I’ve been using Steam for game delivery for some time now. Even when I own physical copies of the games I use the service to download them, safe in the knowledge that the original media is safe.
As I write this, I’m fortunate that I have a high speed Internet connection – 50 Mb/s – however it wasn’t always this way. The benefits of optical cables aside, the distance from my home to the local telephone exchange meant that ADSL was never going to offer more than 2 Mb/s, something that is hardly ideal for online gaming and downloading.
One of the areas in which my connection regularly suffered was buying games on Steam, or installing server and SDK frameworks for playing mods. What I know now would have helped immensely back then, potentially enabling downloads that took all night long to complete in a fraction of the time.
Throttling At The Steam End
You don’t even have to be on a low 2 Mb/s connection to get a low download speed from Steam. Due to the massive demand on their servers, the company engages in sort of bandwidth-throttling process in order to reduce impact and enable them to manage multiple connections at any one time.
If your connection has been restricted and you’re chugging along at a paltry 250 Kb/s, there is something that you can do with the Steam client’s settings to enable a faster download speed, limited not by the Steam servers but by your ISP’s connection speed.
Before you do this, however, make sure you have closed any non-essential apps that might be hogging bandwidth. Chat programs, downloaders and streaming video would all come under this description, as might any application upgrades that are taking place.
Choose a New Server
Visiting this page will display a line graph detailing Steam’s bandwidth over the past 48 hours.
More crucially, however, is the list of bar charts below this, each of which represents a server and how busy it is; the shorter the bar, the lower the number of users. Note, however, that you should look for a server that is nearby – choosing an Australian Steam server when you’re in the UK isn’t a good idea.
Choose a server that is close and with a low number of users and open View > Settings. In the Download+Cloud tab, first ensure that your Internet connection is correctly specified – alter the Approximate speed of your Internet connection drop-down box as appropriate.
The real magic in this process comes here: click the Download region drop-down and select the server you identified earlier. All you need to do now is click OK to confirm and then restart Steam for the changes to take effect.
Note that the server list is updated automatically as new servers are brought online and old units are retired. As such you should check every few months that your connection has not been updated to a slower server.
Improving Speeds In Windows
There is another way in which you can improve download speeds from Steam, but this is a much more general method that will have an effect on everything you do online. Using the Windows QoS Packet Scheduler any restrictions on download speeds can be removed as follows.
Hit WINKey +R and enter gpedit.msc in the box – the Group Policy window will open. From here, expand Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Network > QoS Packet Scheduler.
In the right-side pane, double click to open Limit Reversible Bandwidth, and select the Enable radio button, setting the Bandwidth limit (%) to 0%.
When done, click Apply, then OK. Any popular Internet speed detection tool can then be used to check the effect of this change.
Effective Changes, Easily Made
Both of these changes can seriously impact the speed of your downloads from Steam, with the latter coming in useful beyond the popular online gaming community and DRM system. There should be no side effects – in every case of this alteration being made that I’m aware of, the end user has been left very happy with the results.
Of course, both of these solutions are limited by the speed on offer by your ISP, so if you have any continuing download speed issues these will need to be addressed with the appropriate body.