If you’re a gamer on PC or Mac, chances are a lot of your games were purchased through Steam. You may be wondering if you can change the Steam install location of your games, be it to save storage space or to make your games run faster. You may also be just planning to start and want to know if you can install your Steam games in a specific directory. This guide will show you how to change your games’ default install location as well as how to move existing Steam games to a different folder both on Mac and PC.
Where Are Steam Games Originally Stored?
Before you can change Steam’s install location, it’s good to know where your games are originally stored. Where does Steam install games? As mentioned above, Steam assigns a default game installation folder when you first download the app. By default, your games will be installed in the same drive or folder where the Steam client has been installed. It’s good to know where these folders are to learn how to change Steam’s install directory.
On Mac, your games will be under the folder:
You can go to that folder by navigating to your Desktop and doing the following:
- Click or tap on Go (the fifth item on the top menu)
- From the dropdown, select Go to Folder
- A pop-up will appear that requests a path
- Type: ~/Library/Application Support on the text field
- Search for the folder named Steam
- Within the Steam folder, you will find another folder named steamapps
- Click on it and click the folder named common
- You will see all the games that have been installed on your computer
You will notice that once you have finished the change Steam install location process, this folder will be empty on your Mac. It will have been moved to your selected folder.
On Windows PC, you can find your Steam games under the folder:
C:/Program Files (x86)/Steam/steamapps/common
It is easier to locate this folder on a PC. You just have to navigate to it by clicking on the Folder icon on your Windows taskbar and clicking on Local Disc C under Devices and Drives. Keep clicking on the folders listed on the path above and you will get to the common folder where you will find all your installed Steam games. As for Mac devices, you will see that this folder is empty once you have completed the change Steam install location process.
How to Change Steam Install Location
Now that you know where your games are stored by default, you can learn how to change the Steam install location. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide on how to change the Steam install path on your Mac or PC.
Changing Your Default Game Install Location
Steam creates several libraries for games and creates different folders for them so this makes the entire process of changing your Steam Games’ install location a lot easier. You can distribute your games to different drives so you can save storage space. Again, by default, your Steam games will be stored where you first installed the Steam app. These steps work for both Mac and PC.
Here’s how you can change Steam’s default install location:
- Launch the Steam app
- Click on Steam on the top left corner and go to Settings under the dropdown menu
- Next, click on Downloads on the left menu
- Click the Steam Library Folders on the right, and a pop-up will appear which shows your default folder
- Click on Add Library Folder below
- Select the folder where you want your games to be installed or create a new one
- Click New Folder
- Steam will name this folder “SteamLibrary”
- Once your preferred folder is on the list, right-click on it and choose the Make Default Directory option
- Steam will create another folder in that drive with a similar name to the default one
It’s a good idea to create another folder in the new drive where you will be installing your Steam games and name it as Steam or anything that will make it distinct. This will avoid confusion in the future and save you a lot of headaches.
Your selected folder will now be your default install location for your Steam games. This will not automatically move your existing games to the new folder. It will only work on the new games that you will be downloading. See how to move Steam games to another drive on the next section to learn how to move existing games to a different folder.
Moving Steam Games to a Different Folder
To change the Steam install location for existing games, you will have to do the process for each library or folder of each game that you want to move.
There are several reasons why some would like to do this. One of them is if the game has been deleted but for this purpose, it is mostly for saving storage space and distributing your games to different drives. If you are currently experiencing accidentally uninstalling Steam and your games have been uninstalled as well, this is a great fix for that! This process of moving Steam games to another drive will install your games on your computer again.
On the other hand, if your games have not been deleted and you only want to move them to a different folder, here are the steps you need to take.
Backup Important Folders and Uninstall Steam First
- Go to the Default Steam install location discussed in the previous section above
- Copy the steamapps folder to the new location or drive
- Back up two more folders to ensure that you won’t lose data from your current games; this means copying the two folders: Userdata and Steam
- Userdata contains the saved configuration on your Steam games. It’s important that you don’t lose the data here or you will lose your game settings and preferences when you re-install your games
- The Steam folder contains the shortcut icons for your Steam games. These icons may seem unimportant but losing them may actually cause you problems wherein your games may be inaccessible
- After copying and backing up these folders, you will have to uninstall the Steam app. These are the first steps on how to move Steam games to another drive
Reinstall the Steam App and Your Steam Games
- Once you are sure that you have backed up your Steam games and folders successfully and deleted the Steam client, delete the existing folders from the default or previous drive
- Re-install the games by launching the Steam app, clicking on the games that you moved, and clicking on Install
- Unfortunately, you would have to wait for the installation to complete again like the first time you installed them
- Your Steam games are now installed on the new folders and you can start playing them again
How to Download Steam Games to an External Hard Drive
A lot of gamers wonder how to change the Steam install location directly to an external hard drive. The process is very similar to installing it to a different drive on your computer but it involves a few extra steps.
Create a New Folder on Your External Hard Drive
Before you touch anything on your current folders, please make sure that you do this step, regardless of whether you’re using a Mac or PC. Not doing these steps may lead to you losing your game data. Take note that this will only work on Mac laptops that still have the USB input. The newer MacBook Pro versions don’t have a USB slot anymore so you won’t be able to move Steam games to an external hard drive.
- If it isn’t already, connect your external hard drive to your computer
- Create a folder dedicated only to Steam
- Name that folder SteamLibrary
- Inside that folder, create a new one and name it steamapps
- Create another folder and name it common
- When you change Steam’s install location as discussed below, Steam will name the folders within it the same way it named the folders in the default install location
Change Your Default Steam Install Location to Your External Hard Drive
To run Steam games directly from your external hard drive, you would first need to change your Steam install directory to it. You have seen this process explained in full detail above.
- Connect your external hard drive
- You will do all the steps mentioned in changing your Steam install location, but choose your hard drive’s name after you click on Add Library Folder
- If you want to download Steam games directly to your external hard drive, you must make it your default; select your external hard drive’s name, right-click on it, and choose Make Default Folder on the popup of the Steam Library Folders under Download
- You can confirm that it’s been set to default if it says Yes under Default when it shows up on your list of library folders
Move Your Existing Steam Games to Your External Hard Drive
If you have existing Steam games on your default library, you’d want to move them to your external hard drive first before changing Steam’s install location. There are two ways to do this.
Option 1: Drag-and-Drop Method
- Leave the previous window open and open a new one
- Go to the default Steam library that we’ve been discussing throughout this guide
- Access the Steam folder and go into steamapps
- Go to the common folder to see all the games that you’ve installed
- From there, copy the game folders into your external hard drive by dragging and dropping each game folder
Option 2: Moving Your Existing Games Via the Steam App
- Launch Steam
- From the top menu, click on Library and you will see all the Steam games you’ve installed
- Right-click on the game that you would like to install on your external hard drive
- From the dropdown menu, select Properties and it will open a new window
- Select Local Files which is the middle option on the top menu of the popup window
- Click on the last option which is Move Install Folder
- You can now launch any game you’ve moved directly from your external hard drive
These two options can actually also be applied when moving your games to any other folder apart from the steps mentioned in the section where we taught you how to move Steam games to a different folder.
How to Run Steam Games From an External Hard Drive
Now that you’ve added your external hard drive to your Steam Library Folders and made it your default, you can run your games directly from it. To do this, all you have to do is to connect your external hard drive each time before you launch Steam. If you launch the Steam client before connecting your hard drive, you will see that the game appears as “uninstalled”. Connect your external hard drive, launch Steam, and hit Play on the game you want to play.
Do Online Steam Games Need to Be Downloaded?
What are online games? These are usually the games under the online Massive Multiplayer Roleplaying Games (MMORPG) category. They are designed to be played online so that you can interact with other gamers and use game modes such as Player-versus-Player (PVP).
Some players have the impression that online games don’t need to be downloaded because they are hosted online. This is not the case, though; online games do need to be downloaded before you can play them. The process of downloading online games is the same as downloading any other Steam games. The difference is that when you launch the game, it will have to connect to the internet and require you to log in to the game’s system with your credentials. Another thing that makes online Steam games different from non-online games is it has to do patches or updates every now and then. Servers also sometimes go down for maintenance, so there are times that you can’t play because the developers are making updates on these online games.
If you want to find more online multiplayer games, take a look at our list of multiplayer games you must play.
Where Are Online Games Installed?
Online games are installed in the same library that you have set as default. This will only change if you have changed or moved the game’s folder using the methods discussed in the above sections. To run your online games, launch your Steam app, and click Play beside the name of the online game. You can also double-click on the game’s launcher from your desktop.
How to Fix Steam Installed Games Appearing Uninstalled
Sometimes, whether you’ve moved your game’s folders or not, you may experience seeing some of your Steam games appearing as uninstalled. You may notice that the Play button is missing and is replaced instead by “Install”. This only means one thing; Steam no longer recognizes the files where your games have been installed. This can be a highly frustrating problem but there is a way to fix it.
Steam’s default fix for this is to have you reinstall the games. As long as the folders are still in the proper locations, again, whether you’ve moved them or not, the Steam client will prompt you to download the game whenever you launch it. This is not an ideal fix especially if your games are huge in size. Some games can take up to 85 – 90 GB of storage! How do you fix this issue without completely reinstalling the game?
- Launch Steam and go to Settings — again, you can access this by first clicking on Steam on the top left corner of the Steam app
- Under Settings, select Downloads from the left menu and click on Steam Library Folders
- On the popup window, make sure that the drive where you have installed or moved your Steam games is showing on the folders list
- If the folder is not on the list, you would have to repeat the process of adding it to your folder’s list by clicking on Add Library Folder
- Select the folder where you have installed or moved your games
- Make sure that the specific drive, whether it’s another folder on your Mac or PC or your external hard drive, is set to default
- If it’s not set to default, right-click on the proper drive and click on Make Default Folder
- Click on Close and exit Steam
- Relaunch Steam and see if the games are now showing the Play button
Unfortunately, if the alternative fix does not work, you will have to reinstall the games.
What Is Steam?
Steam is a huge online store where you can purchase games for both computer and console gaming. Take note that not all games on Steam are compatible with all gaming platforms but when you look at a game, it will readily tell you where you can play it. It’s good to have some background on this so you can easily understand how to change Steam’s install path. Steam is owned and developed by Valve Corporation, but many game developers enlist their games on Steam. So, you can imagine the number of games available from there.
You will find several types of games from Steam ranging from casual games and action games to story-driven games. If you are fond of story-driven games, here is our list of the best video game stories you can find on Steam.
How Much Does Steam Cost?
To purchase games on Steam, you would have to download and install the Steam app. Steam itself is free to download. You only need to pay for the games that you want to buy however, you will also find a lot of games that you can play for free! Steam also features a Wallet which you can use to purchase games. Here’s our guide on Steam Wallet and how to add funds, buy games, and more.
How to Download and Install Steam
How to install Steam? To download the Steam app, go to the official Steam Store using any web browser and click on Install Steam on the top right of the page. It will automatically detect whether you are downloading it from a PC or a Mac, and all you have to do is click on the Install Steam button. Follow the installation prompts and the Steam app will be installed on your computer.
On PC, the system will ask you to either run or save a file called SteamSetup.exe. On Mac, it will be steam.dmg. Your computer will then launch the Steam app. Click Next and choose the language you want to use from the list. It will ask you to confirm Steam’s install location—this will also be where your Steam files will be stored which will be discussed in the section below. It’s good to know this to understand how to change Steam’s install location.
You are now ready to download and install Steam games. Steam will first ask you to create an account and choose your country or region to show you which games are available in your location. Here is our detailed article on how to download Steam games, which is a great guide for beginners.
Steam Mobile App
Steam also has a mobile app available from the Play Store and App Store. By downloading the mobile app, you can sync your data with your phone or tablet. You can download them by clicking the buttons below.
Why Download Games From Steam?
The main advantage of downloading games from Steam is you will have a soft copy of the game on your computer. This eliminates the need for a physical disc. You can view all your downloaded games in one place and organize them. Another great advantage of purchasing games via Steam is it has a great community and it acts as a social media platform in itself. You can add your friends who also use the Steam platform and interact with them. This may or may not appeal to you, but it’s a great way to have fun with your friends and see what they’re playing. You and your friends can see each other’s games, see when you’re online, chat with each other, and more.
Steam also features its own screen capture function, and each screenshot you take is automatically stored in your Steam library. You can upload these photos on your Steam Cloud, save them on your device, and share them on social media. Steam also has a mobile app both for Android and Apple devices and you can sync your data with your Mac or PC. You can even stream games from one device to another.
Changing your Steam install directory need not be a complicated process if you follow this guide. As you can see from the sections above, there are many ways to do the change steam install location process. It is highly possible that you will encounter problems along the way and those have also been addressed above. So, make sure to go back to them if you run into any issues!