How to Fix the ‘Disconnected by VAC: You Cannot Play on Secure Servers’ Error on Windows?

The “Disconnected by VAC” error can appear while playing any game which uses the Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) engine which includes DOTA 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, etc. This error appears after you have been kicked from the server under an accusation of using a cheat.

Disconnected by VAC: You Cannot Play on Secure Servers

If haven’t been cheating and the error appears, you should consider checking out this article as it should help you get rid of the problem. The article contains methods other people found successful and we hope they will help you as well!

What Causes the “Disconnected by VAC: You Cannot Play on Secure Servers” Error on Windows?

This error message should appear only if you are using cheats while playing a game protected by VAC. However, this problem also affects users who are not cheating due to various causes. We have decided to list out these causes in a single article for you to check out!

  • Some game files are missing or corrupt – If something went wrong with your game files, the problem is bound to appear but you can always verify their integrity using Steam’s useful feature.
  • Your antivirus or firewall may be blocking Steam or the game – Antivirus and firewall tools are notorious for blocking harmless apps from running properly and you might have to add an exception for Steam inside your antivirus and Windows Firewall.
  • Old or faulty network adapter driver – Users have reported seeing this problem disappear after installing the latest network driver. On the other hand, other users only started to see this error after installing the latest driver.
  • PowerShell running – Even Steam support claimed that PowerShell running alongside the game can cause VAC to go crazy and you can only try ending the PowerShell process while in-game.
  • Data Execution Prevention – If your motherboard supports DEP, you should have it enabled on your computer to prevent being disconnected by VAC.

Solution 1: Verify the Integrity of Game Files

If you have purchased and installed the game via Steam, you have access to a great option which enabled you to check the game’s installation for missing or corrupt files and the utility will enable you to re-download and replace these files which can indeed solve many problems regarding the game, including this “Disconnected by VAC” problem. Make sure you try this out!

  1. Start Steam by double-clicking its icon on the Desktop or by searching for it in the Start menu. Head over to the Library tab in the Steam window by locating the Library tab at the top of the window, and locate the problematic game in the list of games you own in your library.
  2. Right-click on its entry and choose Properties. Navigate to the Local Files tab and click the Verify Integrity of Game Files.
Steam – Verify integrity of game files
  1. Wait for the tool to finish doing its thing and you should probably see that a couple of files may have been downloaded. Afterward, relaunch the game and check to see if you still encounter the “Disconnected by VAC: You cannot play on secure servers” error while playing!

Solution 2: Add the Steam Folder to Your Antivirus Exceptions List

Antivirus tools should not disturb the operations of normal, trustworthy programs such as Steam but they sometimes do that and that is a fact that has been going on for years now. This often occurs with free antivirus tools such as Avast or AVG but the problem can be resolved simply by adding Steam to the exceptions list, without needing to uninstall or change the antivirus you are using.

  1. Open the antivirus user interface by double-clicking on its icon at the system tray (right part of the taskbar at the bottom of the window) or by searching for it in the Start menu.
  2. The Exceptions or Exclusions setting is located in different spots for different antivirus tools. It can often be found simply without much hassle but here are some quick guides on how to find it in the most popular antivirus tools:
Kaspersky Internet Security: Home >> Settings >> Additional >> Threats and Exclusions >> Exclusions >> Specify Trusted Applications >> Add.
Adding exclusions in Kaspersky
Avast: Home >> Settings >> General >> Exclusions.
AVG: Home >> Settings >> Components >> Web Shield >> Exceptions.
AVG – Adding exceptions
  1. You will need to add Steam’s main folder in the box which will appear prompting you to navigate to the folder. It should be in the same directory where you installed it (C >> Program Files >> Steam is the usual location). If you have a shortcut on the desktop, right-click on it and choose Open file location.
  2. Check to see if you are now able to play the game without being disconnected by VAC. If it still won’t work, try restarting your computer and try again.

Solution 3: Update or Rollback Your Network Adapter Driver

The problem can often be caused by a driver issue, the network driver to be more specific. There are several scenarios which can occur regarding the network adapter driver. Some users have old, outdated drivers and the error appears with new games which require the latest drivers to be installed. In other scenarios, installing the latest driver causes the problem to appear. Either way, follow the instructions below for both methods!

  1. Open Start menu, type in “Device Manager” after it opens, and select it from the list of available results. You can also use the Windows Key + R key combo to bring up the Run Type in “devmgmt.msc” in the dialog box and click OK to run it.
Running Device Manager
  1. Since it’s the network adapter driver you want to update on your computer, expand the Network adapters section, right-click on the one you use to connect to the Internet and choose the Uninstall Device.
Uninstalling the network adapter
  1. Confirm any prompts which may ask you to confirm the uninstallation of the current network device driver and wait for the process to complete.
  2. Look for your network adapter driver on the manufacturer’s site. Input the required information about the device and your operating system and click on Search.
  3. A list of all available drivers should appear. Make sure you download the most recent one, click on its name and the Download button afterward. Save it to your computer, open it, and follow the instructions on-screen.
Installing the network driver
  1. Check to see if the problem has been resolved and if you are still being disconnected by VAC!

Alternative: Rollback the Driver

For the users for which the problem started to appear after they have installed the latest drivers for their network adapter, there is a different method they can use. It involves rolling back the driver.

This process will look for backup files of the driver which was installed before the most recent updates and that driver will be installed instead.

  1. First of all, you will need to uninstall the driver you currently have installed on your machine.
  2. Open Start menu, type in “Device Manager” after it opens, and select it from the list of available results. You can also use the Windows Key + R key combo to bring up the Run Type in “devmgmt.msc” in the dialog box and click OK to run it.
Running Device Manager
  1. Expand the “Network Adapters” section. This will display all network adapters that the machine has installed at the moment.
  2. Right-click the network adapter you want to rollback and select Properties. After the Properties window opens, navigate to the Driver tab and locate the Roll Back Driver
Rolling back the networking driver
  1. If the button is grayed out, it means that the device wasn’t updated recently or it has no backup files remembering the old driver.
  2. If the option is available to click on, do so and follow the instructions on-screen to proceed with the process.

Solution 4: End the Powershell Process While Playing

Official Steam Support posted a message saying that certain occurrences of the “Disconnected by VAC: You cannot play on secure servers” error are caused by Powershell running alongside the game. Disabling Powershell for good is not recommended because of its functionality but you can end its process while playing the game by following the steps below!

  1. Use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc key combination by pressing the keys at the same time to open the Task Manager utility.
  2. Alternatively, you can use the Ctrl + Alt + Del key combination and select Task Manager from the popup blue screen which will appear with several options. You can also search for it in the Start menu.
Opening Task Manager
  1. Click on More details at the bottom left part of the window to expand Task Manager and search for the Windows PowerShell It should be located right under Apps. Select it and choose the End task option from the lower right part of the window.
Ending the PowerShell task
  1. Check to see if the problem has been resolved and if you are still being disconnected by VAC!

Solution 5: Add an Exception for Steam Executables in Windows Firewall

The latest Steam update was reported to cause issues with Windows Defender Firewall. If you have Windows Defender running on your computer, you might want to add an exception for the Steam executable to make it run properly.

  1. Open up Control Panel by searching for the utility in the Start button or by clicking the Search button or the Cortana button at the left part of your taskbar (bottom left part of your screen).
  2. After Control Panel opens, change the view to Large or Small icons and navigate to the bottom to open the Windows Defender Firewall.
Windows Defender Firewall in Control Panel
  1. Click on Windows Defender Firewall and click on the Allow an app or feature through Windows Firewall option from the left side list of options. A list of installed apps should open. Check the bottom of the window for the Allow another app button. Under the Path section, select Browse.  Navigate to where you installed Steam (C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam by default), open the bin folder, and choose the SteamService.exe file.
Allowing the SteamService.exe in Windows Defender Firewall
  1. Click OK and restart your computer before checking whether the “Disconnected by VAC” problem persists!

 

Solution 6: Activate Data Execution Prevention (DEP) on Your Computer.

If your motherboard is capable of using DEP, you should try enabling it as many users claim that this was able to resolve the problem almost instantly on their computer. DEP is a set of technologies that perform additional memory checks to prevent malicious software from running on your computer. Enabling it definitely won’t do any harm so make sure you follow the steps below!

  1. Right-click on the This PC entry which can usually be found on your Desktop or in your File Explorer. Choose Properties.
This PC >> Properties
  1. Click on the “Advanced system settings” button at the right of the window and navigate to the Advanced Under the Performance section, click on Settings and navigate to the Data Execution Prevention tab of this window.
Enabling DEP
  1. Make sure the radio button is set to Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only. Apply the changes afterward, restart your computer, and check to see if the “Disconnected by VAC: You cannot play on secure servers” error appears while playing!
Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

Expert Tip

How to Fix the ‘Disconnected by VAC: You Cannot Play on Secure Servers’ Error on Windows?

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