How to Install Windows on Steam Deck

Valves steam bridge runs SteamOS out of the box, which is based on Arch Linux. It allows for a streamlined, almost console-style experience that’s easily navigable with handheld controllers.

Despite Valve’s best efforts, not all games play properly on the Deck yet. Some games designed for Windows do not yet work well with Steam’s Proton emulation layer for Linux. Additionally, SteamOS also does not support non-Steam games, such as those from the Epic Games Store.

But the Steam Deck is PC-based, which means there’s nothing stopping you from installing alternative operating systems. If you want to run your Steam games and also play those from other stores, Windows might be your best option. Plus, installing Windows means you won’t have any Proton compatibility issues for native Windows games. These games should be just as compatible as they are on the best gaming pc, but with the limited specs of the Steam Deck in mind. Additionally, using Windows means that if you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, you’ll be able to play games from that service on the Steam Deck.

There are trade-offs, however. The operating system will be harder to navigate without a keyboard or mouse, and features like suspending games are built into SteamOS and won’t work on Windows.

But before you start, note that you probably shouldn’t do that just now. Windows drivers for Steam Deck are not finalized, so you may not get optimal performance and you will need an Ethernet to USB-C adapter to access the internet. The speakers, at the time of this writing, also don’t work on Windows. Unless you really need Windows for something, you should probably wait for it to be available.

Second, we will be running this tutorial with Windows 10. Windows 11 requires TPM firmware which, as of today, is not implemented in the Steam Deck BIOS. That will come in an upcoming update, Valve’s Lawrence Yang told me, and the steps for installing the new OS should be largely the same.

But hey, it’s your PC, and those drivers should eventually show up. But until they do (and until Valve has released a way to restore your Steam Deck to SteamOS), you might want to wait.

We will detail two ways to run Windows on the Steam Deck. The first installs on the internal SSD, while the second runs Windows from a microSD card. The former is likely to be faster, but the latter is more reversible until Steam provides documentation on how to dual boot.

With all those caveats, here’s how to install Windows on a Steam Deck:

Method 1: Install Windows on Steam Deck SSD

Be careful doing this. At the moment, Windows isn’t in the best working state, and there isn’t yet a public recovery image that Steam Deck owners can use to roll back to SteamOS (although I’m told that it happens.)

1. Create a Windows 10 or 11 installation drive.

To get started, you’ll need to create a Windows installer on a USB flash drive. Goes here to create one for the version of Windows you want to install. This is easier to do from a separate Windows PC. Follow the instructions to create the installation media.

2. With the power off, plug the USB drive into the Steam Deck.

If you have a USB Type-C flash drive, you can plug it directly into the port on the Steam Deck. Otherwise, you’ll need a USB-C hub to do so.

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Windows on Steam Deck

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
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Windows on Steam Deck

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

3. Hold the Volume Down button and turn on the system to enter the boot menu.

If you are using the Steam Deck controls, use the D-Pad to switch to “EFU USB Device”, then press A to select it.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

4. The Steam Deck will start.

5. The Windows installer starts. Yes, it’s sideways.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

If you’re using a USB-C hub, you can plug in a keyboard and mouse. Commands from the Steam Deck won’t do anything here. That being said, if you don’t have a keyboard and mouse, the touchscreen will still work.

6. Choose your language and click or tap “Next”.

7. Click or tap “Install Now”.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

8. Activate Windows. If you have a product key, you will be prompted to enter it here. There’s a touchscreen keyboard if you need it. If you don’t have a key, choose “I don’t have a product key”.

9. Choose your version of Windowsthen click or tap “Next”.

Here we used Windows 10 Home.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

ten. Accept the terms and conditions to continue.Check the box and click or tap “Next”. In other words, assuming you agree. If you don’t, shut down now and return to SteamOS.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

11. Choose a custom installation of Windows. Upgrade installations only work on computers that already have a version of Windows.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

12. Delete partitions to make room for Windows.

When you go to install Windows, you will notice that the SSD is divided into eight partitions and you cannot install Windows on any of them. You will need to remove partitions to install Windows. We deleted partition 8, which was the largest of them.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

If you’re not comfortable deleting your SSD partitions, you might consider installing Windows on an SD card and booting from there, or even sticking with SteamOS. You can always go back to this point without deleting any data.

13. Select “Drive 0 Unalloced Space” and tap or click “Next”.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

14. Windows will begin installing.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

15. The Steam Deck will reset.

You may see the screen orientation change several times.

16. Follow the Windows installation process.The instructions are all on screen. You can again use a keyboard and mouse or the touch screen. Here, the up and down arrows on the D-Pad work, as does the A button, but the screen is still sideways.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

If you want to connect to the Internet, you will need an Ethernet to USB cable. As of this writing, Windows on the Steam Deck does not have working Wi-Fi drivers.

17. The Windows desktop will appear. Note that it is always aside. We will correct this shortly.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Since the Windows drivers are not finalized, we received an error saying “Looking for display driver: Screen, resolution, performance, and battery life may be reduced until ‘a compatible driver has completed the installation’.

18. Go to Start > Settings > System > Display

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19. Scroll down to view orientation and choose “Landscape” to orient the screen in the right direction.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Now you have installed Windows 10 on your Steam Deck. At the time of publication, there is still a lot to correct. The speakers are not working, nor is the Wi-Fi. The graphics driver that will ensure the best performance is not there yet. Additionally, Valve has yet to release a way to roll back to SteamOS, although we understand that should happen soon.

Another method: start Windows from a microSD card or a USB key

Note: We are using a microSD card here, but the steps should be the same for a USB flash drive.

To get started, you will need a Windows ISO. Goes here to download the media creator. This is easier to do from a separate Windows PC. Follow the instructions to create the ISO.

Next, you’ll need software to turn your microSD card into a bootable drive. We will use Rufuswhich is free, but if you know any other software, you can do it that way.

2. Open Rufus

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

3. Select your microSD card and Windows ISO

4. Under image optionchoose “Windows to Go”.

5. Sub partition schemeselect MBR. In advanced options, check “Use Rufus MBR with BIOS ID”

6. Click “Start”.Now you wait. It may take a bit.

7. Eject your SD card from your PC and place it in the Steam Deck

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

8. With the Steam Deck turned off, hold volume down and press the power button.

9. Select SD card in the boot manager. The D-Pad works to choose a player, and you can select it with the A button.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

ten. Windows will begin to boot. (Yes, it will be on the side. This is normal.)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

11 . Perform Windows Setup. You might want to use a keyboard and mouse here, although you can navigate everything with the touchscreen.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

You will end up on the Windows desktop. It will always be aside.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Since the Windows drivers are not finalized, we received an error saying “Looking for display driver: Screen, resolution, performance, and battery life may be reduced until ‘a compatible driver has completed the installation’.

12. Go to Start > Settings > System > Display

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

13 . Scroll down to view orientation and choose “Landscape” to orient the screen in the correct direction.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Since Windows is on the microSD card, when you restart your Steam Deck, you are back to Steam OS on the SSD. If you want to return to Windows, you will have to enter the boot manager (Volume down + Power) and select the SD card.

Since Windows drivers are not finalized on Steam Deck, you may experience performance issues. Also, the speakers don’t work yet, and you’ll need a dongle for Wi-Fi or to connect to an ethernet cable.

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