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Valve shows you how to mod a Steam Deck — and why you shouldn’t

Valve cautions people against opening up their console

Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

It’s not every day that a company posts a video tutorial on how to alter its hardware. However, Valve went slightly against the grain on Wednesday when it published a video teardown of the Steam Deck on YouTube. The video presented a perfect how-to guide for modding your Steam Deck hardware, after it launches in December. It also gave Valve the opportunity to send this PSA: Don’t modify the console, because you’ll likely ruin it.

In the video, a Valve representative gives detailed step-by-step instructions for replacing the thumbsticks and the solid-state hard drive. The footage helps clarify what will and won’t be possible with the console once it launches at the end of the year. Because Valve’s new hand-held system resembles a gaming PC in some ways, some customers had wondered about its specs and if they could actively swap components out.

According to this video, that’s not recommended. As the narrator put it: “In one way, this is a how-to-video. In another way, it’s a ‘why you really shouldn’t do this’ video.”

Valve doesn’t recommend users open up their Steam Decks because the handheld isn’t designed for the parts to be switched out. According to the video, opening the case could cause serious damage — in some cases, you could be setting the console up to catch fire later. The video says, somewhat bluntly, that folks should leave this work to professionals unless someone is ready to take “big risks” with their property — and their “life,” in the case of damaging the battery.

While the video certainly does show how one would replace the SSD and thumbsticks, it also lists everything that could go wrong throughout the process. The structural integrity of the deck could be impacted, static electricity could fry the parts, a store-bought SSD could kill other parts, and so on.

It makes sense that some customers might have considered buying an SSD. The cheapest ($399) Steam Deck only comes with 64 GB of flash memory. That caused a lot of concern, because some of the games shown in the console’s promotional video, like Control, are 42 GB or larger. Swapping the SSD, while technically possible, won’t be a simple process. In the video, Valve suggests using the micro-SD slot to expand storage.

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