I want to save some space on my SSD and have Steam and its games stored on an external drive.

Is it possible to install Steam and its games on an external drive ? Will some of the installation files be stored on my SSD ? Will games run sufficiently fast when played from the external drive ?

  • This is not totally a duplicate. The question explicitly asks, "Will games run sufficiently fast when played from the external drive?" which the other question does not cover. This is the only reason I came here. File reads & writes over USB as consistently as might be required by a steam game is a legitimate concern. Unfortunately this question has now been closed as a duplicate and I don't have any answers.
    – JMTyler
    Jan 3 '14 at 21:12

When you come to install Steam, you should get a choice of where to install it, under custom installation if I remember correctly. If not, steam isn't massive anyway.

When you come to install games, you can choose a Steam library to install to. The default is the %\steamapps folder within the steam installation directory. You can choose to use a different folder with each game:

Note: I already had a steam library on my HDD but it was straight forward to create a new one.

  • 1
    Oh does that mean you can pick a different steam library and it remembers that choice, or do you pick the directory each time? If so, this would be easier than the junctioning solution
    – Ben Brocka
    Dec 30 '12 at 17:52
  • If you install steam on the external drive the default will be on that drive. If you install steam on your SSD then use a steam library on the external drive, the default will be the SSD library. If you are anything like me and only install a new game every few weeks, it's not a problem.
    – Sean Kenny
    Dec 30 '12 at 19:36
  • What happens if you disconnect the external hard drive while Steam is running? Feb 27 '15 at 22:20
  • @MatheusMoreira At best, the game crashes and you lose unsaved data. At worst, the saved game data on the drive becomes corrupted and your computer crashes. It depends on where in the read-write cycle the pc is at the time of removal. I wouldn't recommend it in any case.
    – Sean Kenny
    Feb 28 '15 at 13:39
  • @Skyfall, I mean when only Steam itself is running. Steam knows there is a games library on drive X. I proceed to eject and disconnect X. How well does Steam handle that situation? Will my games be listed as "not installed"? Will Steam instantly recognize them if I reconnect X? Feb 28 '15 at 13:45

All you have to do is junction the Steamapps folder to a folder on an external drive. On 64 bit windows that's C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps

See this super user answer for how to make a junction, there are also programs/shell extentions that make it easier, but for one junction, this is pretty easy.

Since you're on windows 7, this code should work:

mklink /J <new directory to be linked> <target directory>

Note that if you do this Steam will act rather weirdly if you run it without the external drive plugged in; it will attempt to download updates for games that aren't there and will force re-checks of your games on occasion since they went "missing". It's nothing major, but just try to avoid running Steam while the drive isn't plugged in.

I do this both on my Desktop (Steam installed on SSD, games are on an HDD) and a laptop where they're on an external drive. It works quite well.

  • So I can't just install steam on the external drive and run everything from there ?
    – Render
    Dec 30 '12 at 15:33

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