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Earlier today I was trying to reboot my computer to make sure I wouldn't receive some malware from the internet, and during reboot I made sure that my computer was not connected to the internet to be really safe. After dealing with this potential threat, while my computer wasn't connected to the internet there was a pop-up message from my (Win8) taskbar saying that Steam was trying and failing to connect to a network.

  1. Steam was not actively running. The app wasn't open.
  2. I don't like the fact that Steam was trying to connect to a network without my permission.

I very much don't like Steam connecting to something for an unknown reason. This could potentially be a large security breach. The only game I have on Steam is Terraria. Knowing this could be a big security problem, I uninstalled Steam to avoid trouble until I could find a solution to this problem.

Does anybody have any idea why Steam needs to connect to the internet and do background tasks while it isn't supposed to run; and does anyone know how to make sure it never runs unless I manually launch the system? I really need an answer soon because I would like to play Terraria, but I don't dare use Steam until I can make sure it isn't doing these strange and potentially dangerous tasks.

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    I'm not at my Steam computer, but there's an option in the preferences as to whether or not Steam should start up when the computer turns on. Is that option selected? – Adam V Jun 29 '15 at 17:29
  • @AdamV I don't believe that option is selected. The thing is, it's performing unknown and unauthorized background tasks without the application actually running. Unfortunately, poking that option won't help. – TheMinecraftMan757 Jun 29 '15 at 17:32
  • I just find that hard to believe. It can't perform background tasks without some process running to control them, and I've never seen a different process associated with Steam (other than the Updater). – Adam V Jun 29 '15 at 17:34
  • @AdamV True. I just mean the main application wasn't running. Obviously it needs some sort of scripts to be active. – TheMinecraftMan757 Jun 29 '15 at 17:36
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    @TheMinecraftMan757 that's the point: Steam does not have either background services or other background programs. There is only steam.exe as far as I know. Chances are that Steam launched on startup (which is enabled by default IIRC) and minimized to tray (which is reasonable for a program that runs on startup). – MrLemon Jun 29 '15 at 17:50
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There are two options I see:

1) Ensure the "Run Steam when my computer starts" option is turned off in Steam's options dialog.

2) Run msconfig.exe (which I hope is available under Windows 8) to turn off Steam, or any other processes, that run upon startup.

  • MSConfig.exe is a Windows program that will edit your computer's registry to, among other things, turn on/off what services and programs are allowed to turn on when the computer boots up. In theory, unchecking the box next to a program or service will prevent it from starting up. (In practice, several programs will verify the system registry when you start them manually, and will re-add themselves to the list if you have disabled them.)
  • Could you provide any more details as to what msconfig.exe does and what it will accomplish? – TheMinecraftMan757 Jun 29 '15 at 17:38
  • @TheMinecraftMan757 - Added additional details. – Adam V Jun 29 '15 at 17:46
  • I have not yet observed Steam being "naughty" in regards to starting on start-up, so it's very likely that using msconfig is unnecessary. A program where you can't (easily) disable running on start-up has to have a very good reason to be running all the time, otherwise it's horrible practice (not saying it doesn't happen, but Steam is nice here). – MrLemon Jun 29 '15 at 17:57
  • @AdamV msconfig is available in win 8+ – Nitro.de Jun 30 '15 at 5:45
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As far as WHY Steam is connecting to the internet - that's what it is made to do. It connects for many reasons - once on start-up to log in to your account and authorize all your games, periodically through the day to check for game updates or new games in your library (say if you added a game through the website instead of through the Steam application), looking to see if your friends are online (or updating your friends when you go online/away/busy), checking for "update news" (usually hot new games just released or major sales, but also sometimes free updates to games you own or free to play games).

That first reason is literally the reason for Steam's existence. Steam is a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) intended to allow a great deal of freedom to content consumers (you) while also protecting the rights of the content creators (game companies). The fact that Steam is in near-constant contact with their home servers making sure that you really have paid for the games you're downloading and playing through Steam is the reason that the game companies don't care how many times you uninstall, download, reinstall, modify, and run your games from any number of different systems (and possibly even platforms). Steam assures them constantly that you're not a software pirate, you're a legitimate user.

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Steam autostarts by default on Windows, unchecking the option under settings will remedy the issue.

However, autostarting Steam shouldn't pose any significant security threat. It has held up to a very large amount of attempts to exploit it so far and automatic updates combined with their security team makes sure it stays that way.

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Steam is supposed to do that, as well as dozens of applications you have installed. It's not "potentially dangerous". That's very common for a lot of applications. When you start your machine several processes run because of the start itself. Some of them connect to available networks to perform updates or log in users into services. That's what steam was trying to do. Log you into steam.

If you're paranoid, or do not always use steam, you can disable it. Also if you have concerns about other programs launching at the start you could use msconfig, but that's out of scope for this site.

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Aside from msconfig, another place to check is your startup folder in your start menu. Any shortcut placed there will start the program when the system boots up.

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