Valve releases first public version of SteamOS

As promised earlier this week, Valve has now released the first public beta for SteamOS, its Linux-based operating system designed for running PC games in a living room setting. The first version is available for download and while SteamOS 1.0 is an open source software product, it also contains Valve's proprietary Steam client and some third party drivers.

Valve has created an FAQ page that goes into more detail about SteamOS 1.0, which is based on the 7.1 version of the Debian Linux software. In addition to running Linux-based Steam games, it also contains a desktop UI that can run any other Linux applications. Here are the hardware requirements for the OS:

  • Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor
  • 4GB or more memory
  • 500GB or larger disk
  • NVIDIA graphics card (AMD and Intel graphics support coming soon)
  • UEFI boot support
  • USB port for installation

Valve makes it clear that this first version of SteamOS should only be used by people who are extremely comfortable with installing new operating systems on their PCs and is not for the causal user. That being said, anyone who is technically proficient can go ahead and create their own Steam Machines right now using this first version of the client.

Speaking of Steam Machines, Valve has also confirmed that it has shipped the 300 prototype units it has designed to its selected beta testers in the U.S. A number of third party PC makers will be releasing their own Steam Machines once SteamOS is ready for prime time, which should happen sometime in 2014.

Source: SteamOS web site | Image via Valve

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Of all the things to complain about, the RAM requirements are pretty low on the list.

4GB of RAM for a 64bit gaming system is not unreasonable. (Linux also needs a bit more RAM when dealing with games than a typical Windows7/8 system)

It would be crazy to hurt performance just to let hardware builders make systems with less than 4GB of RAM.

This project has a lot things that are far more worthy of discussion and concern than the RAM requirements.

In regards to everyone arguing about RAM requirements, and it being 'What is required to run games', that is an incorrect statement. Many games run 2GB or less (especially the many, many indie titles that are going to be there at the start). AAA titles will not run well, not at all.... but that is not the point of this requirement. 4GB is not 'The standard', 4GB memory sticks just represent the most cost effective memory option.

Anyway, you are missing the point of this. The requirements at present time are strict, but as the OS develops they are going to loosen them, and give people more flexibility in what hardware can be used to build these machines. Intel Graphics are on the way, what does that tell you? Last time I checked even with 'Iris' Intel integrated video is not ideal for gaming. The requirements are as they are for development purposes, and in no way shape or form are going to reflect what is required in the finished product.

So it's basically Debian with Steam pre-installed? I thought it would be some trimmed down, optimized OS that booted directly into Steam without a normal desktop UI or anything.

SteamOS is designed for gaming, the ram requirement makes sense. The drive space requirement might annoy people with SSD's however.

You should buy a PS4 as well as the Xbox One you already have.


Back on topic ... if anything the 4GB RAM requirement for SteamOS is future proofing for when the big
name prestigious game studios finally start making their popular titles for Linux as well as Windows.

How many of these companies are currently releasing their latest "triple A" big game titles for Linux?
When Rockstar finally get around to releasing GTA V for PC, are they even going to consider Linux?

How many people that buy SteamOS based machines will try to run their games made for Windows
and suddenly realise they won't work? Sure Valve might include something built upon WINE, to run
games made for Windows on SteamOS, but unless they're old games, they'll run like crap.

Edited by DJGM, Dec 14 2013, 4:34pm :

DJGM said,
Back on topic ... if anything the 4GB RAM requirement for SteamOS is future proofing for when the big
name prestigious game studios finally start making their popular titles for Linux as well as Windows.

So why didn't you think of that before making your original post? ROFL!

Tidosho said,

So why didn't you think of that before making your original post? ROFL!


Because I think the big studios might not bother, but Valve are making allowances in case they do.
I still think the actual requirements should clearly state the OS should require minimum 1GB RAM
but certain gaming titles are likely to require considerably more than that.

The success of SteamOS is pretty much reliant on the likes of Ubisoft, Rockstar, DeepSilver, EA ...
et al, making at least a decent effort in bringing/porting all their top rated new and recent titles
to Linux, rather than only developing for Windows based gaming rigs.

I do hope SteamOS is a success, and I wish Valve lots of luck in making it a success. But ... until
the prestigious gaming developers realise there's a PC audience beyond Windows, there's a
clear danger of SteamOS being either a huge flop, or a platform that only attracts the sort
of low-spec titles available for Android based micro-consoles like Ouya and Mojo.

DJGM said,
How many of these companies are currently releasing their latest "triple A" big game titles for Linux?
When Rockstar finally get around to releasing GTA V for PC, are they even going to consider Linux?

That's the whole point of Steam. Valve are trying to get big games onto Mac and Linux, and for one I applaud them, because I don't believe only Windows users are gamers. Just because Linux is mainly used by geeks like you and me, doesn't mean they're not gamers, because the biggest gamers are often geeks, the biggest chunk of the market, the hardcore ones who upgrade their hardware every 6 months!

Tidosho said,

That's the whole point of Steam. Valve are trying to get big games onto Mac and Linux,
and for one I applaud them, because I don't believe only Windows users are gamers.


In which case, Valve have a lot of work to do in persuading all the big game studios into developing
their PC titles for platforms beyond Windows. That's going to be an uphill struggle to say the least.
I too applaud Valve for at least trying to make Linux a realistic option for gamers ... but until most,
if not all of the major games studios are actively developing for Linux, it could all be in vain.

The big studios should look at it this way: More platforms, more sales, means more moolah for them! I know from programming that it's hard trying to do multiplatform, but the rewards are worth it in the end because of the bigger userbase

I'm managing just fine on 3GB RAM in my main PC, and the same in my media centre PC ... no need
or intention to add anymore for what I do on either PC. I'll stick with my Xbox 360 for gaming.

My laptop came with 4GB RAM ... but I won't be playing any video games on it.

DJGM said,
I'm managing just fine on 3GB RAM in my main PC, and the same in my media centre PC ... no need
or intention to add anymore for what I do on either PC. I'll stick with my Xbox 360 for gaming.

My laptop came with 4GB RAM ... but I won't be playing any video games on it.

Haha, that's because you don't play games, Greg, you don't even have many for your Xbox. Your suggestion that no PC needs 4GB of RAM is quite a bold uneducated statement. As you know, I use Visual Studio, and Photoshop. They use a lot of RAM. So does my 3D rendering and Cubase, Acid Pro for my DJ'ing and music making. Not just gamers need powerful systems, you know. If you were a hardcore gamer, programmer and such, like me and many others here, and if you actually used other programs apart from your web browser, you'd understand, but your gaming sessions only seem to consist of either GTA or Saints Row.

Here's one for you. If you say your average computer doesn't need 4GB RAM, then WHY are you using a Quad core machine for essentially web browsing all day, and the odd Remote Desktop? Your machine is overkill for your computing requirements

The whole reason for SteamOS and its 4GB minimum requirement, is that it is an OS for GAMERS with powerful systems, not just for you to roadtest in a VM to take a look at it. Valve are doing a fantastic job of bringing Steam games to Linux, I look forward to switching to Linux full time once the catalogue increases. And another FYI, you can get GTA 4 on Steam I'm not sure if it works on Linux yet, probably not, yet

For "shove disc in and play" gaming, my 360 and Xbox One are perfect. For cutting edge graphics, power, and game moddability, music making, programming, my PC is the candidate, I can't run them on my Xbox One, and that's a more powerful CPU than my PC

Edited by Tidosho, Dec 14 2013, 2:32pm :

Tidosho said,

Your suggestion that no PC needs 4GB of RAM is quite a bold uneducated statement.

For "shove disc in and play" gaming, my 360 and Xbox One are perfect. For cutting
edge graphics, power, and game moddability, music making, programming, my PC
is the candidate, I can't run them on my Xbox One, and that's a more
powerful CPU than my PC


Actually Tiddles, if you look again at my first message, you'll see that I said no operating system
should require 4GB RAM. SteamOS shouldn't require that much RAM just for running the OS, as
it's essentially Linux with a version of the Steam client baked in. Only the games should need
that amount of RAM or more, so the system requirements should reflect this, by saying the
operating system needs 1GB, but certain game titles require considerably more.

The amount of RAM that any PC requires depends on whatever that machine is being used for.
While my Core2Quad based PC is used for a lot of internet stuff, it does get used for video
conversions (inc. HD) as you well know. It still whines its arse off when converting an HD
mkv to Xbox compatible mp4! Eitherway, I'll continue to manage fine with 3GB RAM.

As for your Xbox One ... so much for what you'd said to me in a recent e-mail a fortnight ago
about you advising me and others to "wait at least a year while the early adopters are beta
testing them, getting duff first production run ones then we don't have to." in reference to
recently reported failing PS4 units and the disk drive issues on the Xbox One.

You seem to forget, that I've said to you myself that I'd wait a good while, before ultimately
deciding on which of the new generation consoles I'd buy. While I could go for XBox One
and carry my XBL stuff across from my 360, and it's a good choice for both gaming and
digital entertainment. Although I still don't particularly like zombie games, Dead Rising 3
does look fun compared to most other zombie games ... not just for the blumping!

For pure gaming, console wise, the general consensus seems to favour the PS4, regardless
of what the fanbois/fangirls on either side say. Eitherway, my next console is most likely
to be an Xbox 360 S, either as an upgrade or when my 120GB Elite packs up!

When the time comes for me to choose between Xbox One and PS4, my choice could go
eitherway ... but if I was to make my choice right now, I'd quite likely go for the PS4, but
only by a very small margin ... and not just because it costs less than the Xbox One!

Edited by DJGM, Dec 14 2013, 3:09pm :

An operating system should use as much memory as it can. This idea that you want very small memory usage from everything is somewhat outdated. What you want is very smart memory management.

Use whatever the hell you like, but let's not pretend your way is the way forward. Furthermore, it could be that Valve is being much more realistic about the use of its OS. Remember the Vista Capable debacle? Just because those computers could "run" Vista didn't mean they could actually run it in a usable state.

DJGM said,

Actually Tiddles, if you look again at my first message, you'll see that I said no operating system
should require 4GB RAM. SteamOS shouldn't require that much RAM just for running the OS, as
it's essentially Linux with a version of the Steam client baked in. Only the games should need
that amount of RAM or more, so the system requirements should reflect this, by saying the
operating system needs 1GB, but certain game titles require considerably more.

The amount of RAM that any PC requires depends on whatever that machine is being used for.

Ahem, multitasking? Running more than one program at once? OS developers are giving leeway when considering minimum specs, as do games devs/publishers. They consider all possible use scenarios and system specifications/software configs. The base OS itself might not need 4GB, but what once you start installing loads of startup stuff like I do, like webservers, diagnostic programs and things?

DJGM said,

As for your Xbox One ... so much for what you'd said to me in a recent e-mail a fortnight ago
about you advising me and others to "wait at least a year while the early adopters are beta
testing them, getting duff first production run ones then we don't have to." in reference to
recently reported failing PS4 units and the disk drive issues on the Xbox One.

As you well know, I run a consumer electronics repair company, and need to keep up with learning new hardware to be able to repair it. So I bought myself one. God knows I actually earnt it with all the hours I've put in keeping this company running. I never see you helping. Don't lecture me about being an early adopter, I'm in the repair business, so any faults, I learn to fix, on actual hardware. And I don't need to ask for help on forums doing it

By the way, you're going off topic Don't worry guys, Greg's the kind of pedantic fella that likes competing with his colleagues, it's all friendly banter

Edited by Tidosho, Dec 14 2013, 4:45pm :

Requires 4GB of RAM and a nVidia Gfx card ... fail! No operating system should EVER require
that much RAM. Yes, I know PC games generally require a lot of RAM, but the vast majority
of PC games that need that amount of RAM are made for Windows not Linux.

DJGM said,
Requires 4GB of RAM and a nVidia Gfx card ... fail! No operating system should EVER require
that much RAM. Yes, I know PC games generally require a lot of RAM, but the vast majority
of PC games that need that amount of RAM are made for Windows not Linux.

I don't think it's the OS limitation, remember you're going to be playing games with this so 4GB seems fair.

Would not be much point in having a game operation system that can not run the installed games, right? I think you did not understand what the SteamOS is actually used for

DJGM said,
the vast majority of PC games that need that amount of RAM are made for Windows not Linux.

Linux doesn't magically reduce the RAM requirements of the game (for obvious reasons).

It's a 64bit OS if it were under 4GB of ram recommended they would have just made it 32bit.

The requirements for modern games will soon be over 8gb. This is because consoles were holding back game development for the past 8 years due to being 32bit. Now with xbox one and ps4 with 64bit arch and over 8gb of ram you will start to see games using 8gb as a recommended and 6gb minimum (already happening Cod, BF, NFS etc etc)

If you ask me saying it needs 4gb is wrong as it runs on far far less but for gaming i think its low also, that being said the only games you can play on this OS are like stupidly old or crap you get on the tablets, phones.

The operating system is fail big time.

Master of Earth said,
4GB ram is the standard of today computing.

Pretty sure many devices, especially tablets, ship with 2gb. I'd say 4gb is the minimum for PC gaming.

Vester said,

If you ask me saying it needs 4gb is wrong as it runs on far far less but for
gaming i think its low also, that being said the only games you can play
on this OS are like stupidly old or crap you get on the tablets, phones.


Indeed ... like I said, the vast majority of PC games are still only made for Windows not Linux,
especially those that require 4GB RAM or more. Realistically, Linux will never really be a true
gaming platform until the big game studios of the likes of Rockstar and Ubisoft stop being
so reliant on proprietary technology that only runs on Windows.

i got feeling many company start to rely less and less on windows. first dell launch chromebook, steam will make a bet for steamOS in the few years time, many game such as bioshock is also available in mavericks. The list goes on and on. Two is always better than one even do currently linux doesn't have many game to play.

The good news is finally a company is pushing for windows alternative. This is a good starting point for other game developer to continue the torch.

If windows is forever the only gaming pc platform then it's catastrophe because currently there is no competition in this segment.

The Xbox One operating system and PS4 operating system require 8Gbs of RAM, if you want to think about it that way.

More than likely that's not the actual minimum, just comfortable usage. Most Linux distros will suggest about double what they actually need.

DJGM said,

Indeed ... like I said, the vast majority of PC games are still only made for Windows not Linux,
especially those that require 4GB RAM or more. Realistically, Linux will never really be a true
gaming platform until the big game studios of the likes of Rockstar and Ubisoft stop being
so reliant on proprietary technology that only runs on Windows.

Never say never.

DJGM said,
Requires 4GB of RAM and a nVidia Gfx card ... fail! No operating system should EVER require
that much RAM. Yes, I know PC games generally require a lot of RAM, but the vast majority
of PC games that need that amount of RAM are made for Windows not Linux.

Memory requirements will stay pretty much constant between operating systems. The OS itself doesn't require 4GB of RAM (Debian will run on systems with as little as 128MB of RAM), but installing a gaming OS on a machine with less than 4GB is pointless.

-adrian- said,
Would not be much point in having a game operation system that can not run the installed games, right? I think you did not understand what the SteamOS is actually used for

Well for one they are soon the authorizing this to run on Intel integrated video. Do you think Intel HD graphics can run all games? No, not by a long shot. So while I am not condoning what he said, your argument is baseless.

Standard? Windows PCs *routinely* ship with at least 8 GB of RAM - and that was as of two years ago, and the launch of Windows 7. (The only reason any PC ships with that little amount of RAM today is that it's a portable AND that RAM prices have started going back up after extended doldrums - 16 GB RAM loadouts for desktops are still relatively commonplace - and that's from HP, Dell, or Lenovo - let alone the boutique brands such as DigitalStorm, Origin PC, Falcon Northwest, etc.) I have 4 GB of RAM on my old-school Q6600-driven Windows (8.1 Pro with Media Center) box , and that is actually considered LOW for x64 (which this box is). Dell shipped Inspiron desktops during the Vista era with the same CPU that had larger loadouts of RAM - hence I can see why my own loadout would be seen as *low*. (Different motherboard type - ATX vs, my mATX board; however, both used the same chipset - Intel's G41, AKA Eagle Lake.) Also, the on-CPU Intel graphics of even the Sandy Bridge era are leaps and bounds above G4x - look at the performance numbers under the modern 3DMark 11 charts (which, in case you have forgotten, are very much Windows-biased - which is a lot heavier load than any Linux-based game will throw at them by comparison). Better yet, hie thyself to Phoronix - their user community has benched every GPU that can run in Linux - including the Intel flavors; while Intel has not eliminated the gap, they have certainly reduced it on the Linux side of the street.

Got it last night via torrent after very bad official link that kept failing. Don't have Nvidia card so just installed in Vbox.

Soooo bad and such a crap effort, all they seam to have done is get debian linux and install steam on it. (something you could do yourself in a few seconds).

The year is linux won't be 2014 and this will flop it's fairly safe to say. The game choice is so limited you are better off with a tablet and android games way more choice lol.

Debian with steam? Sounds good to me. The difference is supposed to be in performance. I guess we'll be seeing benchmarks soon.

well - after years and years of driver development for windows - cant believe it will be as performant as Windows anytime soon - but we will see

Vester said,
Got it last night via torrent after very bad official link that kept failing. Don't have Nvidia card so just installed in Vbox.

Soooo bad and such a crap effort, all they seam to have done is get debian linux and install steam on it. (something you could do yourself in a few seconds).

The year is linux won't be 2014 and this will flop it's fairly safe to say. The game choice is so limited you are better off with a tablet and android games way more choice lol.

What were you expecting?

Apparently they customized the kernel as well for enhanced realtime performance.

If all they did was waste their time theming gnome I would've been ****ed, that's probably one of the last things they do.

Vester said,

Something a little more, they didn't even bother to theme gnome or anything.

It's not really an OS designed for that though, they're targeting it at the living room, which means that the time actually spent in Gnome would be minimal. I wouldn't see any reason why someone looking to use it as a desktop OS couldn't create their own Gnome theme or use another one if they weren't happy.