How to get to Steam Deck Desktop mode

Valve has made accessing Steam Deck Desktop mode an easy process, and we have all the steps and information you need to make the switch yourself.

A screenshot of 'Desktop mode' on the screen of a Steam Deck, with an orange background.

How do you get to Steam Deck Desktop mode? The Steam Deck is a formidable machine, serving both as a powerful handheld device but also as a portable PC. Unlocking the Deck’s desktop features is a simple process, and we’re here to help guide you through it.

Entering Steam Deck Desktop mode grants you access to applications like web browsers as well as to the device’s file system, but it’s also a necessary step to install on Steam Deck and other storefronts. So, whether you’re looking to take a break from the best Steam Deck games or do some tinkering, it’s something every owner of the handheld should know how to access.

A screenshot from the Steam Deck showing where to access 'Desktop mode.'

How do you get to Steam Deck Desktop mode?

To get to Steam Deck Desktop mode, press and hold the power button until the ‘Power’ menu has appeared, then select ‘Switch to Desktop’.

The power button is situated at the top right-hand side of the handheld, next to the R1 and R2 trigger buttons. When holding it down, the menu won’t appear instantly, so be sure to give it a moment. Once ‘Switch to Desktop’ has been selected, the Steam Deck will reboot into a desktop interface, with a toolbar on the bottom, desktop icons, and wallpaper.

A screenshot of 'Desktop mode' on a Steam Deck.

Alternatively, you can also press the ‘Steam’ button on the Valve handheld, scroll down and select ‘Power’, then select ‘Switch to Desktop.’ Though the latter involves more steps, it’s my preferred method to ensure I don’t accidentally reset or turn off the Steam Deck by holding down the power button for too long.

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If you own one of the best Steam Deck docks, while in Desktop mode you can connect gaming mouse and keyboard via USB. Navigating the Steam Deck’s file system is much easier using peripherals, but you can also use the Steam Deck keyboard in desktop mode.

To return to ‘Gaming Mode’, use the shortcut icon on the Steam Deck desktop. To select is, use the right analog stick, touchpad, or touch screen. After a short period, you’ll be back in the familiar Big Picture UI.

Check out our list of the best Steam Deck accessories if you want to find out more ways to make the most out of your favorite PC gaming handheld.