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How to share your Steam gaming library with friends and family

Valve’s new family sharing features allow up to five accounts to access a single person’s library. Here’s what you need to know to set it up.


Valve offers thousands of new and old games from hundreds of big name and independent publishers in one convenient place, its Steam digital distribution platform. The company frequently has promotions and sales that offer up hit games for cheaper than anywhere else on the Web. It's because of these sales that people like me have built vast gaming libraries with hundreds of titles.

Thanks to Valve's new sharing features, which the company unveiled last September, you can now share these games with friends and family members.

The process

Before you can enable Family Library Sharing, you must first have the Steam Guard security feature enabled. This can be done by opening the Steam settings menu, clicking on the Account tab, and selecting the "Manage my account with Steam Guard security" option.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

To enable the sharing feature, you must first log in to your family member or friend's computer with your Steam account. Next, open the settings menu, click on the Family tab, and choose to authorize the computer. You will then have the option to authorize any accounts that have also logged into the same computer.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Once this is complete, log out of your account and let your friend or family member log back into theirs. They will then have the ability to download and install select games from your gaming library.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

You can authorize up to 10 computers and up to five accounts to access your Steam gaming library.


While it's possible to do, the main purpose of the Family Library Sharing feature is not to share your library with a friend who lives across the country. It's aimed at parents who want to share their own personal Steam library with their kids.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

One of the benefits of using Family Library Sharing is having the ability for both you and your kids (or siblings) to play a game without interfering with the other's progress, saves, and achievements. It can also be used to test a game you are interested in (and that a friend owns, of course) to see if it's worth your hard-earned cash.


As I mentioned above, there are some limitations. Only five accounts can access your gaming library from up to 10 different computers. You must also have an Internet connection to access shared libraries, which are shared in their entirety. Because of what Valve calls "technical limitations" and licensing agreements, not all games are available for sharing, such as those that require a subscription.

A shared game can only be accessed by one person at a time, which means you still won't be able to play any games together. The account holder will have priority access to his or her games. If you decide to start playing while another user is already in one of your games, they will be given the option to buy the game or end their session.