Valve’s Steam gaming platform allows you to download and install games you’ve purchased on multiple computers. But up until now doing that required connecting to the internet and waiting while your system downloads installation and update files.
Now Valve has introduced a new Local Network Game Transfer feature that lets you copy games from one PC to another over a local network. It’s available in the latest Steam client and Steam Deck client software.
In a nutshell, this feature lets you take a game you’ve already installed on one PC and load it onto other PCs connected to your local network. If you’ve got a game installed on your desktop gaming PC, you can now install it on your Steam Deck or another PC without an internet connection.
There are a few reasons you might want to do that. The first is that installing over a local network might be faster: Valve notes that “a modern PC can easily transfer game content with 100MB/sec.”
A second reason is that users with data caps won’t have to download the same large file from the internet multiple times to install it on multiple PCs.
Valve says when the feature is enabled, if you go to install a game using latest Steam clients, Steam will first check to see if the game is already installed on another PC connected to your local network and then initiate a PC-to-PC transfer rather than downloading files from the internet.
There are four settings available for deciding whether to enable direct file transfers:
- Off: All games will be downloaded from the internet
- Only on my own devices: Local file transfers are enabled for devices that are logged into your Steam account
- Only my friends: Local file transfers are enabled for users connected to your network that are designated as your Steam friends
- Any user: Any device running Steam that’s connected to your local network can install games using local file transfers
There are a few other conditions that need to be met. Games need to be up-to-date and released to the public in order for local transfers to work, so preview games aren’t eligible. Local transfers cannot be initiated if the Steam client on the transferring PC is idle (so it won’t work if you’re currently downloading games from Steam or playing a game). And Steam can only send files if it’s running in Desktop mode.
That last one means that you cannot currently send games from a Steam Deck to another PC or Steam Deck. You also can’t transfer files from a PC running Steam in Big Picture mode or using a custom launcher.
This article was first published February 18, 2023 when local network game transfers were available in beta, and most recently updated March 16, 2023 when the feature graduated to stable.