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How to backup and restore your Steam library

Don't want to download countless gigs of apps and games on your new PC? Use Steam's backup tool.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Downloaded games and apps through Steam is usually a one-time occurrence, save for the occasional updates. It's a good thing, too, because some games can push 100 GB in size, if not more.

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For those of us who now have to worry about data caps from our service provides, the task of moving a Steam library to another computer can be the cause of overages and unnecessary charges depending on how many items are in your library.

Steam offers a method to backup your current library with relative ease, so long as you have a spare drive big enough for the backup and a couple hours to kill.

Before you get started, make sure all apps and games are up to date. If not, the first thing that will occur after restoring from a backup is the download of updates.

Backup

With everything updated, click on Steam in the top left corner, then select Backup and Restore Games

steam-backup

Backing up on Steam.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Next, select Backup Currently Installed Games, then check the box next to each app and game you want to backup. Choose a location to store the backup, then give the backup a name (ignore the CDROM option below the text field).

steam-backup-2

You'll need a big drive if you have a lot of games that need backing up.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Once you've started the backup, leave the computer to do its own thing. Depending on the size of your library, it can take a couple of hours to complete the process.

Restore

To restore your backup on a different computer after installing Steam and signing into your account, connect the external drive, select Steam > Backup and Restore Games > Restore a previous backup > select the location of your backup > pick the apps or games you want to restore. 

After the restore process has finished, all of your settings and progress should be intact. It may take a bit of time, but likely no longer than the time it takes to download a game from scratch and you don't have so stress about your data cap.