If there are two words that strike fear into the heart of every player, it’s “stick drift.” This dreaded analog stick hardware failure has been the bane of many controllers, particularly the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons, and is unfortunately also a rare but confirmed issue for the Steam Deck. Stick drift occurs when you’re not touching the analog stick at all, but it still transmits “motion” to the game.
But since Valve has made the Deck so user-mod friendly, there is a workaround. A third party parts provider called GuliKit is selling inexpensive hall effect analog sticks for the Steam Deck. The Hall effect design replaces the parts that physically contact each other with a series of magnets and sensors, making them much more durable and oh yeah! — immune to stick drift problem.
If you have a few bucks, the right tools, and a bit of courage, you can replace Steam Deck’s default analog sticks with these improved ones. PCWorld Contributor Keith May shows us how in our latest YouTube video.
Before you begin, you’ll need some basic tools. Get a spudger, a series of guitar picks, or some other means to gently pry the snare apart; a pocket knife will do in a pinch, but it’s not ideal. You’ll also want a Phillips head screwdriver (cross, not flat) and a pair of pliers. (By the way, you can get all of this in an iFixit toolkit, one of our favorite gifts for nerds.) A soldering iron is optional for advanced electronics users. After removing the eight screws on the case back, you can pry it open with your spudger, removing the case back; you don’t need to remove the top.
With the rear interior of the Steam Deck exposed, you should be able to see the right and left stick modules immediately, held in place by three screws each. Use your pliers to pry up the protective flap on the ribbon cable, then remove the screws. With those four contact points removed, the analog stick should come out with a bit of pressure from the bottom (the front of the steam deck). Repeat the process with the other stick.
With the modules removed, you need to remove the analog sticks from the old modules and place them on the new ones. The sticks are connected to the modules with a small red wire that is soldered in place. This cable is solely for sensing when your thumbs are resting on the stick.
If you don’t mind this feature, you can cut or pull the cable and the sticks will work just fine without that ability. If you wish to retain that feature, use your soldering iron to heat the solder that is in place on the old module and gently remove the exposed copper wire from the solder. Re-solder the wire in the same place on the replacement GuliKit module.
Once you have attached the old plastic analog sticks to the circuit board of the new module, you are ready to put the Steam Deck back together. Simply snap the completed sticks back into their places in the shell (right to right, left to left, note the “R” and “L” printed on the back). Replace the three screws, then reconnect the ribbon cable and lower the black protective cover. (Be careful with this step, it’s tricky and the most likely problem if you run into problems at the end of the process.) Repeat on the other side.
Reattach the rear panel to the steam rig bodywork and reattach all eight bodywork screws, and you’re ready to go! Your Steam Deck now has improved drone controller-style hall-effect joysticks, and is 100 percent stick-drift proof. For more nerdy guides on how to improve your gaming life, be sure to subscribe to PCWorld on YouTube!