Valve’s Steam Deck, More Than Meets The Eye.
The Steam Deck is an amazing portable PC platform that can not only play games on the go, but also be used for many, many other things. Because of the Linux nature of the device, a lot of open source software and plugins are available from launch day. This article offers various advice on what to do when you receive your Steam Deck in the mail, in one all-inclusive list.
This guide assumes that you have a basic knowledge of how to operate your Steam Deck, and also an understanding of how to operate a Linux desktop. If you at all feel uncomfortable when doing these steps, then I would recommend stopping and not going further until you do a bit more reading.
I also heavily recommend at least a keyboard and mouse to help input various commands. And remember, any changes you make on your Steam Deck may not last through the next update that Valve rolls out; that’s just the nature of the beast. I personally haven’t had any issues, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t.
This is only covering the software portion of the Steam Deck. If you have a 3D printer, I would highly recommend my article on 5 Steam Deck 3D Printing Accessories.
Gain Sudo Privileges and Disable The Immutable File System
An initial but important step
The Steam Deck comes with what’s called an ‘immutable file system’, basically a way for Valve to ship updates that allow easier rollbacks in case something goes wrong.
If you don’t disable this, you’ll be limited in what you can install and modify, so let’s fix this.
Go to desktop mode, launch Konsole and input the following command:
You’ll end up with a prompt that will ask you to input a new password. Choose this password and make sure you don’t forget it.
Now you’ll be able to use the ‘sudo’ command for gaining root access to your device, allowing you to now input the following command:
sudo steamos-readonly disable
This will disable the immutable file system on your Steam Deck. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
I’ve had plenty of people tell me they were able to disable this through the developer menu in the ‘Game Mode’ of SteamOS; I, however, couldn’t get it to work. Also, you’ll be in Desktop Mode for a bit doing other stuff, so this is
Set Up Pacman For Packages
Still faster than the Post Office
The first thing you’re gonna want to do here is initialize the pacman keyring:
sudo pacman-key --init
Then populate the keyring with the default Arch Linux keys:
sudo pacman-key --populate
After doing these commands, check to see if you can install a package:
sudo pacman -S vi
Say “yes” and see if it installs correctly, if it does, you’re set to go. You now have access to regular packages, and flatpaks to boot.
Why would you want this? Well, not every program is available in the flatpak or snap repository. Sometimes you want to install an application without it being sandboxed (we’ll install something later to help with managing flatpaks).
Install FlatSeal For Managing Flatpaks
A little glue here, a little tape there… Boom, security
Flatpaks are fantastic! They’re essentially sandboxed applications that you can install without worrying so much about dependencies. Flatseal essentially allows us to manage these little programs and what they can access, letting us grant different permissions in case the application needs it. You may never need to use it, but hey, it’s better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it, right?
You can either go here and click “install”, or you can go into Konsole and type the following:
flatpak install flathub com.github.tchx84.Flatseal
Hit “Y” and you’re all set. Installation shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes at most, unless your internet is extremely slow.
This allows us to now open Flatseal’s GUI for managing other flatpaks. Either by typing in:
flatpak run com.github.tchx84.Flatseal
or by simply restarting your Steam Deck, and it should appear in your application launcher (or start menu if you prefer).
Install Lutris For More Control
I *think* that’s an otter… maybe…
Lutris is flat-out one of the best tools you can have for gaming on Linux, besides Steam. If you want to know more about what it is and does, you can read more here.
It’s extremely simple, we’re just going to type the following into Konsole:
sudo pacman -S lutris
Then, simply hit “Y” and wait for Lutris to be installed. Afterwards we can have a bit more fun.
When you open Lutris, you’ll be met with a menu, something like this:
Now, if you go to the Lutris website and check out their Games tab here, you can search for everything from EA’s Origin client to Ubisoft Connect, and even install games from GoG and Steam here by connecting your accounts.
Not only this, but with some fiddling, you can launch games in Lutris through Steam, meaning you can access your GoG, Epic Store, EA, and Ubisoft games all right in Steam when properly set up. You can even set up your Amazon Games account through Lutris as of this year.
So many mechanical puns…
Crankshaft is a super helpful tool which allows you to view the ProtonDB status of a game within the Steam client itself along with many other things implemented by the Crankshaft Plugins system.
Either follow this link or type the following into Konsole:
flatpak install flathub space.crankshaft.Crankshaft
Get that installed and run the following:
flatpak run space.crankshaft.Crankshaft
This will spool up a service and you should see this down in the bottom-right of your screen next to your various other icons. If you do, restart Steam and go into your Library; you should be met with a new button in the upper-left corner to the right of your collections button:
Go ahead and click on that and you’ll see a new menu come up:
I’d recommend going into ‘Get Plugins’ and grabbing the following:
- Compatibility Tools Manager
- Proton Tools
- ProtonDB Indicator
- SDHQ Ratings Indicator
This is a very solid rounding of plugins that gives you the ability to do most things in the Gaming Mode of the Steam Deck. It also gives you good results from ProtonDB and SteamDeckHQ for your games.
Now, as you can see, this game has a ProtonDB rating of Platinum. And if you click on the Platinum button, it’ll take you to the ProtonDB page, potentially allowing you to seek the advice of others that have gotten this title to work on the Steam Deck.
There are, of course, many other plugins as well. The Compatibility Tools Manager allows you to instantly grab a version of GE Proton without going through the painstaking process of mucking around in your file system.
Install Decky, A Universal Plugin Loader For SteamOS
Decky, you’re the one… You make Steam Deck so much fun
Decky is, as the heading suggests, a plugin loader for SteamOS, allowing you to have plugins in Game Mode for various things that Valve hasn’t included in their OS yet (or may not ever).
A full list of plugins is available here.
To install this loader, go to your Konsole (yes, again) and type in:
curl -L https://github.com/SteamDeckHomebrew/decky-loader/raw/main/dist/install_prerelease.sh | sh
Then restart your Steam Deck. When you open the quick access menu (the “…” button on the right) you should see a little plug icon. If you did, congrats, you now have Decky installed.
Go into the plugin store and peruse around to your heart’s content.
Grab A Custom Theme
It’s like vinyl wrapping, but for SteamOS
Once you have Decky installed, go ahead into the plugin store and download CSS Loader.
Once that’s installed, you’ll be able to grab browser themes and download them from the CSSLoader Repo.
Who knows, maybe you’ll make your own theme in the future that you can share with others.
Installing SGDBoop And Taking Advantage of SteamGridDB
Fancy animated logos for your games
I always attributed the rise of digitally animated logos from game communities as a replacement for the amazing box art of yesteryear that we used to be able to admire on our shelves. Now we just admire our collections digitally on our screens.
Fortunately, it’s a very easy install for us now that we’ve installed flatpak! Go to Konsole and type in:
flatpak install flathub com.steamgriddb.SGDBoop
Then go to Steam Grid’s SGDBoop page and follow the instructions there to test your new install.
Et voila, you have that installed now as well, making it much easier for you to download custom art for your games to show off to your friends (or just enjoy quietly by yourself, that’s fine too).
Wrappin’ up time, folks
As you can easily see, there’s a major community commitment to the Steam Deck. Tons of software and neat little tools come out every day to help you customize your Deck to be truly yours.
And don’t think this is the end-all be-all of Steam Deck customization. We’ve only touched on software, you should check out my first article 5 Steam Deck 3D Printing Accessories.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything major, thank you for reading and have a great rest of your day.