly looks for the console and a small rumble will confirm the connection.

How do you disconnect controllers from a Nintendo Switch?

To disconnect a Joy-Con or other controller from your Nintendo Switch, simply press the small black pairing button to turn it off. Pressing any button on the controller will reconnect it to the system.

What do the lights on the Joy-Con indicate?

The lights on the Joy-Con railing (and on the bottom edge of the Pro Controller) indicate which Player the controller(s) belong to. Player 1's controller(s) will show one light illuminated, for example, Player 2's will have two, and so on. It's not a battery indicator - low battery warnings will flash up on screen.

Do I have to use the little plastic railing attachments when playing with Joy-Con detached?

No, you don't. Those little extras included in the box might make things a more comfortable (and enable you to strap the Joy-Con to your wrist if you're prone to dropping them), but they absolutely are not required to play Switch with the Joy-Con detached.

How do I connect wired controllers to my Nintendo Switch?

Your console will have to be docked, but you can use one of the two USB ports on the left side of the dock, or the one located next to the power input and HDMI output ports under the flap in the back.

My Switch can't find any wireless controllers - what do I do?

Make sure that you haven't accidentally enabled Flight Mode in the menu. This is indicated by an aircraft icon in the top right of the Home Menu screen where there's normally a WiFi symbol. To change this attach the Joy-Con to the console, hold the Home button on the right Joy-Con until a shortcut menu appears and turn Flight Mode off.


That covers the basics of connecting Joy-Con and other controllers to your Switch console. If you have any questions, ask away in the comments and we'll do our best to answer. Have fun!