Valve explains how removable Steam Libraries will work on Steam Deck

In a video with IGN, the team at Valve has gone into deeper detail about the Steam Deck’s hardware. Some interesting tidbits popped out at us, such as the claim that Valve hasn’t found a game Steam Deck can’t handle, but also how the Steam Deck will handle removable storage via SD cards.

Valve broke down how the new SteamOS 3.0 operating system on the device will support dynamically removable Steam Libraries on SD cards, yet still run games as if they were on the handheld’s internal storage. Depending on which SKU of the Steam Deck you get, investing in a beefy SD might be the best route users go to ensure users can play all their favorite Steam games on the go.

Valve has already said that there are no limits to the size of the SD card you use for the Steam Deck so it’s interesting to see its approach to removable storage.

Valve also acknowledges the difference in performance when running a game from an SD card instead of Steam Deck’s speedy M2. NVMe SSD, especially on the 256GB and 512GB models. Valve did say they spent a lot of time optimizing the system for gaming from the SD card.

But not all SD cards are created equal, so we can assume that the better the SD card, the better for optimal load times, so keep that in mind when shopping around for one.

Valve hardware engineer Yazn Aldenhayyat, further shared some anecdotal testing results among the staff who used SD cards on the Steam Deck:

“Obviously, every game is different, and every access pattern is different, but at the end of the day I think our benchmark for that was to give it to the whole bunch of people, have them use the SD card, and see what the reaction is, and I think the overwhelming reaction was that using the SD card was a great experience and they felt it like it was comparable, not quite as good, but comparable to using the external truck.”

Valve is also looking into being able to preload software games onto SDs cards from different devices in the future, which would be a huge time saver. For now, installing and managing games on removable storage can only be done on the device itself through SteamOS.

One question that isn’t answered is how well games will perform on other platforms like Epic and Origin on SD cards? If the Steam Deck can automatically fill out your Steam library when you plug in a new card, what happens if you've got an Epic-exclusive on one? We won’t know until we get our hands on the thing and do some that real-world testing ourselves.

Jorge Jimenez
Hardware writer, Human Pop-Tart

Jorge is a hardware writer from the enchanted lands of New Jersey. When he's not filling the office with the smell of Pop-Tarts, he's reviewing all sorts of gaming hardware, from laptops with the latest mobile GPUs to gaming chairs with built-in back massagers. He's been covering games and tech for over ten years and has written for Dualshockers, WCCFtech, Tom's Guide, and a bunch of other places on the world wide web.