If anyone caught me in chat, I'm currently having problems with Steam, which is keeping me not only from playing Portal 2, but also from accessing any of the other 28 steam game shortcuts on my desktop.

I'm considering just uninstalling and then reinstalling Steam, hoping that will knock loose whatever wheels got clogged in the first place, but, I'd rather look for alternative ways if uninstalling steam means redownloading all of those games.

So, do Steam-installed games stay installed on your hard drive when steam itself is removed?

  • 2
    To actually answer the question in the title: Yes - if you choose to uninstall Steam through Uninstall Programs and Features in Control Panel , all Steam games will be uninstalled with Steam Mar 3, 2013 at 15:01
  • It's too late for me... May 10, 2018 at 1:39
  • @PrivatePansy Thank you for actually answering the question in the title, that's what I was looking for.
    – Blue
    Jul 8, 2020 at 18:43

4 Answers 4


Move the subfolder /steamapps/ in a safe place before uninstalling Steam, then do the following steps:

  1. Uninstall Steam
  2. Reinstall Steam
  3. Launch Steam
  4. Exit Steam
  5. Move the content of your /steamapps/ backup to the new /steamapps/ subfolder
  6. Relaunch Steam

At this point Steam should find all games without any other action; in the worst case, where Steam does not detect some games as installed, just reinstall them and the game will be downloaded and ready in few seconds/minutes because it only need to validate the game content cache.

  • Whew: Word of note - if you have as many installed games as I do, this will take a while. Took about 4 full minutes to move the files. Apr 19, 2011 at 19:03
  • @Raven I have 199 games and probably more than 200 GB in /steamapps/, I know the pain :D good luck
    – Drake
    Apr 19, 2011 at 19:18
  • 116 gigs! It looks to have worked perfectly, though I do not yet know if it will restore my shortcut icons. Apr 19, 2011 at 19:22
  • 5
    Final note: this will require you re-verify your steamguard twice, once when reinstalling, and a second time when you replace your steamapps folder in step 5. Apr 19, 2011 at 19:44
  • 3
    how about just renaming the folder that the steam games are in, so the steam client can't find it, instead of moving it!
    – Corbfon
    Aug 29, 2018 at 13:17

You can also create a backup of your Steam Games. You can use it to backup your saves to CD, DVD or an external hard drive. You also have the option of backing up individual games or all of your Steam games. If you backup multiple games at once, you are given the option to choose which games you'd like to restore when you initiate the restore procedure. I used this when upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7.

See Steam Support:Using the Steam Backup Feature

  • It's much better answer than the accepted one Dec 5, 2012 at 15:25

Before drilling a giant hole through the mountain, you can check if there are pathways around it.

Have you tried deleting everything except your steam.exe and steamapps in the same directory and re-running steam.exe?


Nothing in the actual Steam program folder is guaranteed safe; but you can keep your games in other directories too. Look under the Steam --> Settings menu, and find the "Downloads" tab. You'll have an option at the top for Steam library folders.

Click it.

Then, click "Add Library Folder" and add a new folder to act as a steamapps folder. After that, you can right-click on each installed game, go to properties, and then local files, and transfer everything to your new directory with "Move Install Folder", through a drop down of registered locations.

Once all of your games are moved outside of the default steamapps directory, it's safe to purge and reinstall. After that, just go to "Add Library Folder" again and add the same directory as before, and all of your games will be back.

Generally, I recommend doing this by default—you never know when a hard drive is going to fail, or Steam will get a kink in its coding, or your old disk will run out of space, or your OS will completely fail... better to not have to install everything over again.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .