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11 ways to power up your gaming on Steam

11 ways to power up your gaming on Steam


Organize games, change the interface, manage downloads, and more.

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Steam icon (two long metal pieces attached so they look like an arm) with the word “Steam” underneath, in a pink circle with a variety of drawn icons around them.
Samar Haddad / The Verge

If you’re a PC gamer, then you’re probably familiar with Steam — but there’s more to Valve’s application than just launching your games. Dig a little deeper into the software, and you’ll find numerous options and features that you can take advantage of.

These can change the look of Steam, make it easier to find your games, improve your Steam store recommendations, and plenty more.

We’ve picked out 11 of our favorites below.

Download games remotely

A list of games on a web site.
You can manage game downloads from anywhere you can access a web browser.

You don’t have to be sitting in front of your PC to install games: as long as your computer is switched on and connected to the web with the Steam client running, you can manage game downloads from anywhere you can access a web browser.

  • Log in to your Steam account using your browser.
  • Click on your name and Games at the top.
  • Switch to the All Games tab to see which games haven’t yet been installed. You can then simply click one of the icons on the right to initiate the download.

If you’re at the office or working remotely, for example, you can make sure a game is ready to play when you get back home. You can leave the page open if you want to check in on the progress of the download.

Tweak your store recommendations

Part of a Steam page for Phantom Brigade showing a pop-out menu that says “Ignore This (Default)” and “Played on Another Platform.”
Steam lets you control which games you see in the store.

There are a lot of games on the Steam store, as you’ve probably noticed, which can make it difficult to find titles that you’re actually interested in or that are relevant to you. There are a few ways you can get help with this.

Open the listing for any game, and you’ll see three options near the top:

  • Add to your wishlist. Your wishlist can be found in the main Store menu.
  • Follow. This means updates from the developers will appear in your activity feed.
  • Ignore. This means the game is hidden from you in the store so you don’t have to see it every time you go there.

There are actually two options available for the Ignore option. They are accessible via the little arrow beside the button.

  • Ignore This. This option simply hides the game.
  • Played on Another Platform. Clicking this hides the game but feeds it into your recommendations algorithm.

Manage your Steam downloads

Steam web page with download options; two are checked: Only auto update games between 0:00 and 7:00, and Throttle downloads while streaming.
You can limit Steam’s downloading activity.

Downloading gigabytes’ worth of glorious game data to your PC can put quite a bit of strain on your broadband connection — and possibly interfere with other apps that need a bit of bandwidth at the same time.

You can put a few limits on Steam’s downloads, though.

  • From the application, choose Steam > Settings > Downloads.
  • You’ll see options for limiting bandwidth and limiting the times of day that downloads and updates can happen.

You can also stop downloads from happening while you’re playing a game or streaming a game from another computer.

Find new games with the Steam Interactive Recommender

Steam page with title “PLAYERS LIKE YOU LOVE...” and below that lists of games you’ve played on the left and a list of recommended games in center.
Get Steam to recommend new games for you.

Looking for something new to play? The Steam Interactive Recommender is built into the store and does a fine job of suggesting new titles based on what you already like through the power of machine learning.

  • From inside Steam, select Store > Your Store > Interactive Recommender. (The tool is also available on the web.)
  • You’re now able to change the filters used to see games that are more or less popular or to change the balance between newer and older games.
  • Other options let you look for or exclude specific tags, and you can also exclude wishlisted games from the recommendations.

Install or uninstall multiple games at once

Screen headed “Install - Multiple Games” and two checked games “Fallout 4” and “Firewatch,” with the amount of desk space required and available below that, and the location for install below that.
Games can be managed in batches.

If you need to install multiple games at once — you’re setting up Steam on a new computer, for example — it’s not hard to do.

  • Open the Library tab.
  • Ctrl-click the games you want to install.
  • Right-click on the selection and choose Install selected.

The same trick works for removing games from your computer as well:

  • Use Ctrl-click in the Library tab to select the games that you want to delete.
  • Right-click on the selection and pick Manage > Uninstall selected.

Join the Steam beta

Screen pop-up headed “Beta Participation - Steam” with text describing how to join the beta program.
Steam offers a beta program you can sign up for.

If you like living on the cutting edge of gaming, you can join the Steam beta program and get early access to new features and experimental updates. As always with betas, expect a few bugs and glitches along the way.

To enroll from the Steam app:

  • Select Steam > Settings > Account.
  • Choose Change next to beta participation and sign up for beta updates.

After a reboot, you’ll be ready to go.

Organize your library with Shelves and Collections

Screen pop-up titled New Collection. Beneath that, a menu choice saying “Top Ten Games.” Beneath that, two columns with titles with blue backgrounds, one labeled Create Collection,” the other labeled Create Dynamic Collection.
You can set up Collections in a couple of clicks.

Once your Steam library starts getting to a certain size, the default alphabetical list of games can get a little unwieldy. There are a couple of ways to organize your library to make it easier to get around.

One is to create Collections, which can be used to organize them in any way you prefer, like based on genre or how much you like a game or its developer.

  • Right-click on a game on the Library tab in Steam.
  • Choose Add to and create a new Collection or add the game to an existing one.

Collections can also be collated automatically based on certain filters (called Dynamic Collections). To see your Collections, click the icon showing four squares at the top of the game list.

You can also create one or more Shelves by going to Library > Add Shelf. Now, you can set up new Shelves in the Library view that showcase your Collections or various other categories of games (those you’ve just installed, for example).

Get advice on what to play next

Page with Play Next in the upper left corner, and graphics of two recommended games: Mini Metro and Missile Cards
Play Next can help you get out of a gaming rut.

For those of you with larger Steam libraries, certain games can easily be forgotten and neglected, which is where the Play Next feature comes in.

It’s not difficult to find, but at the same time, it’s easy to overlook if you’re always defaulting to the same selection of games in your library.

  • Open the Library tab inside Steam.
  • Scroll down to find the Play Next shelf.

The recommendations here cover games in your library you haven’t touched in a while. Apparently, Steam deploys some machine learning to pick out these recommendations for you.

Switch to Big Picture Mode

Steam page showing two horizontal list of recent games with photos of game covers.
Big Picture Mode gives you an alternative way of interacting with Steam.

As the name suggests, Big Picture Mode is easier to use on larger displays (like TVs), and it’s more straightforward to operate using a gamepad.

  • Open the View menu inside Steam.
  • Pick Big Picture Mode to access Steam’s alternative interface. You’ll be given some tips for using the mode when you first start it up.
  • It’s also possible to start Steam in Big Picture Mode via Steam > Settings > Interface.
  • Exit it via the Power menu or by hitting Alt-Enter.

See which games take up the most storage space

Pop-up windows titled Storage Manager with a line that shows how much disk space is being used and a list of games with their covers and names on the left, and size on disk on the right.
You can uninstall or move games that are taking up more disk space than you’d like.

You might want to save some storage space by limiting the number of games you have installed at any one time. Knowing how big each title is in terms of gigabytes can help with that.

  • Inside the Steam application, choose Steam > Settings > Downloads.
  • Click Steam Library Folders. A new window will appear showing your installed games, with the biggest at the top of the list.
  • Click Size on Disk, and you can also sort the games by which ones you most recently played, which might help you decide which ones to temporarily remove. Using the buttons underneath the list, you can uninstall a game or move it to another drive on your system.

Share your library with friends and family

Steam Settings windows showing menu in left column, the words “Family View” on top, and various features of the Family view in the central page.
Give other people access to your Steam library.

You don’t have to keep your Steam library to yourself. The platform has a built-in feature for sharing titles with up to five other people across 10 authorized devices.

  • To do this, you first need to log in to Steam on the other person’s computer.
  • From the Steam program window, click Steam > Settings, and then choose Family in the panel on the left.
  • Check the box marked Authorize Library Sharing on this computer.
  • If you then allow your friend or family member to log back in to their own Steam account, they should find that your games are available to them.