Windows 11’s confusing hardware requirements will keep it from running on many existing PCs, but if it’s any consolation, the new OS may work on the Steam Deck. Valve and AMD are racing to make the Steam Deck compatible with Windows 11, even though the console comes preloaded with a Linux-based Steam OS.
Despite numerous comparisons to the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck is not a typical game console. It’s really a portable PC with a built-in controller, and like any PC, it can run software and operating systems without the manufacturer’s approval. While Valve says that Steam OS will successfully run most PC games through a compatibility layer called Proton, it may have trouble with titles that use anti-cheat technology, such as Fortnite (a problem Valve hopes to fix before the console’s December launch).
Valve repeatedly mentions the Steam Deck’s Windows 10 compatibility for this reason. But running Windows on the Steam Deck isn’t just a “gamer thing,” it also opens the door to some interesting use-cases. One could plug their Steam Deck into a monitor and use it as a fully-fledged Windows 10 PC, with access to all the apps they might need for work or school. Based on its specs (AMD Zen 2 APU + 16GB RAM), the console could even run some professional programs like Photoshop.
So in the big picture, Windows 11 support is important to the Steam Deck’s usability as a game console and PC. In an interview with PC Gamer, Valve’s Steam Deck designer Greg Coomer says that the company is currently working with AMD to ensure Windows 11 support for the console, though the pesky TPM chip seems to present the biggest hurdle.
It’s also a conversation that’s going on with AMD … to make sure that, at the BIOS level, we can accommodate [TPM]. So there’s nothing to indicate to us yet that there’ll be any issues with Windows 11.
If Valve and AMD can get Windows 11 working on the Steam Deck before its launch, then the console will appeal to an a wider range of customers. Heck, the Steam Deck could introduce some people with Windows 11, given that most old PCs don’t work with the new OS.
Will the average person sideload Windows 11 on their Steam Deck, or use the console as a desktop PC? Probably not! But it’s interesting to see a portable game console that’s this versatile, especially for the price (the Steam Deck is almost certainly selling at a loss). Even if the Steam Deck isn’t successful, its concept could shape future products and change the way that many people interact with PCs, and that’s pretty cool!