Does Steam prevent changes to game files? There are a lot of games that benefit from tweaking or third-party patches for performance improvements or to improve compatibility with newer hardware features. Does Steam lock down game files in such a way that make INI tweaks, DLL replacers, memory injection, executable wrappers, third-party patches, or other modding methods hard or impossible?

These sorts of hacks tend to be more common and more important for older games. It does seem like some tuning is possible, but that example is for a DOSBox-based emulated game, and I just don't know how much Steam will let you do to an old Windows game.

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    You're going to have to define what "compatibility tuning" is. If you mean the compatibility tab in an executable's properties, it's the same for any executable, Steam or not.
    – kotekzot
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 12:15
  • @kotekzot I've updated question, hope that clarifies quistion.
    – pabdulin
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 12:28
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    To be clear, most old games you'll find on Steam do not have any DRM either - at least, not any above and beyond what the publisher implemented originally. Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 12:54
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    possible duplicate of Are classic games released on Steam are somehow optimized for modern computers?
    – MBraedley
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 15:41
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    @PetrAbdulin You can appeal or start a discussion about the closing of this question at Arqade Meta (if it still isn't reopened). Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 7:03

2 Answers 2


Steam doesn't lock your games down, no. They can be patched, modded, tweaked, and memory-hacked just fine, so long as the original game doesn't have its own built-in DRM scheme that would interfere. And of course, anything that changes the original game files will be undone when Steam pushes down an update, so such tweaks will have to be reapplied, possibly after waiting for the tweak to be updated to be compatible with the new version of the game files.

Because Steam is both an online store and a DRM scheme, the DRM is only of the sort where your game is tied to your login and usually has to be launched through Steam itself in order to play. Locking down the files would be superfluous (though not unthinkable), and thankfully Valve has enough market sense to maintain the Steam platform's DRM at a relatively low level that mostly fades away into the background context of an online store. The only times that people report Steam's DRM being troublesome is when you don't have an always-on network connection.

  • Patching is relative, since that often requires the non-Steam executable be present. There may even be mechanisms that prevent de-Steaming a game in such a way. But the other points (modding etc.) should indeed be possible.
    – Zommuter
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 21:05
  • @Zommuter Most Steam games have unmolested executables, but yes, older games that have recompiled binaries are going to be different versions and need version-specific patches. If there is an active community, likely the patches will be updated. The Steam version of such binaries isn't encrypted or anything. Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 0:07
  • I'm quite sure the binary of e.g. Civilization IV Beyond the Sword is modified - what else causes Steam to start up if it's not already running when I start that exe file?
    – Zommuter
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 14:13
  • @zommuter, that is actually handled by the shortcut. The shortcut isn't a link to the executable, it's a link that looks like "steam://rungameid/219890". (that specific one is for Antichamber). "steam://..." links are set to automatically open in Steam, and Steam then loads the game itself. Also, just so you don't try, a "steam://rungameid/xxx" link only works if you already have bought the game. Commented Mar 15, 2014 at 3:04

Usually Steam games just have a modified executable that requires Steam to be running, while all other game files are identical to the original ones. If mods require manipulating game files, Steam may however consider them corrupted and re-download them, or simply overwrite modifications when updating the game. Nonetheless you can set Steam to not update a specific game (and/or set the respective files write-protected), which should keep all modifications permanent (at the expense of not receiving updates for that game).

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