Steam Deck Mods - How to Modify the Steam Deck

July 13, 2023
Justin Lumiere

steam deck mods

Mods offer gamers a completely new level of gameplay. While modding your console may appear daunting at first, once you know how it works it becomes quite straightforward.

One popular modification for the Steam Deck involves swapping out its 2230 SSD for a larger 2242 model SSD to increase both storage capacity and performance. This can provide more storage space while improving overall performance.

1. Emulation

Valve's Steam Deck delighted gamers when it announced it supported game mods, or modifications. A mod allows you to install software which emulates the hardware of a gaming console so games appear as though they're running natively - sometimes known as ROM files.

One of the more popular ways to modify the Steam Deck is installing emulators. Batocera and Emulation Station both offer emulators for this device that you can run, whereas Emulation Station acts as a frontend for various emulators used on devices like RetroPie.

These apps have various features that can improve the performance of your games, such as adjusting aspect ratios to make games better fit on screen and compressing ROMs for space saving, or backing up game data to the cloud.

2. CryoUtilities

Valve recently unveiled their Steam Deck handheld PC and made clear that it will support mods. However, all prior attempts at modding involved software-only modifications. Now someone has found a way to physically alter it by altering thermal pads.

This hack can be very dangerous as it requires moving the internal SSD and RAM, which could potentially cause irreparable damage to the device. Furthermore, opening up the case - something Valve strongly discourages - requires opening.

CryoByte33's mod is a custom optimization suite for the Steam Deck with advanced tweaks for increasing frame per second, memory tuning, synchronizing game shaders and more.

To install this mod, it's necessary to boot up your Deck in desktop mode and launch a web browser. Navigating to CryoUtilities' GitHub, you should right click its download link to save it to your computer before double-clicking it - this will trigger an installation script which creates desktop icons for use on Steam Deck.

3. Storage

Though Valve may discourage any excessive modification to their handheld PC, you still have the ability to upgrade its internal storage with relative ease. YouTuber Belly Jelly made headlines recently for their DIY effort of adding a 512GB SSD which can help gamers who require additional space or desire faster load times.

Modifying a Steam Deck involves first unscrewing its eight screws on the back and prying apart its case with a plastic tool starting from its top corner and moving down each side, until finally opening it completely to insert either a larger SD card or connect an external drive.

Another more complex modification involves opening up and physically replacing the Steam Deck's main storage device; however, Lawrence Yang of Valve has cautioned against performing such an alteration as it could result in overheating that could reduce its lifespan significantly. He warns against performing it due to potential risks including heating up charger IC and nearby thermal pads which would result in overheating that shorten its lifespan further.

4. Streaming

Modding is an integral component of many games, offering new content and features. Being an on-the-go PC platform, the Steam Deck should support mods just as effectively as any other console console.

One popular mod for the Steam Deck was swapping out its M.2 2230 SSD for one with larger storage capacities, a modification widely shared by sites such as PC Gamer and GameSpot before being warned against by its designer who warned this could shorten its lifespan by moving thermal pads that serve to cool its charger IC.

Installing the Decky Loader mod is another useful upgrade, giving players access to various plugins - from a button that translates left clicks into right clicks for sending goto orders for drafted pawns, and soundboard with multiple voices for streamers' use while playing games, to buttons which translate left clicks into right clicks for giving goto orders and giving wento orders directly from within their games.

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