It looks like Valve kept their promise. The Steam Deck is literally a portable PC, and as such it can boot operating systems like Windows or Linux. But Windows support on Steam Deck is still a little tricky – most people should ignore that, at least for now.
To note: We expect Windows on Steam Deck to improve rapidly throughout 2022. That said, we’ll update this article regularly with new information.
Windows on Steam Deck is still quite limited
To be perfectly honest, Windows on Steam Deck still isn’t that convenient. It’s definitely works, but the drivers are not stable and many drivers are still missing. Windows still doesn’t support the Deck’s built-in speakers or headphone jack, for example, so you’re forced to use Bluetooth headphones or a USB-C audio cable.
Another big issue is Steam OS’s lack of dual boot support. The Steam OS Dual Boot Wizard is not yet available, so you have to commit to a single operating system. This is a big problem for most gamers, as Windows will drain battery life, and games fully optimized for Steam OS may run slower on Windows due to its clunky AMD graphics drivers.
Also, Windows 11 still doesn’t work on the Deck. Instead, you’re stuck with Windows 10 – I don’t consider this a “problem”, but it does indicate that Windows development on the Steam Deck is in its infancy.
Note that Windows on Steam Deck is not really Valve’s responsibility. If you get lost in the installation process, or brick your Deck, Valve may not offer support.
But Windows has several advantages
Honestly, Valve has done an amazing job with Steam OS. It runs games through Proton with remarkable performance and has a built-in Linux desktop that you can use to run office apps or browse the web. If you’re brave enough, you can connect your Steam Deck to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and use it as a desktop computer.
But as we all know, Linux never directly replaces Windows.
Installing the Windows operating system on your Steam Deck has some major benefits. On the one hand, it unlocks a selection of games that are still not supported by Steam OS, such as Destiny 2 and fortnite. But Windows can also improve the performance of some titles because it can run games natively instead of pushing them through the Proton compatibility layer. (That said, games certified by Valve may run better in Steam OS.)
And it’s not like you have to use Windows to play. Maybe you want your Steam Deck to double as a productivity device – you can use Steam OS for gaming, then start Windows when it’s time to wade through some spreadsheets (once Steam OS supports dual boot, that is). I realize this sounds weird, but the Steam Deck’s touchpads are great for mousing around on a desk, and you can still connect the Deck to a suitable monitor.
Should you install Windows on your Steam Deck?
Unless you are a developer or Windows enthusiast, now is not the time to install Windows on your Steam Deck. It’s just not “usable” yet – the drivers aren’t stable, you can’t dual-boot Windows with Steam OS, and some things (like the Deck’s built-in speakers) don’t work with Windows.
Once these issues are resolved, Windows will become a staple for some Steam Deck users. After all, select titles like Destiny 2 are only compatible with the Windows operating system, and the Steam Deck could also double as a portable Windows PC if you’re crazy enough to commit.
If you want to install Windows on your Deck, just visit Valve’s support page and follow the instructions. Note that you will need a bootable drive to complete the installation.