Steam Deck shader cache files to shrink by 60% with a driver update

Steam Deck storage screen
(Image credit: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Valve's portable Steam Deck handheld runs a variant of the Linux operating system and an open-source video driver known as Mesa.
  • An upcoming update to Mesa includes improvements to a shader cache pipeline used by the Vulkan graphics API.
  • PC Gamer reached out to Valve and received confirmation that the update should reduce shader cache sizes by around 60%.

Even the most satisfied Steam Deck owners may have noticed their storage devices becoming overrun by a mysterious 'other' category, notoriously containing pre-cached shader files intended to speed up load times on Valve's handheld. Community-made solutions exist, including the fantastic CryoUtilities created by CryoByte33 on GitHub, which usually focuses on optimizing swap files but can also help to manage a chunky shader cache in most games.

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Thankfully, a more official solution is reportedly on the way (via PC Gamer) in the form of an update to the open-source graphics driver used by Valve on the Steam Deck. Said to reduce shader cache file sizes by around 60%, Valve's Pierre-Loup Griffais confirmed that improvements made to the Mesa 23.1 driver would maintain the current method of downloading ready-made shader cache files during game installs, but they'll be significantly smaller thanks to a new Vulkan pipeline.

Samsung's EVO Select comes in clutch to store all my shader cache files. (Image credit: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

Anyone who opts for the entry-level Steam Deck featuring a somewhat modest 64GB solid-state drive will undoubtedly be delighted to hear that improvements are coming for the bloated shader cache files. Expanding your space with external storage is straightforward enough with some of the best SD cards for Steam Deck, but there's not much use if even those rapidly fill up with junk. It's been a common complaint and an understandable gripe for those picking up the more affordable Deck variant.

SteamOS is expected to enjoy a sizeable update to version 3.5 soon, alongside a new Linux kernel, and the Mesa release calendar shows driver v23.1 planned for early May, so it's not unreasonable to assume these two releases will combine for a healthy update to the Steam Deck's performance and storage efficiency. Some of the limited downsides to Valve's handheld gaming PC certainly seem to be enjoying a series of patches and solutions, so check our full Steam Deck review if you're tempted.

Ben Wilson
Channel Editor

Ben is the channel editor for all things tech-related at Windows Central. That includes PCs, the components inside, and any accessory you can connect to a Windows desktop or Xbox console. Not restricted to one platform, he also has a keen interest in Valve's Steam Deck handheld and the Linux-based operating system inside. Fueling this career with coffee since 2021, you can usually find him behind one screen or another. Find him on Mastodon to ask questions or share opinions.