I uninstalled and re-installed steam. I didn't uninstall my games, and they still exist on my hard drive (I checked).

I have an SSD and a HDD, and to save space I install programs (including steam) to C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam drive (SSD) and games to D:\Games\SteamApps (HDD). How to I let steam know the programs are installed there?


There is now an official support article at support.steampowered.com covering some other solutions as well.

Go to Steam > Settings > Downloads tab > Steam library folders. Add the D:\Games folder there and restart Steam. Steam should then be able to find the installed games again.

Downloads > Steam Library Folders > Add Library Folder > D:\Games > Select

  • 3
    I think in this case he'd want `D:\Games` as the folder. It should find the games without having to restart. Feb 28 '14 at 5:51
  • @BenJackson Correct, didn't remember how exactly the paths were while writing this on mobile.
    – 3ventic
    Feb 28 '14 at 9:04
  • 1
    If it doesnt immediately find them, initiate a download in the same location and it will detect the files (and not redownload them) Jul 10 '14 at 15:21
  • 5
    It says Steam Library folder must be empty. Thus, you cannot add a directory with a game to the library.
    – Abhimanyu
    Nov 28 '15 at 19:33

I know this is an old question with old answers, but I came across it when I made the mistake of backing up only my .\SteamApps\Common folder, and not the app manifests that accompanied them before uninstalling, deleting and reinstalling Steam.

None of the easy methods worked for me, and faced with the task of manually clicking through the install dialogue and waiting for it to discover existing files 1000 times over, I wrote a PowerShell script to do it for me.

It saved me a lot of time and effort, so I thought I'd share for anyone else who lands here.


It even has a GUI

  • app manifest was the thing for me! great!
    – Julix
    May 27 '19 at 19:25
  • Script still works in April 2020. I was prompted to create the manifest for the game I need Steam to detect, but after clicking "Build ACFs" it told me a manifest already existed. I just needed to delete the one that was there and let the script generate a new one, then Steam picked it up when I reopened it.
    – vaindil
    Apr 9 '20 at 0:40

Yes, just click install and this will happen: enter image description here

After this it either installs the files or just does nothing. I had the same problem but I think it got patched by Valve a while ago

  • 1
    At the time I asked this, Steam wouldn't do this. They might have changed it sense.
    – Jon
    Nov 23 '14 at 0:38
  • Already answered 6+ months ago! This doesn't answer it actually, but it would work if the games were still in C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps. Btw, welcome to arqade, Timmy, please see this link about answering questions after now.
    – ave
    Nov 23 '14 at 0:43
  • 5
    This is not a very good solution if I have 100's of games installed Jan 14 '15 at 15:12
  • 1
    I ran into an issue where I have the game already on an SSD, but not enough space to install the game again. Steam isn't smart enough to figure out it will be replacing the existing files, and so won't proceed due to lack of space....
    – Mark
    Jan 13 '17 at 9:56
  • facing the exact same issue as you, Mark! Game and files are there, but it is asking me to install! and I guess it only checks the files are there when you already have enough space for the entire game again
    – cryanbhu
    Jul 21 '19 at 6:30

I can confirm the possible ways for you because I have done it many times.

Method 1: Moving games to a new hard drive (like SSD)

The root folder can be anywhere, but the games must be in the subdirectory named "steamapps\common" from the root folder. If you want the games to reside in D:\Games then you should create the folder structure: D:\Games\steamapps\common

The resulting game folders will look like this:

D:\Games\steamapps\common\Arma 2
D:\Games\steamapps\common\Arma 2 Operation Arrowhead
D:\Games\steamapps\common\Mountblade Warband
D:\Games\steamapps\common\Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag

Once the games are in place, in the Steam client open the Steam menu (top left corner) and select Settings. Open the "Downloads" section and at the very top, the first setting is named Content Libraries with a button Steam Library Folders. Click the button to open Steam Library Folders. Click the "Add Library Folder" button to add a new library then select the folder D:\Games. The library list should now show "D:\Games" as a Steam Library.

Exit Steam and then run it again. As soon as it opens, all the games that it finds in the library folder will be shown in White color as if they were already installed.

Method 2: Copying steam games from an old computer to a new computer On the new computer, open Steam and either install one small game, or create the subdirectory yourself - it should be C:\Program Files(x86)\Steam\steamapps\common

Exit Steam, then copy the games from the old computer's steam library usually from C:\Program Files(x86)\Steam\steamapps\common into the same folder on the new computer.

Run Steam, and all the game names listed in your library will be in White color as if they were installed. When you run the games, Steam will run the DirectX prerequisite installs if neeeded just like it had done on the old computer.

Method 3: Copying a single game from one PC to the other Steam can be left running. On the new computer, open Steam and either install one small game, or create the subdirectory yourself - it should be C:\Program Files(x86)\Steam\steamapps\common

Copy the game from the old PC onto the new one and place it in the same folder as before - usually C:\Program Files(x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Arma 2 Operation Arrowhead

The game will still be listed in gray (not installed) in Steam. Click Install Game. Steam will displayed the message "Discovering existing files for xxx" and after a few seconds it will show the Play Game window.

  • what would happen if I'd also copy appmanifest_*.acf file to the new computer?! It shows up as installed and is launchable!
    – feedc0de
    Feb 13 '17 at 10:25
  • I can't add a new folder it says selected drive already has a Steam library folder. I am trying to do this to help Steam recognize files that already exist but somehow Steam is asking me to re-install and download the game again
    – cryanbhu
    Jul 21 '19 at 6:29

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