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Lets say I got a game in my Steam library but I don't have it installed. Can I still buy DLC for it, though?

For example, I have Empire: Total War, but I don't have it installed. Now, I'd like to buy a unit pack since it's on sale as part of Steam Summer Sales. Considering I don't actually have the base game installed, would it work?

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Yes, you can buy the DLC on the Steam store. All you need is a paid copy of the game in your library. You don't need to have it installed to buy it.

The message reads as follows:

Requires the base game {game} on Steam in order to play.

This is meant to inform you that you have no use for the DLC - and indeed, cannot buy it - if you do not own the base game on Steam. This is to prevent you from snatching timed free DLC, for instance - and to prevent complaints, obviously.

The DLC will also be automatically installed alongside the game when you download it via Steam - excluding some instances where the DLC actually includes a standalone executable.

If you attempt to buy DLC for a game you don't own on Steam, Steam will tell you - after choosing "purchase for myself" - the following:

Your transaction failed because you are trying to buy '{DLC}' which requires ownership of '{game}'. Please correct the error and try again.

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Yes, you can buy DLC without having the base game installed. The Store page for the DLC will say you own the base game. If you don't own it, it will say that you require the base game in order to play the DLC. Steam will give you the information you need to be able to play it, but if you insist on buying DLC without owning the base game, it'll still sell it to you it'll give you an error message that you need to buy the base game first.

In order to play it, however, you will need to install both the base game and the DLC.

There are some standalone expansions that don't require the base game, but those will not indicate that the base game is needed.

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    Incorrect. Steam will not let you buy DLC for a game you don't own. – user98085 Jul 15 '13 at 20:05
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    Really? I can't say that I've actually tried it, but I don't see why it wouldn't. – Frank Jul 15 '13 at 20:06
  • I just tried it with a Sims 3 DLC and added the information to my answer. – user98085 Jul 15 '13 at 20:07

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