Installing Steam games on a second hard drive

Steam logo

About a month ago I took delivery of a new, much faster PC from PC Specialist. Now I’m getting around to reinstalling games, and I’ve just discovered a neat trick to install Steam-powered games on a second hard drive.

My last PC had served me well for about six years but it was creaking a little around the seams and was being pushed very hard particularly when gaming. It was time to upgrade.

And after upgrades comes the often arduous task of reinstalling applications.

dual-boot or not dual-boot?

On my last two PCs I’ve always set up a dual-boot environment. One partition (C:) was for day-to-day applications (email, web browsing, web development, image editing, etc.), the next (D:) was for games. My reasoning was:

  1. Clean installation of Windows with minimal, and only essential, drivers.
  2. Less distracting. If I wanted to play games then I would need to reboot the PC into the games partition.

However, in practice what it meant was:

  1. Twice as much work, keeping two versions of Windows up-to-date, with both Windows updates and driver upgrades.
  2. It was such a hassle to shut down everything and reboot that I rarely ever played any games. The only people to play were Reuben and Joshua when they played the LEGO Star Wars games.

So I decided on this PC to single-boot (Windows 8 Pro, 64-bit) and install everything side-by-side across two hard drives: my main applications are on C: (120 GB SSD); most of my data plus games are on D: (1 TB Western Digital SATA drive).

So far, so good. I’ve played games more in the last couple of weeks than in the last couple of years, but contrary to my fears it’s not distracted me from my main work on my PC.

However, this evening I realised after installing the Steam client for the first time that it was about to install all 7.8 GB of Call of Duty: Black Ops onto C.

No, no, no, no, no!

Moving Steam to a second hard drive

It turned out to be a pretty easy task to move Steam from C to D. I found the instructions on the Steam support website.

By default Steam installs to C:\Program Files\Steam (or C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam on 64-bit editions of Windows) and the games install to C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps.

“During the installation of Steam, you have the option to install Steam to a location other than the default. Since Steam relies on the game files residing in the SteamApps folder, your game files will go to whatever folder you have Steam installed in. The game files must be in the SteamApps folder in order to function.”

So, here’s what to do, assuming that you’ve already installed Steam to C:.

  1. Log out and exit Steam.
  2. Navigate to the folder where Steam is installed (by default: C:\Program Files\Steam\; or C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\ on 64-bit).
  3. Delete all of the files and folders except the SteamApps folder and Steam.exe.
  4. Cut and paste your Steam folder to the new location, for example: D:\Program Files\Steam\.
  5. Launch Steam.
  6. Steam will briefly update and then you will be ready to play.

Conclusion

I’ve just done this and it worked.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 46 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.