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How to share your Steam gaming library with friends and family

The pros, cons and everything you need to know.

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Steam's library sharing feature has its pros and cons.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Steam, Valve's digital gaming distribution service, has a massive library of old and new games to purchase and play on your PC. Though game subscription services such as Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass are becoming more common, Steam lets you buy individual games, so you don't have to commit to a monthly fee if you only want that one title. 

With no monthly fee and frequent sales, Steam makes it easy for gamers to build up a sizable gaming library.

Plus, you can share your library of Steam games with family members. While this feature is aimed at helping parents distribute and monitor what their kids play, it also lets you lend games you like to others. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to share your Steam library. 

Protect your Steam account 

First, you want to safeguard your game library, so even if you share your account, everything will still be protected and within your control. For this to happen, you need to enable Steam Guard. Steam Guard -- which is free to turn on -- provides an additional level of security that protects your account from unauthorized access. 

Here's how to enable Steam Guard on your account:

Step 1: Go to Steam's homepage and make sure you're logged in.
Step 2: In the upper right corner, click your username.
Step 3: In the drop-down menu, click Account Details.
Step 4:
Scroll down to Account Security and click Manage Steam Guard.

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Adding Steam Guard. can help protect your account, even if you don't share it.

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

From there, you'll have three options: Have Steam Guard codes sent to your phone or your email, or turn Steam Guard off. You also have the option to deauthorize all other computers or devices (other than the one you're currently using) that might have saved your login information. Steam recommends sending Guard codes to your phone as a form of two-factor authentication. 

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Sending codes to your phone provides a level of two-factor authentication. 

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Share your library

Log into your family member or friend's computer with your Steam account to get started. Make sure you're operating from the Steam app on desktop. In the top left corner, click Steam and select Preferences from the drop-down menu.

Select Family in the side menu, then click the box that says Authorize Library Sharing on this computer.

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You can authorize library sharing in the Steam app.

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

This gives you the option to authorize any accounts that have also logged into the same computer. If no one else has, you'll get a message saying "No other local accounts found." After this is complete, log out of your account and your friend or family member can log back into theirs. They should now have the ability to download and install select games from your library.

You can select up to five users who can access and use your library across 10 devices that you've authorized. 

Cons of sharing your library

  • Although it has its benefits, Steam's sharing features aren't perfect. 
  • Only five accounts can access your gaming library from up to 10 different computers. 
  • You need an internet connection to access the shared libraries.
  • Libraries can only be shared in their entirety. 
  • Some games don't qualify for sharing because they require a subscription. 
  • Shared games can only be accessed by one person at a time, so you won't be able to play games together. 
  • The account holder has priority access to their games. If you start playing a game while another person is already playing, they'll have the option to buy the game or end the session.

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