How to Transfer ROMs to the Steam Deck Easily

The Steam Deck is a near-perfect console. But it does have a handful of minor annoyances. One of the biggest headaches right now is how to transfer ROMs to the Steam Deck. Despite being a super-powerful console capable of playing the latest AAA games and emulating every retro title out there, transferring files is a pain.

Thankfully, there is a host of easy solutions once you know what it is you’re after.

Option 1: Warpinator – What You’ll Need

  • Warpinator on PC
  • Warpinator on Steam Deck
  • An Internet connection
  • ROMs to transfer

Step 1: Grab Warpinator on PC

Image showing where to click to download Warpinator on PC.

The first thing we want to do before anything else is head over to the Warpinator Github page and download the latest version.

Towards the bottom of the page is a file named “warpinator-setup_0.2.exe.” Click on that file to download it, then when it’s complete, install it by clicking on the file as you would any other software. 

One thing to note, as this software will be punching a hole through your firewall, you’ll need to grant it access the first time it launches.

Whenever Windows Defender shows up it’s normal to panic a little. Don’t worry, though. Warpinator is perfectly safe and the reason it needs access through the firewall is because it connects to other devices running Warpinator through the local network. If it can’t get through the firewall, it simply won’t be able to work.

We’ve been using Warpninator on both our home Windows PC and the Steam Deck and haven’t run into any issues whatsoever.

  • Download Warpinator on PC
  • Install Warpinator on PC

Step 2: Grab Warpinator on Steam Deck

Image showing where to click to download Warpinator on Steam Deck in Discover.

Once Warpinator is finished installing grab the Steam Deck and head into Desktop Mode.

To enter Desktop Mode, press the Steam button then click power, then select switch to desktop. Alternatively, you can hold down the power button for a few seconds. That also brings up the Steam menu and lets you select power and then switch to desktop.

Once the desktop is loaded, click on the blue shopping bag icon in the bottom-left corner of the screen. If you’ve removed that, click the blue and white Steam icon in the bottom-left corner to bring up the apps menu. At the top is ‘all applications. Click on that then head to the ‘D’ area and click on the program called ‘Discover’.

Discover is the main app store and it’s really easy to use. Just click it to open it up, type what you’re looking for in the top-left search box, and hit enter. Nice and simple, right?

To grab Warpinator on Steam Deck, just type “Warpinator” into the search bar in the Discover app. After a few seconds Discover will find the Warpinator app then all that’s left to do is click the “install” button and let the Deck do its thing.

  • Head to the discover store and download Warpinator

Step 3: Open Warpinator on PC and on the Steam Deck

Image showing where to find Warpinator on Windows (left) and Steam Deck (right).

Next comes a nice and easy section, open up Warpinator on both the PC and Steam Deck.

To find it on a Windows PC, if you didn’t make a shortcut, head to the Windows menu in the bottom-left corner, then click all applications, and scroll to ‘W’ to find Warpinator. Click it, and it’ll open.

Over on the Steam Deck it’s the same process. Click on the blue and white Steam icon in the bottom-left corner, click all apps, then scroll to ‘W’ again and click on Warpinator to open it. Easy peasy.

  • Open both versions of Warpinator – one on PC, the other on the Steam Deck

Steam 4: Connect the Two Devices Wirelessly

Image showing the Warpinator window on PC.

Honestly, it’s all clear sailing from here on out.

Once Warpinator has opened on each platform, follow the on-screen instructions to link the two devices.

Both devices should find each other. Then it’s just a case of clicking where the name and the Warpinator app will connect.

If one platform isn’t finding the other, there is some troubleshooting you can do.

Image showing the Warpinator window on Steam Deck.

First make sure both devices have access to the Internet. That means checking the PC is connected either via a LAN cable or wirelessly, and checking to make sure the Steam Deck is connected to the same network and not in flight mode.

If both devices are connected to the Internet, be sure that the PC has allowed Warpinator access through the firewall. If you deny it, it won’t be able to connect to anything else on the same network, the Steam Deck included.

  • On PC, click on the Steam Deck’s name to connect the two platforms

Step 5: How to Transfer ROMs to Steam Deck

Image showing where to click to transfer ROMs across on Steam Deck.

Now for the fun stuff. But first, make a mental note of where your ROMs or games are located on the PC side. You’re going to be accessing them in a moment so knowing the exact path to them is going to save you time.

Once everything is all connected, click the name of the Steam Deck on the PC in Warpinator twice. This will bring up a fairly boring window. Take note of the two buttons at the bottom: “Browse” and the plus button.

  • Browse is used for individual or a selection of files
  • The Plus button is used for transferring entire folders

Use either “browse” or the plus button depending on what it is you want to transfer. If it’s a few files, go with “browse,” but if you’ve got an entire folder to send over, then use the plus button instead.

It’s also worth noting the “browse” function can’t send folders, so don’t bother trying.

Once you’ve located the ROMs or files you want to transfer, either click on them – or if you’ve got multiple files, highlight them – and click open. This will load the files on PC into the PC version of Warpinator.

Next hit “send,” which is located in the bottom-right corner of the window.

Now we’re going to want to go over to the Steam Deck. In the Warpinator window you should see the files are waiting to be accepted. To do this, just hit the tick button. That’s it. The files will now transfer over and be deposited into the “Warpinator” folder.

To access the files or ROMs on Steam Deck, open the file explorer app (the folder icon at the bottom of the screen) and navigate to “/home/warpinator”. Inside this folder should be your files.

As a bonus tip, you can change where files are saved by opening Warpinator, clicking the three lines in the top-left, then under “Location for received files” clicking to the right and changing the location to something easier to find (we went with “downloads”).

That’s it! You’re now free to move the files to wherever you want, including an SD card, which if you’ve got EmuDeck set up, is a really solid idea to keep the internal storage drive as spacious as possible.

Other Things to Consider

  • Windows-to-Linux may cause cross-compatibility issues

The Steam Deck runs on a modified version of Linux. That’s why getting Minecraft working on Steam Deck isn’t a simple case of heading to the Steam store.

That also means plugging the Deck into a PC via USB isn’t always guaranteed to work. If the SD card has been formatted to exFAT (the Steam Deck formats to ext4, designed for Linux), that should be able to work on both Linux and Windows. If not, you may be out of luck, in which case Warpinator is definitely worth a shot. Plus sending files wirelessly means you can play on the Deck from the comfort of the couch while you wait.

  • Transfer speeds can be slow

When we were testing Warpinator out on our Steam Deck console, download speeds were super fast. A 5GB file took a little under five minutes to transfer over. Now, the speed of the transfer could be hindered by numerous factors. If you’re downloading something, or a family member is playing online, speeds could be slower.

To get the fastest transfer speeds, try to use Warpinator when no one else is using the network. Although you’re technically not downloading anything from the Internet, each modem or router can only handle so much and it’s worth keeping that in mind when you’re sending that 50GB folder across.

Option 2: Paragon Linux File Systems for Windows

Since we published this article we came across another piece of software that really streamlines the whole process.

Linux File Systems for Windows by Paragon is a genius program that allows Windows to read external Linux drives such as microSD and hard drives.

We tested it out and it works like a dream. It found our memory card and inside of Windows, it works just like a normal SD card. It’s great.

The only downside is it costs $20/£16.99, although there is a free trial, so if you only plan on using this once or twice over the course of seven days, it’s a much faster and more stable alternative to Warpinator.

Here’s how to get it running:

  • Download the trial version from the Paragon website
  • Install it like a normal program
  • Open up the Linux File Systems for Windows program
  • Plug in your Linux storage device
  • Open up Windows Explorer and transfer the ROMs across

How easy is that?

Wesley Copeland
Wesley Copeland

Wesley Copeland is a gaming, tech, and toys journalist with over 10 years of experience writing online. Originally starting in video games before specializing in tech and toys, you can find his bylines at IGN, VG24/7, Kotaku, Tech Radar, Games Radar, PC Gamer, Heavy, and many more. He's also highly passionate about how tech can be used to better our day-to-day lives.