Use Chimera OS to Turn Your PC Into a Steam Deck

A photograph of a person playing a video game on a desktop PC.

Chimera OS is a powerful gaming-focused Linux distro that provides a seamless “couch gaming experience” using PC hardware. It works by simplifying the process for both system installation and maintenance. This article will show how you can install Chimera OS in your machine as well as highlight why it’s better than SteamOS.

Why Use Chimera OS over SteamOS?

One of the biggest selling points of Chimera over SteamOS is that aside from being a console-oriented OS, it also has a dedicated desktop environment. This makes it easy for any user to get into the guts of the system and configure it however they wish.

A screenshot of the default Chimera OS desktop environment.

Another advantage of Chimera over other similar systems is that it serves as a web application on your local network. This allows you to quickly install any game from any device inside your network as well as manage the entire system.

A screenshot of the remote web app for Chimera OS.

FYI: learn some of the best games that you can play in Linux today.

Obtaining and Installing Chimera OS

To start, you can obtain a copy of Chimera from the developer’s website. At the moment, the distro only works with the amd64 platform and AMD Radeon graphics cards.

Note: The distro is also only currently available as a bare metal install. This means that you can’t install Chimera as a headless VM on a hypervisor cluster.

Once you have the distro’s ISO, you can use either balenaEtcher or dd to properly burn it as a bootable USB stick.

Installing Chimera OS

Use your PC’s BIOS menu to load the Chimera OS bootable USB into your machine.

Note: Chimera only works on UEFI-compatible motherboards. This means that you can’t install this distro on older, legacy systems.

Select the disk where you want to install Chimera OS. In my case, it is in “/dev/sdb.”

A screenshot showing the different available disks for the Chimera install.

Note: There are rare instances where the installer might detect a previous system in your target disk. You can avoid conflicts by selecting “No”, then “Yes” on the installer prompts.

Select the “Standard Install” option to automatically build a basic Chimera setup for your machine.

A screenshot showing the two different installation options for Chimera OS.

Doing that will kick off the entire installation process and the wizard will automatically download and extract the OS’ files to your disk. Once that’s done, select “Yes” to boot into your new system.

A screenshot showing a successful installation for Chimera.

Setting Up and Using Chimera OS

At this point, you now have a working Chimera OS installation. However, to use it properly you still need to link your Steam account to the system.

Note: One of the caveats of using Chimera OS is that its interface is designed around the Steam Deck console. While this doesn’t impair the system, there are cases where the system’s UI will look glitched out.

To begin, plug in a controller to your machine’s USB port. Doing this will ensure that you will be able to access every menu in the system.

Select “English” on the language selection screen.

A screenshot showing the different languages for the Chimera Steam interface.

Go through the list of available timezones, then select the one that’s closest to your location.

A screenshot showing the different timezones available for Chimera OS.

Select a network interface for your Chimera system. This could either be a wireless access point or a wired Ethernet connection.

A screenshot showing the available network interfaces for the machine.

Log in to your Steam account either by providing your account details or scanning the machine’s QR code.

A screenshot showing the Steam login screen for the machine.

Once inside, you can now install and run games through the Steam UI.

Tip: learn how to troubleshoot a faulty Steam installation.

Using Chimera OS as a Desktop System

Press your controller’s Home Button. This could either be a logo of your controller’s manufacturer or a button with the “Home” label. In my case, this is the “Logitech” logo in the middle of the controller.

A photograph highlighting the Home button for a basic Logitech controller.

Select “Power” on the system’s sidebar menu.

A screenshot showing the location of the Power Menu inside the system's Home button.

Click “Switch to Desktop” to load the built-in Gnome desktop.

A screenshot showing the

You can return to the regular Steam Deck UI by clicking the “Activities” button on your desktop, and then selecting “Game Mode” on the Application Launcher’s main screen.

Good to know: learn some of the best Gnome extensions that can enhance your desktop.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use Chimera as the primary system in my machine?

Yes. However, the developers of Chimera OS didn’t design the system for desktop use. This means that the system doesn’t have any additional utilities such as office programs, media players, and web browsers. As such, Chimera can be a difficult OS to use as a primary system.

Is it possible to dual boot Chimera OS with a different system?

No. Unlike other Linux distros, Chimera uses a custom update system that requires complete control of the boot partition on the machine’s hard disk. This makes it impossible to install Chimera alongside any distro and system.

Should non-gamers try Chimera OS?

No. Outside of Steam and RetroArch support, Chimera is a barebones Linux distro. This makes it unfriendly to users that don’t intend to use those aspects of the system.

Image credit: Sean Do via Unsplash. All alterations and screenshots by Ramces Red.

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Ramces Red

Ramces is a technology writer that lived with computers all his life. A prolific reader and a student of Anthropology, he is an eccentric character that writes articles about Linux and anything *nix.

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