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How to fix Joy-Con drift on the Nintendo Switch

joy con drift fix
(Image credit: Nintendo)

If you're trying to fix Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift, then you've no doubt been in the annoying situation where your character wanders off to one side when they're meant to be stood still, or your cursor has started sliding off towards the edge of the screen unprompted. This is frustrating at the best of times, but if you're trying to get through a particularly tricky game section then fighting against your controls at the same time can be rage-inducing. Although this can often be a sign of a physical Joy-Con issue, there are other potential sources of the drift that are worth investigating before you go online and purchase a replacement controller.

If you feel that your game isn't doing what you're telling it to then it's likely you're experiencing the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift issue, but don't worry as help is at hand – follow our advice in this guide for some Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift fixes, which should hopefully get you up and running again. Of course, while the obvious solution is to just go and buy some new Joy-Cons, that's expensive and there are a couple of things you can try before resorting to anything quite so drastic. With that in mind, let's look at a few of the options you can try for a Joy-Con drift fix.

1. Update and recalibrate your Joy-Con in System Settings 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Heading into the settings to update and recalibrate your Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons should be your first port of call if you're experiencing Joy-Con drift. It's the simplest, least invasive option so it's always best to start here before you consider anything else. 

Here's how to do it: 

  1. Head into Systems Settings and click on Controllers and Sensors.
  2. Chose Update Controllers and hit A to start. 
  3. Once that's done, head down the menu for the Calibrate Control Sticks option.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

With the controllers up to date you're ready to start calibrating, which is the option underneath Updating. It'll let you click to choose a stick, and then see the input the Switch is receiving from it. 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If something does look off, then you can pick the calibrate option. This will ask you to move the stick in certain directions on cue and rotate it, to try and re-centre it. Hopefully ironing out any kinks it might have developed. 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If this recalibration routine doesn't fix things then there are other things you can do, but they enter into warranty invalidating territory, and can cost some money. So anything other than this is at your own risk. 

Use switch and contact cleaner to clean out your Joy-Cons

Joy-Cons switch and contact cleaner

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Just to reiterate - once you start pulling apart bits of your Switch there's a chance you could cause damage or make things worse, so you're doing this at your own risk if you proceed.

If calibrating your Switch doesn't fix your Joy-Con drift issue, then the next option is to try and clean the contacts without opening anything up. To do this you'll need professional switch and contact cleaner specifically designed for cleaning electronic components. Don't be tempted to try any old spray you have around the house - look specifically for the stuff made to clean electrical contacts.   

As well as the proper switch and contact cleaner you'll need a small tool, like a tiny screwdriver or tweezers. Push the affected Joy-Con stick back gently and, using the tool, lift up the tiny rubber skirt around the base so you can see under it. Squirt the tiniest amount of cleaner into the gap you've made, release the rubber skirt and gently massage the stick in all the directions it can go in. Always use the least amount of cleaner possible, as you'll need to leave the Joy-Con to dry afterwards so you don't want it swimming in the stuff. 

If you're lucky the cleaner will clear out any gunk and fluff from the contacts, and restore the Joy-Con to it's former, centred glory.  

Replace or repair the Joy-Con stick

This isn't an option we're really going to go into, because unless you have skill with electronics it's not an easy task. It is possible to crack open the Joy-Con and physically replace the affected stick, or even dismantle it and clean it directly, but as we said, it's definitely a pro move that we're just mentioning for information. If you're going to go down this route, make sure you do the proper research beforehand.

In former lives Leon's been a scientist, a musician and teacher, stints that included a shoe full of liquid nitrogen, a small tour of Germany and oh GOD so much marking.