It seems that Valve has stuck with its promise. The Steam Deck is literally a portable PC, and as such, it can boot operating systems like Windows or Linux. But support for Windows on Steam Deck is still a bit rocky—most people should skip it, at least for now.
Update, 5/16/22: Updated this article to discuss Windows audio driver support, which arrived for the Steam Deck on May 16th, 2022.
Windows on Steam Deck Is Still Quite Limited
To be perfectly honest, Windows on Steam Deck still isn’t all that practical. It definitely works, but the drivers aren’t stable, and some drivers are still missing. That said, Valve recently unveiled Windows audio driver support for Steam Deck, which means that you can now use the console’s built-in speakers or headphone jack with Windows 10 and Windows 11. (You need to install these drivers from Valve!)
Another more notable problem is Steam OS’ lack of dual-boot support. The Steam OS’ dual-boot wizard isn’t available yet, so you have to commit to a single operating system. That’s a big problem for most gamers, as Windows will blow through battery life, and games that are fully optimized for Steam OS may run slower in Windows due to its clunky AMD graphics drivers.
Both Windows 10 and Windows 11 are available on Steam Deck, though both operating systems suffer from similar problems. As you may imagine, Windows 11 support is a bit more flakey, though Valve hasn’t published a list of bugs for the operating system just yet.
Note that Windows on Steam Deck isn’t really Valve’s responsibility. If you get lost in the installation process, or if you brick your Deck, Valve may not offer any support.
But Windows Comes With Several Benefits
Honestly, Valve did an amazing job with Steam OS. It runs games through Proton with remarkable performance, and it has a built-in Linux desktop that you can use to run desktop applications or browse the web. If you’re brave enough, you could hook up your Steam Deck to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and use it like a desktop PC.
But as we all know, Linux is never a direct replacement for Windows.
Installing Windows on your Steam Deck comes with some major benefits. For one, it unlocks a selection of games that still aren’t supported by Steam OS, such as Destiny 2 and Fortnite. But Windows can also improve the performance of some titles, as it can run games natively instead of pushing them through the Proton compatibility layer. (That said, games that are certified by Valve may perform better in Steam OS.)
And it’s not like you have to use Windows for gaming. Maybe you want your Steam Deck to double as a productivity device—you can use Steam OS for games, then boot up Windows when it’s time to dig through some spreadsheets (once Steam OS supports dual-boot, that is). I realize that this sounds weird, but the Steam Deck’s touchpads are great for mousing around a desktop, and you can always connect the Deck to a proper monitor.
Should You Install Windows on Your Steam Deck?
Unless you’re a developer or crazed Windows enthusiast, now’s a bad time to install Windows on your Steam Deck. It’s just not all that “usable” yet—the drivers aren’t stable and you can’t dual-boot Windows with Steam OS.
Once these kinks are ironed out a bit, Windows will be a must-have for some Steam Deck users. After all, select titles like Destiny 2 are only compatible with the Windows operating system, and the Steam Deck could double as a portable Windows PC if you’re crazy enough to make the commitment.
If you want to install Windows on your Deck, simply visit Valve’s support page and follow the instructions. Note that you’ll need a boot drive to complete the installation, and you’ll need to clear your Steam Deck’s storage because dual-boot doesn’t work yet.