Gaming Hardware

How do you upgrade the SSD on a Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck Console
Steaming in: you can replace the Steam Deck's SSD

Valve’s Steam Deck is a fantastic piece of gaming hardware and ideal for Steam user who wish to play their games on the move. It’s powered by a custom quad-core AMD Zen 2 chip, 16GB of RAM, a nice 7in screen and has more buttons than a Cadbury’s factory. Although it features a microSD slot, it is possible to upgrade the Steam Deck’s internal (and faster) storage to beyond the factory spec, so this is our guide on how to upgrade the SSD on a Steam Deck.

What you’ll need to upgrade the Steam Deck SSD

The Steam Deck uses a standard format NVME SSD, but the rather unusual 2230 length. These are tough to find but Dell sells them in capacities up to 512GB; larger ones can be found from other vendors. For this Big Tech Question guide, we’re going to use a 1TB 2230 NVME SSD. 

If you have the 64GB EMMC model of the Steam Deck, then it’s possible to replace this drive with the much faster NVME version.

In addition, you’ll also need a Philips screwdriver, tweezers, a prising tool (or credit card or guitar pick) and USB drive that’s at least 8GB.  The Steam Deck only has a USB-C port, so if your USB drive is USB-A, you’ll need an adapter. You can pick these up for a few pounds from Amazon. You’ll also need access to another computer.

Finally, you’re about to witness 100% certified, genuine workshop photography – none of your fancy studio nonsense on this one. Some shots may seem a little…rough 😉.

Step 1: Steam Deck teardown

The Steam Deck 64 emmc version

Removing the Steam Deck’s back cover

To start, turn off the Steam Deck and remove the microSD card (if there is one). Next, enable Steam Deck’s Battery Storage Mode which disables the power button whilst we’re fiddling inside. To do this, press and hold Volume Up (+) whilst pressing the Power ButtonThe device will boot into the BIOS so used the D-pad to move to Power, then press A. Select Battery Storage Mode and press A again. The Steam Deck will active Battery Storage Mode and power down.

You can now only power the device by using the Steam Deck charger.

Rear screw placement on Steam Deck

Flip over the Steam Deck and remove the eight screws shown here on the rear. There are two lengths of screws here (highlighted in green and yellow in our image), so make a note of what goes where. 

Magnetic Screw Mat

A great thing to have around is a magnetic mat, available from most hardware shops and iFixit.

Prising tool opening the Steam Deck

With the screws removed, we need to carefully prise the Steam Deck’s rear case off. Take your prising tool of choice – we opted for a guitar pick – and find the point of least resistance. Near the shoulder buttons is a good place as the Steam Deck’s clips are tough. It won’t take long to persuade it to part, then shuffle your way around the case and it will come away. There are no cables attaching the rear panel to the front, so don’t worry about traps.

Inside the Steam Deck

The SSD is located beneath the thin aluminium heat-shield. There are three screws to remove (which we’ve highlighted in yellow) but one of them is behind a small silver sticker which is easily removed with tweezers, but keep it safe as you need to replace it. Once the screws are out, the shield lifts cleanly out.

Battery connector on Steam Deck

Before we play with the drive, we should disconnect the battery. The connector slides away from the circuit board, towards the battery-pack, and it’s possible to do this with finger pressing. If yours is stiff, there is a groove (highlighted in red) where the gentle persuasion of a flat-head screwdriver would be helpful.

As with most laptops, the SSD is held in with a single screw. Remove this and the drive should pop up (tickle it with a spudger if not). SSD drives are removed/inserted at an angle, so make sure it matches the picture, and slowly remove it.

Steam Deck 64gb emmc

The SSD (even the EMMC version) is shrouded in a heat shield, so slide it out carefully. Take your new SSD and insert it into the heat shield.

Steam Deck with back cover removed

Once the new SSD is inserted into the machine, that’s really all that needs to happen in order to upgrade the SSD on a Steam Deck. Work your way carefully backwards through our steps and once your Steam Deck is re-assembled, we’ll fix the software.

Step 2: Re-installing SteamOS

SteamOS license agreement screenshot

As the SSD inside the Steam Deck is blank, we need to re-image it. Those nice people at Valve make the software available, so download it to your PC and download Rufus to make the bootable USB.

We can also do this process on Mac or Linux using Balene Etcher.

Rufus boot creation tool

Insert the USB drive, open Rufus, and select the downloaded Steam Deck recovery image. Rufus should detect the USB drive and it will erase it. Ensure there’s nothing on the drive you want. Click Start and go for a short walk. This process can take around 30 minutes to complete. Rufus will show an alert once the process is complete.

Steam Deck boot manager

If you enabled Battery Storage Mode, then insert the Steam Deck charger to re-activate the device, then switch it off.

Insert the USB stick. Hold down Volume Down (-) whilst turning on the Steam Deck.  When the chime plays, release the buttons and it will display the boot menu. Press A, the screen will go black for a few moments whilst the SteamOS loads.

From the menu which appears, select Re-image Steam Deck and press the R2 button (right shoulder) to proceed. The software will install onto the new SSD and, unlike the USB creation, this only takes a few minutes.

When the Steam Deck reboots, it’s ready for setup. As it’s a fresh installation of SteamOS, the device requires the same setup as if it was brand new from the box. Tap in your details and you’ll be gaming in no time. That’s how to upgrade the SSD on a Steam Deck.

Steam Deck: Designed for repair

Valve’s Steam Deck is a great piece of kit but it has a superpower – they have designed it to be repairable. Valve has teamed up with iFixit and a full range of thumbsticks, screens, fans and more are available should your Steam Deck ever have a gaming mishap.

About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

3 Comments

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  • Does the 64gb model still have the same PCIe 3 slot as the higher models? Reading the spec sheet, the 64gb model uses a PCIe 2 SSD so I’m curious if they botherd with changing the slot.

    • Hi Josh. Good question. The 64GB Steamdeck uses an eMMC SSD, which only runs at PCIe 2. The slot is PCIe 3 and, with backwards compatibility, will run PCIe 3 & PCIe 2 SSDs.

      Upgrade with PCI 3 to get the most out of the device.

  • I noticed the comment below about the PCI3 slot being backward compatible with PCI2, would the SSD I’ve noted below be capable of installing in the 64gb Steam Deck? “INLAND TN436 1TB M.2 2230 SSD PCIe Gen 4.0×4 NVMe Internal Solid State Drive, 3D TLC NAND Gaming Internal SSD, Compatible with Steam Deck Microsoft Surface”

    This is one I found on Amazon but I noticed it says that its PCI4 & is backward compatible with PCI3, does this mean its also backward compatible with PCI2 as well? Just want to make sure I’m not dropping $185 on the wrong component.

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