What happens if you’re playing on a Windows desktop PC but want to catch up on the game from a different part of the house – or even outside? If you’re using Steam, Valve’s PC gaming destination, you can get around the first part of this dilemma by using Steam Link, an at-home gaming streaming solution that uses your local network. And now, there’s a way to beat the second, too — with a few caveats.
While the latest version of Steam Deck has provided gamers with a new way to play games away from the desktop, the Steam Link feature allows you to stream your games from anywhere using an Android or Apple device with an internet connection (RIP Steam Link Box). Although Steam Link has been out of beta for a while, the service can still be an uphill battle even for power users, so don’t be surprised if you experience inconsistent connectivity or performance.
So, let’s get started with setting up Steam game streaming from one desktop to another or between your desktop and your mobile device.
Make sure you have a good router or wired Ethernet
It may go without saying, but your network needs to be strong – if your Wi-Fi is weak, slow, congested, or there’s a lot of interference, you won’t see great results. With a wired Ethernet connection on both ends, steam flowing can feel smooth inside your home, but can be completely inoperable with a poor wireless link. Just keep this in mind.
Preparing Steam Client Apps to Stream
- Before making any broadcasts (at home or otherwise), you will probably want to download or update to the latest version of the Steam desktop client for the best experience. If you want to stream games to your phone, download the Steam link client on your Android or Apple device. If you’re streaming to another computer running Windows macOS, all you need is to install the latest Steam client there as well, no additional software required.
- If you’re streaming to a mobile device, go to the settings of the Steam Link app on your phone and select “Other PC”. A four-digit PIN will appear on your screen which you will enter on your desktop to complete the pairing process. If you use two computers, you don’t need to pair them up in order to stream at home; Just log in to the same account on the same network.
- Using the desktop Steam client, from the “Remote Play” menu, select “Pair Steam Link,” then enter the code that appears on your phone. Make sure you are on the same network and follow the setup wizard until the pairing process is complete.
- At this point, you could Start streaming, but first, I recommend that you set a four-digit PIN to secure your connection between any remote applications and your computer. After all, you are handing over complete remote control of your computer to another device, so you should practice good security measures. Here’s how to set a Steam Link PIN:
- On the same Remote Play settings page before, select the Set Security Code button.
- Next, set the four-digit PIN by entering it in both fields, and then click the OK button.
From now on, whenever you try to stream at home or remotely, you will be asked to enter your PIN.
You are finally done with the setup process! As long as you stay signed in to both Steam clients, you should be able to quickly use Steam Link streaming when you’re on your local network — or over the public internet, from your phone. More on that below.
How to stream games remotely using Steam Link
- First, you will need an internet connection with excellent upload speeds. Even if Comcast gives you 150Mbps speed, 5Mbps uploads won’t cut it when you upload an HD video stream to the cloud.
- Assuming you have this connection and your devices are paired (see previous steps), you can start streaming games online.
- To stream from mobile, start the Steam Link app and select the computer you added earlier.
- Select Get Started, enter your four-digit PIN, and hit Connect. Assuming your host PC isn’t in sleep mode, it should go into Steam Big Picture mode while simultaneously connecting the stream to your phone. In my experience, there is a slight lag in the camera and input controls when used over an LTE connection on a mobile phone, but this can vary depending on your network and location.
- Additionally, you can select different control methods within the Steam Link mobile app. From the app’s start screen, tap “Settings,” followed by “Console.” From here, you can stick with Steam’s surprisingly powerful and customizable touch input or pair a controller with your phone that the host computer will recognize.
How to stream games at home with Steam Link
- Streaming games on your home network is basically the same as streaming over the Internet. You simply need to log into Steam (using the same account and network) on both devices, whether they are mobile phones or desktop computers.
- With your Windows host or PC (where the game is streamed) and the broadcast destination setup (Android phone, other PC, etc.), simply select a game from your library on the receiving device. On Windows or macOS desktop computers, this might involve going to your game library and clicking Stream in any of your games. In the Steam Link app, simply press the “Start Play” button.
- Both the host computer and the receiver should now display identical streams for the respective game.
Update March 7, 2021 2:20 PM ET: This article was originally published on April 3, 2019; Directions and screenshots have been updated.