I own a lot of games on Steam, and I'm overall a big fan of the service.

However, one thing about it really bothers me, and I'm wondering if anything can be done about it.

Let's say I have two different online, multiplayer games, both of which I legally own. If I bought these games normally, I could be playing one of them online, while my fiance could play the other one online on another computer.

However, with Steam, I can only be signed in on one computer at a time. So, despite the fact that I have bought about 40 games, if I'm playing one of them, someone else in my house is not able to play any of the others.

Is there a way to get around this? I don't think this is illegal or immoral as I own both of the games in question, and only one person is playing the game at a given time (same IP address and the same household, so it should be easy for Steam to verify that I am not sharing my games unfairly).

If I had bought simple boxed copies, this wouldn't be an issue, but since I became such a fan of Steam, I can't play any of those games at the same time as my fiance.

Is there anything that can be done?

  • related How can I run a dedicated server from steam? – juan Jul 20 '10 at 21:22
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    Note: you do not 'own' anything on steam. You simply have a license to use the software. – Colin D Mar 20 '14 at 15:24
  • @ColinD That's true, regardless of Steam. Even if you are holding the physical DVD of a game in your hand, you only have a license to use it. – Allen Gould Mar 20 '14 at 17:05
  • Apparently the problem also exists when running software bought from steam, even when you are the sole user. You cannot benchmark one machine with 3Dmark and play a game on another machine at the same time. If these restrictions are legal, it is time for laws to change. – Roy Mar 2 '19 at 19:28

10 Answers 10


As far as I know, you can't do that. If one of you wanted to play single player, then you could possibly set one computer to Offline Mode before starting the game, and then the other person should be able to log in on the other account and play multiplayer, but both of you being online at the same time should not be possible.

Keep in mind, this is technically not allowed. Steam's agreement says you're not allowed to share your account or your games, that includes your fiancee. I don't think they actually do anything about it as long as you're not talking about it on steam chat or their forums. However, you still risk losing your account and all your games when bypassing their rules.

EDIT: As of mid 2014, Steam has released Steam Family Sharing, which enables the sharing of Steam libraries. However, this system does not work on a per-title basis (only during the beta), but rather - If one title is being played, all other titles cannot be played (unless it's the same user that's using the library that is launching the second/whatever-is-after-first program).

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    The offline 'exploit' is undetectable. I've used it a couple times at LAN-parties. – user56 Jul 21 '10 at 10:00
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    @Arda Xi it's hardly "undetectable". All they'd need to do is just keep a log of whenever you launch a game (on your client). Then the next time a client connects they could check for any overlap between clients. I'm not saying that they actually do this, but this would be pretty easy for them to do if they wanted to. The only way to be really undetectable would be to permanently keep a client offline. – TM. Jul 21 '10 at 22:56
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    Or you could remove the log. But, since no such code is not implemented, it is undetectable. – user56 Jul 21 '10 at 23:48
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    @Arda Xi: "no such code is not implemented"? double negation doesn't confuse me. not. :p – Zommuter Jul 22 '10 at 8:26
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    @Arda Xi, just because they don't seem to enforce it at the moment, it doesn't mean it's not implemented. Lot's of games leave things behind that could be looked at for sure... save game files, gameplay stats, steam cloud data that hasn't been synced, error logs etc. Undetectable is giving a false sense of security. It's definitely detectable, the question is just whether or not Valve chooses to do it. – TM. Jul 22 '10 at 20:42

This is technically against the Steam terms of service. You have not purchased the game, you have purchased a license to play the game. It's buried in that legalize and the difference is subtle but important. You have permission to play the games on your account but your fiance does not. You have permission to take your games anywhere but you can only play them on one machine at a time. Steam works on an individual basis not a "friends and family" basis, so only one person can play that game at a time, and technically it should be you. If your fiance wants to play a game she needs to purchase a license to play the game on her own account.

The steam TOS is located here, http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/

Valve hereby grants, and you accept, a limited, terminable, non-exclusive license and right to use the Steam Software for your personal use in accordance with this Agreement and the Subscription Terms. The Steam Software is licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Steam Software.

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  • I was going to post this. +1 instead. – Invader Skoodge Oct 11 '10 at 22:27
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    I am willing to believe you're right, but the quoted part sounds like it's talking about Steam itself, not the games downloaded via Steam. – starsplusplus Jun 16 '14 at 11:44

Steam just recently (October 2013) released an update that allows something called Family Sharing. Two Steam accounts can now share games with each other.

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    Though it still does not allow you to play at the same time with the one borrowing your games. Only one person can use the whole library at once. – 3ventic Oct 19 '13 at 22:52
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    I'm pretty sure you can play two different games at the same time. Just not the same game. – jacen.garriss Oct 20 '13 at 1:20
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    @jacen.garriss that's incorrect. – kotekzot Dec 12 '13 at 12:16
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    @jacen From the FAQ: Can two users share a library and both play at the same time? No, a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time. – starsplusplus Jun 16 '14 at 11:47

I believe you can. If you log into an account, then go into 'off-line mode' you can log in somewhere else. You may have to disconnect the first machine from the network/internet before logging in again.

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    Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm specifically trying to play two games online. – TM. Jul 21 '10 at 3:32
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    Oh yeah. Well you are out of luck then. :( Tho I have two online games played together on a LAN using a similar method, but that was the same game. – Tyronomo Jul 21 '10 at 23:33

Since Steam Family Sharing has been released, it is now possible to log in from two different computers to the same account simultaneously, and play different games on these computer. No special configuration is needed (at least for users logged into the Steam Beta).

EDIT : after further studying - the limitation might have been removed due to Steam In-House Streaming, which is still in beta and haven't been released yet. I will do further checking on that and will update my answer soon.

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  • From the FAQ: Can two users share a library and both play at the same time? No, a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time. – starsplusplus Jun 16 '14 at 11:48
  • Also Shared games will be unavailable on even an authorized device when the account holder’s library is currently in use on another computer. – starsplusplus Jun 16 '14 at 11:49
  • I'm not talking about two different accounts. I'm talking about the same account, accessed from two different computers. – idan315 Jun 22 '14 at 10:57
  • You're talking about Steam Family Sharing, which works by letting you access another user's games from your account. However, as in the Steam Family Sharing FAQ I linked to above, you can only access the shared games when the main user isn't using their account. – starsplusplus Jun 22 '14 at 13:33
  • I'm mentioning Steam Family Sharing because this change occurred when Steam Family Sharing has been released. You can now log into the SAME ACCOUNT (it has nothing to do with shared library) from two different computers. Try it. I'm currently using this setup at home. – idan315 Jun 23 '14 at 11:19

No, there's not way that I know of to accomplish this.

See this related question in which I have the same problem, I found no way around this limitation.

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The only way to do this would be to have the 2 games on different accounts.

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    So you'd actually be best of by creating one account per game :-/ – Zommuter Jul 22 '10 at 8:24

It depends on the game. In my experience, some Steam games do not make use of Steam's DRM and can be launched outside of Steam and are not subject to Steam's locking. Figuring out which games use Steam DRM and which do not is tricky, however, and some that may not be using Steam's DRM may be using some other DRM product.

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Brandon's answer pretty much covers it, except it misses out on one small detail.

There are games that you actually can play on-line multi even when Steam itself is in Offline Mode. Example would be Relic games (Company of Heroes, Dawn of War) don't care about Steam being On-Line, as they use Relic.com account for on-line multi. I suspect there are more games from other distributors, which act in similar fashion.

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Yes. Both players go offline, choose standard not pitboss. Then do local network

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