Valve Warns Against Swapping Out Steam Deck's SSD: Here's Why

Valve's Steam Deck makes gaming across Steam's highly flexible games library way more portable for a base price of $399. The handheld Steam machine is all the rage among hardened PC gamers and newbies alike, but the feature that sets it most apart from the Nintendo Switch, which one could arguably consider the Steam Deck's top competitor, is the ability to physically modify the Steam Deck with upgraded aftermarket parts and storage drives ... sort of. One prominent example of a makeshift GPU upgrade for the Steam Deck is this externally-mounted Radeon RX 6900 XT, which is literally plugged into the Steam Deck with a PCI Express cable. 

The creator of the mod has said that it's probably not worth doing, especially when you could just buy a regular gaming PC that could easily outperform the Deck (mod included) at the price of putting it all together, which was around $1,500 to $1,700. There are several reasons behind not wanting to put too much stress on your Deck, including the fact that you can't just pop in a new CPU on the fly — meaning that it's easy to bottleneck the device by pushing it too far.

But, like many video games found in the Steam library, modding is just in the spirit of regular Steam Deck usage — at least until one of the actual developers of the device shows up to ruin the party with an admittedly gentle word of warning. That's exactly what happened when Valve developer Lawrence Yang took to Twitter in the late afternoon on June 25.

Overheating could be an issue with the Steam Deck

On June 21, Steam Deck modder @TheSmcelrea took to Twitter with reports that they'd successfully replaced the Deck's built-in M.2 storage drive with an aftermarket M.2 2242 storage drive. The modder then custom-installed SteamOS onto it, potentially increasing the Deck's base storage capacity by N amount, with N being the potential max capacity of an M.2 storage drive since you could theoretically pop in any 2242 drive if the upgrade were successful. While the upgrade did seem to work for the modder at first, it's not likely to be a good idea to replicate the same mod yourself.

This is coming from Valve's Lawrence Yang (@lawrenceyang), who took to Twitter to mention that the Deck could have an overheating problem when equipped with an M.2 2242 storage drive, which supposedly generates too much heat for the console to handle over time. Yang made this clear in a tweet referencing the mod, saying, "Hi, please don't do this. The charger IC gets very hot and nearby thermal pads should not be moved. In addition, most 2242 m.2 drives draw more power and get hotter than what Deck is designed for. This mod may appear to work but will significantly shorten the life of your Deck."

Whether future Steam Deck modders choose to heed this warning is anybody's guess, but the fact that the mod even worked in the first place is likely to inspire more ideas that are similar. If anyone comes up with a great cooling system, you can bet that someone else will be willing to install it and continue experimenting despite Valve's best wishes — this is the PC gaming community, after all.