By "structure" I mean headers and footers that all (or a significant subset of) Steam games' local save files begin and end with. A .dat file extension or folder heirarchy is not enough, as I will be "carving" the data in binary form from a hard drive with a corrupted file index.

The platform these games were played on is Windows 8.1 Professional 64bit, with AMD processor and graphics.

Background info: I am researching data recovery options for a client with a failed hard drive who wishes to recover save game files from that hard drive, which are not backed up to the Steam Cloud or other media.

I do not need help with the data recovery process itself (which would be off topic here anyway), but only with identifying what, if any, predictable structure delimits a "Steam game save".

Though the ideal answer will cover all Steam-purchased games which do not sync to the Steam Cloud or were last played offline, my client is specifically concerned about saves from:

  • Don't Starve
  • Castle Crashers
  • Battleblock Theater
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Bioshock 1
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 1

I have explained that even with a well-known file format, forensic data recovery is likely to produce corrupt files due to damaged media, and therefore recovered saves may not be playable. However, if there is some (DRM) reason the saves cannot be loaded under the same Steam account, on the same legally purchased games, on a new laptop, I will consider it an answer as well.

  • 2
    I am fairly sure that every video game uses a different format of save files, so their hierarchy and everything would depend on the format used by each specific game.
    – Elise
    Mar 26, 2015 at 1:06
  • Also, there is no DRM preventing saves from one computer working on another, although cloud saving, if enabled, could possibly interfere with it.
    – Elise
    Mar 26, 2015 at 1:09
  • Good to know! Perhaps if the format varies more between developers than it does between games from the same developer, I can still save much trail and error by finding a "Valve regex," a "Behemoth regex," etc.
    – newcoder
    Mar 26, 2015 at 1:12

1 Answer 1


Save file formats entirely depend on the game, and many games will use any combination of binary or plain text formats. While Steam hosts many games, it does not define how a game should manage its own data. Games published through Steam will therefore widely vary, and it's no different than if you got each from their publishers.

The Steam Cloud simply allows a game developer to use Steam's API to securely back up their save files, but does not even dictate the format that these files use.

Unfortunately for your scenario, you'll have to research each game to see what formats they use.

  • 4
    Steam does not even dictate where the save files are stored. Under %appdata%, the install directory, my documents... Mar 26, 2015 at 1:13
  • 2
    Save formats vary even from the same developer, since it has more to do with the game engine chosen (if any) than anything else, and many using the same engine will use a custom save format anyway. Mar 26, 2015 at 2:17
  • @TrentHawkins IMO devs that decide to put savegames (or anything else!) in My Documents or a subfolder thereof should be publicly shamed and or pilloried.
    – MrLemon
    Mar 26, 2015 at 9:48
  • @MrLemon: Why? Putting them into your Documents is the best way or appdata isntead of install path, How you can prevent savegames from beeing deleted by uninstalling a game (which u don't want in any case) Today there are also a lot of low skill game devs, who don't even know what is the best for which case. So in my view a savegame is better placed in my documents as it is accidently lost. ;)
    – Zaibis
    Mar 26, 2015 at 11:22

You must log in to answer this question.

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