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How to Make Steam’s Offline Mode Work

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Steam’s offline mode is notoriously problematic. To ensure it will work properly, you should perform a series of steps while online. If you don’t, Steam is supposed to prompt you for offline mode – but this doesn’t always work properly.

If Steam’s offline mode isn’t working at all, you may still be in luck – some Steam games don’t use Steam’s DRM at all and can be launched manually.

Properly Enabling Offline Mode

If you know you’re going to need offline mode – say you’re preparing for a long plane ride or you’re moving to a new place where you won’t have an Internet connection for a while – you should walk through several steps to ensure Steam is properly prepared to run offline first. There are quite a few “gotchas” with Steam’s offline mode – it won’t work if Steam knows there’s an update available but hasn’t updated yet, it won’t work for games you haven’t launched while online, it won’t work if your account credentials aren’t saved, and it may not even work unless you enable it while online. These steps must be performed while you’re online.

First, log into Steam and ensure the Remember my password check box is enabled. If you normally automatically log into Steam, this check box is already enabled.

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Next, open Steam’s Settings window and ensure the Don’t save account credentials on this computer check box is unchecked.

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Next, go to your Library tab and ensure that each game you want to play offline is fully downloaded. If you see any sort of progress indicator next to a game’s name, you can’t play it offline – ensure each game you want to play is fully downloaded and updated before going offline.

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Launch each game you want to play offline at least once. Often, when you start a game, it will need to perform a first-time setup process – this process must be performed while you’re online.

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When you’re ready to go offline, click the Steam menu and select Go Offline.

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Click the Restart in Offline Mode button and Steam will restart in offline mode – features like Steam’s server browser, friends, and achievements aren’t available offline. Steam will launch in offline mode each time you use it until you manually re-enable online mode.

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If you’re performed these steps, Steam’s offline mode should now work without any problems until the next time you tell Steam to go online.

Launching Steam Offline

If you didn’t perform the above steps, Steam should prompt you to enable offline mode if it can’t connect to Steam’s servers. However, in some cases – say, if your Internet connection isn’t working properly but you appear to be online — Steam may just display an error saying it’s unable to connect.

To force Steam into offline mode, you can disable your network connection. If your laptop has a hardware switch for Wi-Fi, disable it. If you have an Ethernet cable plugged into your computer, unplug it. You can also disable the adapter completely in Windows. To view your network adapters, click Start, type Network Connections, and select View network connections.

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Right-click the network adapter in use and select Disable to disable it. Your Internet connection will be disabled.

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Launch Steam and, instead of attempting to contact the Steam servers for a period of time and failing, it should immediately notice that the network connection is unavailable. Steam will offer to enable offline mode for you.

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These steps won’t help if games aren’t fully updated or there’s an update for Steam available.

Running Games Without Steam

To run a game without launching Steam, open Windows Explorer, and navigate to the game’s folder in your Steam directory. Assuming you installed Steam to the default location, the game’s folder should be at the following directory:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\GameName

Locate the game’s .exe file and try double-clicking it. Some games – particularly older ones — will launch normally, while games that require Steam’s DRM will try to open Steam and will complain if you’re not logged in.

Unfortunately, this approach won’t work for most games – but it’s worth a try if Steam’s offline mode isn’t working for you.

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Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/25/12

Comments (10)

  1. Irish_IT

    This is still the one irk I wish they would fix. The “You need to be online to know you are offline”……WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA?!?

  2. Citrus Rain

    I think the Spy could use this more complex offline mode for his disquises. It would keep him from disquising as an Engineer to trick the other team’s Engineer if there’s only one Engineer.

    … Or not.

  3. Srivatsan Venkatesh

    Oh hello there Citrus. Nice to see you again. Just a protip, its “disguise”.

  4. Jonathan Hill

    @Irish_IT:

    You don’t. Read the second part. If Steam detects a network connection it assumes you are online, disable the network connection when you load steam and it will go into offline mode.

  5. Mike

    Unless it’s changed, I go offline with it all the time, and still retain my internet connection and it doesn’t bother me. Also, I once tested it while I was disconnected from my internet, you CAN start offline mode while offline.

    The BEST way to get into Offline wasn’t mentioned in the article… the Start in Offline Mode option is on the “File” dropdown menu, which can be accessed whether you have an internet connection or not.

    Being able to still play my games while not having an internet connection is a big reason I use Steam. If I’m giving them my $ for a game, I don’t want to be at the whim of whether their servers are working, or if Comcast suddenly decides it wants to have spotty service. As long as I have the option to still be able to play my games when I choose to, I have no problem being a customer. :)

  6. Craig

    A recent update to Steam broke my Offline ability which had played happily for a year or so. I’ve spent hours going through all the fixes posted on the net. Nothing worked from the simplest to the more involved. Got sick of people saying “this is how you fix it” only for it not to work for me. Eventually I decided to do a System Restore from back before the update. After doing this I launched Steam and it immediately did an update instead of being in it’s Offline mode like it was at the Restore date! The update had obviously written some data that survived the rollback to the Restore date. Anyway I then thought of grabbing a copy of the Steam directory in Program Files from Previous Versions (running Win7 64bit). I made a backup copy of the existing Steam directory and then copied in the Previous Version copy. I tentatively launched Steam.exe from the PV copy with the Internet active – it complained about being in Offline mode – good sign! I launched a game with the Internet active – no probs. Turned off Internet and again no-probs. I can now game in Offline mode again. Problem is that I don’t think I’ll risk going online with Steam again in case it breaks again. So no buying Steam dependent games for me! Not a Steam fan – it needs a major overhaul. A local install of a game for which good money has been paid for should have a robust system that is not prone to bad patches pushed to a third party, Internet dependent launching tool.

  7. Scott B

    Steam Off line is not working right now as of a July3. Steam Support is working on the issue as stated on the message boards.

  8. Jordan

    Yeah this didnt help me in anyway half of it is well known and the other half is a game of luck and hopeing that your game doesn’t require steams drm.

    This article is a complete waste of time

  9. Always

    Lost my Internet this weekend from a downed power pole. It was great to discover that Steam’s touted “Offline Mode” is completely useless and I cannot access any of my bought and paid for games that are installed on my PC. I don’t think I’ll be spending any more money on such a half-arsed broken DRM service.

    And with consoles simultaniously doing everything they can to drive me away from that platform, it seems like the game industry simply doesn’t want me as a customer any more.

    I guess the writing’s been on the wall for a while. Time to quit buying new games and stick to classic stuff bought in local shops. I’m fed up with what this industry has become.

  10. Ben Schwanke

    the problem is that i don’t have internet and have not had it for a while plus it worked two weeks ago
    the only thing i have is wi-fi

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