How To Set Up A Linux Steam Machine Without Steam OS [Guide]

Like Steam OS but not a huge fan of Valve’s Debian-based Linux distribution? Consider making your own Linux Steam machine instead, with a Big Picture mode session.
Setting up a Steam Big Picture session on Linux without the help of Steam OS is tricky, but doable thanks to the Steam-Login package. It’s a hack on Linux that forces the “Big Picture” feature in Steam on Linux to act as a desktop environment, much like a traditional installation of Valve’s Steam OS behaves.
Steam-Login doesn’t have the same enhancements that a traditional installation of Steam OS does, meaning that if you depend on special Valve gamepad drivers, GPU fixes etc, this method isn’t for you. However, if you’re not a fan of Steam OS, and would rather turn your favorite operating system into a Steam-powered console, follow the instructions below.
Note: before using Steam-Login, you will need to install compatible GPU drivers on Linux, or games may have issues running. Additionally, you will need to have a Steam account, or Steam-Login cannot run.

Install Steam

Before setting up the Big Picture desktop environment on your Linux distribution, it’s important to install the Steam client first. Follow the directions below to install it.


sudo apt install steam



Debian can’t install the Steam package on its own. Before continuing, you’ll need to enable 32-bit packages.

sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386

Run the update command to finalize the addition of 32-bit packages in Debian. sudo apt-get update.

sudo apt-get update

Now that 32-bit packages are working on Debian, Steam is ready to install.

sudo dpkg -i steam.deb  sudo apt-get install -f

Arch Linux

Steam is available on Arch Linux, but will not install unless the “Multilib” and “Community” repositories are enabled in /etc/pacman.conf. Turn them on, then do the following commands in a terminal to install it.

sudo pacman -Syy steam


Fedora doesn’t have Steam, as it’s not open source. Luckily, it’s on RPM Fusion.

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Note: replace X with your Fedora version number (like 28.)

sudo dnf install  sudo dnf install  sudo dnf install steam -y


OpenSUSE has the Steam client ready to install in the OBS. Head over to the official Steam page, select your release and click “1-Click Install” to get it working.

Install Steam-Login

Steam on its own has the Big Picture feature. Yet, it doesn’t contain the code to make Big Picture a desktop environment. Instead, you’ll need to install the Steam-Login tool. With it, it’s possible to break away Steam into its own session, making a “Steam OS-like experience” for gaming.
Note: Steam-Login works on Ubuntu, Debian, and Arch Linux (thanks to the AUR.) However, the developer doesn’t have any packages for Redhat-based Linux distributions. Instead, if you plan to use this on Fedora or OpenSUSE, you’ll need to download the code and build it yourself. Instructions on how to build Steam-Login are available on the developer’s Github page.


Getting Steam-Login working involves downloading a Deb package. Downloading Steam-Login is the only way to avoid compiling the software, as the developer doesn’t update the PPA. To get the package, visit this page here.

When the Steam-Login Deb is on your Linux PC, open up a terminal and do the following:

cd ~/Downloads sudo dpkg -i steam-session_11_all.deb  sudo apt install -f

Arch Linux

Need Steam-Login on Arch Linux? Lucky for you, there’s an AUR package available. To install it, open up a terminal and execute the commands below. Keep in mind that when building programs from the AUR, dependencies sometimes fail to install. If that happens during the installation for Steam-Login, go to the official AUR page and get them.

sudo pacman -S base-devel git
git clone  cd steam-session-git  makepkg -si

Using Steam-Login

With Steam and Steam-Login installed on your Linux PC, the hard work is over. At this point, you won’t need to compile, install or tweak any more software. Instead, all that’s required is to log in your Steam account.

When you’ve logged into Steam, reboot your Linux PC. After restarting, you’ll see the login manager. Look for “session” and select the “Steam” option, instead of “Gnome”, “Plasma”, “LXQt”, etc.

Don’t see the login manager after rebooting? You may have “automatic login” enabled. If this is the case, click “log out” to exit your current session. This will bring you to the login window. From here, click “session,” and select the “Steam” option. Enter your password, and log in to the Steam “Big Picture” session.

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