How to Play SteamVR Games (and Other Non-Oculus Apps) on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is locked down by default, and will only run games and apps from Oculus’s own store. You’ll see an “Unknown Source” message on the Rift if you try to run something else. But change one setting, and you can use Valve’s SteamVR or any other Rift-enabled app or game.

Oculus says that apps from “unknown sources” haven’t been “reviewed by Oculus for security, comfort, content, or health and safety”, which is why they’re blocked. But you can quickly disable this restriction. It’s the same approach used by Android, and the option even goes by the same name.

How to Enable Apps and Games from Unknown Sources

You can change this setting in the Oculus application on your computer. First, open the Oculus application.

Click the gear menu icon at the top right corner of the window, and click “Settings”.

Click the “General” tab at the left side of the settings window.

Click the switch to the right of “Unknown Sources” to enable applications that haven’t been reviewed by Oculus.

RELATED: How to Set Up the Oculus Rift and Start Playing Games

You’ll see a warning message. Oculus warns that such applications can be a problem “for security, comfort, content, or health and safety”. That’s because this setting allows any application from any developer to access your Rift, assuming that application is running on your PC. Exercise normal caution when running VR applications, just as you would when running normal Windows desktop applications. For example, use an antivirus application and don’t download and run .exe files from sources you don’t trust.

Click the “Allow” button to continue.

A notification will appear at the bottom of the window, indicating apps from unknown sources will now function on your Rift.

You can now launch virtual reality applications and games from outside the store. For example, to launch SteamVR and set it up, open the Steam application on your computer and click the “VR” icon that appears at the top-right corner of your screen. This icon will appear when you have your Rift connected, just as it will appear if you have an HTC Vive connected. Steam will offer to automatically download and install the SteamVR software the first time you click this icon.

To launch another third-party application or game that supports the Rift, just launch that game and it should automatically detect the Rift and use it. Follow the application or game’s instructions for information on getting it to work with the Rift.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to add external applications to the Oculus Home interface that appears when you put on the Rift headset, so you can’t easily launch third-party applications from within virtual reality. Only applications and games you get from Oculus’s own store will appear in this interface. You’ll have to launch third-party applications from the Windows desktop.

Image Credit: Sergey Galyonkin

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.