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SteamVR Overlay not working on Arch or Manjaro Linux? Here's a fix

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Sadly, SteamVR on Linux continues to have quite a lot of quirks and over time it's gotten a little rough, here's a way to fix the SteamVR Overlay not working.

One of the most annoying bugs right now is how the SteamVR Overlay doesn't seem to work. Not just that, but even the settings menu from the main SteamVR menu doesn't seem to work either. This appears to be a problem on any Arch-like Linux distribution (EndeavourOS, Manjaro etc) and seems to originate with the vrwebhelper.

Thankfully, some clever people on the official Valve GitHub found a way to get it all working again and it's pretty simple.

First, find where SteamVR is installed, somewhere like this:

~/.local/share/Steam/steamapps/common/SteamVR/bin/vrwebhelper/linux64/

Open the file "vrwebhelper.sh" and replace this line:

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH="${STEAM_RUNTIME_HEAVY}${LD_LIBRARY_PATH+:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH}"

With this:

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH="${DIR}:${STEAM_RUNTIME_HEAVY}${LD_LIBRARY_PATH+:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH}"

Now you need to download an older version of freetype2, which another helpful user put up on a download link (web archive in case it vanishes) and then extract the files from the archive into the "vrwebhelper/linux64/" folder. After that, it all works just as expected again. Nice!

Hopefully Valve will get around to solving this soon, perhaps once they've got a few hands free after the Steam Deck ships, which they're clearly putting a lot of their effort into right now.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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17 comments
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Corben 17 Nov
On Ubuntu I had the issue for a while, that the Dashboard didn't come up on the first start, but a second start of SteamVR mostly helped. Hasn't happened in a while though, so the situation on Ubuntu seems to be less bad.

It's still a bit rough, as async reprojection with nVidia is still an issue. I have it now disabled again, as the crashes that happen after 1-2 hours are more and more annoying. Though if it's enabled the headtracking is perfectly smooth, anything else is laggy. The dashboard jumps around and has a latency, as well as the controllers in VR. Also any desktop window that's brought into the VR space is janky as well.

Hopefully that will be fixed soon. I'd really like to use async reprojection, as it makes certain games to perform so much better. And I don't like to reduce the scaling just to compensate the disabled async reprojection.

Don't get me wrong, despite these issues, being able to play VR on Linux is still the best thing that has happened in the Linux gaming area before the arrival of the Steam Deck :D


Last edited by Corben on 17 November 2021 at 3:57 pm UTC
Liam Dawe 17 Nov
Quoting: CorbenOn Ubuntu I had the issue for a while, that the Dashboard didn't come up on the first start, but a second start of SteamVR mostly helped.
That was the same for me on Arch, but recently (don't know when) it just fully broke until I properly went looking to find this fix. Hopefully it helps others who don't want to trawl through GitHub.
Ehvis 17 Nov
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Arch problems. Of course, for me the overlay won't show at all nine out of ten times, but at least I don't have arch problems.
Liam Dawe 17 Nov
Quoting: EhvisOf course, for me the overlay won't show at all nine out of ten times, but at least I don't have arch problems
Sounds like you should try the fix ;)
poisond 17 Nov
The easy workaround on arch is to install steam-native-runtime and run steam-native instead of steam.
Liam Dawe 17 Nov
Quoting: poisondThe easy workaround on arch is to install steam-native-runtime and run steam-native instead of steam.
Due to how it works though, that can introduce all sorts of other issues, and Valve definitely don't support people running that. This simple fix touches so little and gets it working.

Even the Arch documentation makes this clear:
QuoteWarning: Using the Steam native runtime is not recommended as it might break some games due to binary incompatibility and it might miss some libraries present in the Steam runtime.

Edit: plus this fix will probably help any other distro as they upgrade too.


Last edited by Liam Dawe on 17 November 2021 at 4:48 pm UTC
buono 17 Nov
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Thanks for tracking this down and writing it up!

This makes for a much improved linux VR experience.
Palanca 17 Nov
Valve is doing since last year a poor job on Linux and virtual reality. There is an unofficial fix for HL: Alyx subtitles for example. They haven't even fixed that.
Corben 17 Nov
Quoting: PalancaValve is doing since last year a poor job on Linux and virtual reality. There is an unofficial fix for HL: Alyx subtitles for example. They haven't even fixed that.
I wish they'd fix the support for custom maps. I'd really like to play the BioShock Mod, but like HL:A it crashes on level transitions when using Proton. Doesn't work at all on native...
peta77 17 Nov
That's currently a tiny problem for me.... Tried to upgrade from Vive to Vive Pro 2, but that one doesn't work at all on Linux... Did a short test on a Windows machine, the HMD is OK, and the additional resolution makes the experience really fantastic now... But on Linux, SteamVR won't even install a driver, just tellin' no HMD(-driver) found....
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