What to do if Steam doesn’t recognize installed games?

Tashreef Shareef
by Tashreef Shareef
Windows & Software Expert
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Steam 12 x 12

Steam allows you to manage all your games from one place. However, it happens that Steam may stop recognizing all or one of the installed games on your system.

The problem can also occur if you decide to clean install the Windows and took a backup of Steam app folder containing your game files and other data. Moved it back to the Steam installation folder only to have Steam to re-download all the game data back again.

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If you are in a similar situation, here is how to trick Steam into recognizing previously downloaded data.

How do I Force Steam to Recognize Installed Games?

  1. Reinstall the Games without Downloading
  2. Add Steam Library Folder Manually
  3. Recognize Games from a new Drive
  4. Use .acf Cache to Force Recognize Steam Games

1. Reinstall the Games without Downloading

Steam - Image- Screensjot

If the Steam fails to recognize any of the installed games, it will show you an option to install the game all again. If you have the game data in the Steam apps folder, then you can force Steam to recognize the games by initiating the installation of the game.

  1. Launch Steam and go to Games.
  2. Select and click on install for the game that Steam has failed to recognize.
  3. Steam will start to discover existing files for the game.

2. Add Steam Library Folder Manually

Steam by default stores the game data in Steamapps folder in the installation disk. If you had a custom location where the game data was stored, you could try to add the location in the Steam app to fix this issue. Here is how to do it.

  1. Launch Steam.
  2. Click on Steam and select Settings.
    Steam app - settings
  3. Click on the Downloads tab.
  4. Click on Steam Library Folders.
    Steam app - settings- download - Steal library folder
  5. In the pop-up window, click on Add Library Folder and select the location where all your Steam game data is saved.
    Steam - add library folder
  6. Click on Select and close Steam settings.
    Steam select library folder
  7. Exit the Steam app and restart Steam.
  8. Steam should now recognize installed games again and list them in the games folder.

3. Recognize Games from a new Drive

If your main drive (steam default installation location) does not have enough space to install all the games, you can move the game data to a new hard drive and then add the Game Library Folder manually in the Steam app. Here is how to do it.

If you want your games to be in the D:/games directory, you need to create a subdirectory named “Steamappscommon”. The folder structure will look like D:>Games > steamapps>common

Once the subdirectory is created, move all the games to the newly created directory.

After moving the games, the game directory will look like this:

  • D:>Games >steamapps >common >Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag
  • D: >Games >steamapps >common > Counter Strike Global Offensive
  1. Launch the Steam app from the desktop.
  2. Click on Steam and select Settings.
  3. Click on the Downloads tab.
    Steam app - settings- download - Steal library folder
  4. Click on Steam Library Folder under Content Libraries section.
    Steam - add library folder
  5. Click on Add Library Folder and navigate to the location where your games are moved (new directory) that is D:/games/your_subdirectory.

  6. Click on Select and Close to save the library folder.

Exit Steam and relaunch it.  Steam will scan the newly selected Library folder and show all the games as installed.


4. Use .acf Cache to Force Recognize Steam Games

If you have taken the Steamapps folder backup with all the game data, you can use the Steam cache files to force Steam to recognize the installed games from the game data. Here is how to do it.

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  1. Make sure that you have reinstalled Steam or have the existing installation.
  2. Move the game data to C: >> Program Files (x86) >> Steam >> Steamapps folder.
  3. Launch Steam. At this point, Steam may show some games that are installed correctly.
  4. For the games that show as not installed, select and click on the Install button.
  5. Steam will start to discover all the existing files.
  6. However, if the Steam does not recognize the existing files, it will start to download the files, and the progress will read 0%.
  7. Pause the updating for the games and exit Steam.
  8. Go to C: >> Program Files (x86) >> Steam >>Steamapps and find all the current .acf files.
    SteamApps folder acf file
  9. Copy all the .acf files and move it to a new folder outside the Steamapps folder.
  10. Relaunch Steam again. In the Games library, the affected game will show as uninstalled.
  11. Exit Steam.
  12. Move all the .acf files back into the  C: >> Program Files (x86) >> Steam >> Steamapps folder.
    Steam - Resume Game Download
  13. Restart Steam. Go the Game library and click Resume Updating for the games that you paused previously.

If everything goes right, all the games that you had previously installed will appear as installed. If an update is required, proceed with it.

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