If you want to install a new Steam Deck SSD and you’re a little concerned you might break something, I’ve done it and it’s all fairly simple. So long as you’re careful and follow the advice below to the letter, you can get the installation process completed in 30 minutes.
Just be sure to put aside a few hours for the reimaging process, because while it’s simple enough, it takes a good few hours to complete.
In This Article
- What You Need
- Safety Precautions
- Step 1: Remove 8 Screws from the Back
- Step 2: Pry the Case Open
- Step 3: Remove the Label
- Step 4: Remove the Screws from the Shield
- Step 5: Disconnect the Battery (Important)
- Step 6: Remove the SSD Screw
- Step 7: Remove the Original SSD/eMMC Drive
- Step 8: Remove and Transfer the SSD/eMMC Shielding
- Step 9: Inset the New SSD and Screw it in
- Step 10: Reconnect the Battery
- Step 11: Reconnect the Shielding
- Step 12: Reconnect and Screw in the Back Plate
- Step 13: Download the Steam Deck Image and Rufus
- Step 14: Create a Bootable Image
- Step 15: Load into the BIOS
- Step 16: Reimage the Steam Deck
- Advice When Setting Up SteamOS
- If the Steam Deck Doesn’t Boot
What You Need
Before we get into anything, it’s worth taking a moment to make sure you’ve got the right tools. It’s especially important to make sure you’ve got the right screwdriver. I used a Phillips number one, but it’s worth having both the number one and the Phillips number zero just to be safe if you want to avoid wearing the thread off the screws.
You also need to only be using a 2230 SSD. Do not use a larger SSD that has been cut down to size. As Steam Deck designer Lawrence Yang says, it will “significantly shorten the life of your Deck.” You have been warned.
- M.2 NVMe 2230 SSD (I used the SYONCON 512GB version)
- Philips screwdriver #0
- Phillips screwdriver #2
- Pry tool
The above is directly for the SSD installation. You will also need a computer with an Internet connection and some form of storage like a microSD card or a USB thumbstick and a dock.
Once the SSD is installed, it’ll work, but you won’t have an operating system, meaning the Steam Deck won’t do much. That’s why I’ll be going over how to reimage the Steam Deck after the SSD is fully installed so you can get it back up and running faster.
As Ifixit notes, you’ll want to let the Steam Deck battery discharge to below 25 percent before opening it up due to the dangers of accidentally piercing a lithium-ion battery. Valve also recommends you put the Steam Deck into battery storage mode before attempting any kind of modifications.
Step 1: Remove 8 Screws from the Back
With the Steam Deck powered off, place it face down on a flat surface and remove the eight screws highlighted in the image above.
Tip: The outer screws are a different size from the four inner screws, so be sure to place them separately.
Once extracted, you should be left with the following:
- Four 9.5 mm screws (red)
- Four 5.8 mm screws (yellow)
Step 2: Pry the Case Open
For this I used the pry tool that came with the JSAUX Steam Deck backplate. Before attempting anything, be sure to remove the microSD card if you have one plugged in. Removing the case can cause damage to the memory card if you’re not careful, so it’s best to remove it now.
The idea here is to push the pry tool into the seam at the base of the Steam Deck (pictured above). Move the pry tool along the entire bottom and the case will loosen. From there, you should be able to slowly move the pry tool up and around the side of the Steam Deck, loosening the case further until it pops clean off.
Note: Opening up the Steam Deck will reduce the natural drop protection.
Step 3: Remove the Label
With the backplate lifted off and put to one side, the next task will be to reveal the hidden screw under the shield.
As shown in the image above, you should spot a square foil panel. Grab your tweezers and slowly pick at the upper-right corner. As it comes up, use the tweezers to pull at the foil until it’s folded back far enough so the Phillips screwdriver can get at the hidden screw underneath.
Tip: Don’t pull the foil completely off as we’ll be putting it back later on.
Step 4: Remove the Screws from the Shield
Next, use the Phillips screwdriver to remove the following three screws:
- One 3.4 mm screw (red)
- Two 3.7 mm screws (yellow)
As with the screws from the backplate, these are different sizes, so be sure to put all of them in a separate pile so they don’t get mixed up.
Step 5: Disconnect the Battery (Important)
This is the most important part of the whole SSD installation process. Do not skip this.
Lift up the shield once the screws have been removed and place it to one side. Underneath you should see the SSD – wrapped in a foil coat near the bottom of the motherboard – and to the right will be a rectangular fabric strip (highlighted in the image above).
This is the battery connector. At the moment, the battery is live, so let’s disconnect it.
Grab the fabric strip and pull it horizontally away from the metallic port it’s plugged into while being careful not to knock any of the surrounding components.
Step 6: Remove the SSD Screw
Next, remove the single 3.4 mm screw that secures the SSD or eMMC drive in place. Again, put this screw somewhere safe as we’ll be using it again later.
Once removed, the drive should pop up.
Step 7: Remove the Original SSD/eMMC Drive
Using your thumb and index finger, pinch both of the outside edges of the SSD and gently pull it out at the same angle it rests.
Step 8: Remove and Transfer the SSD/eMMC Shielding
Flip the original SSD over and you should see a black line where to foil shielding connects onto itself. Pick at this area of the foil shielding with your tweezers, and once you can get a grip, pull the foil shielding upwards until it separates.
You should now be able to use your hands to slide the foil shielding off and place it onto the new SSD.
Make sure the SSD is also flipped when placing the foil shielding on. When the shielding is in place, the area you lifted should still be sticky, so connect it back together.
Note: Do not let the foil shielding cover the connectors of the SSD.
Step 9: Inset the New SSD and Screw it in
Flip the SSD back over so it looks the same as the image above, then gently push the SSD back into the SSD port. Be sure to push it in at the same angle as the connector port.
Once the SSD is installed, grab your single 3.4 mm screw and secure the SSD in place.
You’ve now successfully installed the SSD. Next, let’s focus on putting the Steam Deck back together.
Step 10: Reconnect the Battery
Grab the fabric strip and carefully push the connector back into the battery port.
You’ll know you’ve done this right as once connected, the power light will blink white for one second.
Step 11: Reconnect the Shielding
Before we reconnect the shielding, look at the fan. To the left of the fan is a selection of thin wires that power it. Make sure these are not flush with the components underneath. If they are, when you put the shielding back in place you’ll crush these wires.
What we want is a small gap under the wires that the shielding can slot into.
Slide the shielding back into place, being careful to align it with the screw ports below. When everything is lined up, double-check that the fan wires are sitting above the shielding as seen in the image above.
You’re now safe to screw the two 3.7 mm screws (yellow) and the single 3.4 mm screw (red) back into place.
Once they’re all in, use tweezers to place the foil back across the 3.4 mm screw.
Step 12: Reconnect and Screw in the Back Plate
Grab the backplate and sit it on top of the Steam Deck. Carefully pinch both sides, below the triggers, and the front together, and the case should click into place.
You’re now free to screw the four 9.5 mm screws (red) and four 5.8 mm screws (yellow) back into place.
With the SSD installed and Steam Deck put back together, it won’t do anything, so let’s install the Steam Deck operating system back onto the device.
Step 13: Download the Steam Deck Image and Rufus
Boot up your computer, in my case I used a Windows PC, and head over to the Steam Deck and Rufus website and download the following files:
The Steam Deck recovery image will be used to install the Steam Deck operating system, and the Refus program is what we’ll use to write the image to a removable storage device.
Step 14: Create a Bootable Image
Insert your removable storage drive into the computer. I used a USB thumb drive which I connected via a Steam Deck dock, but a micro SD card will also work and is recommended.
Open up Rufus. On the right of the window is a button marked ‘Select‘ (1). Click on that and navigate to where the Steam Deck recovery image is saved on your computer. In Windows, the file will be saved to the downloads folder.
Once the recovery image has loaded into Rufus hit the ‘Start‘ button (2) and follow the on-screen instructions.
This process took my Windows PC around 45 minutes to complete, though that may be different for you depending on how powerful your computer is or the quality of the removable storage used. In short, if it takes ages, don’t panic, that’s normal.
Note: All the data on the removable storage device will be lost.
Step 15: Load into the BIOS
Safely eject the removable storage from your computer and insert it into your Steam Deck.
Next, hold down the minus volume button and – while keeping it held – tap the power button once. The Steam Deck will then boot into the BIOS. Select the top option as seen in the image above and the Steam Deck will begin the reimaging process.
One thing I need to stress here: This will take some time. The Steam Deck screen will go black except for a Steam Deck logo. It took me 15 minutes of staring at the screen to get to the next part, so expect to be in for a wait.
Step 16: Reimage the Steam Deck
Eventually, you should be plonked onto the Linux desktop (seen above) with four main options:
- Clear local user data
- Reimage Steam Deck
- Reinstall Steam OS
- Terminal with repair tool
The option we want is ‘Reimage Steam Deck‘. Click on that with your finger by tapping the touchscreen and the imaging process will begin properly.
As with the first part, this too will take some time to complete. If the screen starts to dim, just jab an empty space of the screen with your finger to light it back up.
Advice When Setting Up SteamOS
After the imaging process is complete, you’ll be dropped back into the Steam Deck as if it was being booted for the first time. There is a catch, though.
Upon the first boot, the Steam Deck won’t have the correct drivers, meaning the control buttons won’t work. Thankfully, the touchscreen does, so poke the screen to advance menus or enter passwords.
Eventually, the Steam Deck will connect to the Internet and download an update. This update restores controller functionality, meaning the rest of the setup process can be completed as it normally would.
If the Steam Deck Doesn’t Boot
If you find your Steam Deck doesn’t boot, don’t panic. Chances are something hasn’t been put back in place correctly.
To fix this, take the Steam Deck apart again and remove the battery connector and SSD. Those two components are most likely the cause of any problems. If they’re out by even a fraction, the Steam Deck won’t boot to avoid damaging the device.
By taking them out and firmly putting them back in, you can make sure they’re plugged in correctly, and this should, hopefully, fix any boot issues.
I’d also suggest following the guide from the beginning again when taking the Steam Deck apart, just to make sure you’re doing everything in the right order.