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Games are getting ridiculously large these days. Today, I’m going to teach you how to backup and restore your Steam games so you don’t have to download games like Grand Theft Auto V (which has a 70GB download file) ever again.
Game install files have never been larger than they are today. It’s not unusual to see games 50GB or 70GB in size. Even on a fast internet connection, that can add up to a lot of download time.
Backing up this data to an external hard drive can save you a lot of hassle in the future. You don’t have to re-download your data. In many cases, you can just transfer this data over, then Steam will download and install any new updates or data that is missing.
In any case, you have two different ways to backup and restore your Steam games:
Back Up Using Steam
Let’s start with an easy method: Steam has a built-in backup tool that does an adequate job of backing up your games.
You can even use this tool to backup/restore individual games or multiple games at once. Basically, Steam takes that game’s data folder and compresses it to the location of your choice for future usage.
Pros: Easy, can be completed within Steam with no hassle
Cons: One of the biggest limitations of this tool is that any mods you’ve installed (or modifications you’ve made) outside of the Steam Workshop will not be backed up. You also can’t back up certain games that are updated outside of Steam. Many MMO and F2P games are updated outside of Steam, for example, and can’t be backed up.
If neither of those two restrictions bother you, then proceed with the following instructions:
Step 1) Start the tool by going to Steam > Backup and Restore Games. Then, click Backup currently installed games and click Next.
You can also access this menu by going to your games folder and right-clicking on a game that you want to back up, then click Backup Game Files.
Step 2) If you used the first method, then a game selection window will pop up. Check the boxes beside any games you wish to backup. Steam will automatically calculate the disk space required for each game. As you can see, only games that have been fully downloaded and fully updated are eligible for backup.
Step 3) Click Next and Steam will ask you where you want to save the backup. All selected games will be saved into that folder. From the next screen, you can also split the backups into 4.7GB files for easy storage onto DVDs (or into 700MB files for CD storage, etc.)
Step 4) Steam will take a little while to back up your games. Depending on how many games you’ve selected – and how big those games are – then this might take a long time. When the backup process is complete, Steam will display a confirmation page.
How to Restore Using Steam
You’ve probably already figured out how to do this, but you go to Steam > Backup and Restore Games, then click Restore a previous backup, and press Next.
Choose the location where you saved your backups, and be specific with your name (Steam is unusually picky with names here, so don’t be surprised if your file name gets rejected or if Steam can’t find a backup). Check your name and try again.
If Steam can find the restore file, then it will ask you which game you want to install (if you backed up multiple games to that same folder). Next, Steam will install the game like it normally installs games. Wait a few minutes, and your game’s data will be restored.
How to Manually Backup and Restore Steam Games Outside of Steam
Steam backups aren’t always ideal. If you play a game like Skyrim, for example, then you won’t be able to backup all the modifications you’ve installed on it (unless those mods are all from the Steam Workshop).
If that’s the case, then you can manually backup Steam games, although it’s a little more labor intensive.
First, locate the games folder on your system. By default, that folder will be C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps.
Look for the common folder in your steamapps folder. Then, simply copy and paste the files from the game in that folder to your desired backup location.
You can skip this step by right-clicking a game in your Steam games menu and clicking Properties, then Local Files, then Browse Local Files, which will open up a Windows Explorer window wherever that game’s files are on your computer.
Once you’re ready to manually restore that game, just reverse that process. Copy the game back from your backup folder to your steamapps\common folder. Restart Steam and the game should pop up as if it’s been installed.
In some cases (like if there’s been an update for the game you’re restoring), Steam will verify the local files before downloading new updates. Even if you have a messy backup, Steam is usually smart enough to repair your files on its own.
How to Backup Steam Save Files
Don’t want to lose your most important save files? Steam makes it equally as easy to restore your saved games. First, your saved games should already be backed up automatically through Steam Cloud. However, Steam Cloud doesn’t support every game.
Your next best option is to back up your saved games manually. Your saved games are typically found in Documents under the name of the game or the publisher’s name. You might also find them in:
-Wherever the game is installed (this is the preferred save location for games made before 2005)
Copy this game data to your desired backup location, then simply copy and paste it back whenever you need to restore your save files.