Steam Deck and Windows 11

[Edited on Sep 28 - Further clarification about 22H2 Windows11 issues with audio drivers in the pre-install section of the guide]

[Edited on Sep 24 - Couple of notes added below; 1) SWICD tweak 2) potential 22H2 Windows OS build conflict with audio drivers]

I recently got 256GB Steam Deck. From the time, I reserved it early this year, my plan was to immediately install Windows 11 and get Steam, GoG, Gamepass, Origin, Epic and other game library installers installed natively without worrying about tweaks, and workarounds. I am happy to say that the Windows 11 install has worked perfectly and all the games that I have installed are working fine.

For the record, I am listing out my experience here, as it relates to Steam Deck and Valve-provided Windows drivers in September 2022.

Pre-Install

  1. Updated Steam Deck to the latest firmware in Steam OS. Tried a few games in Steam as well to make sure the hardware is working fine.

  2. Created Win11 installation USB by going to Download Windows 11 (microsoft.com) and selecting the “Create Windows 11 Installation Media”. An 8GB USB drive is needed. At the time I installed Win11, MS was providing 21H2 Win11 build through the official tool.

  3. At this time (Sep 28,2022) MS is providing 22H2 Win11 build through the official Media Creation Tool. The audio drivers provided by Valve blue-screen on Win11 22H2 - an issue affecting some intel sound drivers as well. To avoid this, you can download Win11 21H2 and made a bootable disk using tool like Rufus (link provided by @Wavey below)
    How to download Windows 11 21H2 ISO after 22H2 releases - Pureinfotech

  4. On the same USB and after Windows installation files are setup, I copied Valve provided drivers from Steam Support :: Steam Deck - Windows Resources (steampowered.com) into a separate folder.

Installation

  1. Steam Deck has a USB-C connector. I plugged in the bootable USB through a USB A to USB C adapter. You can buy them from Amazon/BestBuy for $5-6.
  2. To boot from USB, shut down Steam Deck completely. Hold down the Volume Down button, and press the power button and let go, but keep holding the Volume Down button. A boot menu will pop up, and you can select the USB as the boot drive.
  3. Windows 11 installation will then begin. Touch screen works right from the start during installation and the on-screen keyboard pops up whenever needed.
  4. At the very beginning you’ll see list of partitions. I was not planning to dual boot, so I selected the largest partition (around 95% of the size of flash, for me it was ~230GB), deleted just that partition and then created a new partition using the available space. I then formatted it. All of that is done from that same screen during Win11 installation. Valve provides a recovery image which can bring back SteamOS if you need ( Steam Support :: Steam Deck Recovery Instructions (steampowered.com)
  5. I then selected the newly formatted partition and the Windows installation resumed.
  6. Win11 natively supported the Wifi chip, and latest Windows updates were automatically installed even before I could install the Valve provided drivers. At the end, I had Steam Deck running Windows, with the touch screen and on-screen keyboard working as expected.
  7. During installation, I selected the option of providing Windows key later. I selected Win11 Pro. My intention was to buy the license after I was sure Win11 was working as I wanted.

Post Installation

  1. Immediately after installation I could interact with the desktop mode in two ways, a) using touch screen and on-screen keyboard, and b) using the very basic Steam Deck controls (right track pad as mouse, right trigger as left mouse button, and left trigger as right mouse button). The entire desktop was easily controlled this way.
  2. For touch keyboard to pop-up automatically, go to Settings Time and Language Typing Touch Keyboard and then enable the option that says Show the touch keyboard when there’s no keyboard attached. The keyboard will now come up whenever needed.
  3. Now install the Valve provided drivers in the order listed in the link I provided above.
  4. Steam Deck screen for some reason, presents itself as 800x1280, which means that all through installation and up to now you’d see Windows in vertical mode. To fix that go to Settings System Display Scale & Layout and set Display Orientation to Landscape.
  5. Steam Deck power button should be working fine by now, giving instant sleep and resume functionality. However Windows11 will give you the lock screen when resuming the Steam Deck. If instead, you want to directly get into the desktop or the game that was paused, you can go to Settings Accounts Sign-in options Additional Settings and then set the option of If you’ve been away, when should WIndows require you to sign in again? to Never.
  6. Finally, you should also set “Hibernation” off. By default after installation, Steam Deck would hibernate after 3 hours in sleep state. Waking from hibernation is very quick too, but instant-on is even quicker and seamless. From the task bar, select search and type “Control Panel” and then run the app. Select Power Options, and “Change plan settings” on the right, and then “Change Advanced Power Settings”. Select Sleep and then “Hibernate after” and set both the settings in there to “Never”. I have left Steam Deck running for 36 hours in sleep state with hardly 2-3% battery drain, and with instant-on still working, so hibernation is not really needed.
  7. Steam Deck is now fully set up in Windows 11 and ready for you to install applications.

Steam and other clients

  1. I’d recommend installing Steam first. As soon as you install it, the rest of Steam Deck controls will start working. Turn on the big picture mode. Fire up any game you want, and when you press the Steam Deck button, the Steam overlay will show up, where you can configure per game controls, as well as see the battery life at a glance. At this point, basically you have all the functionality of Steam Deck/SteamOS but now with Windows11, and the ability to install any game without worrying about whether it’s supported or not.
  2. I also suggest pinning Steam to task bar, so just tapping once from touch screen will bring back Steam/Big Picture Mode, if you ever exit out of it.
  3. You can also install Gamepass, Origin, Epic, GoG Galaxy and other clients. You must have noticed that until now, I have used no tweaks, third party tools, registry edits of any kind. But this is the point where one third party functionality is needed, which is to have Steam Deck controls working in non-Steam games.
  4. There are about three ways to do so, and I’ll reserve a post below to go in a little bit detail there, but for the purposes of this guide, the simplest option I found was to install SWICD Installation · mKenfenheuer/steam-deck-windows-usermode-driver Wiki · GitHub It’s a user-mode driver for Steam-Deck (and the old Steam Controller) controls. It can interfere with Steam, so I normally exit Steam and then run this driver. After that you can run any non-Steam game and Steam Deck shows up as XBox controller. I have tried Forza Horizon, TellTale Batman, Assassin’s Creed 2, Dead Cells etc. The driver shows up in system tray, from where you can right click and then either pause it or quit, and go back to Steam. There are other ways (one that coexists with Steam too) and I’ll go about it in another post, but this one for me worked fine.

That’s about it. All in all, it’s a straight forward windows installation, with one third party user-mode-driver install at the end. It’s very stable. I haven’t seen any crash. All games work perfectly fine. Windows 11 desktop mode is extremely usable in touch mode. I also plan to install a 512 GB SDcard to expand the storage.

Let me know if you have any questions.

[Fixed a strange typo on the last line]

Notes:
[Sep 24, 2022]

  1. I forgot to mention that if you use SWICD, you may need to disable “Lizard Mode” in the driver, The problem shows up as ghost keyboard events/button presses etc. when running a non-Steam game. For example, playing Dead Cells you may see the on-screen prompts constantly toggling between XBox controller buttons (A,B) to keyboard/mouse. To fix this, right click the SWICD tray icon, click “Show” and in SWICD application, select Profiles Default Profiles and select the two checkmarks after Disable Lizard Mode. This turns off SWICD emulation of keyboard/mouse/buttons in desktop mode, which sometimes simultaneously gets enabled along with xbox-controller emulation.

  2. @Wavey below posted about potential conflict with latest Windows OS Installation Media (based on 22H2 build) and audio drivers. The starting point at “Pre-Install Step 2” in the guide can be changed to specific 21H2 Win11 installation file. Once the audio drivers are updated, this dependency should go away. I’ll update.

Reserving space for detailed post about controlling non-steam games with Steam Deck controls.

This is fantastic, thanks so much for detailing it all. Next time I get a free afternoon I’ll give this a try. SteamOS is really impressive, but it would be nice to not worry about compatibilities and the workarounds you need for some things.

Yeah thanks for all the detail on this. Is there a performance hit for using Win 11 instead of Steam OS?

Holy heck, this is great. Very easy to understand documentation in forum software - well done!

I hadn’t even considered Game Pass and Steam Deck - so now I’m mulling another Windows key purchase…

Great write up, I have seen similar ones on reddit but this is by far the best.

I am happy with Steam OS right now except in two cases. One is modding. I was looking through what is required to use something like wabbajack and it basically all boiled down to starting on a windows PC and then fighting tooth and nail to work around flatpak/app container restrictions.

The other case is 3rd party stores, specifically just Gamepass. Epic & GoG was super easy to get going with the Heroic launcher.

Have you tried with Minecraft Bedrock? That’s the one game I need to use Moonlight to stream as its Windows only.

@Noman, did you have to do anything special to install the audio drivers? I’ve followed your instructions, and am currently installing the drivers in order, but the first audio driver (cs35l41) causes Windows 11 to blue screen.

EDIT: From googling, I think this is due to Windows 11 22H2 which released a few days ago? I’ll try installing 21H2 instead.

Awesome! Your contribution to handheld gaming is almost as appreciated as your contribution to The Lord of the Rings!

Quick update - I retried with Windows 11 21H2, and the sound driver now works fine and it’s all looking good - I’ve only tried Outrun 2006 so far but no problems. Thanks again for the guide, @Noman !

So for anyone else going down this path, I’d recommend replacing the Pre-install point 2 of the guide with getting 21H2 - I used Rufus and followed this:

Thanks for the update. My Steam Deck is running 21H2 (OS Build 22000.978) At the time, two weeks ago, I just got the latest Windows installation media from Microsoft.

It also means that when Windows is updated automatically, the audio may stop working eventually. I hope updated audio drivers will come soon.

I don’t have a good frame of reference as I kept SteamOS for only about two days, and the few games I tried with SteamOS work fine with Win11 too. Others in this thread who may go Win11 after considerable time on SteamOS can do much better comparisons.

The Win11 experience on its own though is fine. Forza Horizon 4 is probably the most CPU/GPU intensive game I have run and it works fine.

The Steam GUI itself is a bit smoother in Win11. I noticed a slight stutter with SteamOS in DeckUI mode, whereas both desktop and Steam Big Picture UI flow smoothly now in Win11.

I am going to have to try W11 just for gamepass. Didn’t really want to use it, my main machine is an arch linux monstrosity running qemu and various VMs so I certainly prefer linux. Proton support has just been excellent so I was excited to ditch windows but yeah. Gamepass.

Has anyone tried using Gamepass Cloud streaming and how does it work.

My PC is decent and hooked up to a 300mb line and the Steam Deck is connected to it as well so hoping it could work fine, really cannot be bothered with all the faff of windows 11.

I’ve fooled around with it a bit – mostly playing Immortals: Fenyx Rising – and it’s been pretty seamless.

Cheers, I am attempting to add it, no bluetooth kb or mouse though so all using the deck pad, not easy

It works really well. I think by default it’s a lower quality stream, but there’s a way to make it better by switching the user agent - install this add-on and set it to use “Windows+Edge 103.something”. (I originally followed this post from a couple of months ago, I assume it’s still relevant.)

The advantages of native Gamepass games are just that you can play them on the move, and suspend / resume works flawlessly.

I had a similar problem. I found a USB dock that I could plus an old USB keyboard and mouse into, and then it was very easy.

Yeah, a guide I was reading the other day recommended using a USB-C to USB-A hub with at least three USB-A ports rather than connecting directly to the Deck’s USB-C port, because in some cases it may be necessary to connect a wired keyboard/mouse. Might seem like overkill but I think it’s a good precaution.

One thing worth considering for Windows installs: in the BIOS (hold Vol+ while booting), you can alter the UMA frame buffer size which can impact graphics performance. (I read that SteamOS manages this automatically, so this is only for Windows.)

The default value (1gb) gave me a 3DMark Time Spy score of 1463; upping the value to 4gb increased the score to 1749.