If I install Steam to an external drive, will it work when I plug it into other computers? Or does it depend on registry keys/some other computer-specific thing?

4 Answers 4


Steam will work on an external drive, and will run perfectly fine as long as you're not trying to simultaneously run it from the computer's internal drive.

Note: Even though installing on an external drive means the games / client themselves are on the external drive, you may wind up with your saves or DLC on the computer, rather than the external drive. (Exact effect depends on the game.)

See also: Is it possible to install Steam games to two different locations?

  • make sure it's a small external though. 500gb lags for reading time Jul 25, 2010 at 13:24
  • edit: apparently the lag is write time, not reading time, according to SuperUser Jul 26, 2010 at 5:32
  • 2
    @Mechko: The correct term is "IO latency," and could refer to either read or write. However, the latency has very little effect on games, apart from load-times (and even then, not by much). Dec 18, 2012 at 6:35

Steam now has inbuilt support for creating new "Steam Libraries".

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You can also manage your Libraries from Steam → Settings → Download & Cloud → Steam LIbrary Folders.

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  • Could you post the Steam version info? Mine (22 Oct) doesn't have "Steam Library Folders". Dec 4, 2012 at 14:31
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    @AugustusThoo I'm sorry, I supposed this feature graduated together with Big Picture in the main version of Steam. Please see the updated answer
    – badp
    Dec 4, 2012 at 15:02
  • As of about 30 minutes ago, this feature has graduated to (the non-beta version of) Steam. Dec 18, 2012 at 6:31

It should work on the same PC that you have your external drive plugged into when you install. This is because it does require some registry keys to function, which will be installed to the PC you have your external drive connected to when you install Steam on the external drive.


Yes it will work

But it will not allow you to install simply to an external drive.

What you have to do is install steam onto c drive then copy it all over to the external drive then select to run steam from the external drive files applications icon

An there you have it

You can have steam installed on the c drive an it won't see the external drive game

And you can run steam from external drive program files an it won't affect the steam install on the pc but will load the externals libary

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