The Steam Deck started shipping two months ago today, and it’s gotten quite a bit better since, but this week might be the best yet — because we’re finally addressing the single biggest issue with the $400 portable PC. Yes, I’m talking about the fan.
When the Deck launched, it shipped with an extremely noisy fan to cool its AMD Zen 2 and RDNA 2 silicon, and owners like me have been dealing with its volume and constant whine from day one. It ran constantly, even when I wasn’t doing anything with the system, and was always ramping up even in relatively lightweight games like Vampire Survivors.
Worse, it whines. Or at least some Steam Decks have that issue — the Reddit community discovered that Valve actually ships the Deck with one of two different fans, one from Delta and another from Huaying. I’ve got the Delta one, and so do most others complaining about the whine from what I’ve seen. Valve won’t comment on the fan selection, and iFixit can’t say whether you’ll be able to swap out for a better one when replacement parts are available.
But this week, Valve did take a big step towards improving it with a beta software update — and I can confirm it’s a whole new experience. No longer does the fan kick on when the system’s just sitting there — it’s now dead silent when idle, until or unless you warm up the chip by downloading some content or opening up big folders of games at a minimum.
It no longer ramps up as quickly, either, with mine generally waiting until the system crosses 65 degrees Celsius before raising fan speed to a new tier — though I did notice it getting pretty toasty before it hit maximum fan speed, and even saw some stuttering in Elden Ring when I topped out at around 87 degrees Celsius on the GPU.
One problem: none of Valve’s tweaks fixed the whine. My Delta fan may not ramp up as quickly, but it still has that tiny jet engine scream.
You know what did fix it? Electrical tape.
none of Valve’s tweaks fixed the whine, so: electrical tape?
u/OligarchyAmbulance on Reddit discovered that simply pressing on the back of the Steam Deck’s shell, near the Valve logo, was enough to deaden the whine. So they opened up their Steam Deck and stacked four little strips of electrical tape atop that same place inside the shell — right behind the fan. Here are some before and after videos they created.
I did the same: first pressing on the back to see if it might work, then opening up the Steam Deck and adding the tape. The whine was all but obliterated. Don’t get me wrong, the fan is still loud at full bore! But it’s mostly the rushing of air now, not a screech.
If you open your Steam Deck, please be careful to:
- Remove your SD card first; some people have snapped theirs in half because the case effectively guillotines it as it pops open
- Use soft plastic spudgers, not screwdrivers, to pry it open once the eight screws are removed — pry tools are cheap!
- Drain the battery before opening and yank the battery connector once open
- Don’t overtighten the screws when closing again
Should you try this at home? Not necessarily, because we don’t know why it works, or if there might be ill side effects — like heat or wear. “We don’t recommend changing the airflow path as we don’t know how that would impact thermals,” Valve’s Lawrence Yang tells me.
u/OligarchyAmbulance and I aren’t seeing any notable differences in temperature yet, but between Valve’s warning and the fact that opening up the Deck is a teensy bit harder than some make it out to be, I don’t know if I’d recommend it to just anyone.
But it seems pretty clear that this fan problem is hardware, not just software — and if Valve doesn’t have a plan or a recommendation to deaden the sound, I’m guessing more than a few gamers will take matters into their own hands.
The fan curve isn’t the only neat addition in this week’s beta update for the Deck, by the way. It also adds an experimental way to change the screen refresh rate between 40 and 60Hz, which could improve battery life and smoothness when your game’s running at over 30fps, but can’t quite hit 60fps.