I am going to get a MacBook Air but the hard drive space is fairly small. I just wanted some clarification on installing games onto a hard drive. If I install steam on my hard drive will the downloaded games also install onto it? And will they run ok off it?

  • possible duplicate of Install Steam on an external drive? Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 13:14
  • But if a download a game, will it install on the external drive? And take up no space on my hard drive.
    – Sashley
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 13:31
  • 2
    @PrivatePansy That question is about using an external drive installation to run Steam on multiple computers. The answers are useful for this question as well, but the question is not the same.
    – 3ventic
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 13:43
  • 1
    Agreed. This is written as more of a "where will the steam library of games be saved to if I install steam on an external drive?" As such I've updated the title with the question from the body
    – Robotnik
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 5:12

2 Answers 2


Yes and sort of. External hard drives tend to run slower because of their interface/cable (usually USB).

As far as installing games go, you can install steam anywhere on your laptop and set up the game libraries/install locations somewhere else, like an external drive. Go to Settings > Downloads to set up game libraries. Keep in mind you need to have read/write and execute permissions (don't know if OSX gives you execute permissions on external drives).

  • Even with USB 3.0 it would be slow for newer games ?
    – Edeph
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 14:50
  • Well, it's still not going to be as fast as running from the internal disk, but still waaay faster than USB 2.0.
    – Baseballs
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 16:57
  • I know i was just wandering if anyone could actually test it
    – Edeph
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 17:05
  • Something like this: forum.notebookreview.com/gaming-software-graphics-cards/… ?
    – Baseballs
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 17:09
  • So after partial reading that, it seems to me that some more advanced games (although maybe not truly demanding ones) can be played safely through USB 3.0, the only disadvantage being the (a little bit) slower level loading times. But it's a great tradeoff when talking disk space on tiny HDD's or SSD's.
    – Edeph
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 17:14

Technically, it does work.

Practically, it won't for bigger games. That is due to external hard drives being connected via USB and that is just too slow to keep up with texture streaming for demanding games.

What you can do is this:

  • Install Steam to your mac book, not to your external drive
  • Setup an additional steam library on your external
  • Install demanding games directly to your mac book
  • Install small games to your external.

With this kind of split it would at least be possible to play most games without any issue and have full performance for bigger games.

For being able to install a game to a different hard drive, you need to go to Settings -> Downloads and designated a folder as Steam Library:

Showing Options

If you have multiple libraries, a selection will be shown where to install the game when you download it.


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