Video: How to Install and Configure SteamOS Beta

Manufacturer: Valve

A not-so-simple set of instructions

Valve released to the world the first beta of SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system built specifically for PC gaming, on Friday evening.  We have spent quite a lot of time discussing and debating the merits of SteamOS, but this weekend we wanted to do an installation of the new OS on a system and see how it all worked.

Our full video tutorial of installing and configuring SteamOS

First up was selecting the hardware for the build.  As is usually the case, we had a nearly-complete system sitting around that needed some tweaks.  Here is a quick list of the hardware we used, with a discussion about WHY just below.

  Gaming Build
Processor Intel Core i5-4670K - $222
Motherboard EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX Motherboard - $257
Memory Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1866 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $109
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB - $999
EVGA GeForce GTX 770 2GB SuperClocked - $349
Storage Samsung 840 EVO Series 250GB SSD - $168
Case EVGA Hadron Mini ITX Case - $189
Power Supply Included with Case
Optical Drive Slot loading DVD Burnder - $36
Peak Compute 4,494 GFLOPS (TITAN), 3,213 GFLOPS (GTX 770)
Total Price $1947 (GTX TITAN)     $1297 (GTX 770)

We definitely weren't targeting a low cost build with this system, but I think we did create a very powerful system to test SteamOS on.  First up was the case, the new EVGA Hadron Mini ITX chassis.  It's small, which is great for integration into your living room, yet can still hold a full power, full-size graphics card.

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The motherboard we used was the EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX - an offering that Morry just recently reviewed and recommended.  Supporting the latest Intel Haswell processors, the Stinger includes great overclocking options and a great feature set that won't leave enthusiasts longing for a larger motherboard.

Continue reading our installation and configuration guide for SteamOS!!

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Now, for the all important GPU selection, we over did it a bit.  We happen to already have a GeForce GTX TITAN in this system for some other testing we were doing (we wanted to make sure the Hadron chassis power supply could handle it) and decided to leave it in.  As one of the fastest (and the most expensive) single GPU cards on the planet, the TITAN will make a fantastic GPU for a SteamOS build but I would not recommend buying one specifically for this purpose.  In reality, when hooked up to a TV, the GTX 770 or GTX 780 will have more than enough horsepower for the job and you can grab pre-overclocked GTX 770s for $349 and below!  Saving $650 will buy a lot of Linux Steam games!!

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The only other note worthy part of this build is the storage media - in our actual system we have a smaller Intel SSD, something we happen to have just laying around for our video.  For a gaming system that will have multiple games installed often going over 20GB each, you'll want some more space than the 160GB we included.  I think a 250GB or 500GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD is your best option if you want speed or you can still get a 3TB hard drive for $113!

Throughout the next couple of weeks we'll be working on some other SteamOS-ready system builds for various price segments and chassis styles so stay tuned for that!

SteamOS Installation

The SteamOS installation is covered to completion in the video embedded above.  We based our installation on the directions found on Valve's website which are short, but pretty clear.  You can find the download link to the beta operating system files right here as well. 

After copying the files to a USB drive you need to set your BIOS/UEFI to boot from that drive and the setup is pretty much automated.  There is one potential problem that you may run into that can be very frustrating!  If you happen to run the installation and then see this error page mentioning /dev/sda or /dev/sdb being busy, check out the solution video below. 

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And be careful with this installer!  Disconnect any other hard drives or USB drives you have attached to your PC to avoid potential accidental repartitioning!!

Once you have installation working, it boots into the operating system and there a few other steps that need to take place.  You have to open up a terminal and run 'steam' to install that application and run all applicable updates.  The setup directions will also walk you through creating a recovery partition and then on your final reboot, you'll be placed into Steam Big Picture mode under SteamOS!

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Once you get there you are officially in the club of Linux gaming.  The problem of course is a limited amount of games and in particular AAA titles.  Hopes remain high amongst the gaming community that with the push to OpenGL on PS4 coupled with the SteamOS release more developers will create Linux-compatible games.  That is definitely a long term goal though so don't install SteamOS today under the belief you can migrate here completely.

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The local network streaming capability for SteamOS isn't enabled yet either so don't expect to play your Windows-only games that way either.

For now though, let me know your thoughts and experiences with SteamOS in the comments below!!

Our full video tutorial of installing and configuring SteamOS

Video News

December 15, 2013 | 03:30 PM - Posted by eisbehr (not verified)

I still wonder why the Metro:LL devs decided to neuter the graphics settings screen on Mac and Linux. The options seem to be still available in the configuration file, but they are not exposed from the UI.

My only guess would be that they wanted to make it more like a console game, but in my option they would have done well to include the standard settings screen as "advanced settings".

December 15, 2013 | 05:40 PM - Posted by cardesinr (not verified)

Can you guys show a tutorial on how you got the flash drive to be a bootable OS. Having a really hard time trying to get it to work. Thanks and keep up the great work.

December 15, 2013 | 05:41 PM - Posted by cardesinr (not verified)

Can you guys show a tutorial on how you got the flash drive to be a bootable OS. Having a really hard time trying to get it to work. Thanks and keep up the great work.

December 15, 2013 | 10:46 PM - Posted by Jim Cherry (not verified)

if its an iso I recommend using Universal-USB-Installer
which can be found using a google search

December 15, 2013 | 10:52 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

It isn't an ISO.  All we had to do was get a FAT32 formatted USB drive and standrad copy the files over to it.

December 16, 2013 | 02:26 AM - Posted by capawesome9870

i could not get those automated installers to work with Win7 but this worked.

i tried to use this for a pfsense (linux router) but step 7 is different with linux and i gave up. i need to try again i am really needing a pfsense box.

December 15, 2013 | 08:34 PM - Posted by Angry

Great video.

December 15, 2013 | 10:53 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout


December 16, 2013 | 01:35 AM - Posted by Shortwave (not verified)

For some reason no matter what I've done I can't get it to boot. And I'm a guy who has done this type of thing thousands of times.. Must be an issue with my hardware configuration I suppose.

On the bright side, it inspired me to play around with free-DOS instead which has been a ton of fun. Haha.

Thanks for the awesome article however.
I finally got a better look at what it looks like now.
I'm highly optimistic about the future of SteamOS.
I cannot wait for features to be added and bugs to be worked out. It's great news for builders around the world.

December 16, 2013 | 02:17 AM - Posted by capawesome9870

i understand that this is the beta and very early in steam OS, but i have a question:

how low can the system hardware go if all the system will be doing is streaming?

could a old single core Pentium 4 3GHz with 2GB DDR400 and a Nvidia 5200 256MB (PCI) lastly a 10/100Lan be able to power a remote computer's stream?

December 16, 2013 | 03:26 AM - Posted by Shortwave (not verified)

Anything that could more or less handle 1080 video playback. The wi-fi bandwidth must also support that amount of data as well of course. That should be acceptable..

I'm excited to see it being done on on android devices with the process simplified with a sexy steam UI to compliment it.

December 16, 2013 | 10:46 AM - Posted by Ryan D. (not verified)

Nice detailed and technical video Ryan and crew!

December 16, 2013 | 03:40 PM - Posted by Patrick3D (not verified)

While trying to install Ubuntu 13.10 recently from a USB stick prepared with UNetBootin I found I needed to use Gparted and set the "Boot" flag on the partition, otherwise my Asus notebook wouldn't boot from it and would just dump me into the BIOS. Simple matter of unmount the partition, modify flags, check the box for "Boot" in the list of flags, save the changes and try booting from the USB stick again. Luckily I had another Linux system on hand for doing that.

December 17, 2013 | 12:25 PM - Posted by YTech

Great video!

From your first impression, if you would be comparing only Metro: Last Stand, in which OS does the game feel smoother and more eye candy (better graphic render)?

MS Windows 7 - DirectX
SteamOS (Linux) - OpenGL

Probably mention this in your next Podcast.
Thanks :)

December 17, 2013 | 11:53 PM - Posted by jtiger102

Just out of curiosity, is there any reason why an AMD APU couldn't be used? I wouldn't think so being that Valve's requirements say Intel and AMD CPU's can be used.

I was planning on using a dedicated NVIDIA card to get around the AMD video card issue.


December 18, 2013 | 01:06 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

It would likely work as well, yes.  There would just be obvious performance differences.

December 18, 2013 | 02:53 AM - Posted by Ruck (not verified)

I have a question.

How can you dualboot? I have two other drives, Linux Mint and Windows 7, and I would like to be able to boot into any of the drives as I normally do. However, from what I gather from your video/article and other guides for installing this software, it will erase my drives.

Does this mean that if I unplug my Win7 & Mint drives before I install SteamOS I'll be safe but if I plug them back into the computer while SteamOS drive is still plugged in it will automatically erase my drives?

Lastly, I read that I have to edit the preseeds to allow the install to work on a 320GB or 500GB drive.

Is any of this true and if so, how do I do any of it?

December 18, 2013 | 02:55 AM - Posted by Ruck (not verified)

Oh, and by "dual boot" I don't mean sharing on HDD drive, I mean having actual physical separate drives in the computer.

I thought I should clarify because I think I didn't make much sense in the last post, and I have trouble getting my thoughts down. lol


December 20, 2013 | 01:41 AM - Posted by Jon (not verified)

Hi PCPer, would you be so kind (on either a Steam Machine or your custom box running the OS) to plug in and use a complex controller like the Logitech Momo Wheel or the Logitech G27 wheel (or similar). I am dying to know if it will work properly under SteamOS and if a racing game (like Codemasters Dirt 2 or Dirt 3) can be successfully mapped to use the wheel. Thanks in advance!

January 9, 2014 | 12:43 AM - Posted by Tj Gienger (not verified)

I would imagine the last time you played this game on a Windows machine you were using a computer monitor that could potentially have higher resolution but is more than likely the same but a smaller screen. Just keep that in mind, and if you do a comparison make sure to use the TV for both (I know you will, but hey ... ).

June 4, 2014 | 11:24 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

When I type Steam in terminal, it say
bash: steam: command not found
How do I fix this?

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