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Key Takeaways

  • Use Steam Deck shortcuts for quick access to features like screenshots, force closing games, and adjusting brightness.
  • Set a lock screen PIN to keep others from accessing your Steam Deck and messing with your library.
  • Stream games from your gaming PC to the Steam Deck over Wi-Fi for more storage space and better performance.

The Steam Deck has remained one of the best handheld video game consoles ever since it launched towards the beginning of 2022, and with the OLED version now released, it doesn’t look like that’s changing any time soon.


How to add non-Steam games to your Steam library

These days, with every other company having its own launcher, you can quickly find that your PC game library is spread out across multiple apps.

Apart from making PC gaming accessible and portable, one of the things that makes the Steam Deck great is how customisable it is. There’s so much you can do with the Steam Deck – so many things that keep us coming back to it. Here are some of the best Steam Deck tips and tricks we’ve discovered through our time gaming on it.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 12

Use Steam Deck shortcuts

To see a list of useful Steam Deck shortcuts, hold down the Steam button for a couple of seconds. Some of the most useful shortcuts include the following:

  • Screenshot: Steam button + R1
  • Force game close: Steam button + Hold B
  • Show keyboard: Steam button + X
  • Raise brightness: Steam button + Left Joystick up
  • Lower brightness: Steam button + Left Joystick down
  • Enter key: Steam button + D-Pad Right
  • Tab: Steam button + D-Pad down
  • Esc: Steam button + D-Pad left
  • Show cursor: Steam button + Trackpad / Right Stick (right trigger for left-click)
  • Right-click: Steam button + L2
  • Left-click: Steam button + R2
  • Magnifier: Steam button + L1

Add a pin to steam deck


Give your Steam Deck a lock screen PIN

If you don’t want family members or friends getting into your Steam Deck and messing with your library, there’s good news: you can add a PIN.

To turn the PIN settings on, go to Menu -> Settings -> Security. Set a PIN you won’t forget, and choose whether to require one when waking or turning the Steam Deck on, when logging in, when switching to Desktop Mode, or any combination of these three.

Valve Steam Deck review controls photo 9Send the Steam Deck to sleep

Between gaming sessions, you don’t need to turn your Steam Deck console off completely, or even quit the game you’re playing.

Instead, you can suspend and resume your gameplay with ease by putting your Steam Deck into sleep mode while you’re in-game, then switching it back on for your next session and resuming from the same spot.

To put the Steam Deck to sleep, simply tap the Power button, and then tap it again to wake it.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 2

Stream games to your Steam Deck

There’s another way to counter the storage space issue on the Steam Deck and that’s making use of Steam’s Remote Play functionality (i.e. Steam Link).

If you have a decent gaming PC with the Steam client and Steam games installed on it, you can stream the games over your home Wi-Fi from the PC to your Steam Deck.

Related: How to stream games to your Steam Deck

This has two benefits: First, you don’t need to install the games locally on your Steam Deck, and second, you can make the most of the extra processing power on your gaming PC to get higher frame rates and a smoother gameplay experience.

It’s easy to do: The long story short is that you just need both devices running and connected to the same network, then click the Stream button on the relevant game in your Steam Deck library.

Turn on Night Mode to help prevent eye strain

Steam Deck’s Night Mode can help prevent eye strain, and can help your eyes and brain relax a little more if it’s getting close to bedtime.

It works by cutting down on blue light frequencies emanating from the Steam Deck’s display. It might look a little orange when you first enable it, but your eyes should quickly adjust, and will probably thank you for it (or they would, if they had the ability).

To turn on Night Mode on the Steam Deck, go to Menu -> Settings -> Display. From there, you can schedule the time to auto-enable Night Mode, or enable it right away, and adjust Night Mode’s tint.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 4

Tweak Steam Deck performance settings

To tweak the Steam Deck’s performance, click the three-dot menu button and navigate down to the battery section.

Try tweaking both the FPS and refresh rate under the performance settings to either smooth out your experience or increase your battery life. Lower framerates and refresh rates should improve battery life, but go too low and gameplay might become too choppy. You can also try out FSR as a Scaling Filter and lower your resolution to increase game performance – try out some different combinations until you find something that works well for you.

If you want to make adjustments just for the specific game you’re playing, you should tick Use per-game profile before changing anything.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 10

Remap your controls and use your back paddles

To remap your controls while in-game:

  1. Press the Steam button
  2. Select Controller settings
  3. Hit A on the next screen to select Controller settings

On this screen, you’ll see a map of the current controls there, but you also have the option to add more by clicking controller settings.

You can now re-map various controls, but the other bonus here is that you can map the back paddles to whatever you want.

The back paddles are rarely used for anything. There are four paddles marked L4, L5, R4 and R5. You can assign these to in-game controls and use them to play more comfortably.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 3

Adjust screen brightness

To reduce the Steam Deck’s brightness, press the three-dot button on the right-hand side of the Steam Deck to open the options menu and tweak the brightness slider there.

Although it’s tempting to crank the brightness all the way up, we’d actually suggest turning it down.

Related: Steam Deck OLED: What’s new and should you upgrade?

One of the complaints people have about the Steam Deck is its battery life. Without some tweaks, it’s easy to chew through the handheld’s battery in two or three hours on the LCD version, and not much longer than this on the OLED version.

Reducing the brightness is one step towards making your fun last longer.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 1

Get yourself a microSD card

Best microSD cards for Steam Deck photo 6

SanDisk 512GB Ultra microSDXC

The SanDisk Ultra microSDXC is an excellent option to upgrade your Steam Deck’s storage easily.

We’d highly recommend purchasing a microSD card (or several) to give you access to more games with ease. Games won’t load as fast that way compared to NVMe SSDs, but it’s still great to have extra space without massive extra expense.

The Steam Deck is available in various different storage format sizes: 256GB for the original LCD version, and 512GB or 1TB for the new OLED version.

Related: Best microSD cards: A small device to expand your storage in a big way

Though it’s theoretically possible to replace the internal storage (and upgrade it), this isn’t going to be an option for many.

We bought a 256GB model to save money but found that we managed to fill the console up with just four games. Naturally, this varies depending on what you’re installing, but Forza Horizon 5, for example, takes up well over 100GB of storage space.

Installing a microSD card is a great way to fix this storage problem.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 13Check out some in-game guides

To browse guides for the game you’re currently playing, press the Steam button and select Guides.

The Steam Deck really streamlines most of your handheld gaming tasks, such as changing performance settings and changing in-game controls.

It does this for game guides, too. By browsing these player-submitted in-game guides, you can get the help you might need to beat that boss or that level, or find that hidden area.

Sure, there are plenty of guides to be found online, but it does make things easier being able to just hit a couple of buttons and find the perfect guide right there in front of you.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 5

Adjust your graphics settings and optimise your game

If you try to play games on ultra settings, you’ll likely find that the Steam Deck doesn’t perform as well as you’d like. Try turning the graphics down a bit. We didn’t find this to be necessary all the time, but dropping to high settings can make a smoother experience if you need it.

The bonus here is it still looks great as it’s only a small screen anyway.

As PC gamers, we’re used to being able to simply launch our games and bathe in the glory of visual delights.

If you can access a gaming PC, you can use the Remote Play streaming function we mentioned earlier to run games on the Steam Deck at high graphics settings without taxing its GPU.

The Steam Deck’s capabilities are a bit different from a fully-fledged gaming PC though, so some tweaking may be necessary.

There are several resources available with the best game settings to maximise performance and improve battery life. These are tried and tested settings for each game that might be worth a look if you want a better gaming experience without the hassle of trying to figure it out by yourself.

ShareDeck and Steam Deck HQ are two sites with user-submitted settings that might help you with optimised settings for your games.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 6

Connect other devices to your Steam Deck via bluetooth or USB

Thanks to its Bluetooth capabilities, the Steam Deck has the ability to work with a variety of devices, including mice, keyboards and headsets. So, if you need more granular controls, you can connect these devices pretty easily.

Click the Settings button, then scroll to turn Bluetooth on. Now you can just pair your device and use it. This works with plenty of peripherals too.

Related: How to use Bluetooth headphones with your Steam Deck

You can also consider connecting devices via USB by using a USB hub that connects via USB-C. Simply connect the hub to the Steam Deck’s USB-C port, and you’ll have a few extra ports for your peripherals (or perhaps even a TV or monitor) to plug into.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 7

Check for Steam Deck updates

Valve is regularly crafting updates for the Steam Deck to improve functionality and user experience.

We’d recommend regularly checking for updates for the Steam Deck. Do this by clicking the Steam button on the left side, then navigating to updates. You’ll see an exclamation point on system settings when an update is ready.

Some of Valve’s updates for the Steam Deck have included some great improvements. One of our complaints about the Steam Deck initially was the fans were too loud, but Valve released a patch which made it much quieter.

Steam Deck tips and tricks photo 9

Check game compatibility for your Steam Deck

When you’ve got your hands on the Steam Deck, it’s easy enough to see which games will work well. The ones in your library are already marked as:

  • Verified
  • Playable
  • Unsupported
  • Unknown

We’ve found that the list of playable games can quickly expand, so it’s worth checking your library to see if new ones appear.

Related: How to see which games will work with your Steam Deck

The store on the Steam Deck also points you to compatible games, so you can be sure a game will work before you buy it.

Also, just because a game is marked as “unsupported” doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work. We’ve seen some games that only required some controller tweaks in order to function. So if you already own a game and want to play it, don’t let that label put you off trying.

Valve Steam Deck: Release date, price, features, and how to reserve one gallery 2 photo 5Force-quit if your Steam Deck freezes

If you’ve found that your Steam Deck has frozen while you’re playing, you can force-quit with just a couple of button presses. Pressing the Steam button and B button together will force-close any game that’s causing a problem.

Mega Modz Custom Steam Deck 3Browse the desktop with Desktop Mode

To enter Desktop Mode on the Steam Deck, press the Steam button and select Switch to Desktop under Power.

Desktop Mode allows you to use a full desktop environment – you can browse the internet, send emails, move files, and even install applications like you would on a laptop or PC.

Epic Games steam deck


Install Epic Games on your Steam Deck

If you’ve exhausted your catalogue of Steam Games or just want to play more, don’t worry because you can also install Epic Games on your Steam Deck. This might seem a bit like blasphemy, but if you don’t mind some tinkering, it’s easy enough to do.

Related: How to install Epic Games on your Steam Deck

There are some obvious benefits to this as well, since Epic is regularly giving away games from its store. The process for installing Epic Games on your Steam deck is a little long-winded, but we’ve written a guide to help you out (linked above).

Upgrade Steam Deck Internal Storage

Upgrade your Steam Deck’s internal storage

Mp600 mini

Corsair MP600 Mini

This PCIe gen 4 x4 NVMe drive is the perfect size for your Steam Deck and a worthy way to upgrade it too.

One other thing you can do to improve your Steam Deck is to upgrade the internal storage. The Steam Deck uses a compact NVMe SSD which is relatively easy to upgrade, but it does take quite a few steps and a couple of hours to do.

You need the right tools to get it open (not just a screwdriver) and a lot of patience, but if you use a larger M.2 2230 NVMe drive you can get faster loading times than you would expanding your storage with just MicroSD card.

If you upgrade your Steam Deck’s SSD, you’ll need to reinstall Steam OS and have to reinstall all your games.

We did it with Corsair’s MP600 Mini and took our storage from 256GB to 1TB with relative ease, and now we can store many more games and have them load quickly.



Customise your Steam Deck

The Steam Deck is a fairly understated bit of kit, and it’s also not likely to stand out from the crowd if you have a couple in the house.

If you just want yours to look a bit different, you can visit Dbrand for some nifty skins to personalise your device. The company made an amusing Nintendo Switch-themed skin called Switchdeck but there are a bunch of other styles available too.

You can also try out different on-screen keyboard themes for your Steam Deck. To do so, go to Menu -> Settings -> Keyboard and you can choose between different styles and themes. You can also purchase additional styles from Steam’s points shop.

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