22 Tips And Tricks To Help You Master Your Steam Deck
The awesome Steam Deck from Valve is a great gaming system right out of the box, but some of its best features are simple to overlook.
You can make the Steam Deck more to your liking, reduce annoyances, and even expand your game library far beyond the built-in Steam storefront if you know where to look.
So, in no particular order from basic to sophisticated, here is a lengthy list of Steam Deck tips and tricks:
Know your quick commands
When you long-press the Steam button, a list of quick commands that you can use from any location will appear. A complete list is shown in the screenshot up top, but here are a few that you should try learning by heart:
- Adjust brightness: Steam + Left Stick Up/Down
- Force game shutdown: Steam + Long-press B
- Take a screenshot: Steam + R1
- On-screen keyboard: Steam + X.
- Temporary cursor: Steam + Right Stick or Trackpad. Use R2 to click.
Get game recommendations
Have no idea what to play from your Steam Deck? Here are a few suggestions:
- Scroll down to the “Recommended” tab from the home screen. Steam will kindly make suggestions for unplayed games in your backlog.
- Hit the Steam button and select “Library.” The first tab (“Great on Deck”) suggests games that are fully-optimized for the portable.
- Try engaging in some of the independent, smaller-scale games you’ve been ignoring. They might require less battery power than, say, Elden Ring, and they probably won’t be as difficult to pick up and put down.
Check your battery life
Quickly open the Performance tab by tapping the battery icon at the top of the screen. You’ll see a measure of projected battery life at the top.
Suspend and resume
There’s no need to stop playing your game in between sessions when using the Steam Deck. Simply pressing the power button will put the Deck into sleep mode. Even a day or two later, simply press it once more to quickly resume where you left off.
(Saving your game between sessions is still advised, and putting the Steam Deck to sleep while playing multiplayer will probably get you kicked out.)
Don’t miss Night mode
Consider enabling Night mode to reduce blue light from the screen if you play games on the Steam Deck before bed:
Toggle Night mode under the “Other” heading in Quick Settings by going to the settings section.
In Settings: Look under the Display tab to schedule Night mode and adjust the tint level.
Even though receiving in-game notifications of friend activity is annoying on a desktop computer, it is downright annoying on a Steam Deck due to the smaller screen size. Under Settings > Notifications, you can disable these alerts.
Browse in-game guides
Want assistance with the game you’re playing? Choose “Guides” from the menu after hitting the Steam button to access the player-contributed tutorials instead of reaching for your phone. You can navigate through each page using the arrow buttons at the top.
Tweak your performance profiles
There are many adjustable knobs in the Performance menu on the Steam Deck that can be used independently of in-game settings to optimize performance, visual fidelity, and battery life. By pressing the three-dots(…) button and choosing the battery icon, you can access this menu.
A few options to consider:
Before making any changes, turn on “Use per-game profile.” In this manner, settings can be changed per-game rather than globally.
Reduce the Steam Deck’s refresh rate to 40 Hz, which will also cap the framerate at 40 frames per second, to extend battery life without making significant visual sacrifices.
Setting the Scaling Filter to “FSR” and the FSR Sharpness to 4 or 5 will allow you to achieve smoother framerates at the expense of higher resolution. Choose a resolution lower than 1280×800, such as 1152×720 or 960×600, using the in-game settings. A portion of the sharpness will be restored by the FSR upscaling without affecting frame rates.
Choose a default storage location
Set your default storage location under if you’re using a MicroSD card to expand the storage on your Steam Deck by going to Settings > Storage. Select the MicroSD card or the internal drive, and then press X.
From the same menu, you can easily transfer games between storage spaces. Simply select the game and then press Y.
Learn to touchpad type
Place your thumbs on each trackpad of the Steam Deck and move them around while using the on-screen keyboard. Over the left and right sides of the keyboard, you’ll see a circular cursor for each thumb, and you can type by clicking the trackpads or the triggers. Although there is a learning curve, using the mouse eventually feels more practical and precise than using the touchscreen.
Change your keyboard
To switch between different keyboard styles, navigate to Settings > Keyboard. You can also purchase additional styles at the Points Shop for 5,000 points each.
Check Steam Deck compatibility
While Steam has an official “Deck Verified” program that checks for game compatibility, ProtonDB should not be overlooked. For games without an official seal of approval, this community-built website can offer more information along with adjustments that might make them playable.
Use the button remapper
The button remapper on the Steam Deck is a game-changing feature if you have a lot of older PC games that weren’t designed with controllers in mind. To use it, while playing a game, press the Steam button, choose “Controller Settings,” and then press “A.”
Stream from your PC
Don’t laugh at the Remote Play function of the Steam Deck, which enables you to stream games from your desktop computer. It can be useful for a number of reasons:
- You don’t have enough time or storage to download more games.
- You want to maximize visual fidelity while preserving battery life.
- You want to engage in gaming that isn’t natively Steam Deck compatible yet.
The “Install” or “Play” button for any game must be depressed before choosing your computer from the list to stream from. To start a remote play session, press the “Stream” button.
Add a lock screen
Navigate to Settings > Security to enable a PIN on the Steam Deck. When waking up the console or switching to desktop mode, you can add a lock screen. The latter is especially important if you’re using the Steam Deck desktop while logged into email or other sensitive accounts.
Switch to desktop mode
The true potential of the Steam Deck is revealed when you enter Desktop mode, which provides a full Linux-based environment for installing additional software—even from competing digital storefronts.
Press the Steam button, navigate to Power, and choose “Switch to Desktop” to launch the Steam Deck in desktop mode. Use these controls to navigate after that:
- Right trackpad for cursor control.
- R2 and L2 for left and right click, respectively, or click the right trackpad for a left click.
- Steam + X for the on-screen keyboard.
Keep in mind that the touchpad click and on-screen keyboard will stop working if you close the Steam desktop app.
Install additional software
The Discover store in Desktop mode is the most straightforward method for installing non-Steam software on your Steam Deck. You’ll see a variety of programs to install when you click the icon that resembles a shopping bag, including DOSBox and GZDoom as well as Spotify and Discord.
If you click the Steam Deck logo in the bottom left after installation, you’ll find these programs in the application launcher.
Add non-Steam apps to Game mode
Desktop apps can be launched without being in Desktop mode. To make them easier to access, add them to Game mode.
To do so, launch the Steam app while in Desktop mode. Then, in the top menu, navigate to the “Games” section and select Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library. If the app or game isn’t in the list that appears, click the “Browse…” button to find it, then click “Add Selected Programs.“
These games can be found in your library’s “Non-Steam” section when you switch back to game mode.
Set up alternate game sources
After you’ve gotten used to Desktop mode, the next step is to add games from stores other than Steam. Consider the following options:
- The Heroic Games Launcher, which is accessible through the Discover store, gives you access to your GOG and Epic Games Store libraries. These games can be automatically added to your Steam library, complete with artwork, using a different program called HeroicBashLauncher.
- In addition to being accessible through the Discover store, Lutris offers access to the aforementioned shops and more.
- If you have the required game files, Emudeck makes it simple to use Steam Deck’s Game mode to play classic game emulators.
File transfer made simple
Do you need to transfer files from another computer to your Steam Deck? Payload is a great alternative to swapping thumb drives. You can transfer files over your Wi-Fi network by simply dragging and dropping them using this free app, which can be installed on both your computer and the Steam Deck (in desktop mode).
A USB hub is an option
A cheap USB hub with HDMI output can be an invaluable addition for serious Steam Deck desktop users. You can add an external mouse and keyboard and output video to a monitor or TV by plugging it into the Deck’s USB-C port. (A proper Steam Deck dock might also be worth taking into account, whether formally or informally.)
Customize your Steam Deck
Install Decky Loader, which extends the Deck with a wide range of user-made plugins, to take Steam Deck customization to the next level. Want to change the Deck’s menu sounds or add music control via the sidebar menu? Decky Loader makes it simple. Using the SteamGridDB plugin, it’s also the best way to add cover art for non-Steam games.
Decky Loader can be installed by visiting the project’s GitHub page in Desktop mode and clicking the Download button at the top, then running the installer from your Downloads folder. Return to Game mode after installation, and you’ll notice a new plug icon in the… sidebar menu. To browse for plugins there, hit the store icon at the top of the menu.