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
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 Button. The 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.
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.
A great thing to have around is a magnetic mat, available from most hardware shops and iFixit.
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.
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.
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.
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
We can also do this process on Mac or Linux using Balene Etcher.
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.
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.