Steam is your portal into the world of PC gaming. Yes, the power balance may be shifting with Epic making its own inroads into the space and Google Stadia flaunting its cloud-gaming chops, but for now Steam remains king. You want it running nice and smooth and making sure that downloads go smoothly is a big part of that.
Luckily, there is a fair amount of tricks you can do to speed up your Steam downloads. Here we show you the best ways to do it.
Check Your Internet Speed
Before moving onto the tips, it’s important to isolate whether slow Steam download speeds are related to Steam itself or to your PC as a whole. If your web browsing and non-Steam downloads are slow too, then it’s a broader problem, and you should scroll down to see our solutions for speeding up your Internet speed.
To check this, run an Internet speed test at SpeedTest or a similar site and see if the speed matches what is being offered by your Internet Service Provider.
Run Steam in Administrator Mode
For Windows users, the next obvious step to try when troubleshooting things beyond “reboot your PC” or ‘turn your router on and off again” is running apps in administrator mode.
The reasons this would impact download speeds are often a mystery, but there have been many reports that running Steam in administrator mode on Windows 10 unthrottles download speeds, so who are we to argue?
Simply go to your Steam folder, (C:\Program Files\Steam\ by default), right-click the steam executable, then under the Compatibility tab, check the “Run this program as an administrator” box and click OK. This will run Steam in administrator mode from now on.
Allow Background Downloads
By default, Steam downloads are put on hold when you play Steam games. This is helpful if you’re playing online games that require a lot of bandwidth, but if you’re playing a single-player game, then what’s the harm in letting downloads continue?
You can do this one of two ways: enable background downloads for all games, then disable them for specific games, or vice versa. Most of the games I play are single-player, so I’m happy to have background downloads enabled, then disable them specifically for online games.
To do this, in Steam click Steam at the top-left corner, “Settings -> Downloads” and tick the “Allow downloads during gameplay” box.
Next, right-click a game you don’t want background downloads enabled for, click “Properties -> Updates” and select “Never allow background downloads” under the “Background downloads” heading.
Change Steam Bandwidth and Download Region
While you’re in the Steam downloads menu (“Steam -> Settings -> Downloads”), you can check to make sure that your Download Region corresponds to where you actually are in the world.
On the same screen under “Download Restrictions,” you can also increase your bandwidth limit or set it to “No Limit.” (This may impact other online activities like Internet browsing speed).
Change Your Wi-Fi Settings
If you’re using Steam via Wi-Fi, then there are a few things you can do to boost your speed. Depending on whether you’re close to your router or several rooms away, you could switch between 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies on your router (usually accessed by typing “192.168.1.1” or “192.168.0.1” in your browser address bar). The former tends not to be as fast but is better at covering longer distances, while 5GHz is a shorter-wave frequency that offers better speeds but less distance.
Both frequencies have their own sets of Wi-Fi channels to connect to, which can greatly vary in speed depending on the channels they overlap with, local traffic, etc. For more information, read our guides on how to find the best Wi-Fi channel for your PC and how to find the best 5GHz Wi-Fi channel for your PC.
The above are some of the more common ways to speed up your Steam downloads, as well as your internet in general. If you have broader Internet problems, you should check out our guide on how to troubleshoot a router, which may also fix any issues you have with Steam downloads.