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Did you know the Steam Deck requires some mandatory maintenance to keep all of its storage space? There’s a justifiable reason for this, but at the time of writing, Valve has not made it easy to fix this issue inside Steam OS. This will require a Desktop Mode fix, which I’ll walk you through below!
Why Your Steam Deck Will Inevitably Run Out of Storage Space
Before I jump straight into the tutorial (though you can with the table of contents above!), I’d like to talk about why this is happening. You see, it’s actually one of the key features of the Steam Deck, a feature that allows it to maintain high performance and consistent framerates even in games with known shader compilation stutter issues.
Video Source: Digital Foundry on YouTube explaining the PC Port of Sackboy: A Big Adventure’s severe issues with shader compilation stutter.
Since shader compilation stutter is such a problem in modern game development, especially on weaker machines, the key advantage of Steam Deck’s Vulcan Shader Pre-Caching it to be avoided.
And since Steam Deck is on Steam OS (a version of Linux) and everything is being forced to run on Vulkan, this benefit can be extended to games that don’t natively support Shader Pre-Caching, like Elden Ring.
Unfortunately, however, there is one problem. While shader compilation stutter isn’t a problem on Steam Deck, you will find that the system is downloading Vulkan shaders relatively frequently. And these shaders stay on your storage drive even after you’ve uninstalled the game, which slowly results in the buildup of “Other” storage being taken up with no apparent way to get it back.
How To Fix The Problem With Steam Deck Cleaner
Fortunately, there’s a pretty easy way to fix this issue! You’ll just need to install the Steam Deck Cleaner utility. The ever-present upside of Linux is that you can usually do pretty much anything you want, and the Steam Deck is an open-ended device for exactly these kinds of applications and use cases. Let’s dive into how to install it!
How To Install Steam Deck Cleaner
To install Steam Deck Cleaner, you’ll need to download the latest release from this web page: https://github.com/MiaPepsi/DeckCleaner/releases . I’ve left the link here for your convenience in case you want to bookmark it (for Chrome sync access), but below I’ll walk you through an easy process of getting to the page on your own from within Steam Deck’s UI.
Before installing non-Steam applications, you’ll need to hold down your Power Button and select Switch to Desktop.
Once in Desktop Mode, open Chrome or FireFox (both should be installed by default). Now, search for “Deck Cleaner Github”, and find the one run by MiaPepsi.
MiaPepsi’s Deck Cleaner repository is where you want to be. Head to the Releases page for the latest release.
Click to download the .zip file.
Once downloaded, select the Zip file and “Show in folder”.
Within the folder, right-click and Extract the .zip file. You’ll notice in the image below that I already have a Deck Cleaner folder- this is from my last installation.
Once extracted, open up the Deck Cleaner folder.
Inside, find the deckcleaner 1.2.sh file, right-click it, and select “Properties”.
Now, inside Properties and Permissions, check the box for “Is executable”.
Now, click OK. You have an executable Steam Deck Cleaner!
How To Use Steam Deck Cleaner
Just click to Execute the file you just made.
Once executed, you’ll get a brief prompt showing you where your shader cache folder is being purged and how much data ia being removed. When I originally ran this tool prior to writing this guide, I freed up over 8GB of storage space on my own Steam Deck!
How To Set An Easy Steam Deck Cleaner Shortcut
Now that you have Steam Deck Cleaner, let’s make it easy to access in the future, even from within Steam Deck’s Gaming Mode.
Locate your Steam Icon in your desktop mode taskbar (on the bottom by default), right-click it, and select “Library”.
Now, click the “Games” button at the top, and select “Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library” from the dropdown.
Click “Browse” and locate the Download folder where you placed Deck Cleaner.
Now, find the deckcleaner1.2.sh file that you made executable earlier, set File type to “All files”, and click “Open”.
You’ve now added Deck Cleaner to your main Steam Deck UI! Whenever you go back to Gaming Mode, you’ll be able to boot it from the Non-Steam tab any time you need to.
How Often To Use Steam Deck Cleaner
For a utility like Steam Deck Cleaner, I would recommend running this tool every 6 months, perhaps more frequently depending on the volume of games you install and uninstall on your Steam Deck.
While my own shader cache folder never got larger than 8GB, I’ve heard of others’ folders reaching much larger (12+ GB) sizes, which I imagine can be particularly problematic on the $399 Steam Deck model or Deck users without SD cards.
Fortunately, frequent use of this utility should have you looking good. And hopefully Valve soon adds the ability to automatically clear these files from the system on your own!
Other Essential Steam Deck Tips
Before I leave you off, I want to give you some essential Steam Deck starting tips. I’ll be linking to other extended guides in this section in case they are needed, but feel free to skim through or skip ahead to the ending or the comments to get things wrapped up.
Optimizing Per-Game Profiles For Performance or Battery Life
One of my biggest Steam Deck usage recommendations is using the ability to set per-game Power and Performance Profiles. You do this by triggering the Steam Power Menu overlay with the right-hand triple dot button on the Steam Deck. I’ve written detailed guides on using this menu for both High Performance Gaming and High Battery Life Gaming on the Steam Deck.
Expanding Game Compatibility With Proton Settings and Proton-GE
Running out of Steam Deck verified games to play? Chances are high that by enabling the right version of Proton in your Game’s Properties, you can probably still make your game run on Steam OS!
And don’t despair if you’ve already tried different versions of Proton (like Proton Experimental) to get your games working on Steam Deck. There are still yet more options for expanding Deck compatibility, namely acquiring and installing Proton GE, which is a community-run fork of Proton with cutting-edge features.
And that’s it, at least for now! I hope that this article helped you restore some of your storage space on Steam Deck. Please feel free to comment below if that helped you, or you have any other questions related to the Steam Deck or PC hardware and PC gaming! I’ll be happy to help.
Until then or until next time, happy gaming! And don’t forget to run some maintenance like this on your Deck at least twice a year or so, like you would a PC. Because it is one.