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How to Install Windows on Steam Deck

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  • Posted on 18th Aug, 2022 01:36 AM
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You can install Windows on a Steam Deck and replace Steam OS, or run it on a micro SD card and use both operating systems when you need them.

What to Know

  • Insert bootable Windows USB drive/micro SD card > hold volume down and power button > select removable drive.
  • Alternatively, create a Windows installation USB drive.
  • Then, on Steam Deck: hold volume down and power, select EFI USB drive, and follow the on-screen prompts.

This article explains how to install Windows on your Steam Deck, including how to run Windows from a micro SD card and how to replace SteamOS.  

How to Get Steam Deck to Run Windows

The Steam Deck comes with a modified version of Arch Linux called SteamOS, but the hardware is essentially just a handheld PC, so you are free to replace the existing OS with Windows or install Windows on an SD card or USB drive.

If you choose to replace SteamOS with Windows, you can switch back with Valve’s SteamOS recovery image. If you install Windows on a USB drive or SD card, you can switch between the operating systems freely each time you boot up your Steam Deck.

If you’re installing Windows 11, TPM needs to be enabled in the BIOS. If you have trouble, make sure your Steam Deck is fully updated, because it didn’t originally come with TPM support.

How to Dual Boot Windows and SteamOS on Steam Deck

You can’t dual boot Windows and SteamOS on the built-in Steam Deck storage, but you can if you install Windows on a USB drive or a micro SD card. If you will only need Windows when your Steam Deck is stationary at home, preferably plugged into a powered dock, then you can use an external USB-C drive. If you want access to windows on the go, then an SD card is the most convenient option.

Here’s how to boot Windows from an SD card on a Steam Deck:

  1. Create a bootable Windows USB drive or micro SD card.

  2. Connect the bootable USB drive to your Steam Deck, or insert the bootable SD card.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  3. Make sure the Steam Deck is turned off.

  4. Hold volume down and press the power button.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  5. Select the USB drive or SD card.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  6. The Steam Deck will boot into Windows.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

    The display will be sideways at this time.

  7. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete Windows setup.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  8. When the Windows desktop appears, navigate to Start > Settings > System > Display.

  9. Select Display Orientation > Landscape, then accept the change when prompted.

  10. Open Edge, and navigate to the Steam Deck Windows Resources page.

  11. Download the APU driver, Wi-Fi driver, Bluetooth driver, SD card reader driver, and both audio drivers.

  12. Install the drivers, and you’ll be ready to use Windows on your Steam Deck.

    Your Steam Deck will boot into SteamOS each time it is turned off and back on. To return to Windows, hold the volume down button when you push the power button and select the SD card in the boot menu.

How to Install Windows on a Steam Deck

You can also install Windows directly on your Steam Deck, but doing so will replace SteamOS. If you’ve downloaded any games on your Steam Deck, made any modifications, set up any emulators, or made any other changes, that will all be lost when you replace SteamOS with Windows. You can switch back to SteamOS later using the SteamOS recovery image, but that is essentially a factory reset that will require you to set up your Steam Deck from scratch.

The Steam Deck is capable of dual booting, and that feature will eventually be available via a dual-boot wizard in the SteamOS installer.  

Here is how to install Windows directly on your Steam Deck:

  1. Create a Windows installation drive.

  2. Turn your Steam Deck off.

  3. Connect your installation drive to the Steam Deck via USB.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

    You can use an adapter if necessary.

  4. Hold volume down and press the power button, then release both.

  5. Select EFI USB Device.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  6. The Steam Deck will boot up with the Windows installer active. Verify the language and tap Next.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

    The display will appear sideways at this time.

  7. Tap Install Now.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  8. Enter a Windows activation key and tap Next, or tap I don't have a product key to proceed without a key.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  9. Choose a Windows version, and tap Next.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  10. Tap Next.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  11. Tap Custom: Install Windows only.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  12. Tap Drive 0 Partition 8, then tap Delete. You can then select Drive 0 Unallocated Space and tap Next.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

    SteamOS will no longer work after you delete Drive 0 Partition 8, so make sure you really want to install Windows directly on your Steam Deck before you do so. If you change your mind, you'll need to restore your Steam Deck using a SteamOS recovery image.

  13. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the installation of Windows.

  14. When installation is complete, the Steam Deck will reset.

  15. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete Windows setup.

  16. When the Windows desktop loads, navigate to Start > Settings > System > Display.

  17. Select Display Orientation > Landscape.

  18. Open Edge, and navigate to the Steam Deck Windows Resources page.

  19. Download the APU driver, Wi-Fi driver, Bluetooth driver, SD card reader driver, and both audio drivers.

  20. Install the drivers, and you’ll be ready to use Windows on your Steam Deck.

Why Install Windows On a Steam Deck?

SteamOS is great at running games. Heck, it’s capable of playing a lot of games that are only playable on Windows. This is thanks to Proton, which is a compatibility layer that lets you run Windows games on Linux PCs.

There are a lot of games that run flawlessly in this way, and a lot more than run pretty well, but some games just need an actual Windows environment. If you play one or more of those games, and you want to play them on your Steam Deck, then you’ll need to install Windows.

Installing Windows on a Steam Deck also allows you to install other digital storefronts, like Epic and Origin, and play games you own through those platforms on the handheld. If you have a lot of games on those platforms, then you’ll benefit from installing Windows.

Aside from games, installing Windows on a Steam Deck also turns your handheld into a portable Windows PC. You can plug it into a monitor via the HDMI cable, connect a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and have access to Windows on the go. If you have any apps that don’t run on Linux, or you just aren’t comfortable with Linux, this may be an attractive option.

Why Can’t You Dual Boot Windows and SteamOS?

You can dual boot Windows and Linux, so it might come as a surprise you can’t dual boot Windows on your Steam Deck. The truth is that it actually is possible, but the process is very difficult and requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work that just isn’t viable for the average Steam Deck owner.

Two big issues are that the SteamOS takes up the entire internal drive with its own partitions when it’s installed, and both the Windows installer and Windows updates can break the bootloader that’s necessary to dual boot. There are ways around these issues, but they aren’t worth the trouble for the average user. Installing Windows to a microSD card is a much easier option.

FAQ
  • How do I install Discord on my Steam Deck?

    Press the Power button and select Switch To Desktop, then open the Discover Software Center. Search for Discord and select Install. Open the Steam app in Desktop mode and go to Games > Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library > Discord > Add Selected Programs. Discord will appear in your games library under Non-Steam Games.

  • Can I install emulators on Steam Deck?

    Yes. Install EmuDeck to play retro games on your Steam Deck with a video game emulator.

  • How do I install Epic games on my Steam Deck?

    The easiest way to get games from the Epic Games Store is to use the Heroic Games Launcher for Steam Deck. Download the program from the Software Center and install it as a non-Steam game.

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