How to Use Desktop Mode on the Steam Deck: Unlocking a PC-Like Experience

When you start using your Steam Deck, it’s initially set to gaming mode to ensure a seamless mobile gaming experience. However, this mode has its limitations, lacking the extensive customization and in-depth settings found on a PC. That’s where the Desktop Mode comes in. It transforms your Steam Deck into a Linux desktop environment, perfect for utilizing a mouse and keyboard and expanding your options.

If you’re open to working in a Linux environment, switching to Desktop Mode can simplify Deck management and even enable games that Steam wouldn’t otherwise support. Here’s a step-by-step guide on using Desktop Mode on the Steam Deck to harness its full PC-like potential.

How to Use Desktop Mode in the Steam Deck

Step 1: Power on your Steam Deck and wait for it to boot up. Once ready, press and hold the Power button until a new menu appears.

The Steam Deck Power Button

Step 2: Select the “Switch to desktop” option from the menu.

Choose switch to desktop

Step 3: Congratulations! Your Steam Deck is now technically in Desktop Mode. However, it’ll be much easier to navigate if you connect a keyboard and mouse (the trackpad works, but it’s not optimal). For a better visual experience, consider connecting your Steam Deck to a laptop or monitor with a larger screen.

Blank desktop in Steam Deck

Step 4: Now that you’re in Desktop Mode, let’s explore what you can do. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the pre-installed apps that offer quick customization options. One popular app is the Discover Software Center (the blue bag icon). It features a wide range of emulators that allow you to play games not directly supported by Steam. Pick and install the emulators you’re interested in.

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The Discover app also lets you search for various other apps, including web browsers, specific games, and music players. It can even assist with setting up Xbox game compatibility.

Steam Deck Apps in desktop

Step 5: If you’re familiar with Linux, you’ll notice that the Deck operates as a read-only system, limiting the depth of changes you can make. However, you can still open the Terminal and run commands, as well as make specific modifications to the Deck’s files. This gives you some flexibility, such as using the “passwd” command to set a password and enable sudo commands. However, exercise caution and only attempt this if you have substantial experience in a Linux environment and know exactly what changes you want to make.

Step 6: In case you experiment a bit too much with the Linux features and encounter issues with your Deck’s functionality, don’t worry. There’s a recovery process available. Steam provides a guide on how to manage recovery, but you’ll need a USB stick and a compatible USB-C adapter or dock to initiate the recovery process.

Step 7: When you want to switch back to gaming mode, simply select the obvious “Return to game mode” icon located in the upper left corner. You can switch between both modes whenever you like, but it’s advisable to avoid doing so during gameplay.

If you’re still waiting for your Steam Deck to arrive, don’t worry; you’re not alone. However, when it does arrive, here’s why it might just replace your gaming laptop.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Refurbished Steam Decks are now available – find out how to purchase one.
  • Asus ROG Ally vs. Steam Deck: a detailed comparison.
  • Logitech’s gaming handheld runs on Android but resembles a Steam Deck.
  • How to personalize controls on the Steam Deck.
  • Unveiling the hidden Power Mode on a MacBook Pro.
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This guide was created on behalf of OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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