How to Detect Installed Games on Steam


Installed a game on Steam but it just can’t find it? You’ll need to troubleshoot the problem using the steps in this guide.

You’ve got games coming out of your ears on Steam, with thousands to choose from, whether it’s an indie classic to a brand-new AAA blockbuster. What happens when you’re having trouble with the Steam client, however? For instance, you might find that Steam isn’t detecting games you’ve previously installed.

If that happens to you, you’ll need to troubleshoot the issue further. We’ll explain how to detect installed games on Steam below.

How to Begin a New Game Installation

The easiest way to force Steam to detect installed games is to try and run a new game installation on it. You might want to consider restarting Steam first to ensure that the client is working correctly.

The logic behind this is simple. Steam will try to check for any existing game files when running a new game installation. If it detects them, it will automatically consider the installation complete, allowing you to begin playing your game.

To begin a new game installation on Steam:

  1. Open the Steam client and sign in.
  2. Press the Library tab on the menu bar.
    Open the Steam library
  3. Locate the game that should be installed in the library list on the right.
  4. Right-click the game and select the Install button.
    Installing a game on Steam
  5. In the Install pop-up, confirm your options for installation. Ensure the game installation location is in the same place as the existing game files.

Once the game installation begins, Steam will check your game files are in place. It will verify the existing game files and confirm that the game is ready for you to play.

Once it is, you’ll be able to play the game as usual.

How to Move Game Files to the Steam Installation Folder

You might need to move your game files into the Steam installation folder if you’re trying to port a Steam game from another hard drive or PC. You’ll need to do this after beginning an installation.

There isn’t an automatic method for doing this—you’ll need to do it manually. Once you move the files, you can force Steam to verify your files and complete the installation using the steps outlined above.

To move Steam game files:

  1. Locate the existing location for your game files in File Explorer on Windows. Keep this window open.
  2. Next, open the Steam client and sign in.
  3. Press Library on the menu bar.
    Open the Steam library
  4. Locate the game, right-click it, and press Install.
    Installing a game on Steam
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions in the Install menu to begin the installation.
  6. Allow the game download process to run for 20 to 30 seconds (or a few percentage points), then right-click and press Pause.
    Pause a Steam download
  7. Right-click the game and select Manage > Browse Local Files.
    Manage files on Steam
  8. Copy or move the game files from the previous location to the new installation folder (opened by pressing Browse Local Files).
  9. Once the files are moved, right-click the game in Steam and press Download again.
    Download files on Steam

At this point, Steam will verify the new game files are in place and complete the installation. This will allow you to begin playing the game.

How to Manually Reinstall Your Game

Are you still having trouble? You might need to consider reinstalling the game completely. As Steam itself won’t allow you to uninstall the game (as it doesn’t know it’s already installed), you’ll need to manually locate your game files to remove them.

This will mean downloading the game files again once you’ve removed the older game files. While this might be problematic on a slow connection, it might be the only way to resolve the issue if Steam isn’t recognizing installed games on your PC or Mac.

To manually reinstall a Steam game:

  1. Locate your installed game files in File Explorer or Finder and delete the files manually.
  2. Open the Steam client and sign in.
  3. Press the Library tab.
    Open the Steam library
  4. Right-click a game and select Install.
    Installing a game on Steam
  5. Follow any additional on-screen instructions to begin the download and installation process.
  6. Allow time for the game download and installation to complete.
  7. Once the installation is complete, play the game by right-clicking the game and selecting the Play button.

Having Fun on Steam

Using the steps above, you should be able to figure out how to detect installed games on Steam. If Steam isn’t recognizing installed games, you can use these troubleshooting fixes to resolve the problem in most cases.

If all else fails, don’t forget to try removing and reinstalling the game. It might be time-consuming, but it should work.

Want to keep on top of your expanding game library? You might want to add some Steam categories to categorize your games by genre or interest. You can also set up a Steam wishlist for games you want to buy in the future (especially during a sale!)

Are you looking for some extra privacy? You can always change your Steam account name or if you want to go even further, you can hide your game activity on Steam completely.