How to Install Windows on the Steam Deck

Windows 11 and Windows 10 can both run on the Steam Deck with official Vale drivers. However, installing Windows on the Steam Deck requires a few steps. In this guide, we’ll explain how to install Windows on the Steam Deck, whether you want to install it to the internal solid-state drive (SSD) or use a microSD card.

Boot from a MicroSD Card or USB Drive

Before diving into the installation process, it’s recommended to boot from a microSD card or USB drive to try out Windows without erasing any data on your Steam Deck. This process is completely reversible.

To do this, you’ll need a UHS-1 microSD card or a USB 3.0 drive with at least 32GB of storage. The installation process is the same for both Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Step 1: Download the Windows 10 media creation tool from Microsoft’s website. If you prefer using Windows 11, download the Windows 11 creation tool.

Step 2: Download Rufus, a tool that allows you to create a bootable version of Windows on your microSD card or USB drive.

Step 3: Download the Windows drivers for Steam Deck from Valve and save them in a folder on a spare USB drive for later access.

Step 4: Open the Windows Media Creation Tool and select “Create installation media.” Choose the ISO file option and specify where you want to store it on your PC. Wait for the process to complete and make a note of the ISO file’s location.

Step 5: Plug in your microSD card or USB drive and open Rufus. Note that this process erases all data on your microSD card or USB drive. In Rufus, select your microSD card or USB drive under “Device.” Click on “Select” next to the “Boot selection” section and navigate to the Windows ISO file you created earlier.

Under the “Image option,” choose “Windows To Go” and select “MBR” under “Partition scheme.” You may rename the drive if you wish. Click “Ready” to start the flashing process.

Step 6: After the flashing process is complete, eject the microSD card and insert it into the Steam Deck. Turn off your Steam Deck completely, then power it on while holding down the Volume down button to enter the boot manager.

Step 7: Choose the microSD card as the boot option to boot into Windows. Please note that Windows will boot in portrait mode on the Steam Deck.

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Step 8: During the setup process, follow the normal Windows setup procedures, such as selecting your language, keyboard layout, etc. It’s helpful to have a keyboard and mouse, but you can also complete the setup using the touchscreen alone.

Step 9: Once you’re in Windows, go to Settings > System > Display and find the “Display orientation” option. Select “Landscape” to flip the screen to the proper orientation.

Step 10: Finally, plug in the USB drive containing the Windows drivers for Steam Deck. Connect it using a USB-C hub (not directly into the Steam Deck) and install the drivers.

That’s it! When you reboot your Steam Deck, it will return to SteamOS. However, you can always choose to boot into Windows through the boot manager if desired.

How to Install Windows on the Steam Deck’s SSD

If you want to install Windows exclusively on the Steam Deck’s SSD, you can do so. However, keep in mind that this process requires erasing all data on the SSD, including games, settings, and SteamOS itself. Currently, the Steam Deck doesn’t support native dual-booting, although Valve plans to introduce a dual-booting option with a future SteamOS 3 release.

If you’re only interested in experimenting with Windows and don’t want to go through the hassle of restoring SteamOS, the previous method of booting from a microSD card or USB drive is recommended.

Step 1: First, you need to create a Windows installation drive. You can refer to our guide on how to install Windows 11 for detailed instructions.

Download the Windows media creation tool and create an installer on a USB drive. Ensure that the USB drive has at least 16GB of storage. The tool will guide you through the necessary steps.

Step 2: Power down your Steam Deck completely and connect your USB drive using a USB hub. Although you can connect the drive directly, it’s advisable to use a USB-C hub to avoid any potential issues. Having a keyboard and mouse for installation is also recommended, and a USB-C hub will enable you to connect these peripherals.

Step 3: Power on the Steam Deck while holding the Volume down button to access the boot manager. Select your USB drive with the Windows installer to proceed.

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Step 4: Similar to the earlier method, Windows will boot in portrait mode. Choose the Windows version you want and click on “Install now.” It’s best to use a keyboard and mouse at this stage since the Steam Deck’s built-in keyboard and touchpad may not function during the installation process.

You’ll be prompted to activate Windows afterward. Enter your product key if you have one, or select “I don’t have a product key” to continue.

Step 5: On the next screen, select “Custom: install Windows only.” To install Windows, you’ll need to delete the existing partitions on the Steam Deck.

Important: Deleting the partitions will erase all data on your Steam Deck, including games, settings, and any saves or media not uploaded to Steam Cloud. While it’s possible to restore SteamOS later, you’ll have to reinstall your games and reconfigure your settings.

Step 6: Choose a partition to delete and click on “Delete.” It’s recommended to select the largest partition if there are multiple partitions. The 512GB model typically has eight partitions.

Step 7: Once you’ve deleted the partition, it should appear as “Unallocated space.” Select it and click “Next” to begin the Windows installation on the SSD.

Step 8: After a short period and an automatic reboot, you’ll boot into the normal Windows setup. Proceed as before, selecting your keyboard layout, language, and skipping the Wi-Fi setup.

Step 9: At this point, Windows is installed. Go to Settings > System > Display and switch the “Display Orientation” to “Landscape.”

Additionally, get a USB drive with the Windows drivers for Steam Deck and install them. As SteamOS has been removed, you’ll need to restore it if you want to switch back.

How to Recover SteamOS on the Steam Deck

If you’ve installed Windows on the Steam Deck’s SSD and wish to restore SteamOS, it’s possible by using a Steam Deck recovery image provided by Valve. However, keep in mind that this process requires a factory reset, erasing all data on your Steam Deck.

Step 1: Download the SteamOS recovery image from Valve.

Step 2: Download Rufus on a separate Windows PC and insert a USB drive. Use Rufus to write the SteamOS recovery image to the USB drive and then eject it from the PC.

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Step 3: Power down the Steam Deck completely and connect the USB drive using a USB-C hub. While powering on the Steam Deck, hold the Volume down button to access the boot manager. From there, select your USB drive (“EFI USB Device”).

Step 4: After a brief period, you’ll boot into the recovery environment. Several options are available, but it’s recommended to choose the “Re-image Steam Deck” option.

If you previously had Windows installed, you’ll need to factory reset the Steam Deck to restore SteamOS. Attempting other options may not preserve your games and could result in file system conflicts.

Troubleshooting Windows on the Steam Deck

Here are a few troubleshooting tips for running Windows on the Steam Deck:

  • Ensure that the partition you choose for installation is formatted as NTFS to ensure compatibility.
  • Some games may perform better on SteamOS than on Windows, especially when using workarounds. If you encounter performance issues with a game, consider reverting to SteamOS using the earlier steps.
  • To use the Steam Deck control pad with your games, you may need to launch them through Steam on Windows. Alternatively, you can customize and use the SWICD workaround for non-Steam games, though it requires additional steps.
  • Audio driver compatibility may be limited. It’s best to use Windows 11 with the latest updates to avoid audio issues.
  • For frequent Windows use on the Steam Deck, switching to a portable SSD instead of a microSD card is highly recommended.

If you’re still unsure about installing Windows on the Steam Deck, you might want to consider the Asus ROG Ally as an alternative. It offers native Windows 11 support and faster performance.

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