FIX: Steam Preparing to launch error on Windows 10

Elena Constantinescu
by Elena Constantinescu
VPN Expert & Privacy Advocate
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  • Steam is the dedicated UI client of the official Valve Steam platform.
  • However, users have been having problems with it as they get a Preparing to launch error.
  • To learn everything there is about this amazing gamer's tool, visit our dedicated Steam page.
  • Speaking of gamers, if you are one, go ahead and visit our Gaming page as well.
fix Steam preparing to launch
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Steam is arguably the best gaming client for Windows 10 PC. But it occasionally throws errors that prevent you from playing your favorite games.

For instance, when you’re trying to open a game, Steam displays the Preparing to launch message.

Here’s an example:

Steam shows Preparing to launch

Normally, it doesn’t take long before it disappears and your game is fired up (unless you’re waiting for an update).

However, a lot of Steam users report that the Preparing to launch sequence takes forever, even after running all the required game updates, so it basically turns into an error message.

You’ve probably already tried all sorts of hacks to fix this problem, without any luck. Don’t worry since we’re here to help.

How do I fix Steam if it gets stuck on preparing to launch?

Update Graphics Card, DirectX, and Audio Drivers

updated outdated drivers

Get started by updating your graphics card drivers, audio drivers, and DirectX to the latest version.

Your Steam games might not work if those drivers are outdated, missing, or corrupted in some way, resulting in the Preparing to launch loop.

You can manually update drivers but it takes a long time and you have to do this often.

A quicker way is to use a reliable driver updating tool such as DriverFix. It’s lightweight and has an intuitive interface.

DriverFix performs a full system scan automatically on startup, finding any outdated, damaged, or missing drivers.

All you have to do is select the drivers you’re interested in updating and let DriverFix take care of the rest.

Reboot your PC afterward to finalize driver modifications. Then, try to launch your Steam games again.

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Verify the integrity of game files

  1. In Steam, go to the LIBRARY section
  2. Right-click your game and select Properties
  3. Select Local Files and click Verify integrity of game filesVerify game file integrity in Steam
  4. Wait until the process is over
  5. Try to launch the game now

If the Preparing to launch error is caused by corrupt game cache, follow the steps above to fix this in just a few clicks.

Update Steam and Windows 10

Make sure you’re running the latest updates for Steam and Windows 10, in order to take advantage of the newest features, improvements, and bug fixes.

For Steam, just open the Steam menu and click Check for Steam Client Updates.

If Steam fails to apply updates and reverts your changes, check out our easy guide.

When it comes to Windows 10, search for update, click Check for updates, and press the Download button of any updates ready for download.

download Windows updates

If your Steam games depend on .NET Framework, we suggest downloading Microsoft .NET Framework Repair Tool and using it to fix it.

Reinstall Steam

run Steam setup

If you still can’t get past the Preparing to launch message when trying to play games, remove Steam from Windows 10 and install it again.

This should solve any problems with the Steam package if it’s at fault. You can quickly download Steam from our website.

Change your DNS servers

  1. Right-click the Windows 10 Start button
  2. Select Network Connections
  3. Click Change adapter options
  4. Right-click your Internet connection and select Properties (you need admin rights)
  5. Double-click Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)
  6. Select Use the following DNS server addresses
  7. Set Preferred DNS server to 8.8.8.8
  8. Set Alternate DNS server to 8.8.4.4
  9. Click OK
  10. Go back to Steam and try to launch your game

Certain ISPs block Steam traffic and even poison your DNS servers to prevent you from playing on Steam.

Some popular examples include Dutch Telecom, Bluewin, and Micronet Broadband.

But you can modify your DNS servers as a workaround. You will be able to play Steam games even if you get the Preparing to launch error but nothing happens.

In the instructions above, we used the free, public and secure DNS servers provided by Google Public DNS. You can also try Cloudflare or OpenDNS.

Disable your free VPN service

don't use free VPN

Steam has trouble working properly with some VPN tools. It usually happens with free VPNs, because they use public IP addresses.

So, if you are currently connected to a secure tunnel created by a VPN, make sure to turn it off.

It could be the reason why Steam prepares to launch your game but never does.

Use a premium VPN service

PIA

Using a VPN has tons of benefits, as long as the service is of exceptional quality.

We previously established that a free VPN can hamper your Steam gaming experience. But a premium VPN is different.

And we can’t think of a more trustworthy VPN solution that Private Internet Access.

You can use it to secure your network connection while playing on Steam and bypass throttling if your ISP blocks Steam traffic.

Moreover, PIA supports split tunneling. If you’re having any sort of network issues on Steam due to VPN, you can set up split tunneling mode to reroute all network traffic through VPN, except for Steam.

As a result, you will be able to navigate the web and download torrents securely, access censored content, and unblock Netflix US anywhere else in the world, while playing games on Steam outside of the VPN tunnel.

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  • +22,500 VPN and proxy servers in 98 locations and 77 countries
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Conclusion

To summarize, you can fix the Steam Preparing to launch loop on Windows 10 by updating your graphics card, audio drivers, DirectX, Steam, and operating system.

If that doesn’t work, make sure to verify the integrity of the game files, reinstall Steam, change your DNS servers, disable your free VPN, and use a premium VPN solution that won’t sabotage you.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in April 2019 and was revamped and updated in December 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.