How to Install Steam Link on the Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a versatile single-board computer that enables users to build low-cost, small-form-factor devices for a variety of purposes. One popular use case is to transform the Pi into a living room gaming machine by installing Valve’s Steam Link software, allowing users to stream games from their PC to their TV.

How to Install Steam Link on the Raspberry Pi?

This guide will walk through the entire process of setting up Steam Link on the Raspberry Pi, optimizing performance, and customizing the experience to suit your needs. Follow along to turn your Pi into a Steam streaming powerhouse.

Prerequisites

Before getting started, make sure you have the following:

  • A Raspberry Pi model with built-in wireless LAN and Bluetooth connectivity. Models such as Raspberry Pi 3 or Pi 4 work best.
  • A microSD card with Raspbian (preferably Raspbian Buster) installed. This serves as the operating system.
  • A monitor or TV to connect the Pi to, along with any necessary HDMI/DisplayPort cables.
  • A USB keyboard and mouse for initial setup.
  • A 5V micro USB power adapter for powering the Pi.
  • A Steam account from which you’ll stream your game library.

Step 1 – Configure Raspberry Pi Settings

With a freshly installed copy of Raspbian on your Pi, boot it up and step through the default configuration options. Make sure to connect the Pi to your local WiFi network so it can access the internet.

Next, bring up Raspberry Pi Configuration from the Preferences menu:

Menu > Preferences > Raspberry Pi Configuration

Under the System tab:

  • Set hostname to something like “SteamLink” for easy identification
  • Enable auto login to the desktop on boot
  • Set localization options, timezone, etc. as needed

Under the Interfaces tab:

  • Enable VNC server so you can remotely access the Pi desktop
  • Attach one-time VNC password for security

Finally, on the Performance tab enable “Force Turbo Mode” to overclock the Pi for better streaming.

Step 2 – Install Steam Link

Now that the system settings are tuned, it’s time to install Steam Link.

Open up a terminal window and enter the following commands to update packages and dependencies:

sudo apt update

sudo apt upgrade -y

Once that completes, install the Steam Link package:

sudo apt install steamlink -y

The installation will take a few minutes to download and set up all components. Let it run until it finishes.

After Steam Link is installed, reboot the Pi to let all changes take effect:

sudo reboot

Following the reboot, Steam Link should launch automatically to the pairing screen. Make note of the PIN code, as this will be used to connect to the host gaming PC.

If Steam Link does not launch on reboot, start it manually:

steamlink

Step 3 – Connect Host Gaming PC

With Steam Link now running on the Pi device, it’s time link it to your host gaming computer:

  1. Install and launch Steam on your host Windows/Linux/MacOS PC.
  2. Click the “Steam” menu and choose Settings.
  3. Select Remote Play from the left nav tree.
  4. Check the box to enable Remote Play.
  5. Click Pair Steam Link, enter the PIN shown on your Pi’s Steam Link app.

That’s it! Steam will automatically detect the Link connection request and walk through any additional prompts to complete the pairing.

Assuming your devices are on the same local network, your Pi should now show your PC’s gaming library. Select any title to start streaming.

Step 4 – Configure Steam Client and Link Settings

To achieve the best streaming performance, there are a few key settings you’ll want to configure on both the Steam host and client Link app.

On your gaming PC (host):

  1. Launch Steam and go to Settings
  2. Under the Remote Play section:
    • Check Enable Remote Play
    • Select Fast Quality streaming setting
    • Enable Enable hardware decoding if available
    • Set Limit bandwidth to help reduce lag
  3. Under Downloads, enable Limit auto-update rate to help conserve bandwidth

On the Raspberry Pi Steam Link (client):

  1. Go to Settings from the Steam menu
  2. Under Host PC:
    • Ensure Enable Hardware Decoding is on
    • Enable Enable Network Jitter Buffer
  3. Under Audio:
    • Set Audio Quality to High
  4. Under Streaming:
    • Set to Fast quality
    • Enable Enable Network Jitter Buffer
  5. Under Host choose an Advanced Client Options encoding method optimized for your network
  6. Under System, force the GPU memory split to help with streaming performance

Tweak these settings while streaming games to find the optimal setup that works best on your network.

Step 5 – Customize Steam Big Picture Interface

One great feature of Steam Link is Steam’s Big Picture interface specially designed for the living room environment.

From the main Steam Link interface you can customize everything related to Big Picture on your Pi including:

  • Changing background images
  • Modifying controller settings
  • Configuring audio devices
  • Setting interface language
  • Enabling sleep options
  • and much more…

Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with Big Picture and tweak to your liking.

Step 6 – Play Games!

With setup and configuration complete, it’s time to stream some games! Browse your PC game library from Steam Big Picture on the Pi and select a title to start playing.

Generally lighter 2D indie games stream with flawless performance. More intense 3D titles work nicely if your local network connection is solid, with only minor artifacting.

Here are some great Steam games that play beautifully on a Raspberry Pi via remote streaming:

  • Stardew Valley
  • Terraria
  • Limbo
  • Papers Please
  • Hotline Miami
  • Shovel Knight
  • Fez
  • Portal 1/2

The Pi also handles most emulators like a champ when streaming, allowing you to play all your favorite retro gaming titles across every system right on your TV.

Going Further

The basic Steam Link setup on Raspberry Pi as outlined in this guide works very well for casual gaming. But you can take things even further for the ultimate Pi-based living room stream machine:

  • Use a wired Ethernet connection between Pi and router for smoother streaming
  • Connect the Pi to your audio/video receiver via HDMI CEC
  • Attach a Bluetooth gamepad for controlling games
  • Install RetroPie for vintage game emulation
  • Use a tool like moonlight-qt to stream games from other sources
  • Add console decor like LEDs, controllers, or a customized game case

The possibilities are endless when you harness the versatility of the Raspberry Pi. For living room gaming, Steam Link is just the beginning of building your dream stream box.

Key Takeaways

  • Steam Link allows streaming a gaming PC to devices like the Raspberry Pi
  • Optimizing settings on both host and client is key for good performance
  • Raspberry Pi makes an affordable and capable living room stream machine
  • Customize Big Picture mode interface for nice living room experience
  • Lighter 2D and older 3D game titles stream exceptionally well

So go discover your perfect game streaming setup with your new Raspberry Steam machine!

Conclusion

Getting Steam Link functioning on the Raspberry Pi does require jumping through some hoops, but the end result is a perfectly compact and affordable living room gaming rig.

With just a little tweaking to get performance smooth, streaming Steam games from a Raspberry Pi brings serious gaming directly to your couch on the cheap.

Whether you want to play top modern AAA games or relive classic retro titles, Steam Link supercharges what the Pi can pull off. Gone are the days where bulky computing gear and wires dominated the living room just to play some games.

The tiny footprint of the Pi means it can tuck nearly anywhere—behind the TV, inside an entertainment center, or cordoned away out of sight to keep clutter at bay. Paired with some inconspicuous wireless peripherals, you can create a clean and integrated gaming nook for the price of a couple lattes.

So if you’re keen for streaming video games on Raspberry Pi, get linking and start playing!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Steam Link?
    Steam Link is software from Valve that allows streaming games from a Steam host gaming PC to other devices like the Raspberry Pi over a home network. It transports the gaming experience from a powerful rig to whatever screen you want.
  2. Why Put Steam Link on Raspberry Pi?
    The Pi is compact, energy-efficient, and low cost, making a perfect candidate to transform into a basic living room stream gaming machine. Just plug it to a TV and start playing.
  3. Do You Need Steam Host PC to Use Steam Link?
    Yes, Steam Link streams games from your existing gaming Windows/Mac/Linux computer running the Steam client. The Link software receives and displays the streamed video signal.
  4. Does Steam Link Work on All Raspberry Pi Models?
    Steam Link works on Raspberry Pi 1 and up. But Pi 3 or Pi 4 (or newer) with onboard Bluetooth and wireless LAN works best, allowing wire-free streaming connectivity.
  5. How to Connect PC to Pi Steam Link?
    From your host gaming PC Steam settings, enable Remote Play and pair to the Pi Steam Link software (running its pairing PIN code). This associates the two devices permitting streaming over your local home network.
  6. Why Does Steam Link Run Poorly on Pi?
    Suboptimal network connectivity, lack of optimization on streaming host PC, and unsupported encoding settings can degrade Link streaming performance. Follow the guide steps to configure ideal settings.
  7. Can the Steam Link App Stream 4K?
    No, Steam Link maxes out at 1080p/60fps streaming due to bandwidth limitations. Quality and resolution can be configured in Link settings based on your available network throughput.
  8. Is Steam Link Still Supported?
    Yes, while the physical Steam Link box was discontinued in 2018, the Steam Link application remains supported by Valve across many platforms including Raspberry Pi.
  9. Does Steam Link Work Outside My Home?
    Steam Link streaming is designed to work within your local home network. Streaming over the broader internet is generally too laggy for a good gaming experience due to latency.
  10. Can I Use Bluetooth Controllers with Steam Link?
    Absolutely! A Bluetooth gamepad paired to your Pi running Steam Link allows wireless controller support. Great for kicking back on the couch during long streaming sessions.
  11. Why Won’t My Steam Games Launch?
    If games crash or won’t launch properly over Steam Link, make sure your host gaming PC meets minimum spec requirements to run the titles smoothly. Also check that no other software is consuming GPU resources in the background.
  12. What Pi Case is Best for Steam Link?
    For the nicest living room setup, a compact Pi case with integrated cooling like Flirc or Argon One keeps temperatures down while streaming intensive Steam games for long durations.
  13. Can I Access My Non-Steam Games?
    Steam Link does allow adding shortcuts to launch non-Steam games. But dedicated solutions like Moonlight may work better for streaming emulators or unsupported titles since they integrate directly at a system level.
  14. Is Steam Link Safe to Use?
    Using standard security protocols, Steam Link communication is generally secure and safe from remote exploitation as long as you only operate within your home network and don’t expose forwarded ports to the internet. Disable Link when not using.
  15. Why Does My Steam Controller Not Connect?
    Ensure you are linking via Bluetooth and not wireless adapter dongle when connecting a Steam Controller to a Pi running Steam Link. Re-pair if the controller fails to respond once successfully linked.
  16. Can I Link Multiple Pis to One Host?
    Yes you can link and stream to multiple client Pis from the same host PC. Great for creating a multi-TV streaming setup. Just note that concurrent streaming requires increased host upload bandwidth to avoid degraded performance.
  17. Does Steam Link Work with All Games?
    While most Steam games fully support streaming, a few may have issues running properly over Steam Link due to anti-cheat software or invasive DRM measures. Verify specific game compatibility from online user reports.
  18. How Do I Troubleshoot Steam Link?
    If games crash, stutter, or display with visual artifacts during streaming, ensure host and client settings are optimized per guide recommendations. Also rule out networking problems by testing with a wired Ethernet connection instead of wireless.
  19. Why Are Some Games Difficult to Play Over Link?
    Latency-sensitive competitive online games relying on quick reflexes and precise controls (like multiplayer shooters or fighters) don’t stream perfectly due to inherent lag in video compression and transmission over home networks. Stick to slower-paced single player titles for the best experience.
  20. What Does Steam Link Connect Via?
    Steam Link communicates over standard TCP/IP networking at the OS level. So it should work over any home networking technology like Ethernet, Powerline, Coaxial, or WiFi that allows IP data connectivity between your host gaming PC and client streaming device.

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