How to Install Windows 11 or Windows 10 on Steam Deck

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Windows 11 and Windows 10 are running on Steam Deck now that Valve has officially released drivers for Microsoft’s operating system. It’s not as easy as hitting a download button, though. In this guide, we’ll show you how to install Windows on the Steam Deck, both on the internal solid state drive (SSD) and from a microSD card.

Windows isn’t perfect on the Steam Deck, but installing the operating system (or booting from it with a microSD card) can help turn the Steam Deck into a laptop replacement. We’ll show you how to perform a clean install on the SSD, as well as how to boot Windows from a microSD card. The latter will keep the original SteamOS installation intact.

Before diving in, keep in mind that Windows 11 is not technically supported on the Steam Deck. Windows 11 requires TPM, and Steam Deck did not enable it. You can still install Windows 11 by following the instructions below, but you may not receive Windows updates.

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Boot from a microSD card or USB flash drive

Before actually installing Windows on the Steam Deck, I recommend that you first boot from a microSD card or USB flash drive. This is completely reversible, so you can try Windows without deleting anything on your Steam Deck. Windows isn’t perfect on the Steam Deck, and reinstalling SteamOS is an important task in itself.

I’m using a microSD card, but any UHS-1 microSD card (check the label) or USB 3.0 reader with at least 32GB of storage will work. The Steam Deck supports both Windows 10 and Windows 11, and the process is the same no matter what operating system you’re using. I’m using Windows 10 here.

Step 1: Go to the Microsoft website and download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. If you want to use Windows 11, download the Windows 11 Creation Tool (under Create Windows 11 installation media).

2nd step: Download Rufus, which will allow you to create a bootable version of Windows on your microSD card or USB flash drive.

Step 3: Download Windows drivers for Steam Deck from Valve. Put them all in a folder on a spare USB drive for later access.

Steam Deck drivers in a Windows folder.

Step 4: Open the Windows Media Creation Tool and select Create installation media. On the next page, choose ISO file, and choose a location to store it on your PC. Wait for the process to complete and be sure to keep a note of where you stored the ISO.

Step 5: Plug in your microSD card or USB flash drive and open Rufus. To note: Continuing here will erase all data on your microSD card/USB drive. In Rufus, select your microSD card or USB drive under Device. So choose Select next to the Boot Selection section. Navigate to your Windows ISO that you created earlier.

Below Picture optionsselect Windows to go. So choose MBR below Partition scheme. Rename the drive if desired and select Ready to start the flashing process.

Rufus creates a bootable Windows installer.

Step 6: Once done, eject the microSD card and insert it into the Steam Deck. Power off your Steam Deck completely, then press and hold the Lower the volume button when you turn it on. This will enter the boot manager.

SD card hanging from the Steam Deck.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends


Step 7: Select your SD card to start Windows. It will start in portrait mode on the Steam Deck.

Windows doesn’t actually install here, so go through the installation process as normal, selecting your language, keyboard layout, etc. A keyboard and mouse help a lot here, but you can do setup with just the touchscreen.

Step 8: Once you are in Windows, head to Settings > System > Display and find the Display Orientation option. Select Countryside to flip the screen to the correct orientation.

Adjusted screen orientation on the Steam Deck.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends


Step 9: Finally, plug in the USB flash drive where you stored the Windows drivers. Plug it in using your USB-C hub (not directly into the Steam Deck) and install the drivers.

That’s it. When you restart your Steam Deck, it will revert to SteamOS, but you can still boot into Windows provided you go through the boot manager.

Do not confuse this process with dual booting. The Steam Deck does not currently support dual booting, so you’ll have to choose either Windows or SteamOS if you want a permanent fix.

A USB-C hub connected to the Steam Deck.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends


How to Install Windows on Steam Deck SSD

If you want Windows only on the Steam Deck, you can install it directly on the SSD. To do this, you’ll need to erase all data from the SSD, including your games, settings, and SteamOS itself. Valve promised a native dual-boot option with a future version of SteamOS 3, but that hasn’t happened yet.

It’s possible to restore SteamOS to the Steam Deck, but it’s a bit tricky. If you just want to experiment with Windows, use the above method. If you’re ready to dive into the full experience and don’t mind deleting your data, keep going.

To note:

Step 1: To get started, you need to create a Windows installation drive. We describe how to do this in our guide on installing Windows 11, but the process is straightforward.

Download the Windows Media Creation Tool and create an installer on your USB drive. You’ll need a USB stick with at least 16GB of storage, but the tool will walk you through the steps if not.

2nd step: Turn off your Steam Deck completely and connect your USB drive to a USB hub. Although you can connect the drive directly, I highly recommend connecting it with a USB-C hub to avoid any issues. A keyboard and mouse are also suitable for installation, and a USB-C hub will allow you to connect these peripherals.

Step 3: Turn on the Steam Deck while holding the Lower the volume button to enter the boot manager. Select your USB key with the Windows installer to continue.

The Steam Deck startup manager.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends


Step 4: As before, Windows will start in portrait mode. Select the version of Windows you want, then choose Install now. I highly recommend connecting a keyboard and mouse here. You can complete the setup with the touchscreen, but the Steam Deck’s keyboard and touchpads will not work.

You will then be asked to activate Windows. Enter your product key if you have it, or choose I don’t have a product key Continue.

Step 5: On the next screen, choose Custom: install Windows only. You will need to delete partitions on the Steam Deck to install Windows.

Important: This will remove everything data on your Steam Deck, including your games, settings, and any saves/media that have not been uploaded to Steam Cloud. It is possible to restore SteamOS later, but you will need to reinstall all your games and reconfigure your settings.

Step 6: Choose a partition you want to delete and select Wipe off. I recommend choosing the largest of the number of partitions you have. The 512GB model, at least, comes with eight partitions.

Step 7: Choose the partition you deleted, which should appear as Unallocated spaceand select Next. Windows will begin installing to the drive.

Step 8: After a short time and an automatic restart, you will be loaded into the normal Windows configuration. Proceed as you would above, selecting your keyboard layout and language, and skipping the Wi-Fi section.

Configuring Windows on the Steam Deck.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends


Step 9: Windows is installed at this point, so all you need is a little cleanup. Head toward Settings > System > Display and switch Display Orientation at Countryside.

Take another USB stick with Windows drivers for Steam Deck and install them as well. SteamOS is now gone, so you’ll need to restore it if you want to go back.

SteamOS Recovery Instructions

How to get SteamOS on the Steam Deck

If you installed Windows on the Steam Deck SSD and want to roll back, you can. Valve offers a Steam Deck recovery image that will get SteamOS back to working order – provided you agree to factory reset your Steam Deck again.

Step 1: To get started, download the SteamOS recovery image from Valve.

2nd step: Download Rufus on a separate Windows PC and insert a USB drive. Write the SteamOS recovery image to the USB drive and eject it from your PC.

Step 3: Power off the Steam Deck completely and connect the USB drive using a USB-C hub. hold it Lower the volume while turning on the Steam Deck to enter the startup manager. Select your USB from there (it should be “EFI USB Device”).

Step 4: After a while, you will boot into the recovery environment. There are a few options here that will attempt to preserve your data, but I recommend using the Steam Deck re-image option.

If you’re coming from Windows, you’ll need to factory reset the Steam Deck to make it work. Try other options won’t Keep your games if you already have Windows installed, and they could lead to nasty filesystem conflicts.

Troubleshooting Windows on Steam Deck

  • If you are installing internally, make sure the partition you choose is formatted as NTFS. Otherwise, it may not be compatible with Windows.

  • Some games will simply run better on Steam OS than on Windows, especially with workarounds. If you’re having performance issues with your game, it might be Windows: you can follow our steps to get back to SteamOS.

  • Your games may need to be started through Steam on Windows to use the Steam Deck control pad. There’s also the SWICD workaround for games that aren’t on Steam, but that’s an extra step and customization process that you’ll need to take the time for.

  • Audio driver compatibility may be limited. Using Windows 11 and its latest updates is the best way to ensure you don’t experience any audio issues.

  • For frequent Windows use on the Steam Deck, we strongly recommend upgrading to a portable SSD instead of a microSD card

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