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?

  • This answer may help you Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 1:14
  • @Katustrawfic That only works if they're in the normal place
    – Jon
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 1:16
  • Open steam down left you have add game option, there you can browse your game and locate game exe, it will be added to your left game list, click and play button will appear there
    – justnajm
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 21:29

5 Answers 5


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. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 5:51
  • @BenJackson Correct, didn't remember how exactly the paths were while writing this on mobile.
    – 3ventic
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 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) Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 15:21
  • 8
    It says Steam Library folder must be empty. Thus, you cannot add a directory with a game to the library.
    – Abhimanyu
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 19:33
  • 1
    If it says "Steam Library folder must be empty", you are selecting the wrong folder. The folder you choose must have steamapps in it. Instead of selecting the drive letter only, you may need to scroll down to "Let me choose another location".
    – Tom Minka
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 2:15

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
    Commented May 27, 2019 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
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 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
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 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
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 0:43
  • 7
    This is not a very good solution if I have 100's of games installed Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 15:12
  • 4
    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
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 9:56
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 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
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 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
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 6:29

Ubuntu linux snap

Copy the game directory to


For example:

~/snap/steam/common/.local/share/Steam/steamapps/common $ ll
total 20
drwxrwxr-x 4 john john 4096 Nov  9 11:58 'Proton - Experimental'
drwxrwxr-x 5 john john 4096 Nov  9 12:08 "Sid Meier's Civilization VI"
drwxrwxr-x 7 john john 4096 Nov  9 11:58 'Silent Hunter 3'
lrwxrwxrwx 1 john john   70 Nov  9 11:58  Steam.dll -> /home/john/snap/steam/common/.local/share/Steam/legacycompat/Steam.dll
drwxrwxr-x 5 john john 4096 Nov  9 11:58  SteamLinuxRuntime_sniper

To get steam to put the game in your library, you still need to click "install" and accept terms etc. If it detects the game files it should flicker "downloading" and skip straight to "validating" the files.

Your saved games and progress is perhaps lost. If not, each one will need personal attention. I tried copying folders from ~/.local/share/<whatever>/ to ~/snap/steam/common/.local/share/<whatever>/ without any success. Others are invited to edit this answer if they work it out.

Because the user's home directory is accessible to snaps by default, it should not be necessary to issue any snap commands to give the steam process access to these directories.

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