January 23, 2015 - mikeyD

How To Install SteamOS

I previously detailed many workarounds when SteamOS was very fresh, but never did a proper install guide. I figured, why not? The main motivation is to have a proper guide to precede my “How To Easily Dualboot SteamOS and Windows” article (coming soon). This guide will use the latest SteamOS .iso installer (as of 20140326), as well as detail the USB method installer.  This installation guide is meant for users who want to install SteamOS without advanced options. Ready to game?

1. How you can install

There are two ways to to start the installation: a disc image, or a bootable USB drive

1.1 Using the DVD disc image (.iso)

The .iso image can be found on the Steam public repository here.

On Windows, you have several programs that can burns a disc image (.iso in this case). You have Nero, Roxio, CD Burner XP (Free), and more. I won’t go into the details too much here, but you will want to choose the option to “burn a .iso disc image” or the closest option.

On Linux, many popular options exist. You can use the built in .iso image tools built into many popular Linux distributions or pick a favourite program. Some of these include K9Copy, Brasero, and more. You can also consult your distributions software center for an appropriate application.

1.2 Using a bootable USB drive

Installing via the USB method is not so hard either. Heading over over the Steam’s official download page. Take careful note! If you use the official USB installer method, known as the “default” install method on the linked page, your main drive will be formatted entirely. I do not advise this route, unless you only have one drive in your system, and it is freshly formatted with no OS on it.

Using the official SteamOS zip installer method

  1. Download the official zip archive for the installation process here.
  2. Insert a USB drive of 4GB or more into a spare system.
  3. Format the drive as “FAT32” so the installer files can be read by SteamOS.
  4. Once formatted, extract all the files from “SteamOSImage.zip” to root of the USB drive
  5. Boot the fresh USB drive on the SteamOS target computer
  6. The installation is fairly automatic

Using the official SteamOS iso image

  1. Download the official iso image for the installation process here
  2. Insert a USB drive of 4GB or more into a spare system.
  3. Format the drive as “FAT32” so the installer files can be read by SteamOS.
  4. Open the drive at least once in Linux to make sure it is mounted
  5. Download and install Unetbootin. Some Linux distributions may  have this in their repositories in one fashion or another.
    1. Alternatively, you can use `dd` to perform this, as i:
      dd if='/home/mikeyd/downloads/SteamOSDVD.iso' of='/dev/sdf'
  6. Start Unetbootin and change these options
    1. Diskimage: [ISO]
    2. Click the ellipse icon […] to  brose to the SteamOSDVD.iso file
    3. Type: USB
    4. Drive: location of your drive (fdisk, lsblk, blkid, parted, and other tools can reveal this for you).
    5. Click OK to make the ISO
  7. Post Unetbootin changes
    1. Likely you’ll need to add libcom32.c32, menu.c32 and libutil.c32 to the root of the USB drive to boot it (noted in this post)
    2. These files are located `/usr/lib/syslinux/vesamenu`
    3. Copy them to the drive location mounted to your PC in a Terminal window or using your graphical file manager
    4. Example:
      sudo cp -v /usr/lib/syslinux/bios/menu.c32 /run/media/mikeyd/steamosUSB/
      sudo cp -v /usr/lib/syslinux/bios/libcom32.c32 /run/media/mikeyd/steamosUSB/
      sudo cp -v /usr/lib/syslinux/bios/libutil.c32 /run/media/mikeyd/steamosUSB/
    5.  Boot the USB drive on the target machine

 

2. SteamOS system requirements

SteamOS can run on some minimal hardware, but expect good results if you think things through. Here are the suggested specs from Steam’s FAQ page:

  • Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor
  • 4GB or more memory
  • 500GB or larger disk (SSD suggested)
  • NVIDIA or AMD Graphics card
  • UEFI boot support (not required anymore)
  • USB port or CD/DVD drive

3. Installing SteamOS (Automated install method)

* This method will wipe your primary hard drive!!! You have been warned! The Expert Install method follows this section.

Now to the good part. Reboot the PC, making sure you either hit the option button (typically F10 or F12 on most motherboards) or adjust your BIOS/UEFI settings to boot from USB/CD first. When you boot the CD image, you will see the welcome screen:

3.1 The welcome screen

steam1

In this exercise, we will just choose the easy install, and let SteamOS do its thing.  While The “Expert Install” will allow you to do fancy partitioning, there isn’t a need if all you wish to do is install SteamOS. The folks that want and know the thing in the Expert Install, will not likely need my help.  Now, select “Automated Install” and the installer will wipe the contents of your hard drive, partition it, and install SteamOS. This process will take roughly 30-45 minutes depending on your hardware setup.

steam3

SteamOS will also create a “rescue” partition during the install, which you will see on reboot.

3.2 Booting for the first time

Upon reboot, you will be taken to the desktop mode of SteamOS/Debian and Steam will update itself

steam expert step 13

 

Steam will update the kernel modules and reboot

steam expert steap 14

Upon reboot, the GRUB menu will autoselect “Capture root partition” and proceed to backup the main root partition of SteamOS. You can interrupt this by mashing the arrow keys up or down, but I don’t advise it. Once the partition is backed up, you will need to hit the up arrow and select reboot. Hit the enter key.

steam expert step 15

After reboot, SteamOS will prepare available hardware drivers, and make other preparations. Otherwise…you’ll receive the EULA agreement to accept, Steam will update itself, and you’re in!

SteamOS_main_menu

If you have a black screen, see the potential issues section below. This happened to me on on some test hardware, but may not happen to you.

4. Installing SteamOS (Automated install method)

The welcome screen

steam expert step 1

In this exercise, we will just choose the Expert install, and let SteamOS do its thing.  While The “Automated Install” is “easy,” it will wipe your primary drive and make you an unhappy camper if you  have multiple operating systems.  Now, select “Expert Install” and the installer will kick off.

Choose your language and click continue

steam expert step 2

Choose your location and click continue

steam expert step 3

Choose your keyboard layout and click continue

steam expert step 3

The partitioner will start up. This is where you want to reference my “Dual Boot SteamOS and Windows 7 From Two Separate Drives” article if you plan on installing this on different drives. In a nutshell, you will want to select the hardrive you want to prepare (as seen below). If you were to hit enter on the main line of your drive (seen below as SCSI3 VBOX Harddisk), you would be prompted to automatically repartition that drive.

Note: Write down your drive location! You may need this in a later step! In the example below, this would be “/dev/sda”.

steam expert step 5

I do not suggest this for multiple drive setups. Per my dual-boot article above, it is best to manually create each partition in the structure noted below (default values). This avoids the issue of the EFI boot flag (“B”) from being moved/removed from Windows or any other distro with EFI on it. It is the safest way to proceed. If you are installing on a non-EFI system, you may not need to do this. The worst scenario is with Windows + Linux (1 or more distros) on multiple drives. If you choose any type of automatic or guided setup with Windows partitions available, often the identifying information and/or boot flag will be removed.

You can reference the setup screens for each partition below:

Partition 1 | Partition 2 | Partition 3 | Partition 4

After each partition setup screen, choose “Done settings up the partition.” Accept any changes.

Below is an example from my own personal system.

 

SteamOS triple boot

Apply all changes by selecting “Finish partitioning and write changes to disk.” When you are ready to proceed, click Continue. Accept any changes to disk you need made. If you chose guided partitioning, you will be prompted to confirm.

The install will commence

steam expert step 10

Accept the default package selections and click continue

steam expert step 11

Installation will continue to install packages.  After some time, you will be prompted where you would like grub installed. If it is the only system on the computer, you will be prompted to install grub to the master boot record. Otherwise, select the drive you partitioned for SteamOS in the format “/dev/sda” or the device location you wrote down earlier (See, don’t say I didn’t tell you 😀 ). Click Continue to proceed.

steam expert step 12

Upon reboot, you will be taken to the desktop mode of SteamOS/Debian and Steam will update itself

steam expert step 13

Steam will update the kernel modules and reboot

steam expert steap 14

Upon reboot, the GRUB menu will autoselect “Capture root partition” and proceed to backup the main root partition of SteamOS. You can interrupt this by mashing the arrow keys up or down, but I don’t advise it. Once the partition is backed up, you will need to hit the up arrow and select reboot. Hit the enter key.

steam expert step 15

After reboot, SteamOS will prepare available hardware drivers, and make other preparations. If you receive a black screen or otherwise, please check the “Potential Issues List” below.

Otherwise…you’ll receive the EULA agreement to accept, Steam will update itself, and you’re in!

5. Installing SteamOS on VirtualBox

5.1 Creating the virtual machine

Click “New” at the top of the VirtualBox window. You can name your virtual machine whatever you live. It is however, highly important you choose Linux as the type, and “Debian 64 bit” as your version!

Screenshot from 2015-01-23 20:06:37

Now you will configure how much of your system memory the virtual computer will use while running. Choose less than half of your total system memory—one or two gigabytes should be ok for testing out SteamOS.

Valve recommends SteamOS systems have 4GB-plus of memory, but that’s to play full-fledged modern games. VirtualBox isn’t going to be the right kind of environment to run those. Consider this virtual machine endeavor more of a test drive for the operating system itself. You can however play a fair bit of games with this method, just the particularly demanding ones.

For the drive size, go with at least 50 GB to allow enough space for the SteamOS install.

5.2 Configure VirtualBox settings

First, we need to prep the VirtualBox settings page. In the display section, configure the appropriate video memory (I usually go as high as possible, I am unsure what the minimum needed is)

vbox steam 3

In the system section, you can choose to enable EFI, but the current SteamOS installer ISO does accept BIOS installations

vbox steam 4

In the storage section, we will want to choose the SteamOS ISO by selecting it in the “Controller IDE” section

vbox steam 5

Start the virtual machine and proceed with the install

steam expert step 1

You can follow the same directions (automatic or expert as above) until your reboots at the end of the install. As soon as your PC reboots after install you’ll want to have your hand on the arrow keys.To make this easy, we will choose “recovery mode” as seen below. The following is based off of a great article on the process (Credit Dedoimedo.)

vbox steam 1

Once you reach the shell, first, you need to discover which Nvidia packages to remove. To that end, I could just provide you with a simple uninstall command, or rather, teach you a little how to use the apt package manager. Start with apt-cache and list all the installed Nvidia components.

apt-cache list | grep -i nvidia

Now, remove them – using regex, or by listing all of them. We could have used pipe xargs to that end, but to keep it simple, and in line with the original article provided at the Steam community site:

apt-get remove .*nvidia.*

Answer yes to the prompt when asked.

As noted in the original base article this was from,

Once SteamOS fully supports all virtualization platforms, you will not need to be doing this at all. Moreover, uninstall the drivers is not really necessary, although it simplifies things for most people. You can just blacklist the drivers and edit the xorg.conf file. For example, my rather recent Ubuntu and Fedora guides on this subject can surely help you make the right changes yourself.

Next, X server will need fixed up.

dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

The command should complete without error. After this, it is on the VirtualBox Guest Additions

Installing the VirtualBox Guest Additions

  1. Select the Guest Additions option under VirtualBox’s Devices menu; the exact wording of the option will vary depending on the version of VirtualBox you have installed.
  2. First, click on the Devices menu at the top of VirtualBox, and then click on Insert Guest Additions CD Image. (You won’t receive any confirmations that you’ve done so.)
  3. Next, type in `mount /dev/cdrom /mnt`
  4. The virtual machine will say something about mounting read-only, but that’s fine.
  5. Type `/mnt/VBoxLinuxAdditions.run` to run the automatic installer
  6. Next, enter the command `sudo sh /media/cdrom/VBoxLinuxAdditions.run`—once again, note the space after “sh”—and hit Enter again.
  7. When it’s done, restart the computer by entering `sudo reboot` and hitting Enter.

5.3 Correcting the EFI path

  1. Correct the UEFI boot location with the following commands
  2. cd /boot/efi
  3. echo “FS0D:\EFI\steamos\grubx64.efi” > startup.nsh

Final Stretch

After reboot, boot normally to the desktop and Steam will update itself. If this fails, try going into the Network Settings box of your virtual machine and changing the network adapter from Bridged to NAT or vice versa. I cannot cover every network situation.

steam desktop

SteamOS will reboot and capture the root partition for safe keeping

steam expert step 15

Once the partition is backed up, you will need to hit the up arrow and select reboot. Hit the enter key.

After reboot, SteamOS will prepare available hardware drivers, and make other preparations. Remember how we purged the Nvidia drivers before, and reconfigure the X server in advance? This comes into play when SteamOS reboots and configures the hardware drivers for you.

If for any reason you get stuck on the EFI shell, you can boot by typing following command :

FS0:\EFI\steamos\grubx64.efi

If you get any other issue, please check the “Potential Issues List” below. Otherwise…you’ll receive the EULA agreement to accept, Steam will update itself, and you’re in!

6. Potential Issues List

Black screen on reboot fix (Nvida/ATI)

You may see a black screen when trying to boot into SteamOS. There is a quick fix to this, however you will need to do this every time you boot. As you turn on your system, hammer the up and down keys. Very scientific, but it will stop SteamOS from booting for the moment. Once you’ve done that, press e. The boot options will be displayed on the screen and find where it says nomodeset on the screen, and use the arrow keys to move the cursor to where it is. Delete that, and then press F10. You should then boot into SteamOS and Big Picture Mode.

Another fix for this issue (full list in my workarounds article) you may see, as I have several times, is a black screen after reboot. To get around this, hit the following keys on your keyboard: `TAB`+ `SPACE` + `ENTER`. This will accept the EULA that is on your screen and start the SteamOS update.

6.1 Black screen on reboot fix (VirtualBox)

You have to use the Host-key for this, so if you don’t have a right control key, modify the host key to one that your keyboard does have. For example, I have the right alt (altgr) set as host key on my laptop, because it doesn’t have a right control. You can change the host key in the VB preferences (main GUI > File > Preferences > input). The Host-key replaces the Ctrl+Alt combination, so instead of hitting ctrl+alt+F2, you hit Host+F2

Re run the virtual box guest additions piece noted above and reboot.

7. Tweaks and other notable items

7.1 Enable “Return to Desktop”

In Steam itself,  you can enable access to the desktop by going into the settings by clicking the gear icon at the top right of the screen. Head into the Interface section, and then check “Enable access to the Linux desktop”. Now when you click the power button at the top right you’ll be presented with an additional “Return to Desktop” option.

This is very useful if you need to make any changes to the system, or need to troubleshoot errors. The software installed is pretty minimal, but you do have the option of adding Debian repositories to install more software, which is outside the scope of this How-To.

8. Summary

That’s all she wrote! If you have any trouble, or are curious about potential issues, give my “Guide To Running SteamOS” article a look. SteamOS has a bit to go until some big title games land on the system. I have a banter about it in a previous article while I was a bit “steamed‘ (hehe) over some comments online. If you should have any questions or comments about the install process, please leave a comment below.

Whether it be contributing an article online, engaging with the community, or diving head first into unknown waters, Linux is the focal point of my computing hobbies.

Gaming / How-To / Steam how to install steamos / setting up steamos / steamos / steamos fixes / steamos help / steamos installer help / steamos tutorial /