The Oculus Quest is a fully stand-alone headset. It’s free of the wires of PC-only headsets. However, if you want to use it on a PC to play Steam VR games, you’ll need special software to do so wirelessly.
A Wireless Replacement for Oculus Link
Oculus Link is the official way of using the Quest as a Steam VR headset, and it requires a USB cable. It’s great, although it’s a bit laggier than a dedicated device, like a Rift S or Valve Index. Still, it’s good enough to make the Quest feel like a PC headset when it’s plugged in. However, you still need a wire with Link, so if you want to go fully wireless, you’ll need special software.
ALVR is a free app that can connect your Quest and PC. You run the app on your PC, which installs a custom driver for Steam VR and runs a server to which the Quest connects. You launch the app on your Quest, which connects to the server and streams the video. Controller input and movements are sent back to the server, which shows up as a regular headset in Steam VR. The result is a fully wireless experience—your PC can be in your bedroom, while you play in your more spacious living room.
The experience itself is certainly a mixed bag. Playing full PC games through Steam VR without a wire is a fantastic experience as opposed to being tied down. When it works, it works well, and it’s certainly worth trying out, even if just for the novelty. However, it’s quite buggy on occasion.
When it doesn’t work, you’re stuck with freezes and compression artifacts in VR, which aren’t pleasing to the eye. The latency isn’t a huge issue for casual games. If you want to play something fast-paced, like Beat Saber, though, you might want to stick with wired or just run the game on the Quest.
It doesn’t really work at all on 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi. You’ll need to use the speedier 5 GHz, and a wired connection from your PC to your router. If you can play closer to your router, that helps out, as well.
ALVR is the most popular free option out there. However, if you want to try something else, Virtual Desktop is a $20 official app that does the same thing and streams from your actual desktop. You’ll still need to install the sideloaded version to use SteamVR, though, and the experience will be mostly the same.
Setting Up ALVR
To get started, you have to download ALVR. Head over to its GitHub page and download the latest release. Download the ALVR.zip file, which is the server that will run on your PC. You’ll also need to download the ALVRClient, which is the app you need to sideload onto your Quest.
Turn on Developer Mode on your Quest. From the Oculus App on your iPhone or Android, find your Quest under the settings menu, and then select More Settings > Developer Mode, and turn it on.
This will bring you to Oculus’s website, where you have to sign up as a developer and create an “Organization.” This is totally free, but a bit of an annoyance.
Once it’s turned on, restart your Quest, plug it in with a cable, and you should see the screen below asking you to trust this computer. Select “Always Allow,” and then click “OK.”
For sideloading, the easiest method is to use SideQuest, a third-party store for sideloaded apps. You aren’t limited to apps on SideQuest—you can install any app for which you have an APK file.
Open it, and you should see your headset connected in the top-left corner.
Drag the ALVRClient.apk file into SideQuest, which will install it right away. You won’t find ALVR on your home screen though—it’s tucked away in the “Library” under “Unknown Sources.”
Unplug your headset from the PC, and load up the ALVR app on the Quest. You’ll be greeted with a quite unpleasant and jarringly aliased home screen, telling you to connect to the device from the server.
Unzip the ALVR.zip file, and then move the folder to a location where you won’t accidentally delete it. Run ALVR.exe to start the server.
Once it loads, you can tweak some of the settings, but the defaults should work fine. Click “Connect” on your PC. Once connected, click “Auto Connect Next Time,” to enable your headset to automatically reconnect if the connection times out.
From here, you can load up a Steam VR game. ALVR will present the device as a regular headset, and, if the connection is solid, it should act like one.
Fixing Some Common Bugs
If your picture freezes or you see visual artifacts, make sure your headset is connected to 5 GHz Wi-Fi. If you can, set the channel width to 40 MHz also.
Some routers use the same SSID (the name of the network) for the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, which can be an issue. Our Quest defaulted to the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, and the only way to fix it was to split up the network names.
However, our Fios router didn’t allow this, by default. We had to turn off the very buried setting for “Self-Organizing Network Enabled” under Wireless Settings > Advanced Security Settings > Other Advanced Wireless Options. Then, we were able to split up the network.
After connecting the Quest to 5 GHz Wi-Fi and forgetting the other network, we had a much smoother experience.
If that doesn’t fix it, you might need to restart ALVR or turn down the bit rate or resolution in the video settings. Conversely, if you’re having a smooth experience with slightly blurrier video, you can turn up the bit rate.
The other issue we had was with desktop audio. We used VB Cable and Voicemeeter for advanced audio routing and had an issue with the sound not working at first. We had to manually switch the output device to the proper one. We then restarted everything: ALVR, Steam VR, and the game.
After you fix these issues, the occasional hitch, stutter, or general lag isn’t really avoidable without dedicated gear, like the Vive Wireless Adapter. There are definitely compromises to be made with this setup.