Valve has opened the flood gates if you're curious or brave enough to download and try the beta version of SteamOS which is making its public debut today. Some 300 lucky recipients were also slated to receive prototype hardware, including controllers, this weekend meanwhile the rest of us can take a peek at the gaming-oriented Linux fork that Valve has been cooking for a while. If you are interested in downloading the new OS, just click here.

SteamOS is a fork of Debian GNU/Linux, with version 1.0 'alchemist' based on the Debian 'wheezy' (stable 7.1) distribution. The OS package weighs in at about 960MB, and despite of several beta warnings and hardware compatibility limitations (Nvidia graphics only), for a while it looked like Valve was having a hard time coping with download demand. More detailed information can be found on the FAQ below:

So, what is SteamOS Beta?

SteamOS Beta is an early, first-look public release of our Linux-based operating system. The base system draws from Debian 7, code named Debian Wheezy. Our work builds on top of the solid Debian core and optimizes it for a living room experience. Most of all, it is an open Linux platform that leaves you in full control. You can take charge of your system and install new software or content as you want.

The major changes made in SteamOS are:

  • Backported eglibc 2.17 from Debian testing
  • Added various third-party drivers and updated graphics stack (Intel and AMD graphics support still being worked on)
  • Updated kernel tracking the 3.10 longterm branch (currently 3.10.11)
  • Custom graphics compositor designed to provide a seamless transition between Steam, its games and the SteamOS system overlay
  • Configured to auto-update from the Valve SteamOS repositories

So, what is it not?

As an early release, much is changing, so expect rough edges. In its current state, SteamOS is definitely not a finished product ready for a non-technical user. Most importantly, it currently only supports a certain set of hardware. We are hard at work to expand this list.

That being said, we already use it in our living rooms. We are excited about what it is and what it will become. And the more of you do the same and tell us about your experiences, the quicker those rough edges will be sanded off.

Users should not consider SteamOS as a replacement for their desktop operating system. SteamOS is being designed and optimized for the living room experience.

Is all of SteamOS Beta open source software?

No. SteamOS Beta ships with our Steam Client program, which is proprietary software, in addition to proprietary 3rd party drivers. In the SteamOS Beta standard configuration, the Steam Client program serves as a user interface and provides connectivity to our Steam online services. That being said, you can still access standard Linux desktop.

What are the SteamOS Hardware Requirements?

  • 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

Where is the source for SteamOS?

How do I get fixes or new features in SteamOS?

All SteamOS machines are set to auto-update their OS from Valve's public repositories on a regular basis through the standard Debian APT package manager.

What software runs on SteamOS?

SteamOS is designed to run Steam and Steam games. It also provides a desktop mode which can run regular Linux applications. SteamOS makes use of the standard APT package manager for software updates; you can add third-party sources to your subscribed repositories to gain access to more applications. SteamOS currently provides a limited set of packages, but many Debian wheezy packages work fine on SteamOS. We plan to make a wider variety of packages vailable directly from the SteamOS repositories over time.

Can I run Microsoft Windows games and applications on SteamOS?

No, SteamOS is based on Debian GNU/Linux and is not compatibile with Microsoft Windows games and applications. However, SteamOS will soon support seamlessly streaming your games from your Windows computer; watch this page for more information about the In-Home Streaming Beta.

How do I install SteamOS?

There are two different install methods for SteamOS. WARNING: Both methods will ERASE EVERYTHING on the machine. Full installation instructions are available at this location.