Beyond streaming your entire Steam library, the Steam Link can also be used as a general in-home streaming device to stream Netflix, do some Web browsing, or play non-Steam games from within Steam Link’s “Big Picture” interface. The following tutorial will show you how to stream your desktop and non-Steam games with Steam Link.
Stream Non-Steam Games on Steam Link
If you have access to the desktop, you can run pretty much whatever you like on your PC, but if you’re confined to a gamepad, then you want to set yourself up to run non-Steam games from Big Picture Mode.
This isn’t too difficult. You can even do it from Big Picture mode. Click the cog icon (Settings) at the top right, then under the System heading click “Add Library Shortcut.” (The equivalent action in the desktop version of Steam is to click “Add a Game” at the bottom left of the Steam window, then “Add a Non-Steam Game.”)
From these lists, you can add pretty much any game or other program from Windows to your library, then run it using Big Picture mode and, by extension, Steam Link.
Configure Controls for Non-Steam Games
While Steam’s compatibility with various gamepads means it does a pretty good job of automapping controls, things can be a little more complicated for non-Steam games – especially older games that don’t have native controller compatibility.
To configure a keyboard-and-mouse to use a gamepad, open that game through Steam Link, press the Xbox or PS button to bring up the Steam menu, then select “Controller Configuration”.
Here you’ll be able to bind different keyboard keys to your gamepad buttons. The interface takes a bit of getting used to, but you can do everything from setting custom keys to the sensitivity of using the analog stick as a mouse.
To help you out, we recommend navigating to the game’s keybindings page first so that you can quickly check in on which key does what with a press of the PS/Xbox button before jumping back into Controller Configuration.
Stream Emulated Games on Steam Link
Unfortunately, the previous tip won’t help if you’re trying to play your favorite old-school games through an emulator because the Steam Link won’t identify your controller when you try to use them (i.e. Steam Link only recognizes your controller as a game controller with the Big Picture UI).
Streaming emulated games is a bit more complicated, as you’ll need to set up parsers using an excellent tool called Steam Rom Manager. If you want to do this, check out our dedicated guide on streaming emulated N64, PS1, SNES, and other games through your Steam Link.
Stream Desktop through Steam Link
Even though Valve hasn’t made much fuss about how easy it is to exit Steam Big Picture to your Windows desktop (presumably because they want to keep you gaming and spending in their little ecosystem), it’s actually very simple – whether you’re on your phone, TV or another device.
Once you’ve connected Steam Link with your PC and are in Big Picture mode, click the Back icon at the top-left corner to leave the library and get to the main Steam Big Picture screen.
From here, click the power button at the top right, then “Minimize Big Picture.”
That’s it! You should now be on your Windows desktop and able to control it using your phone touch-screen, keyboard or controller.
If you’re using a small touch-screen, you may want to press the mouse trackpad icon at the top left and change from “Direct Cursor” to “Trackpad Cursor” or “Trackpad Cursor,” which will give you direct control over the mouse. Tap the keyboard icon at the top-right corner when you want to type things.
If you want to return to Steam Big Picture from your desktop on a touch-screen, just click the Steam icon at the top-center of your screen. If you’re using a gamepad, try pressing the Xbox, PlayStation or equivalent button in the center of your gamepad.
If you can’t see the above icons on your phone, try shaking your phone to bring up the icons.
Create a Notepad File If You Can’t Minimize Steam Link
Quite a few users have reported that the Windows desktop doesn’t function after minimizing Big Picture mode. One possible solution here is to link an outside app (even something like Notepad) to Steam by adding it as a non-Steam game on your Steam Link. To do this, follow the instructions above to stream non-steam games on Steam Link because it’s exactly the same process.
Steam Link has grown in popularity over the years, and there are now plenty of people who use it to stream their games, desktops and beyond across their various devices. For more Steam-related stuff, see our list of fixes for when Steam isn’t working, and our tutorial to find and change your Steam ID.