the Oculus Quest 2 can be a standalone virtual reality viewer, but you can also use it with a computer in the same way as an Oculus Rift. You also don’t need to stick to the Oculus VR library; you can also play SteamVR games using your Quest 2!
Oh, and if you still have the original search, this information also applies to you.
What is SteamVR?
There are several virtual reality APIs (application programmer interface) and SDKs (software development kits) for virtual reality on PC. SteamVR is the standard used by the Steam client and the VR games that run on it. SteamVR also runs in its own environment. You get a SteamVR virtual room where you can start games and otherwise modify your VR settings as you like.
This is great if you’re using a native SteamVR viewer like the Valve Index, but Quest 2 uses a proprietary Oculus API and SDK. Therefore, you do not understand SteamVR games at all. The good news is that both Valve and Oculus have made efforts to help Oculus Quest 2 (and other Oculus headsets) work well with SteamVR.
Basically, what happens is that if you start a SteamVR game with your Oculus plugged in, it will detect the headphones and the two APIs will translate to each other. SteamVR games will think your Oculus is a SteamVR headset and, in theory, you won’t find out. For this to work, the following must be in place:
- Your Computer with virtual reality capability.
- An Oculus Quest 2.
- the Search Software is installed on your Windows computer.
- Your Quest 2 is configured and with its native software on Windows.
- A USB-C USB 2.0 cable (preferably 3.0 or 3.1) to connect the Quest via Oculus Link.
- Alternatively, you need 5GHz WiFi to use the (currently) experimental Oculus Air Link feature.
- Steam and SteamVR are installed on the computer.
- Some SteamVR games, like Half-Life Alyx.
Let’s start with the Oculus Quest side of the equation.
Set up your Quest 2 on your PC
You’ve probably already set up your Quest 2 with your computer and even played some games, but in case you haven’t already, you’ll have to download the Oculus software from their website and install that. Once you have it installed, you just need to connect it to your computer while the software is running and follow the instructions. Assuming everything goes as it should here, the next step is to cover the SteamVR part of the puzzle.
Make sure SteamVR is installed
We assume that you know that you will have to install Steam if you want to play SteamVR games, regardless of what headphones you have. However, SteamVR is not installed with Steam by default.
If you have already installed a SteamVR game, then the SteamVR software should have been installed automatically. Simply search for “SteamVR” in your Steam library. You can find it on the Store like any other Steam app if it’s not there.
With Oculus software, SteamVR and at least one SteamVR game installed, let’s see how to play it.
Method 1: Start the game from Oculus Home
If you are starting from the Oculus Home environment, look towards the semicircular dashboard and press the icon that looks like a computer monitor. This will take your desktop into virtual space. Your motion controller will act like a mouse, but you can also use your normal mouse.
Open Steam, then open the SteamVR game of your choice. If this is your first time running SteamVR or the game, you may need to perform some additional configuration, but you must start it directly in the game once done.
Method 2: Start the game from SteamVR Home
Instead of launching the game directly, you can open your desktop in the Oculus software described above and launch SteamVR as your own application. This will change you to the SteamVR home environment. From here, you can start all your SteamVR games.
It is also useful if you want to modify the universal virtual reality settings for all SteamVR games before opening the game itself.
Method 3: Simply launch the game from Steam
If you connected your headphones, you could launch the SteamVR game on Steam before you put your headphones on. When you put your headphones on, you should get right into the game.
Wired or wireless?
Quest 2 has a function called Oculus link. This is the technology it uses to act as a connected headset. Oculus Link needs at least a USB 2.0 USB-C cable, but you should use it with a USB 3.0 or better cable if possible. Of course, the port should also be USB 3.0. This will ensure greater stability and better image quality.
At the time of writing, you also have the option to use Oculus Air Link. This is a wireless version of Oculus Link and allows you to play your virtual reality games for PC as if you were tied to the computer. You should only use this feature with a 5 Ghz router in a range close to Quest 2. Preferably, your computer should be connected to the router via Ethernet, and only the link to the headset should be wireless.
Playing with Air Link (which you must enable in the experimental features in the Quest 2 configuration) is much more liberating and immersive than being tied by a cable. However, it depends on having the ideal network conditions and will not match the exact image quality and latency of cable usage.
There is also a third-party alternative to Air Link, and so far we have had much better luck with it than with Air Link’s experimental solution. You’ll need to purchase the $ 20 virtual desktop app, but other than that, it’s all in the wind. Check out this How to play wireless VR games for PC on Oculus Quest with virtual desktop for more information.
Do you have performance issues?
While we found that bridging the gap between Oculus and SteamVR is a seamless experience, sometimes things go wrong. Oculus VR games played from Oculus software are usually perfect, except for some unrelated issues, but sometimes the SteamVR version of the same game has performance issues.
If you have any options, it is generally better to purchase the Oculus version of a game if you are on both platforms. If it’s a SteamVR exclusive game, make sure you’re running the latest version of all the software involved.
It is also worth checking the SteamVR settings when you are in the SteamVR home environment. There have been cases where the SteamVR client sets the resolution or other headphone settings too high for the GPU of an Oculus headset.