The Steam Link is a fantastic piece of kit, beaming all the joys of your gaming PC to a screen of your choice. I picked it up on a whim in a sale not too long ago and have found it to do just the job I wanted after connecting it to my living room TV.
But beyond streaming your entire Steam library, the Steam Link can also be used as a general desktop streaming device, so you can use it 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 do that.
Minimizing Steam Link to Desktop
Note: you’ll need to have a mouse or Steam controller connected to your Steam link to be able to navigate Windows properly.
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.
Once you’ve connected your Steam Link with your PC and are in Big Picture mode (NOT the Steam Link interface, which is what you see before connecting to your PC), click the power icon 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 a mouse, keyboard or Steam Controller. If you have any trouble with the graphics at this point (green or black screen, etc.), try updating your GPU drivers.
Streaming Non-Steam Games on Steam Link
It goes without saying that 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, thankfully. You can even do it from Big Picture mode. 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.
The Steam Link is, in my eyes, underrated. While many people made the mistake of expecting it to stream games flawlessly over WiFi, it only really shines when you use it over a wired connection. The added perk of being able to use it for non-Steam stuff makes it more robust than something like a Chromecast and pretty much the perfect piece of kit for the gaming-inclined in-home streamer.