[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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Windows 11 installation will then begin. Touch screen works right from the start during installation and the on-screen keyboard pops up whenever needed.
- 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)
- I then selected the newly formatted partition and the Windows installation resumed.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Now install the Valve provided drivers in the order listed in the link I provided above.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Steam Deck is now fully set up in Windows 11 and ready for you to install applications.
Steam and other clients
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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]
[Sep 24, 2022]
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.
@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.