How to Set Up Your New Steam Deck

Now that Valve has finally been able to ship all current Steam Deck orders by the end of 2022, many more patient gamers will finally have the awesome portable system in their hands.

However, the first challenge will be how to set up the steam bridge in the first place. Unlike most other laptops from Nintendo or even Sony, the Steam Deck is more like the best gaming laptops or the best gaming PCs. As such, you will need to prepare it to play games because its operating system is more open to customization.

But that’s what this guide is for, to walk you through the process of setting up your Steam Deck and equipping it with some useful tools to get started. It’s all about optimizing your brand new laptop to get the most out of it.

Step One: Turn It On and Check the Basics

Before doing anything else, you should first load up your Steam Deck and then check the basic settings. By tapping the Wi-Fi button on the top bar or tapping Steam on the left side of the deck, you can access the Settings menu and change options such as volume, microphone, screen brightness ( protip: disable adaptive brightness), controller button mapping. , and the regional language. Also download software updates before installing other programs.

There are other options you can configure as well, such as connecting your Steam Deck to a monitor or TV using a USB-C to HDMI adapter, and enabling Bluetooth connectivity to connect the Deck to wireless devices such as a controller or keyboard and mouse.

Step two: Choose your operating system

Steam Deck in desktop mode

(Image credit: future)

The Steam Deck comes with the Linux operating system when shipped from the factory and uses Proton to allow Windows games to run on it. That said, there’s a mode called Desktop Mode that you can access by holding down the power button, and it turns the Deck into a full-fledged PC. This mode also allows you to install programs and even an operating system like Windows 10 or 11.

First, you will need an SD card and an SD card reader, as well as a Micro SD card. After acquiring these components, use this detailed guide on how to install Windows 10 and 11. And if you ever want to go back to SteamOS games, it’s as easy as a quick change of your Micro SD.

Step Three: Upgrade Your Storage

There are three types of Steam Decks: the cheapest being $399 and comes with 64GB eMMC storage, the second option being $529 with 256GB NVMe SSD, and the third option being $649 with 512GB SSD NVMe. Make sure you have the second or third option because eMMC is terrible for gaming due to its much slower transfer rates.

From here, you can use and disable Micro SD cards for additional storage, then enable the option to save games directly to Micro SD instead of internal storage. While you can upgrade the internal storage itself, it’s a difficult process and it’s far more recommended to just use Micro SD cards instead.

When you first purchase and insert a card, you must reformat it. Press the Steam button on the left side, then check under System Settings and choose Format, which will delete all other data on this card to prepare it for the Steam Deck.

Fourth step: more advanced options

Photo of the Steam Deck portable console

(Image credit: future)

One of the best aspects of the Steam Deck is its customization, even approaching PC levels. Once you start to understand the basics of this laptop, there are plenty of other features and options you can take advantage of.

Since you can install a Windows operating system in the Deck, you can also install an Office suite in your Deck by using the Discover Software Center option to download one, such as LibreOffice.

If a game is running slowly on your Steam Deck because it’s too powerful or consuming too many resources, you can use Remote Play by streaming it using your gaming PC. When choosing a title in the Steam library, click the arrow button instead of Play or Install, then choose your PC.

Customizing your Deck can go deeper than face and shoulder buttons. The settings are incredibly robust, allowing the rear buttons to be configured in any way. In the Controller Settings menu, you can assign the L4, R4, L5, R5 buttons to any other gamepad function, as well as keyboard/mouse controls and even system settings.

Fifth step: installing emulators

Naturally, the Steam Deck is an absolute beast of emulation, given its portability and customization options. Many gamers will probably want to use their machine not only to play the latest PC titles, but also to run a lot of retro games. And that’s where the EmuDeck App Between.

EmuDeck is an incredibly robust application for emulation, as it will configure aspect ratios and keybindings, download appropriate box art for ROMs, and integrate all of these features into the Steam library.

There’s some setup you’ll need to do on your end, like downloading the standalone emulators from the Steam Deck marketplace, as well as acquiring your own retro BIOS and ROMs. Otherwise, the amount of work that EmuDeck does for you is quite significant.

Margie D. Carlisle