The Steam Deck is a capable handheld gaming console that is essentially a portable computer. And multiple teardowns have consistently pointed out that upgrading onboard storage is a little tricky but possible. One of Steam Deck’s designers, Lawrence Yang, has, however, warned that performing an SSD upgrade could shorten the life of the console.
The Steam Deck is available in multiple iterations. The prices of each variant depends solely on the size of the M.2 SSD it contains. Several videos on YouTube have proven that the Steam Deck is quite upgradeable or even repairable. Valve has routinely warned against opening the Steam Deck to perform upgrades or repairs.
These warnings haven’t stopped enthusiasts from performing upgrades that could void the warranty, though. The Steam Deck’s onboard storage is not soldered. Instead, Valve has used a 2230 M.2 SSD which has all the storage chips on one side. These SSDs are not only difficult to find, but they are also expensive. Valve may have considered, and later dropped, the idea of using M.2 2280 and M.2 2242 SSD models which are relatively easier to find, and cost less.
A Steam Deck owner managed to find and insert an M.2 2242 KingSpec PCIe 3.0 x2 SSD into his console, which it accepted. After installing SteamOS, the SSD offered speeds of about 400 MB/s. While swapping the SSD, the Steam Deck owner moved some cables and slid thermal pads out of the way to make room for the slightly larger SSD. Messing around with your Steam Deck’s heat management mechanism to fit in more storage can obviously have more serious implications down the road.
Such upgrades may work, but they can shorten the service life of the Steam Deck, warned Lawrence Yang, one of the designers who worked on the Steam Deck. He claims the Steam Deck’s power management circuitry could overheat as it was never designed to handle the higher load of an M.2 2242 SSD.
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. https://t.co/Kmup7Zov13
— Lawrence Yang (@lawrenceyang) June 25, 2022
As the Steam Deck is fairly new, there are no long-term benchmarks to confirm if upgrading the internal storage on a Steam Deck is safe or not. In other words, Valve may have opted for an SSD that’s attached with just a screw, but replacing it could prove detrimental in the long run. Perhaps it would be wise to wait for official spare parts.