Steam Deck designer says SSD mod 'will significantly shorten the life of your Deck'

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The Steam Deck's interior, with the fan front and center.
(Image credit: Future)

"Please don't do this," has been the stance of Valve Steam Deck (opens in new tab) designer, Lawrence Yang, regarding an SSD mod that came to light recently. We reported on the mod itself last week (opens in new tab), which saw one Deck owner (Decker?) replace the original 2230-size SSD with a more readily available 2242-size drive.

Yang responded via Twitter (opens in new tab) suggesting that the charge IC itself gets rather toasty and the removed thermal pad really shouldn't be removed. He also states that these larger SSDs, while they may be more easily found, and often cheaper, generally draw more power and therefore get hotter than the design parameters initially specced out for the Steam Deck itself.

Basically don't do this, "this mod may appear to work but will significantly shorten the life of your Deck."

Storage has been one of the hot topics around Valve's Steam Deck, largely because that has been the defining characteristic of the different tiers of Deck you can buy. But even back when it was revealed the handheld gaming PC held a standard M.2 slot inside it compact innards Valve has been continually advising users not to try DIY an updated SSD (opens in new tab) into the device.

The other side of the Deck debate has surrounded thermals, and therefore fan noise (opens in new tab), as well as battery life (opens in new tab). If you're dropping any fresh component into the system that asks for more power than the original parts the machine's power and cooling solutions were designed for, then you're liable to make a loss in battery life and gain a chunk in heat.

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/Kmup7Zov13June 25, 2022

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When we reported on the mod Katie made the point that, in reality, just dropping a chunky microSD card into the waiting SDXC slot of the Steam Deck would net you all the extra storage you could need on the go, and without a significant drop in performance. The delta difference between running from an installed NVMe SSD and a microSD card has been a mere two seconds in testing.

Interestingly, the original modder has since responded to Yang (opens in new tab), agreeing with his sentiment; "Mod at your own risk!" They state. But they also go on to say that they're looking at it as a proof of concept, and that the thermal pad on the charging IC is "still making contact just fine," and the SSD picked is a pretty low power model.

Might as well respond to this, I absolutely agree with this guy.Mod at your own risk!I am taking risks by opening the device and working on it, and it is mostly just as a proof of concept.Thread continues below. https://t.co/upg15VxmhzJune 26, 2022

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They also note that, via the temperature sensors of the Deck itself, "thermals of the device have not shown any changes."

They're not challenging Yang's obvious knowledge as Deck Papa, however, they are investigating what works within the confines of the handheld device, and stating they are "planning on going further and finding ways to deal with my own concerns regarding the mod."

Which honestly is part of why we love the Steam Deck. It's such a raw device, and so damned PC. I mean, it is a PC, but it's also a handheld gaming device that could easily have been delivered in such a locked down form that would render it almost impossible for anyone but the seriously technically gifted with a soldering iron to get inside, much less update, swap, or mod anything.

Perfectly manicured hand unscrewing the Steam Deck backplate with a Christmas cracker screwdriver.

(Image credit: Future)

Valve didn't even use Torx screws to lock people out of digging in to see how their Decks tick, and has ensured everything was created in such a modular way as to make even the individual thumbsticks replaceable. Even going so far as to provide a parts supplier, in iFixit (opens in new tab), that will allow you to repair practically any issue with your machine.

This is super-refreshing, and Valve's more open approach to design has made the Steam Deck encouragingly accessible… aside from, y'know, being notoriously hard to actually buy. 

Some companies would have found a way to lock you out from your device if you carried out some mod it didn't approve of. Valve's approach is simply to pop up in the media and ask nicely: "please don't do this."

Dave James

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.

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