5 Tips and Tricks to Get the Most Out of Steam

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If you’re a PC gamer, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Valve’s Steam and use it regularly. Steam includes a variety of cool features that you might not notice if you’re just using it to install and launch games.

These tips will help you take advantage of an SSD for faster game loading times, browse the web from within a game, download games remotely, create backup copies of your games, and use strong security features.

Move Game Folders

Steam stores all your installed games in your Steam directory. This is normally fine, but sometimes it’s not optimal – for example, one of your hard drives may be full or you may want to place a game on a smaller solid state drive (SSD) to take advantage of faster load times. You can do this with standard Windows commands, but Steam Mover automates this process. Using Steam Mover, you can easily move an installed game to another location on your system. Steam Mover creates a junction point in the Steam directory, so it appears to Steam that the game is still located in the Steam folder.

Steam Mover can even show you the commands it will run, so you can run them yourself – if you really want to. This tool should work with other folders on your system, too – not just Steam games.

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Use the Steam Overlay

Press Shift+Tab while playing a Steam game to reveal the Steam overlay. From the overlay, you can chat with your Steam friends, easily take, view, and upload screenshots – or even load a web browser without Alt-Tabbing out of your game. This can be convenient if you’re looking for a walkthrough for the game you’re playing, or just browsing the web during downtime in a multiplayer game.

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If you don’t see the overlay, open Steam’s settings window (click the Steam menu and select Settings), select the In-Game tab and enable the Enable Steam Community In-Game checkbox. The overlay can also be disabled on a per-game basis – right-click a game in your Steam library, select Properties, and verify the Enable Steam Community In-Game checkbox is enabled. Bear in mind the overlay doesn’t work properly with some older games.

Download Games Remotely

If you leave Steam running on your gaming PC at home, you can start game downloads from a web browser (or the Steam app for Android or iOS) and the games will be ready to play when you arrive home. To start a remote download from your web browser, open the Steam Community site, log in with your Steam account, view your games list, and click one of the download buttons.

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Create Game Backups

Some people miss having offline backups of their games so they can install them from a disc if their network connection goes down – this can be useful if you want to move games between computers without redownloading them, too. You can easily create a backup of one or more installed games by clicking the Steam menu, clicking Backup and Restore Games and selecting Backup currently installed games. Select the games you want to back up and select a location for your backup file, such as an external hard drive. You can use the Restore a previous backup option to restore the games in the future.

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There’s another way you can create a backup copy of your games or transfer games to a new computer, too. Just copy your entire Steam directory. Unlike many programs, Steam won’t complain about missing registry settings if you move its folder between computers – you can just copy the Steam directory and launch Steam.exe without having to install Steam or redownload your games.

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Enable SteamGuard for Security

SteamGuard is now enabled by default, but it’s a good idea to check and verify it’s enabled. When you log into Steam from a new computer, SteamGuard will email you a code. You’ll need this code to log into Steam. This prevents people from hijacking your Steam account unless they also have access to your email address.

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To verify it’s enabled, click the Steam menu, select Settings, and look for the Security Status field on the Account tab.

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Do you have any other tips or tricks to share? Leave a comment and let us know about them!

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 Twitter.