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Steam on a pen drive?

Now there’s a thought, but you may ask why, or be concerned about how practical it may be, well…

Having your Steam install on a pen drive means that it’s portable, meaning that you can plug it in to any computer you like. Yes that’s right, any computer, be it in your house or a friend’s house. Of course this means you can play any of the Games you own anywhere you like. It’s also fine to have more than one copy of your Steam Library too, one on your own computer and one on a pen drive.

And the best part is there’s no new install to do and no setup or configuration, it just works (promise, I’ve been doing if for ages)! 😉

But to make the whole thing run that little smoother and dare I say faster (and faster’s always good, right!?) you should consider what pen drive you use. Here we have one of the best, a Kingston HyperX DataTraveler 128GB USB 3.0 drive.

Kingston HyperX DataTraveler 128GB

This drive is on average twice as fast as a modern HDD, the HyperX drive features a fast READ (225MB/s) and a fast WRITE (135MB/s) speed, meaning that not only is your Steam setup now portable but it’s faster too!

BEFORE YOU START: As some of the newer games now feature files bigger than 4GB (yes that’s you TitanFall) you should re-format the drive using NTFS. Just simply Right Click the drive you want to format (please make sure you select your pen drive!), select Format and choose the NTFS option within, leave all other options at their default setting. Then click Start…

So what do you need to do to setup steam on a pen drive? There are three ways that you can start, either:

(1) Copy your Steam Directory and ALL of its contents to the pen drive. Obviously for this to work you want to make sure you have enough available space on the pen drive. Also you don’t want to fill the pen drive to the limit as performance begins to degrade. Try and always leave around 10% free space.

(2) If you don’t have the space on the pen drive, you could chop down the Game Data via Steam (using the Delete Local Content option), but to be fair this is probably not the best approach, as your Games are effectively deleted. But if your internet connection is really slow and or you want to transfer a lot of games this still could be the best approach…

(3) The cleanest and to some degree the simplest option is to just download the Steam Client installer and install it directly to the pen drive.


By the time you are at this point you should have Steam installed on your pen drive, either with some Games in place or not.

THE TRICK NOW is to make sure that when you want to run Steam (you don’t run it from your PC) all you do is browse to the Steam folder on the pen drive and locate the Steam Application executable and run it!



You may get a Error that says Something like Steam is not configured correctly, just accept this and press OK and Steam (clever that it is) will just re-configure itself. Login with your Steam Username and Password as per usual an voilà!

NOTE: You can only login to Steam once on any system anywhere, if you are logged in elsewhere you will be notified by Steam and have the option to effectively log the other account out and continue to login yourself.

From this point on you’ll be running everything from the pen drive, all installs will take place here and all un-installs. You’ll also now begin to appreciate the speed increase that this should give assuming that your using a drive like the Kingston HyperX DataTraveler 128GB USB 3.0 (shown above).

You can now also remove your pen drive take it to a friend’s house and follow the same routine as above. Just make sure you run the Application from the pen drive, no need to re-install Steam!
Just in case you were thinking of doing something you shouldn’t, this only works for YOUR Steam account, you cannot transfer Games to any other Steam account as that would obviously be prohibited… 😉

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  1. Daniel
    April 3rd, 2014 at 02:18 | #1

    Steam now lets users log into multiple machines at once. It’s how they let you do in-home streaming. You still can only be playing games on one machine at a time, but at least now you can see your friends and library from anywhere without having to log in and out constantly.

    • James
      April 3rd, 2014 at 09:37 | #2

      If I try and do this (log onto to Steam on another PC at the same time as logged in elsewhere), the original login is logged out and Steam states the following:

      Steam – Logged In Elsewhere: Your account is currently in use at another machine. You’ll need to shut down Steam on your other computer in order to log in here.

  2. RaiGriffioen
    July 23rd, 2015 at 07:04 | #3

    One question.
    If I would buy that USB 3.0 stick wil it stil be as fast on computers that dont support USB 3.0?

    • James
      July 23rd, 2015 at 14:36 | #4

      No, unfortunately it would not be as fast. But it still will work. You can still run Steam on a USB 2.0 pen drive, it just wont be as fast…

  3. golyalpha
    November 13th, 2015 at 10:58 | #5

    Unfortuantelly, steam now forces you to reconfigure OS instead of just reconfiguring itself, so you get a warning saying that your OS is not configured correctly and get presented with UAC if you are on Win7 or newer… If you say no, steam just does not run.

    • James
      November 13th, 2015 at 14:24 | #6

      If you say yes though, it will reconfigure itself quite happily…


  4. Schröder
    November 22nd, 2015 at 16:11 | #7

    with the USB 2.0 Stick you can transfair the Folder to the other PC where you would like to play it I think. dont need to install it on the computer you want only copy and after playing can be removed.

    It is a good idea with the Stick, I think it must be work with a USB HDD also. But mostly they are not fast enough, an SSD are better than HDD I think, if possible with eSata 3.

  5. Fotkurz
    April 10th, 2016 at 21:28 | #8

    I didn’t worked for me, steam asks for elevated privileges, which I don’t have since I’m running from my work’s computer… Any help?

    • James
      April 11th, 2016 at 07:11 | #9

      You’ll need to run Steam as an Administrator to get the correct privileges, right click and select Run as Administrator.

      Hope that helps

  6. Tom
    September 8th, 2016 at 07:19 | #10

    When i try to run it it says “Unable to load SteamUI.dll” or some crap like that. Any fixes? I’ve already tried more than 5 times, and re-imbedded it from my other computer. Help?

    • James
      September 8th, 2016 at 09:26 | #11

      I have not seen that error before, as long as you’ve copied (in its entirety) the Steam Folder from your existing system to the pen drive is should just work. As long as you’re running the Steam.exe from the pen drive that is. There also needs to be space on the drive for the application to function.

      Hope this helps….

  7. sam griffiths
    February 14th, 2017 at 09:39 | #12

    quick one I have a new pc but not a proper internet connection so if I downloaded my steam games onto my laptop then on to a external hdd or usb stick I could then transfer them over to my pc or not?

    • James
      February 15th, 2017 at 17:43 | #13

      Yes that would achieve the same thing. Just remember as long as you have the original Steam folder from any PC the whole folder inc Games can be transferred as a whole. Just run Steam from the new folder and login as usual, if there are any issues Steam will simply reconfigure itself…


  8. Anthony Collis
    June 7th, 2017 at 19:29 | #14

    I have put Steam on to my pen drive. However, when I try to run it the ‘updating steam’ box pops up and stays indefinitely… Any idea why this is happening?

    • James
      June 7th, 2017 at 20:54 | #15

      Is there plenty of room on the pen drive and do you have administrator privileges? It could be that…