How to Install Windows on Steam Deck? Easy Methods Explained

How to install windows on steam deck

If you just got your hands on a shiny new Steam Deck and you’re itching to install Windows on it, that’s completely understandable, the idea of having a handheld PC gaming machine that can run all your favorite Windows games is pretty tempting!

But before you go tinkering around with Valve’s custom Linux-based SteamOS operating system, there are a few things you should know to make the Windows installation process smooth sailing.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to prepare before setting up Windows on the Steam Deck as well as the pros and cons of switching over from SteamOS. Let’s dive in!

Before You Install Windows 11 on Steam Deck 

The Steam Deck was designed to specifically run SteamOS, Valve’s own Linux-based gaming operating system. So installing Windows in place of SteamOS can get a little complicated. 

Here’s what you need to do first before replacing the default OS with Microsoft’s.

Back-Up SteamOS

SteamOS comes pre-loaded on the Steam Deck already optimized for the handheld’s gaming-centric hardware. So even if you plan to mainly use Windows, it’s best to keep SteamOS handy as a backup.

To back up the operating system, you’ll need a USB-C hub or dock with extra USB ports as well as an external SSD drive with at least 256GB storage space. 

We would recommend you get 500GB if you plan on keeping lots of games installed through SteamOS as well.

Once you have your USB hub and external SSD ready to go, hook them up to the Steam Deck, boot into Desktop Mode in SteamOS, and use the built-in backup utility to create a recovery image file you can restore from later if needed.

Install Drivers & Software in Windows

Windows doesn’t come with all the custom drivers, software tools, and optimization tweaks that SteamOS has to make games shine on the Steam Deck hardware. 

So you’ll need to manually install the latest AMD drivers along with Valve’s custom tuning utilities once you get Windows up and running.

Valve says they plan to release an easy way to get all the necessary drivers integrated into Windows builds for the Steam Deck in the future. But for now, get ready for a bit of tinkering to get things fully operational under Windows.

You may also need to manually seek out and install Windows drivers for the built-in microphone, speakers, Wifi/Bluetooth, and other hardware components that SteamOS handles out of the box.

Steam deck windows resources

So be prepared to do some troubleshooting to get all your device’s features functional. For handy Steam Deck tips and tricks, be sure to check out our dedicated guide. 

Create a Windows Install Drive

To kick off the actual Windows installation process, you’ll need a USB drive with a Windows installer image written to it. An 8GB or larger USB 3.0 flash drive is recommended.

You can easily create a Windows bootable installation drive using Microsoft’s Windows Media Creation Tool

Run the tool on your Windows PC, select your language preferences, and Windows edition, and then pick your flash drive to format and equip with everything needed to deploy Windows out of the box on new hardware.

With your Windows boot drive prepped and plugged into the Steam Deck, you’re ready to start the installation process. Next, I’ll go over the step-by-step flow for wiping SteamOS and getting Windows up and running in its place.

How To Get Windows On Steam Deck

If you are a Windows fan and wanna get Windows in your Steam deck then below are steps that you need to follow to know how to install Windows on your Steam deck.

There are two methods to install Windows on a Steam Deck: installing Windows to the Steam Deck’s SSD or running Windows off of a microSD card.

Here are the general steps to install Windows on a Steam Deck:

Method 1: Install Windows to the Steam Deck’s SSD

  1. Create a Windows 10 or 11 installation drive on a USB drive or microSD card.
  2. With the power off, plug the USB drive or microSD card into the Steam Deck.
  3. Hold the Volume Down button and power on the system to access the bot menu.
  4. Choose the USB drive or microSD card with the Windows installer to continue.
  5. Follow the prompts on your screen to install Windows and if prompted, sign in with a Microsoft account.
  6. Install the Steam Deck drivers.

Method 2: Run Windows off of a MicroSD Card

  1. Create a Windows 10 or 11 installation drive on a microSD card.
  2. Insert the microSD card into the Steam Deck.
  3. Hold the Volume Down button and power on the system to access the boot menu.
  4. Choose the microSD card with the Windows installer to continue.
  5. Follow the prompts on your screen to install Windows and if prompted, sign in with a Microsoft account.
  6. Install the Steam Deck drivers.

Note that installing Windows to the Steam Deck’s SSD will erase all data on the SSD, including games, settings, and SteamOS itself.

Also, the Steam Deck does not support dual booting at the moment, so you will need to choose either Windows or SteamOS if you want a permanent solution.

Pros and cons of Windows vs SteamOS

Here are the main pros and cons of Windows vs Steam OS 

Windows 11 Pros

  • Wider app and software compatibility – Access to the full Windows ecosystem.
  • Better for non-gaming tasks – Productivity, media, browsing, etc.
  • Extra game stores supported – Such as Epic Games, Origin, Uplay, etc.
  • More customization options – UI tweaks, themes, accessory software.
  • Power-user control over advanced settings
  • Improved support for peripherals and accessories

Windows 11 Cons

  • Reduced game performance – Overhead can impact smoothness.
  • Significantly worse battery life – Up to 50% less run time.
  • More installation and troubleshooting hassle – Getting all hardware working properly.
  • Higher likelihood of stability/compatibility issues.
  • Loss of some Steam Deck unique features like the Quick Access menu.
  • Can take effort to tune power settings for battery efficiency.

SteamOS Pros

  • Maximize battery life – 2+ hours better runtime than Windows.
  • Smoother game performance – Less overhead than Windows.
  • Easy setup with direct driver support.
  • Tight integration with Steam – Quick Access menu, Dynamic Control Profiles, Cloud saves.
  • Guaranteed Steam game compatibility.
  • Pick-up-and-play simplicity – Lean-back gaming experience.

SteamOS Cons

  • Restricted app ecosystem – Only Steam-verified titles are supported.
  • Limited customization options – Focused primarily on optimal gaming.
  • Relies on consistent internet connectivity for updates, and cloud syncing.
  • Less peripheral accessory support.
  • No native support for other game launchers like Epic or Origin.

So SteamOS provides a streamlined and finely optimized gaming experience specifically for the Steam Deck hardware, while Windows 11 trades some game performance for massively expanded features and flexibility better suited to power users. Depending on your priorities, both can be great options but each has compromises too.

If you’re considering other handheld gaming PCs besides the Steam Deck, check out our comparisons of the Ayaneo Air 1S vs Steam Deck, Ayaneo 2S vs Steam Deck, Ayaneo Next 2 vs Steam Deck, Ayaneo Air Pro vs Steam Deck, Steam Deck vs AYN Odin, Steam Deck vs AOKZOE A1, OneXPlayer 2 vs Steam Deck, and Pimax Portal vs Steam Deck.

How To Factory Reset The Steam Deck

Just like any other device factory reset needs to be the last thing to do. However, if you need to do it, then below are the steps that you could follow to factory reset the steam deck.

Factory Reset from Settings:

  • Turn on your Steam Deck and ensure it’s in gaming mode, not Desktop mode.
  • Press the Steam button, go to Settings, then System.
  • Under Advanced, select Reset to Factory State.
  • Confirm by clicking Factory Reset.

Factory Reset from Boot Menu:

  • If you can’t turn on your Steam Deck or face major issues, you can reset it from the boot menu.
  • Turn off the Steam Deck completely by holding down the power button for 15 seconds.
  • Press and hold the quick settings button, then press the power button to enter the boot menu.
  • Select “Erase All User Data” using the D-pad and press A to confirm.

Regarding installing Windows on a Steam Deck, it’s important to note that Steam Deck comes with SteamOS by default. 

While it may be possible to install Windows on a Steam Deck, this process may void your warranty and is not officially supported by Valve.

Conclusion 

Although installing and running Windows on the Steam Deck does involve notable downsides compared to SteamOS, it can enable new possibilities too. 

If you carefully consider the trade-offs, prep your drive correctly, fine-tune the OS optimizations, and configure complementary software/settings, Windows provides a great handheld Windows experience combined with the Deck’s stellar hardware.

And if you ever want to switch back, you can restore your SteamOS backup. One cool feature on the Steam Deck is the ability to download games while in sleep mode, making managing your game library a breeze whether you’re on Windows or SteamOS.

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Saiful Emon

Emon is a tech enthusiast who loves to explore and write about the latest gadgets and innovations. Now he uses his passion and knowledge to cover topics like artificial intelligence, gaming, wearables, and the potential of computers. When he is not writing, he enjoys playing video games, watching sci-fi movies, and discovering new places.