Valve’s new portable console, the Steam Deck (not to be confused with Elgato’s Stream Deck), officially launched on Friday. If you preordered early, you should have yours in hand starting this week, Valve tells WIRED. You’ll likely find it’s not the easiest device to navigate, as it has lots of settings and customization options and doesn’t come with any instructions. We’re here to help.
There are two big software differences that set the Steam Deck apart from other consoles. The first is the sheer number of games you can play on it, thanks to Valve’s Steam game marketplace, which is preloaded onto the Steam Deck OS—although most of these games were not designed with a 7-inch touchscreen in mind (read our story about how to find compatible games for more info). If you have a PC, Steam, and a ton of games you’ve already purchased (and likely a lot that you haven’t yet played), the Steam Deck can look very appealing. Second, you can use the Steam Deck in desktop mode to run other programs and launchers—think Battle.net and Origin—once you’ve installed Windows (it comes with Linux).
If you haven’t yet bought the Steam Deck, or are waiting for your preorder to arrive, we also have a review of the Deck that can help answer some of your broader questions about its functionality and what gameplay is like. And, you know, whether it’s worth buying another console—especially when the most affordable option is $399 for 64 GB (less than the file size of Cyberpunk 2077).
This article is geared more toward what you can do once you actually have a Steam Deck in hand. So, let’s get to it. Here’s how to do some of the most important actions on the Steam Deck.
How to Get to the Steam Deck’s Settings
There are two ways to get to your settings on the Steam Deck. First, navigate to the Wi-Fi symbol in the top bar and hit the A button. The second is to press the Steam button on the left side of the Deck, scroll down to Settings, and hit A. You can also access a smaller settings menu by hitting the Quick Settings button on the right side of the deck (the three dots). This menu will only let you adjust things like the volume, your microphone, and the screen brightness.
How to Check Whether Your Steam Deck is Up-to-Date
Once you’re in your settings, scroll to System. Software Updates is at the top of the System menu. If you hit the Check For Updates button it will either start downloading the update or revert back to the Check For Updates button if there isn’t one. Underneath the button, it shows you the last time the Deck checked for an update.
How to Check Your Steam Deck’s Battery Life
The Steam Deck has two ways to check your battery life—and see its projection for how long you have until it hits 0 percent (although this fluctuates greatly, so take it with a grain of salt). The first is to scroll up to the top navigation bar and click on the Battery icon. The second is to hit the Quick Settings button. This will automatically bring you to the battery life screen, which shows you the percentage of charge it’s currently holding on the left and how many hours and minutes it projects the battery will last on the right.
How to Put Your Steam Deck in Airplane Mode
The quickest and easiest way to put your Steam Deck in Airplane mode is to hit the Quick Settings button and scroll down to Airplane mode. Toggle this on and it will change to blue. You are now in Airplane mode.
How to Adjust Your Steam Deck’s Speaker and Microphone Volume
Aside from the speaker volume buttons on top of the Steam Deck to the left of the fan, the easiest way to adjust both the speaker volume and your microphone is by pressing the Quick Settings button. From here you can turn your volume and mic up or down or mute them completely.
You can also do this via Settings > Audio by pressing the Steam button or scrolling to the top of the screen and hitting the Wi-Fi symbol. In this menu, you can also adjust the output and input devices for your speakers and microphone.
How to Format Your MicroSD Card on Steam Deck
In your settings, open the System menu. Scroll down to Format SD Card and hit the Format button. The Deck will prompt you to confirm that you would like to format your SD card, which means all data on the card will be lost and cannot be undone. Hit Confirm and the button changes to “Formatting … ” This might take a few minutes. The button will change back to “Format” once it’s done, without giving you a notification. Worth noting, the Steam Deck formats SD cards in ext4 format, which isn’t the standard format for an SD card out of the box, so it must be formatted before use.
How to Take a Screenshot on Steam Deck
Press the Steam button and the R1 trigger at the same time. This will only work while using the Steam Deck UI, not on Desktop mode. To view your screenshots, hit the Steam button, scroll to Media, and scroll to All. To move your screenshot off the Steam Deck, you can upload it to Steam by hovering over the image and hitting the Options button (the burger) and choosing Upload.
How to Change Your Download Region on Steam Deck
Head to your Settings and scroll down to Downloads. Download region is the first option on this page, and you can select the region you want from the drop-down menu (although Valve doesn’t recommend changing your download region).
How to Purchase Games on Steam Deck
Head to the Store and search for the game by tapping on the search bar to bring up the keyboard, or by selecting the game from the main screen or your wishlist.
From the game’s store page, you’ll see a green Add to Cart button on the right. Similar to Steam on a desktop, it’ll ask you whether this is a gift or for yourself, then ask you to input your payment method (it is much easier to do this on desktop with a keyboard, rather than using the deck’s touchscreen keypad) or enter your security code for an existing card. Hit the green Purchase button. You will then need to go to your Library to download the game.
How to Download Games on Steam Deck
If you have already purchased the game, head to your Library, select the game, and hit the blue Install button. This will show you the compatibility screen so you know how it will likely play on the Steam Deck. Hit Install and you’re set.
How to See Your Storage Space on Steam Deck
In your Settings, scroll down to Storage. At the top of the screen, you will see both your internal drive and your microSD, along with how much space is left on both.
How to Check Which Games Are on Your Steam Deck MicroSD Card
In the Storage menu of your settings, scroll across so the microSD drive is selected. This will show you a breakdown of what is taking up space on the drive, as well as each of the games and their file sizes.
How to Move and Delete Games on Steam Deck
There are two ways to uninstall games on your Steam Deck, but only one way to move a game between your internal drive (either the eMMC or the NVMe SSD, depending on which model you have) and your microSD card.
While on the Storage screen in your settings, hover over the game you would like to move and press Y to move it from the current drive to either your internal storage or your microSD card.
The quickest way to delete a game is also via the Storage menu. While hovering over the game you would like to uninstall, click X to remove it. You can also uninstall a game from the Installed section of your Library screen. Select the game, scroll across to the Gear icon and press it, then scroll down to Manage. At the bottom of this screen, you will see the uninstall option.
How to Change the Game Controls on Steam Deck
From your Library, select the game you’d like to adjust the controls for. Scroll to the right on its product page and click on the Controller button. This will bring up the Current Layout settings. At the top it will show you what controller template the game is currently using. You can click on this to view the Recommended template, additional templates (such as using Gyro, mouse only, and with mouse trackpad), and Community Layouts. When hovering over the controls you would like, click A to select. From here, you can also choose to enable the Back Grip Buttons, any Gyro Behavior, and designate what the Right Trackpad will act as.
When viewing the Current layout, you can also scroll across to Edit layout if you would like to map the controls manually. You can do this for the ABXY buttons, DPad, Triggers, Joysticks, Trackpads, and Gyro. You can also create custom Action Sets.
How to Connect Your Steam Deck to a Controller
Navigate to your Settings, scroll down to Bluetooth, and toggle it on. Make sure your controller is on, and if it has a button to enable Bluetooth connectivity, press it (I did this test with the Xbox Forza Horizon 5 controller and it worked seamlessly). Once the Steam Deck has found the controller, it will show up under Devices. Click on it to connect, and once it’s done it will show as paired. You can now use it, and it will automatically pair whenever the controller and Bluetooth are turned on.
How to Connect Your Steam Deck to a TV or Monitor
To connect your Steam Deck to either a TV or your computer monitor, you will need a USB-C to HDMI adapter. I used this one from Anker without any problems, but if you’re planning a long session, you will likely want one with pass-through so the Deck will charge at the same time. Your Steam Deck’s screen will be turned off while it is connected to an external screen.
When plugging your Steam Deck into a TV, we recommend using a wireless external controller connected to the Deck via Bluetooth so you can sit farther away from the screen. Once you’ve plugged it in, if your TV doesn’t automatically recognize the device, head to your TV’s inputs and choose the HDMI port it’s plugged into. After a few seconds, your screen from the Steam Deck should show up on your TV without any problems, and you can navigate around as you normally would (although depending on your screen size, the proportions of the display may look off, which is something Valve is working on).
If you want your Steam Deck’s audio to run through your TV or monitor rather than the Deck’s speakers, you’ll have to change its output in Settings > Audio > Output Device > External device.
How to Enter Desktop Mode on Steam Deck
Hold down the Power button for three seconds to bring up the Power menu. Scroll down and click on Switch to Desktop. After a brief loading screen, the Steam Deck will reboot before bringing up the desktop.
How to Exit Desktop Mode and Return to the Steam Deck OS
Similar to switching to desktop mode, hold down the Power button for three seconds. From here, you can either choose to Log Out or Restart—both will kick you back to the Steam Deck OS after reloading.
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