Valve Reluctantly Shows How To Mod The Steam Deck

As the narrator in this official instructional video from Valve reminds the viewer several times, the gaming company would really rather you not open up your brand new Steam Deck and start poking around. They can’t guarantee that their software will function should you start changing the hardware, and since there’s no source for replacement parts yet anyway, there’s not much you can do in the way of repairs.

That said, Valve does believe you have the right to take apart your own device, and has produced the video below as an aid to those who are willing risk damaging their new system by opening it up. Specifically, the video goes over how to replace the most likely wear items on the handheld, namely the thumb sticks and the SSD. It seems inevitable that the stock thumb sticks will wear down after a couple years of hard use, so we’re glad to see they are easily removable modules. As for the SSD, it stands to reason that users would want to swap it out for faster and higher capacity models as they become available in the coming years.

Sooner or later, these are going to need to be replaced.

Now to be clear, we appreciate Valve making this video, and would love to see other manufacturers be so forthcoming. But we have to admit that some of its messaging does seem a bit heavy handed. The narrators admonition that users who open their Steam Deck are literally taking their lives into their own hands due to the danger of potentially rupturing the system’s lithium-ion battery is a bit hyperbolic for our tastes. The constant reminders of how badly you could bungle the job just comes off as overly preachy, though to be fair, we probably aren’t the intended audience.

Outside of its obvious gaming functions, we’re excited too see what the community can do with the Steam Deck. With official reference material like this, perhaps we’ll even start seeing some hardware modifications before too long. Though we wouldn’t blame you for hitting the Mute button halfway through.

[Thanks to burningbroccoli for the tip.]

35 thoughts on “Valve Reluctantly Shows How To Mod The Steam Deck

  1. Agreed! This is very heavy handed. I feel personally oppressed by their suggestion that this is a bad idea. (/s… does anybody actually that warnings on stuff like that are anything more than a formality at best, and a courteous suggestion at worst?)

    For real though, they should have gone the more generic “you already bought it, go ahead and break it if you want” approach… then sent Electroboom a few and asked him to blow up the batteries, shock himself, and smoke the whole thing as the “unofficially official” video of what could go wrong

      1. I always appreciate the line “our lawyers makes us say that [you are not supposed to do this]”.

        It makes it clear that you are free to do what you want, the company endorses you to take apart their devices … but they won’t be held accountable if you accidentally pierce the battery … or cut your finger on a sharp edge.

  2. I’m just pleased the circuit board looks generic enough to use in a VR headset, laptop or console box.

    NVMe storage is great, I wonder how to get up and installed though XD (maybe image the old MMC over and grow the partition?), Still excited to run SteamOS on my own hardware.

  3. “narrators admonition that users who open their Steam Deck are literally taking their lives into their own hands due to the danger ”

    Like I always say, Hack like you mean it.

    1. They don’t want to be sued if, for instance, some klutz stabs a screwdriver through the battery and burns down their house, though. They’ve taken a slight legal risk as the makers of this devise in showing how to open it. They want to have a good legal defense of someone tries to sue them for encouraging them to do something that didn’t turn out well. They want to support the right to repair (or rather, they want the consumer goodwill from doing so) but they understandably don’t want to get bit in the ass for doing so.

      TL;DR: Lawyers and a healthy fear of legal bullshit.

    1. Depends on exactly what type of glove (and how thick too) those are as to if it actually matters. Looks to me like it won’t in this case, but yeah not a good idea still.

      Personally I much prefer standing on the pad of a wrist strap (on carpet) or strapping round the ankle on hard floors, keeps both hands untethered – the number of times that tether can get caught on something on the desk and try to throw things to the floor, especially if you don’t have a great semi-permanent optimised set up is just soo high…

    2. Those black gloves are nitrile…
      Nitrile gloves are static conductive to avoid build up like latex…
      So yes anti-static strap on nitrile gloves works as well as on your skin…

  4. Given that Macdonald’s has to print on their coffee cups Caution contents is hot to save an individual that probably that has less brain cells than a amoeba the cautions about a battery from a legal standpoint are probably justified.

    We should just be great full they did produce the video which is in stark opposition to most other companies these days

    1. Look up the actual case you are referencing. An old woman got extreme burns over most of her body because the coffee was WAY beyond too hot to be served to *anyone*. I always hate seeing when people bring this one up.

      1. I have seen this argument several times over several years. I am intrigued. How does this even work? According to SCA “Cupping water temperature shall be 200°F ± 2°F (92.2 – 94.4°C) when poured on grounds.”.
        This is certainly fairly hot if you pour it over yourself instead of over the ground coffee but it is not unreasonable to expect the coffee to be warm if you fairly recently got it from a coffee technician.
        Personally if I get served coffee poured outside the agreed on temperature range I get upset and feel like I haven’t got my moneys worth. But I admit that most of the times this has happened it has been below or very below the range.
        Was there a malfunction and the coffee was hotter than the SCA standard?
        Were McDonalds even following a standard?
        There just is not a lot of temperature left above 94.4°C until you hit 100 and unless McDonalds was experimenting how to brew with steam, its not going to get a lot hotter.
        “WAY beyond too hot to be served to *anyone*” just does not seem likely.
        “old woman got extreme burns over most of her body” also sounds like it was life threatening levels of burns (>30%) it was not, Liebeck got third-degree burns on 6% of her skin in the pelvic area and lesser burns on 16% of her skin.
        Clarification: I am not insinuating that Stella Liebeck is the one that is full of crap here.

        1. The boiling point of water is ~50 degrees F above a temperature that is safe to drink. Most times that you get coffee it would have cooled some in the carafe before even pouring into the mug, and then would cool more in the mug. That’s quite different than it being near boiling in the machine at McDs, dispensed straight into an insulted cup, and then awkwardly handed through a drive-thru window into a lower car window. McDs sets the temperature so that the coffee is still hot a considerable while after the customer gets it. But that means it’s very dangerous in transit.

  5. I applaud them for putting out their own teardown video. I just wish it would have kept going. Once they got to the SSD they should have done another over-the-top warning about the next part being guaranteed to break the thing, and proceeded to diassemble every part of it down to a hollow shell. A guy can dream, right?

  6. I didn’t find it that bad. Yes, they give warnings that are tailored to people who haven’t developed some of the skills I have. Those warnings are all valid though. The hardware seems fairly well designed for maintenance, which I appreciate.

  7. Just remember the community duty that goes with Open Hardware.. modding means you forfeit the right to:

    – complain that Valve isn’t adopting your pet modification, or supporting games that depend on your pet collection of mods,

    – blame Valve for the inevitable DLL Hell of mutually incompatible mods, and the games that rely on them,

    – expect Valve to resolve any of the above compatibility problems,

    – complain if Valve makes hardware or software changes that break popular mods.

    There’s a really easy way for Valve — and every other hardware manufacturer — to avoid that problem: keep the system Closed.

    If Valve’s reward for going Open is a smattering of half-hearted praise followed by years of whining from a community that puts its Balkanized self-interest ahead of the overall health of the platform (and Valve), it will be a strong and detailed argument against going Open ever again.

    1. While it’s nice that Valve is being more candid than typical hardware manufacturers, until they post schematics, BOM, board layout files, firmware source, and CAD drawings, it’s not Open Hardware. I’m pretty sure NDAs around the APU are going to get in the way, among other components.

    2. The Steamdeck isn’t Open Hardware, it’s fully proprietary. Valve are using several standard or near standard components, and may release the 3D models for the case, but that’s not the same as being Open. I think for now the main hope is that Valve will make components available to buy for the purpose of repairing broken Steamdecks.

  8. Are you kidding? THIS is a bit heavy handed?
    If you can acknowledge the liabilities that Valve are likely trying to protect themselves from, this is freakin amazing!
    Imagine how much better the world would be if all companies not only allowed or accepted this is YOUR hardware, but went out of their way to show you how to open it up. This is amazing.

  9. Well, fifty years ago car manufactures manuals provided instructions on how to adjust valves. Today they tell you not to drink battery acid.
    The reason being is that they have to tailor the manuals to the audience and cover them selves from lawsuits. You gotta look at it from the companies perspective.

    1. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh… maybe? I mean, you don’t think trying to hook customers for repeat visits to Dealer Service Centers are the real reason for locking up knowledge?

      About 20 years ago, maybe before that, Volvo showed off a (never produced) ‘Maintenance Free’ concept vehicle. You know what made it ‘maintenance free’? The had locked panels over the engine bay and covering the under carriage. The thought was if you can’t get to it, then you had to bring it to a dealer for everything. Hence, ‘maintenance free’. Also to make it even more hilarious, Volvo said the market for such a vehicle were women.

      I dunno. When it comes to profit grifting vs protection from lawsuits, I think profit probably is the priority. or I mean, Apple doesn’t want you to be able to replace the battery on a iPhone because… danger? I’m not saying thats impossible, just think the other thing is the real driving factor and they use danger as an excuse.

  10. It’s just awesome that Valve made the video in a market where pretty much all other manufacturers wouldn’t. I think it’s great and they should get props not complaints IMO. The warnings don’t hurt anything. The bottom line is they’re making that information available.

    1. Of course, but at a higher price. All the little “simple” things a manufacturer *could* do to improve their product would make them unaffordable to buy and/or unprofitable to offer in a competitive market. Anyway, it’s a simple matter for a careful person to not over-torque screws in an all-plastic hole, and simple for a clever person to fix if they do. The careless and/or dim-witted should leave it to someone else.

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