How to Get to Desktop Mode on Steam Deck

How to Get to Desktop Mode on Steam Deck

In the rapidly evolving landscape of gaming technology, Valve Corporation’s Steam Deck has emerged as a game-changer. With its handheld form factor and powerful hardware, the Steam Deck promises to bring the world of PC gaming to your fingertips. While its primary mode of operation is through the SteamOS interface, advanced users can unlock a world of possibilities by accessing the Desktop Mode. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to get to Desktop Mode on the Steam Deck and explore the potential it holds.

Understanding the Steam Deck’s Desktop Mode

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of accessing Desktop Mode, let’s take a moment to understand what it is and why it’s useful. Desktop Mode essentially transforms your Steam Deck into a more traditional computer, allowing you to access the standard desktop interface familiar to PC users. This mode is particularly beneficial for users who want to leverage the Steam Deck’s hardware capabilities beyond gaming, such as using productivity software, browsing the web, or even running non-Steam applications.

Unlike SteamOS mode, which is optimized for gaming and provides a console-like experience, Desktop Mode opens up a world of customization and flexibility. It enables you to install and run software that isn’t available through the Steam Store, providing a more versatile and PC-like experience.

Preparing Your Steam Deck

Before we begin the process of accessing Desktop Mode, it’s essential to ensure that your Steam Deck is ready for the transition.

  1. Charge and Power On: Ensure that your Steam Deck is adequately charged to avoid any interruptions during the process. Once charged, power on your device.
  2. Peripheral Connection: If you plan to use a keyboard, mouse, or any other peripherals in Desktop Mode, connect them to your Steam Deck.
  3. Network Connection: For a seamless experience, connect your Steam Deck to Wi-Fi or Ethernet to ensure a stable internet connection.

Accessing Desktop Mode

Now that you’re prepared, let’s walk through the steps to access Desktop Mode on your Steam Deck.

Step 1: Navigate to the SteamOS Interface

  1. Turn on your Steam Deck and log in using your Steam account credentials.
  2. You will be greeted by the SteamOS interface, which is designed primarily for gaming. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the interface.

Step 2: Accessing the Desktop Mode

  1. To access Desktop Mode, we need to open the SteamOS System Menu. To do this, press the Steam button located at the center of your Steam Deck. This will bring up the in-game overlay.
  2. Navigate to the bottom-right corner of the overlay, where you’ll find a power icon. Click on the power icon to reveal a menu.
  3. From the menu, select the “Exit” option. A confirmation prompt will appear, asking if you’re sure you want to exit SteamOS.
  4. Confirm your intention to exit SteamOS by selecting “OK.”

Congratulations! You have successfully transitioned to Desktop Mode on your Steam Deck.

Navigating the Desktop Mode

Upon entering Desktop Mode, you’ll find yourself in a familiar Windows-like environment. Here are a few key points to consider as you explore the Desktop Mode interface:

Customizing Your Desktop Settings

Take some time to customize your desktop settings according to your preferences. This includes adjusting display settings to optimize resolution and screen orientation, configuring audio settings for an immersive experience, and ensuring network settings are properly configured for online activities.

Running Non-Steam Applications

One of the primary advantages of accessing Desktop Mode is the ability to install and run non-Steam applications. Here’s how you can make the most of this feature:

Installing Additional Software or Games

Desktop Mode allows you to install software and games that aren’t available on the Steam Store. Simply download the desired software from a trusted source and follow the installation instructions.

Compatibility Considerations

While the Steam Deck’s hardware is impressive, not all applications may run seamlessly. Be sure to check for compatibility before installing software, and consider adjusting settings to optimize performance if needed.

Tips for Optimizing Performance

To ensure optimal performance when running non-Steam applications, consider the following tips:

  • Close background applications to free up system resources.
  • Adjust in-game settings to balance performance and visual quality.
  • Keep your Steam Deck updated with the latest drivers and software updates.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

As with any technology, you may encounter issues while using Desktop Mode. Here are some common problems and their potential solutions:

Dealing with Display or Resolution Issues

If you’re facing display or resolution problems, navigate to the display settings and adjust them accordingly. Ensure that your drivers are up to date and compatible with your chosen resolution.

Audio Troubleshooting

If you experience audio issues, check your audio settings and ensure that your desired output device is selected. Also, ensure that your software’s audio settings are correctly configured.

Network Connectivity Problems

For network connectivity issues, ensure that your network settings are properly configured and that you have a stable internet connection. Troubleshoot your network configuration if necessary.

Security Considerations

While Desktop Mode offers increased flexibility, it’s essential to consider security:

Setting Up User Accounts and Permissions

Create user accounts with appropriate permissions to safeguard your Steam Deck. Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication for added security.

Keeping Your Steam Deck Secure

Regularly update your Steam Deck’s operating system and software to patch security vulnerabilities. Install reliable antivirus software and practice safe browsing habits to prevent malware or other security threats.

Returning to SteamOS Mode

When you’re done exploring Desktop Mode and want to return to the SteamOS interface, follow these steps:

Step-by-Step Guide to Switch Back

  1. Press the Steam button to open the in-game overlay.
  2. Navigate to the power icon and select “Restart.”
  3. After the restart, your Steam Deck will boot back into SteamOS mode.


In conclusion, accessing Desktop Mode on the Steam Deck opens up a world of possibilities for advanced users. It transforms your handheld gaming device into a versatile computer, allowing you to run non-Steam applications, customize settings, and explore new horizons. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can confidently navigate the transition to Desktop Mode and take full advantage of the Steam Deck’s potential. Embrace the flexibility, push the boundaries, and make the most of your gaming experience with the Steam Deck’s Desktop Mode. Happy exploring!

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