How To Activate Desktop Mode On Steam Deck

Want to use Steam Deck as a portable PC? Switch to Desktop mode.

Steam Deck Desktop mode
Image Credit: Unsplash

The Valve Steam Deck is more than just a console; it’s a powerful, portable mini PC that can run almost any game, application, or operating system you can throw at it. Steam Deck runs SteamOS, which is a Linux-based, Arch-based operating system with a KDE Plasma desktop environment. You may understand these terms if you’ve used Linux before, but if that’s too much tech jargon, a brief look at this guide might help. That being said, if you want to use the console as a Desktop but don’t know how, here’s how to activate and switch to Desktop Mode on Steam deck.

Activating Desktop Mode on Steam Deck is quite easy, and it only requires pressing a few buttons and taps. By activating Desktop Mode, you get access to the full Linux Desktop, where you can start using the terminal, install and update apps, install and add a non-Steam game so that it appears in the Steam Deck library carousel, and much more.

Switch to Desktop Mode on Steam Deck

There are two ways to activate Desktop mode on Steam Deck — using the Steam menu or the power button.

1. Press the Steam Button or tap the Steam MENU in the bottom-right corner.

click the steam button

2. Navigate to and select Power to open the Power menu.

Steam deck Settings

3. Tap the Switch to Desktop option to switch to Desktop mode.

Switch to desktop Steam Deck

4. Your Steam Deck screen will go black for a while and gradually boot into Desktop mode.

5. You can also use the power button on the device to open up the power menu and then click on Switch to Desktop.

There’s no need to panic if you observe weird behavior while the desktop’s loading. Give it at least 10 seconds to load.

To steer back to Gaming Mode, click the “Return to Gaming Mode” icon on the desktop. If you accidentally deleted the shortcut, restarting your Steam Deck will also do the trick.

Desktop Mode on SteamOS gives you superpowers!

There are a few reasons you might need to switch to Desktop Mode — To change the Proton version on your Steam Deck, to install apps from the store, and to add non-steam games to your Steam library.

That said, if you’re new to Linux, we recommend not fiddling with the settings on the Desktop. What are your thoughts about SteamOS’s Desktop Mode? Let us know in the comments section below.

Abubakar Mohammed

Abubakar Mohammed

Abubakar is a Linux and Tech Writer. Hailing from a Computer Science background, the start of his love for Tech dates back to 2011, when he was gifted a Dell Inspiron 5100. When he's not covering Tech, you'll find him binge-watching anime and Tech content on YouTube or hunting heads in competitive FPS games. You can also find his work on Android Police and How-To Geek.
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