The Steam library in Small Mode

Want a more lightweight Steam experience than doesn’t use 400 MB of RAM just to display your game library? We’ll show you how to cut that RAM usage down to a cool 60 MB and get a more minimal Steam client.

What Is Steam Client WebHelper?

Steam, like many other modern applications, has a built-in web browser. This built-in web browser is named “Steam Client WebHelper” (steamwebhelper.exe).

When you launch Steam, it normally launches multiple WebHelper processes in the background—we counted seven. These are used to display the Steam Store, the Community, and even your game Library.

But what if you could get rid of Steam’s WebHelper processes? Well, you can—with a hidden command-line option.

The Task Manager showing Steam Client WebHelper process RAM usage

Launching Steam Without Steam WebHelper

First, if you have Steam open, you’ll need to close it by clicking Steam > Exit.

To launch Steam in this way, you’ll need to know the location of the steam.exe file in your PC. On a 64-bit Windows PC, it’s normally installed at C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steam.exe by default. If you installed Steam to a different location, use that location in the command below instead.

To launch Steam without the web browser components, you’ll need to launch Steam with the -no-browser command-line option. It’s also helpful to launch Steam in Small Mode, which you can normally access by clicking View > Small Mode in Steam.

To launch Steam with these options, press Windows+R to open the Run dialog. Copy-paste the following text into the Run dialog (assuming you have Steam installed in the default location) and press “Enter” or click “OK”:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steam.exe" -no-browser +open steam://open/minigameslist

Launching Steam with the no-browser command using the Run dialog

Steam will launch in Small Mode without any web browser components. If you look at your Task Manager, you’ll likely see it’s using 60 MB of RAM—or less.

Steam using very little RAM in no-browser mode.

You can click View > Large Mode to view the normal Steam interface, but you’ll just see a message informing you that the Steam browser is disabled.

(You can click View > Small Mode to use Steam in a more minimal view even when the browser is enabled—however, Steam’s WebHelper processes will still be running in the background, and you won’t see these RAM savings.)

Steam saying it can't show the Library without the browser enabled

What Works Without a Browser, and What Doesn’t

As of October 2020, Steam’s Small Mode functions very well with the browser disabled—for the most part. You can view your game library, install games, and launch them. You can access all Steam’s normal settings. You can even use Steam in offline mode.

There’s one big feature missing: You can’t actually uninstall a game with the browser disabled. (However, you can install games.)

You also can’t view your achievements, access other community features, or browse the store and buy games with the browser disabled. You can still access the Steam store and community pages by signing into Steam’s website in a normal web browser, however.

Getting Steam’s Browser Back

To get the browser back, close Steam by clicking Steam > Exit and then launch Steam from a normal desktop shortcut. Steam will launch with the browser as long as you don’t launch it with -no-browser .

Creating a Shortcut that Launches Steam Without the Browser

If you prefer this mode, you can create a shortcut that launches Steam without the browser.

For example, if you have Steam pinned to your taskbar, right-click the Steam icon on your taskbar, right-click “Steam Client Bootstrapper,” and select “Properties.”

Open the Steam shortcut's Properties window

In the Target box, add a space followed by the following:

-no-browser +open steam://open/minigameslist

Assuming you have Steam installed in its default folder on your system, it should look like the command you used in the Run box:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steam.exe" -no-browser +open steam://open/minigameslist

Enter the command-line options in the Target box

Now, when you launch Steam from your taskbar, you’ll get a more lightweight, minimal experience. If you need to uninstall a game or use other Steam browser features, you can exit Steam (Steam > Quit) and then launch Steam with another shortcut—like the Steam shortcut in your Start menu.

To undo the change, just open the Steam shortcut properties window and remove the text you added to the Target box. It should just look like the following:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steam.exe"

Sure, a few hundred megabytes of RAM isn’t a big deal on a modern gaming PC. But, if you’re looking for a way to free up some RAM while gaming, this is an easy one.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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