Before undertaking any of the more time-consuming solutions below, these are a few fundamentals to get you started:
- Remove and reinsert the SD card. Simple, but effective.
- Restart your Deck. This can clear minor software errors and pending tasks in the queue.
- Verify you're inserting your microSD card properly. The notch in the card points toward the right speaker holes. You should feel it click into place.
Poor microSD Card Contact
Not only is the microSD slot accessible from the outside of the console, it lacks a protective flap to keep things out. It's open season for all the crud in the bottom of your bag to find a new home.
- Use a flashlight to peek into the slot. This can be tricky because of tight clearance inside. Try a few viewing angles to see every corner. Be sure there is no stuck debris.
- Cut a playing card, or an old plastic rewards card (these tend to be thinner than gift cards) into a hook. Use it to fish out any debris. Take care not to mangle the pins if you're using a firmer tool.
- Avoid compressed air until later in the process. Dust should be blown out from the inside, which requires removing the motherboard. Blowing at it from the outside pushes debris further into the slot.
- If the slot's interior is damaged, skip to the Motherboard Fault section.
- If removing debris doesn't help, clean the contacts—both on the card and inside the slot.
- Isopropyl alcohol, a cotton swab, and some light elbow grease will usually take care of the card's contacts. Persistent grime or corrosion may require proper contact cleaner.
- Pro Tip: After cleaning up, reapply some contact cleaner and insert the card a few times. This repeat action cleans up the internal pins a bit without having to open your Deck.
Incorrect File System Format
Ever connect the hard drive from a Mac to a Windows computer? You may not even get an alert you connected a drive. Nothing is wrong with it, but the data on it is stored in ways that the PC cannot interpret. The same goes for your Deck and foreign file systems. Your Steam Deck functions best with the ext4 file system. It will recognize others (namely exFAT, its predecessors, and NTFS), but SteamOS itself runs from an ext4 partition. It may not recognize file systems used by other OSes at all.
- Attempt formatting the card while it's in your Steam Deck.
- Press the Steam button.
- Select System and scroll to Format SD Card.
- Press Format. This will format the card to ext4. Once complete, see if it is recognized.
** If you receive an error message. Make note. That information may be handy if further troubleshooting is unsuccessful.
- Connect the microSD to another device with a different OS. You may need an adapter to do this. If it is recognized, use that device to check the File System. A Mac or Windows computer is best.
- Macs will show the File System in Disk Utility.
- On Windows, find the SD card in File Explorer. Right click and select Properties. File System is listed under Drive type in this menu.
- If you find another file format, any previous formats in the Deck didn’t take. Give it another go, or skip ahead to the SD Card Corruption section.
Faulty microSD Card
Adding a microSD card is the easiest way to expand the storage your Deck has at its disposal. It is inserted into an externally accessible slot, so you don’t even have to break out your screwdriver. More space for games equals more good, right? Usually.
Memory cards use flash memory, which has a limited number of read and write operations. They work well for document storage, but as storage for applications, it’s less ideal. Nearly constant read and write operations will burn through your count much more quickly.
- Put the card into another device to see if it is recognized there, or if it can be formatted by another OS.
- Use command line tools to see if your Deck does see your card, but isn't displaying.
Inauthentic High-Capacity Storage
The appeal of high-capacity storage sometimes overrides logic. Seeing an unusually good deal is tempting, but there’s likely a reason for the price cut. Storage (either an SSD or microSD) that reports a capacity of 512 GB to your console, may not actually have 512 GB of storage. You can likely see why that may be a problem.
- Listings for these cards and SSDs are rampant. Third-party marketplace vendors are much more likely to misrepresent their wares and should be approached cautiously, but even legitimate-looking listings should be questioned.
- These products make use of two primary methods to achieve their reported capacity.
- Representing themselves as a name brand, but using lower quality (read: cheaper) flash storage modules that will wear out faster.
- Modifying the information the card (or drive) has about itself.
For example, using a 32 GB microSD card, but changing the card’s firmware to read as 256 GB card instead. This can be achieved in many ways, but you’ll invariably run into issues once the actual amount of storage on the card is reached.
- H2testw is the tool most commonly used to detect this type of fraud. Connect the suspicious device to your computer and run it through the test. It will report errors if it detects inconsistencies.
A corrupt microSD is different than a damaged or failed microSD. Corruption is damage to data, not components. The corruption may exist in parts of the partition table or places that make the card appear "bricked".
Faulty Motherboard or Damaged microSD Slot
These two causes wouldn't normally be related, but small form factor devices usually have their microSD slot soldered to the main circuit board. The Deck is no exception.
- This may occur if the microSD card is inserted improperly, or an incorrect card is used.
- If you found damage to your microSD card slot, you will need to solder on a new one. This is a tricky process, and is not recommended for a soldering beginner. It's best to take it to a professional if you cannot do this yourself.
- Additionally, check for any liquid damage, around the SD card slot. If there are signs of corrosion, take appropriate action. Some cleanup might get you back in action.
- Otherwise, replacing the Motherboard will be the most practical solution here. Hardly practical, but likely better than buying a whole new Deck.