If you’ve stumbled across this guide, chances are (1) you purchased the HTC Vive and don’t know which direction to go regarding setup or (2) have yet to buy the headset and want to see how much of a pain the setup process can be. Lucky for you, we’ve detailed the HTC Vive setup process and even include instructions on how to install the Deluxe Audio Strap and the new WiGig wireless adapter.

Here we explain the Steam route, as many customers – including Steam gamers – may not want to install HTC’s Viveport software. There are no exclusives with the latter, but if you want to take advantage of the Viveport subscription service, you’ll need the Viveport client. You can play five VR titles for $9 per month although HTC provides three-month ($20), six-month ($40) and 12-month ($80) plans.

Check out our guide to the best VR headsets

Verify your hardware

If you’ve already purchased the HTC Vive, chances are you already know the hardware requirements. If you have yet to purchase the headset and are curious about the setup process and hardware requirements, this is what you need:

  Minimum Recommended
Processor: Intel Core i5-4590
AMD FX 8350
Graphics: GeForce GTX 970
Radeon R9 290
GeForce GTX 1060
Radeon RX 480
Memory: 4GB
Video output: HDMI 1.4 or
DisplayPort 1.2
USB: 1x USB 2.0
Platform: Windows 7 SP1
Windows 8.1
Windows 10

As the specifications show, you don’t need the latest CPU to run the HTC Vive. Intel released its fourth-generation chip in the second quarter of 2014 while AMD’s CPU arrived at the end of 2012. You don’t need loads of memory or a recent USB port either. The meat of your hardware requirement stems from the necessary discrete graphics chip, which renders two 1,080 x 1,200 screens – not just one – at 90 times per second.

Further, you’re not required to rely solely on a desktop PC. Laptops with the components listed above or better work just as well and may be more ideal because you can take the HTC Vive kit and your laptop to other locations. But you’ll get more horsepower from a desktop PC, so you’ll need to verify if your VR play area will be a permanent fixture or something you’ll move from location to location.

That was AMD’s big pitch with its Radeon RX 500 Series in 2017: Bringing VR to the mainstream using capable hardware at affordable prices. And now that Nvidia’s GTX 20 Series is hitting the market, its long-time GTX 10 Series performers – like the GTX 1060 mentioned in the requirements – should see a nice price drop soon.

 Pick a room

First, you need an area supporting a play space at least 6.5 x 5 feet if you want the full room-scale experience; there’s no minimum requirement for seated and standing VR experiences. The maximum supported space is a 16-foot diagonal measurement given that’s the physical limit you can have between the two base stations.

That said, don’t establish your play space under a ceiling fan, chandelier or near an HDTV and/or window. You’re going to flail around like a wild chicken, and the last thing you need is to have broken glass showering your head and feet. The situation is similar to the original Nintendo Wii console experience, only you can’t see because a headset is blocking your view of reality, making incidents more likely to happen.

Install the base stations

HTC Vive setup

As previously stated, the base stations can be up to 16 feet away from each other. You can mount them at least 6.5 feet overhead (we use room corners) using the provided brackets. If that’s not ideal, you can place them on the tops of bookcases, mount them on tripods (which are easier to adjust too), cargo poles, light stands and so on. Once mounted or positioned, make sure they’re angled between 30 and 45 degrees.

On the back of each base station you will find from left to right:

  • Power port
  • Channel/Mode button
  • Sync cable port (optional)
  • Micro USB port (for firmware updates)

Now perform the following:

  1. After mounting or positioning, plug the power cords into the base stations and then the wall outlet.
  2. Press the Channel/Mode button on one unit until it reads “B” in the lower left corner of the base station’s front panel.
  3. Press the Channel/Mode button on the other unit until it reads “C” in the same area.
  4. After that, the Status LED should be white. If not, here are the colored errors and solutions:
  • No LED: Make sure the base station(s) are getting power.
  • Blinking white LED (standby mode): Unplug and then re-plug the base station(s).
  • Blue LED that never changes (waiting to stabilize): Make sure the base stations are secure. Vibrations prevent connection stabilization.
  • Purple LED blinks or remains solid (connection issue): Make sure nothing is blocking communication between the two stations.

Connect the Link Box to the computer

HTC Vive setupOn the back you will find four non-orange ports from left to right:

  • Power
  • USB-A
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • HDMI
  1. Grab the power adapter and plug the small end into the Link Box and the other end into your power outlet.
  2. Grab the provided long USB cable and plug it into the USB-A port on the Link Box and any USB-A port on your PC. The Vive requires USB 2.0 or newer.
  3. Grab the provided HDMI cable and plug it into the Link Box and the HDMI port on your desktop PC’s graphics card, not the HDMI port grouped with your USB ports, audio outputs and so on – that HDMI output is typically linked to your integrated graphics, which will not support the Vive. Note that on laptops with discrete graphics, you can use the HDMI port.
  4. Alternatively, you can purchase a Micro DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable and use this connection instead of HDMI on desktops and laptops.

Connect the headset to the Link Box

HTC Vive setupOn the front of the Link Box you’ll find three orange ports: HDMI, USB-A and Power.

  1. Plug the HDMI connector on the Vive’s 3-in-1 cable into the orange HDMI port.
  2. Plug the USB-A connector on the Vive’s 3-in-1 cable into the orange USB-A port.
  3. Plug the power connector on the Vive’s 3-in-1 cable into the orange Power port.

Adjust the headset

HTC Vive setup

First, be sure to adjust the top and side straps for a comfortable fit. Next, although the Vive ships with an optimized setting for owners with and without glasses, you may need to adjust the headset if your eyelashes or glasses hit the lenses. You can adjust the side straps so they’re mounted closer to your ears, but at a reduced field of view. Here’s how to change the distance:

  1. You will find a gray rubbery ring around the base of each side strap buckle connection. This is a lens distance knob and you’ll need to grab and pull it out about an eighth of an inch.
  2. Keep holding the gray ring and turn. You will see the piece that actually touches your face extend out from the lens and sensor portion. You will also feel the lens distance knob “click” up to six times as it moves away from the lens/sensor section.
  3. When finished, push the gray ring back down into place to lock down your new adjustment.

HTC Vive setup

You may also need to adjust the Vive to accommodate your natural interpupillary distance (IPD), which is the physical distance between your pupils. When viewing the headset from the lens side (rear), you’ll see an adjustment knob towards the bottom right corner. This will change the distance between the lenses when turned and is best adjusted while you’re already in VR.

Install Steam and/or SteamVR

HTC Vive setup

If you don’t have a Steam account already, head here to sign up and install the Steam client. Once installed, open Steam and navigate to Library > Tools and scroll down until you find SteamVR. Double-click on SteamVR, select your install path and then hit the Next button.

Launch SteamVR

The easiest way to launch SteamVR is by clicking on the VR icon located in the top right corner of Steam. Another method is by navigating to Library > Tools and selecting SteamVR.

Activate the Controllers

HTC Vive setup

Each controller ships with a charger that connects to the Micro USB port at the end of the wand. On the wand’s top surface, you’ll find a Menu button, the round, touch-sensitive Trackpad, the System button and a Status LED. Under the wand you’ll find the Trigger button and on one side the Grip button. To turn on these controllers, press the System button. They will pair with the headset.

Room Setup

HTC Vive setup

The final step is to establish your Room Scale or Standing play space. This process includes setting your play space boundaries via the Chaperone system, which will throw up a blue grid when you approach these invisible walls. You will also learn how to use the controllers and manage the virtual dashboard. If your physical environment changes, such as furniture adjustment or moving to a different room entirely, you can return to Room Setup and re-establish your play space.

Install Viveport

Although you can purchase and purchase VR games through Steam, HTC also provides the Viveport desktop app that you can download here. Once installed, you’ll still see the main Dashboard, but another “portal” to HTC’s storefront is now accessible. Having both is handy when these storefronts offer individual discounts and promotions. You can also use Viveport to set up the HTC Vive although you’ll still need Steam.

Vive Deluxe Audio Strap

HTC Vive setup

You can purchase the Deluxe Audio Strap for an additional $99. This requires you to remove the current head strap and the Vive’s 3-in-1 tether.

  1. Using both thumbs, push the Vive’s top compartment cover out and unplug the 3-in-1 cable and headphone cable. Now remove the cable and the compartment lid from the current strap.
  2. Grab the side strap buckle and turn downwards (clockwise). It will click when it’s released from the lens distance knob.
  3. Using the palms of your hands, snap the Vive Deluxe Audio Strap buckles into place.
  4. Route the new, built-in headphone connector through the compartment cover opening and plug it into the headset’s audio jack (you won’t need to old headphone connector).
  5. Do the same for the 3-in-1 cable (power, HDMI and USB).
  6. Slide the compartment cover back onto the Vive.
  7. Secure the 3-in-1 cable to the clip located on the right side of the new strap.
  8. Thread the top head strap through the compartment cover’s band holder and press the strap band together.
  9. To adjust the fit, turn the dial located at the back of the new strap. You can manually adjust the earphones as well.

Wireless Adapter

HTC Vive setup

If you’re not keen with the tethered connection, you can always splurge on the $299 Vive Wireless Adapter. Keep in mind that this device requires an open PCI Express slot in your desktop PC, and absolutely does not work on laptops.

  1. Turn off your desktop PC and unplug it from the wall. Also make sure your fingers don’t have a static charge. Touching metal outside your PC chassis is a good way to make sure you’re fully discharged.
  2. Open your desktop PC and locate an empty 1x or 4x PCI Express slot. If you’re not sure what they are, here’s a good diagram provided by EVGA.
  3. Remove the adjoining cover leading out the back of your desktop.
  4. Carefully insert the card and screw it into place in the opening previously populated by the cover you removed.
  5. Close your PC.
  6. Clip the wireless link box to the outside of your desktop.
  7. Use the provided cable to connect the wireless link box to the available port on your newly-installed WiGig PCIe card.
  8. Plug your desktop in and turn it on.

Using the original head strap:

  1. Slide open the compartment cover with your thumbs.
  2. Carefully unplug the 3-in-1 cable: You won’t need it.
  3. Attach the wireless adapter to the headset’s top strap. You’ll see a clip on the adapter’s belly that grabs the sleeve sporting the Vive logo on the headset’s existing top strap.
  4. Loop the adapter’s connected vertical strap under the Vive’s head brace and stick it to the bottom of the existing top head strap on the Vive.
  5. Wrap the adapter’s two thinner horizontal straps around the larger connected vertical strap, holding it in place.
  6. Thread the new short 3-in-1 cable through the compartment cover, plug it into all ports and then slide the compartment cover back into place on the Vive.
  7. Connect the other end of the new 3-in-1 cable to the adapter.
  8. Connect the battery to the adapter in the USB port located on the back.
  9. Download and install the Vive Wireless app.

Using the Deluxe Audio Strap:

  1. Slide open the compartment cover with your thumbs.
  2. Carefully unplug the 3-in-1 cable: You won’t need it.
  3. Unlike the original strap method, you won’t use the adapter’s built-in clip. Instead, there are two “ridges” that grab the sides of the new strap.
  4. Loop the adapter’s connected vertical strap under the Vive’s head brace and stick it to the bottom of the top strap on the Vive.
  5. Wrap the adapter’s two thinner horizontal straps around the larger connected vertical strap, holding it in place.
  6. Thread the new short 3-in-1 cable through the compartment cover, plug it into all ports and then slide the compartment cover back into place on the Vive.
  7. Connect the other end of the new 3-in-1 cable to the adapter.
  8. Connect the battery to the adapter in the USB port located on the back.
  9. Download and install the Vive Wireless app.
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