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Fix Steam Games That Won’t Launch (20+ Fixes)

Fixing Steam games can sometimes be quite painful; perhaps you have the ‘unknown error’, ‘missing executable’ error, black screens, crashes or any one of the plethora of issues you may come across. Here’s what we know about how to fix Steam games. After attempting each solution, try to launch your game.

Video Guide

1. Game cache

Over time or in an improper download, you may have lost some critical files to deletion or corruption. However, Valve keeps a record of all the files you should have, so we can check if we have the right ones.

  1. Find the game in question in your library. Right click on it.
  2. Head down to properties, and you should see a pop-up.
  3. Click on the ‘Local files’ tab and press the ‘Verify integrity of game cache’ button.
  4. Wait for Steam to ensure that the files you have on your computer are correct. Note that this may take some time (~20 min max), especially if your game is large in size, and you will not be able to use Steam whilst this is happening. If you have files missing, you will need to wait for them to download again. You can view this progress on the download area.

2. Restart

Just restart your computer. Or, if you have something important running, press ‘Steam’ in the top-left of the client and hit ‘Restart Steam’. This should fix steam games if they are having a one-off issue.

3. Update video drivers

The manufacturer of the video card inside your computer may have patched the error that is causing the error. These steps let you update the software on your computer.

  1. Determine if you’re using AMD, Nvidia or Intel drivers. If you’re not sure, here’s a guide (Radeon is AMD).
  2. Google ‘AMD/Nvidia/Intel graphics drivers’ and follow on-page instructions.
  3. Restart your computer after updating video drivers.

4. Roll back video drivers

Similarly, newer video drivers may have broken the game. Google instructions to rollback with your particular manufacturer, then restart your computer. Go back as early as possible, or to the drivers from the last known time that the game worked.

5. Disable your antivirus

One of the first steps Valve suggests to fix steam games is to temporarily disable any antivirus, anti-malware or similar software that may be running. Additionally, pause any systems scans that are in progress. Steps for disabling each antivirus will vary for each program, so if you cannot find out you may need to do some research. Some antiviruses come packaged with your computer or other software, and you may not realised that you have it installed. Try searching your computer for ‘McAffee’ and ‘Norton’ in particular.

How to disable malwarebytes - press malware protection

6. Disable other software

Valve also recommends you disable other software that may interfere with your game. In addition, we also recommend you disable the Windows Defender Firewall. We’ve built you a table based on Valve’s recommendations.

Anti-virus applications, including:Anti-spyware applications, including:Firewall/Security Applications
AVG Anti-Virus *Webroot Spy SweeperCA Internet Security Suite
Avast!Ad AwareComodo
BitDefenderCA Pest PetrolCybersitter
F-SecurePC Tools Spyware DoctorESET Smart Security
Iobit Advanced System Care *Spybot Search & DestroyNetlimiter
Kaspersky Anti-virusSpycatcher ExpressMcAfee Personal Firewall
McAfee Anti-virusSpyware DoctorNvidia Network Access Manager/Firewall
Norton/Symantec Anti-VirusSpyware TerminatorNvidia Forceware
ThreatfireOutpost Firewall
Trend MicroPanda Internet Security
Nod32 Anti-Virus *Peer Guardian
VIGuard Anti-VirusPeerblock
Tiny Personal Firewall
Verizon Internet Security Suite
Zone Alarm
Constant Guard by Comcast
Online Armour

Other software:

  • IOBit Advance System Care
  • IOBit Start Menu 8
  • Airfoil
  • Alcohol 120%
  • AMD External Event Utility
  • AOLacsd.exe (AOL connection driver)
  • ATI Hotkey Poller
  • ATI Tray Tools
  • BitTorrent/uTorrent (all clients)
  • Creative Software (X-Fi MB, Alchemy, MediaSource 5 on Asus G60VX models specifcally)
  • Catalyst AI
  • CCleaner
  • Daemon Tools
  • Download Accelerators (all clients)
  • EVGA Precision
  • Garfield Daily Desktop Comic
  • GhostSurf 2007
  • Google Toolbar, Google Updater
  • GSC
  • Hamachi
  • HotSpot Shield
  • HydraVision
  • iZ3D DirectX injection
  • K-Lite Codec Pack
  • Lightspark
  • LimeWire, BearShare or other Peer 2 Peer applications
  • LogMeIn
  • Microsoft Screen Magnifier in Windows 7 (magnify.exe – may cause in-game cursor issues)
  • MSI Afterburner
  • nProtect GameGuard *
  • PC Time Limit
  • Skype
  • Slysoft AnyDVD
  • StarDock KeepSafe
  • StarDock ObjectDock
  • SteamWatch
  • iolo System Mechanic
  • TeamSpeak (can lead to mic issues)
  • Total Recorder
  • Tuneup WinStyler Theme Service
  • UPEK Protector Suite
  • Ventrilo (can lead to mic issues)
  • VirtuaGirl 2
  • VMware
  • Western Digital Backup Anywhere
  • Whitesmoke Translator (may cause the Source engine to crash)
  • WindowBlinds
  • Xfire

* Games with an asterix should be uninstalled if disabling the software yields no results

7. Run as administrator

Your game may require some additional permissions in order to launch. The following steps are how to run programs as admin on Windows 10.

  1. Right click on the game in question from your library tab.
  2. Head to Properties -> Local Files -> Browse local files.
  3. Look through the folder that opens for a .exe file.
  4. Right click on it, then go to Properties -> Compatability.
  5. Tick the ‘Run this program as an administrator’ box.

running your game as admin

8. Run in compatibility mode

Some older games may not be fit for your operating system. This process lets us try to launch games using settings from previous systems. Steps are for the Windows operating system.

  1. Head to the same menu as the previous solution: right click on game in your Steam library -> Properties -> Local Files -> Browse Local files.
  2. Then right click on the .exe file -> Properties -> Compatibility.
  3. Press ‘Run compatibility troubleshooter’.
  4. Try both the ‘Try recommended settings’ and ‘Troubleshoot program’ options.

how to run a steam game on compatibility mode - press the button up top

 

9. Flush Steam

Your error may be related to an error in Steam itself. This solution clears some (mostly non-personal) settings, which may fix steam games. Steps are for Windows.

  1. Press Windows + R to open the run menu.
  2. In the text field, type steam://flushconfig.
  3. Wait for the process to complete, then open up steam and log back in.

how to flush steam

10. Ensure you meet minimum spec

If you have an older or less powerful PC, you may not be able to launch the game. Steam actually an automatic process for you to check. If you don’t meet the requirements, you may need to upgrade your computer or purchase a new one in order to play the game.

  1. Find the game in your library.
  2. To the right of the client, you should see ‘Store Page’ under ‘Links’.
  3. If you haven’t already, go to Steam (top-left) -> Settings -> Interface -> Tick ‘Display Steam URL address bar when available’.
  4. Now, on the store page you should see the address, with the path store.steampowered.com/app/(number)/.Steame game id howto
  5. Copy or write down the number at the end of the link.
  6. For some games, this will not work. Instead, scroll down on the score page and compare the minimum spec to your computer’s properties.
  7. Press Windows + R to open the run menu.
  8. Type steam://checksysreqs/ with your number at the end (no spaces). For example, ‘steam://checksysreqs/233450/’.
  9. You should see a popup about whether you meet the system requirements.

11. Disable startup services

Applications that are running in the background that you can’t see could be the issue. By disabling them all, you’ll then be able to re-enable them in small batches to figure out what the problematic process is if you game works.

  1. Search for the ‘System configuration’ application, or ‘Run’ (Windows key + R) and search for ‘msconfig’.
  2. Hit services.
  3. Tick the ‘Hide all Microsoft services’ box in the bottom, as these are unlikely to be the issue.
  4. Hit ‘Disable all’.
  5. If your game now works, slowly re-enable them to find the process that’s causing it.

In the system configuration window, press the services button, hide all microsoft services checkbox then press disable all

 

12. See if other people have the same issue

Some errors may be specific to the game, so looking on the Steam community for any solutions may be beneficial. Some games may require external patches to work on modern operating systems.

  1. Find the game in your library.
  2. To the right, click ‘Discussions’ under ‘Links’.
  3. Search your error in the top-right or browse, looking for anyone else who is having the issue.
  4. Attempt to follow any solutions you find. They may relate to a variety of more minor causes, such as audio settings or the requirement of additional downloads to play the game on a modern system.

The game discussions link - on the right of the library page

Before we go into the latter half of this guide, make sure you’ve Googled any error messages and investigated if the issue is game-specific.

13. Unplug connected devices

If you have anything connected to your computer, particularly additional controllers, disconnect them and then try to launch.

14. Try any available betas

Some games will have alternative versions of the game that may work. To try them:

  1. From the library tab on Steam, right click on the game then go to Properties -> Betas.
  2. Select one of the available betas.

Using the dropdown to select a beta

15. Conduct a full reinstall

The last, but most time consuming solution is to reinstall the game. Instead of only deleting and installing the content again, completely clearing the files may help.. However, this may clear any mods or save files you have on your computer. Steps to both ways of reinstalling are below.

For a full reinstall (more effective):

  1. Find the game in your library.
  2. Right click on it, then go to Properties -> Local Files -> Browse local files.
  3. Drag and delete all files and folders within the folder opened.drag select to delete everything
  4. Back on the Steam client, right click then press ‘Uninstall’.
  5. Download the game again.

For a regular reinstall (may keep mods and save games):

  1. Find the game in your library.
  2. Right click then press ‘Uninstall’.
  3. Download the game again.

16. Run a virus scan

Initially we tried to turn off our anti-virus, but you should now run a full system scan to see if malware is the issue. Use any available software, or download Malwarebytes.

17. Run a system integrity scan

In a similar fashion to validating our game’s cache, we can run a similar scan on our system. On modern Windows systems:

  1. Search for ‘cmd’ on your computer, then right click and press ‘Run as administrator’.
  2. Type sfc /scannow.
  3. Wait for the process to complete. You can still use your computer whilst this is working.

18. Uninstall Windows updates

Windows updates can occasionally interfere with your game. To uninstall recent updates on Windows 10:

  1. Search for ‘Installed update history’.
  2. Press ‘uninstall updates’ and uninstall recent patches.

Uninstall update button on windows

19. Disable additional cores

Some legacy games will not support multiple cores. By restricting Steam to a single core, games launched will inherit this and only launch with one.

  1. With Steam running, press CTRL + Shift + Esc to open the task manager.
  2. Click on the ‘details tab’.
  3. Right click on ‘Steam.exe’ and press ‘set affinity’.
  4. Untick all boxes other than CPU 0.

If this does not work, you will want to recheck all processors to reset these settings unless you have restarted your computer.

Menus to get to cpu affinity

20. Lower audio frequency

Some legacy games may not be optimised for higher audio frequencies. Using Windows, we can lower the input frequency to see if it works.

  1. Search for ‘sound’.
  2. Under playback, right click on your output device.
  3. Click properties -> advanced then choose the highest option in the drop-down.

Be sure to revert this setting after playing.

Otherwise…

If all reasonable attempts to fix the Steam game failed, you should open your own thread on the discussions page of the game.

You should also try to contact the developer on their forum (if applicable) or via email. You can refund games if you have less than 2 hours in-game.

21. Roll back or reset your system

In the worst case, such as none of your Steam games working at all, you can use a system backup or completely refresh your operating system. On Windows 10, search for “recovery options” for more information.

Image of recovery settings in windows 10