It’s a common scenario. You’ve just bought yourself a swanky new hard drive (SSD, I’m guessing) and want to transfer your biggest games to it so you can say goodbye forever to horrendous loading times. But uninstalling and reinstalling the games again could take hours, especially when you take into account the fact that you’ll probably need to re-download them as well.
The solution is to move your installed PC games over directly instead of reinstalling them. Sadly, it’s not quite as simple as just copying and pasting them where you want, but it isn’t too much more complicated either.
The Manual Method
Whether you’re looking to move a game that’s on Steam, Origin or Uplay, you can do it without third-party software. We’ll use Steam as an example because it’s the most popular platform, but the same principle applies across other platforms as well.
First, go to the game’s installation directory and cut and paste it to where you want it on the new hard drive. (If you’re pasting a Steam game, make sure it’s in the folders “steamapps/common,” as Steam automatically looks for those subdirectories. So paste the games to, for example, “My Games/steamapps/common” or “Steam Games/steamapps/common.”)
Once you’ve done that, uninstall the game from your PC using Steam by navigating to it in your Steam library, right-clicking it and clicking “Delete Local Content.”
Go to your Steam download settings, (In Steam, click Steam at the top left -> Settings -> Downloads.) click “Steam Library Folders -> Add Library Folder,” then select the directory where you pasted your game. (Don’t include the “steamapps/common” part here, as Steam will apply that automatically.)
Close the Settings window, go to your (uninstalled) game in your Steam library, then click install and select the new install directory you just added to Steam. Because all the game files are there, Steam will skip the download process and get on with installing your game to the new drive.
The exact details will vary, but you can do pretty much the same thing – copy and paste the game, uninstall it, then reinstall it without re-downloading – on Uplay, Origin, etc.
Use Steam Mover
Alternatively, you can use an extremely lightweight but useful little tool called Steam Mover. The way Steam Mover works is by moving all the game files to a location of your choice while leaving a Junction Point in the original location. This means you shouldn’t delete the game folders that get left at the game’s original location, as that’ll delete the junction point, and Steam won’t be able to find them when you try and run them. Despite the name, you can also use Steam Mover for Origin, GOG, Uplay or other games – and any other programs and files that you want for that matter!
You can download Steam Mover here. (You need to scroll down quite a bit to the ‘Download’ subhead.) Once you’ve done that, extract and install it wherever you like.
Open Steam Mover, and it should automatically detect and list all the Steam games in your library. If not, click the three dots next to “Steam Apps Common Folder” to manually find your Steam library on your hard drive, then select it and click “Refresh.”
Next, click the three dots under “Alternative Folder” in Steam Mover to select the location that you want to move your Steam games to (presumably, somewhere on your swanky new hard drive).
Next, with your games listed, select all the ones you want to move by holding Ctrl while clicking each one so they’re all highlighted. Once you’ve done that, click the blue, right-pointing arrow at the bottom of the window to move all your selected games to the new drive. A command prompt window will show up, speeding through all the files as it moves them. When the command prompt closes, and you see the blue arrows for each game in the right-hand column, the job is complete.
Being able to move your installed PC games easily between hard drives is a handy skill, not only because it saves time, but because it potentially saves you gigabytes upon gigabytes of frustrating re-downloads. If you have caps on your downloads, or your connection gets throttled if you do too much downloading in a short space of time, then this could save you a lot of headaches!