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.
Next, open Steam’s Settings window and ensure the Don’t save account credentials on this computer check box is unchecked.
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.
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.
When you’re ready to go offline, click the Steam menu and select Go Offline.
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.
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.
Right-click the network adapter in use and select Disable to disable it. Your Internet connection will be disabled.
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.
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.
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