Unlike most Windows applications, Steam can be easily moved between hard drives without redownloading or reinstalling anything. If you want to put Steam on a new hard drive – say, if you’ve bought a new computer or a larger hard drive for your games – you can copy your games over without going through a long download process.
This is just one of the things that makes Steam awesome – if you have hundreds of gigabytes of games installed, good luck easily moving them to a new hard drive unless you use Steam. While Steam stores all its games inside the Steam folder, some save files for third-party games are stored elsewhere and may require a bit more work to transfer.
Before continuing, you should be aware of a couple things:
- Ensure you remember your Steam account name and password. You’ll have to re-enter both when you follow this procedure. You should also ensure that your Steam account is linked to an email account you still have access to, in case your need to reset your password.
- External hard drives are a useful way to transfer Steam’s files between computers, but you shouldn’t run Steam off an external hard drive. Playing a game off an external hard drive connected over USB will result in poor performance.
Moving Your Steam Folder
First, close Steam if it’s running. After you do, browse to the Steam folder on your hard drive. By default, Steam installs to C:\Program Files\Steam (on 32-bit versions of Windows) or C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam (on 64-bit versions of Windows). If you installed Steam to a custom location, check there instead.
In the Steam folder, select all the files except the SteamApps folder and the Steam.exe file and delete them. To quickly select the files, press Ctrl+A in the folder, then Ctrl+Click the SteamApps folder and Steam.exe file.
You should now have an empty folder containing only the SteamApps folder – which contains your downloaded games — and the Steam.exe program.
Move the entire Steam folder to a new location. If you’re placing it on a new hard drive in your existing system, move it to a location like D:\Steam. If you’re migrating your Steam files to a new computer, copy the Steam folder to an external hard drive (or transfer it over the network), then place it anywhere you like on your new hard drive.
Once you’ve moved the Steam folder, launch Steam by double-clicking the Steam.exe file and log into your account. Steam will automatically download the few necessary files.
Before playing a game, you may want to verify its cache – in other words, check to make sure all its files are present on your system and aren’t corrupted. If Steam finds a problem, it will redownload the appropriate files. To verify a game’s cache, right-click the game in Steam, select Properties, click the Local Files tab, and click the Verify Integrity of Game Cache button.
Migrating Game Saves
Many games store their save files in Steam Cloud, which stores your game saves online and synchronizes them between your computers. To check which of your installed games support Steam Cloud, click the List View button at the top right corner of your Steam games library and look for the games with cloud icons. Steam also stores other things online, including game screenshots you take.
Unfortunately, many games do not support Steam Cloud. Some of these games will store their save files an an obvious location, such as the My Games folder in your Documents directory. To copy these saves over, copy the My Games directory and place it in the same location on your other computer.
To copy a specific game’s save files over, you can try searching for its save game location on Google. However, you might want to use GameSave Manager, which is a faster way to migrate many game saves over at once. While GameSave Manager doesn’t support every game, it can quickly scan your hard drive for game saves and package them into a single, convenient file. This file can be restored on another computer using GameSave Manager, effectively migrating your saved games to the other computer.
Have you ever moved Steam to another hard drive? Did you run into any problems? Feel free to leave a comment below – we’ll answer any questions you have.