Using Proton on the Steam Deck

This guide will explain what Proton is and how you can use it on your Steam Deck.

Steam Deck Proton Compatibility

Proton is a compatibility layer used by the Steam Deck to play Windows games on the Linux based SteamOS.

It is possible to play games that have never been ported to Linux using this layer, which opens up the number of playable games on the Steam Deck.

In fact, there are many games you might play on your Steam Deck every day that have been made playable thanks to Proton.

For most users, you will never even notice that Proton is handling things under the hood. However, if you are adding a non-steam game built for Windows, you must enable Proton manually.

This compatibility layer is the same technology that allows you to run other game clients on your Steam Deck, such as Ubisoft Connect, EA App, and GoG.

In the following sections, we will explain more about Proton and show you how you can easily enable Proton for any Windows game. It is possible to try different versions of this translation layer, as older versions may sometimes have fewer issues.

What is Proton on the Steam Deck

As mentioned at the start of this article, Proton is a compatibility layer used to wrap and convert Windows calls to something you can run on a Linux-based operating system like SteamOS. It is developed by Valve in collaboration with CodeWeavers.

It achieves this by building off of the popular and extensive Wine project. Proton builds on this by introducing optimizations and fixes aimed at improving Windows-based games on devices like the Steam Deck.

Additionally, Proton has been designed to be integrated directly into the Steam client. This allows it to automatically set itself up whenever a supported Windows game is installed from the Steam store.

While games installed through Steam will automatically utilize the Proton compatibility layer, non-steam games require you to enable this feature manually.

Once you have added a Windows game as a non-steam game, you can easily use the Steam client to enable the Proton compatibility layer with a few short clicks.

If you want to find out how compatible a Windows game is with the Proton compatibility layer, you will want to check out ProtonDB. ProtonDB is a user-run database that tracks whether a game can be run using Proton and also offers suggestions of what versions of Proton you may need to use, as well as tips to work around issues.

The only catch to ProtonDB is that it only covers games that are available through the Steam store.

How to Enable Proton for Your Games on the Steam Deck

In this section, we will show you how easy it is to enable the Proton compatibility layer for any Windows-based game on your Steam Deck.

This process is super simple and something that is useful to know when adding a non-steam game to your Steam Deck library.

Setting Compatibility in Gaming Mode

In this section, we will show you how to set the Proton compatibility mode while in gaming mode on your Steam Deck.

This is the easiest solution if you already have a game installed and want to change what version of Proton Steam will use to run that game.

1. The first thing you must do is change to your Steam Deck’s game library.

The Steam menu is one of the easiest ways to get to your game library.

Open your Game Library

2. Once in the game library, find the game you want to adjust the compatibility settings for on your Deck (1.).

When you have a game highlighted you can click the “OPTIONS” (2.) option in the bottom bar. You can also open this menu by pressing the hamburger (three horizontal lines) button on your Deck.

Find App to Enable Proton on the Steam Deck

3. With the options menu open, select the “Properties...” option.

Open the game properties menu

4. Now that the properties screen is open, change to the “Compatibility” tab.

This tab will allow us to control whether a game will be run through Proton and what version of Proton will be used to execute the game.

Change to compatibility tab

5. Once on the compatibility tab, tick the checkbox on the top option (1.) to force this game to use a specific c compatibility layer.

Next, you will want to use the select box (2.) to select the version of Proton you want to use on your Steam Deck to run this game.

Enable Proton Compatibility on the Steam Deck

6. Using the select box, you can choose the version of Proton you want to run your game. Proton experimental gives you the latest fixes and enhancements but can also introduce new problems that may break other titles.

We highly recommend checking out ProtonDB if you want to see whether a title has a particular version it plays best with.

Select Proton versions

Using the Desktop Mode to Set Proton Compatibility

You can also set the Proton compatibility for games on your Steam Deck while in desktop mode. These steps are useful to know when you install a game that is unavailable through the Steam store and is only built for Windows systems.

1. To enable Proton compatibility for a game while in desktop mode, you will want to open the Steam desktop client.

While in desktop mode, you can open the desktop client by double-clicking the “Steam” icon.

Open the Steam desktop client

2. Once the Steam desktop client is open, find the game you want to apply the Proton compatibility layer to.

For our example, we will use this on the EA App installer. Once an entry is selected, click the “COG” icon (1.). This will bring up a context menu where you will want to click the “Properties...” (2.) option.

Open properties for specified game

3. After opening the properties screen, change to the “Compatibility” tab (1.).

Once you have swapped to the compatibility tab, you must enable the “Force the use of a specific Steam Play compatibility tool” option (2.).

When this option has been enabled, you can select the Proton version you want to run your game (3.).

Enable Proton Compatibility for the Steam Dec kgame


Hopefully, at this stage, you will now have a good understanding of what Proton is and how it benefits your Steam Deck.

Proton is a compatibility layer that helps translate Windows calls to a native Linux call. It lets you play games that have never been ported to Linux or SteamOS.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about what Proton is and how to use it.

If you found our guide helpful, check out our many other Steam Deck tutorials.

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