How to Fix the “steam_api.dll is Missing” Error When Launching Games?

The error “steam_api.dll is missing” commonly occurs when users try to launch games on Steam, leading to frustration as the program fails to start. This issue typically arises because the steam_api.dll file is either corrupted or missing from the game directory.

Other possible causes include incorrect installation of the game or the Steam client itself, which may require verification of game files or a fresh installation of Steam to resolve the problem.

It’s also worth noting that insufficient permission levels for game executables might prevent access to the steam_api.dll file, necessitating running the game as an administrator. Additionally, hardware limitations or configurations, such as insufficient disk space, have been implicated as potential culprits for the error, particularly when attempting to launch resource-intensive games like PAYDAY 2.

1. Restore steam_api.dll from Quarantine

Frequently, the steam_api.dll gets quarantined by Windows Defender or third-party antivirus software, restricting Steam’s access to it. If you’re using an authentic version of the game, you can restore steam_api.dll from Windows Defender or third-party antivirus by following these steps:

1.1 Windows Defender

  1. Press the Windows key and type Windows Security.
  2. Hit Enter to navigate to the Windows Security settings.
  3. Select Virus & Threat Protection.
  4. Click Protection History and then Quarantined Items from the top right bar.
  5. Restore the steam_api.dll file.
  6. Afterward, check if the error has been fixed.

1.2 Third-party Antivirus Software

Follow these general steps to restore a file from quarantine in third-party antivirus software, noting that specific actions may vary based on the software you’re using:

  1. Right-click the antivirus icon in the system tray and look for Quarantine.
  2. Select the steam_api.dll file, click the three dots, and choose Restore.
  3. After restoring, check if the missing error has been fixed.

2. Download the Steam_api.dll

Steam_api.dll can be downloaded from a reliable online source, should it ever become corrupted.

  1. Visit and search for Steam_api.dll.
  2. Click on the Steam_api.dll from the search results to proceed.
  3. Download the Steam_api.dll file.
  4. Extract the downloaded file using a tool like WinRar or 7zip.
  5. Navigate to the extracted folder and copy the DLL file.
  6. Go to the game’s installation directory and paste the DLL file there.
  7. If prompted to replace an existing file, click Replace the file in the destination.
  8. Finally, launch the game to see if the error is resolved.

3. Exclude the Game Folder from Antivirus Scans

Excluding a folder from antivirus scans tells the software to bypass it during system checks. This is applicable to all antivirus programs, whether it’s Windows Defender or a third-party option.

3.1 Windows Defender

  1. Open Settings by pressing Win + I.
  2. Select Privacy & Security from the left sidebar.
  3. Click on Windows Security.
  4. Choose Open Windows Security to continue.
  5. Select Virus & Threat Protection, then click Manage Settings under Virus & Threat Protection Settings.
  6. Scroll down to Exclusions and click Add or remove exclusions.
  7. Click Add an Exclusion and choose Folder.
  8. Navigate to and select the game folder.
  9. Click Select Folder to add it to the exclusions.
  10. Check for resolution of the error.

3.2 Third-Party Antivirus Software

  1. Navigate to your antivirus settings and locate Exception or Exclusion.
  2. Add the game’s installation folder to the exceptions or exclusions list.
  3. Once applied, check if the steam_api.dll missing error has been rectified.

4. Avoid Pirated Copy of Games

Cracked versions of applications often harbor malware within their files. Using cracked versions exposes users to risks. It is recommended to avoid cracked versions to prevent potential harm to your Windows system.

Downloading cracked versions inherently raises the risk of vulnerability. Unsigned individuals can alter game files and distribute them via their websites. Therefore, it’s advised to steer clear of such sources to ensure system security.

5. Turn off Windows Defender or Antivirus Software

If the issue persists, consider temporarily disabling your antivirus. This approach can prevent the antivirus from impeding the steam_api.dll file. If you have legitimately installed the game from Steam, temporarily disable Windows Defender or any third-party antivirus software you may have.

5.1 Disable Windows Defender

  1. Press the Win key and type Windows Security.
  2. Press Enter to open the Windows Security app.
  3. Select Virus & Threat Protection.
  4. Click on Manage Settings.
  5. Disable Real-time protection by toggling it off.
  6. Check if this resolves the error.

5.2 Disable Third-Party Antivirus Software

The steps below may be similar to what is required for your specific antivirus software:

  1. Right-click the antivirus icon in the system tray.
  2. Find the option such as Avast shields control or similar.
  3. Choose to Disable for 10 minutes or Disable Permanently as needed.
  4. Then, verify if the issue is fixed.

6. Reinstall the Game

If you’re using the official version of the game, reinstalling the game from Steam might resolve the issue.

  1. Press Win + R to open the Run dialog.
  2. Type appwiz.cpl in the search box and click OK to open the Control Panel’s Programs & Features.
  3. Uninstall the game by double-clicking on it.
  4. Once uninstalled, redownload and reinstall the game from Steam.
  5. After installing, check if the error has been rectified.

By following these methods correctly, you should resolve the issue. If the problem persists, consider reaching out to Steam support for assistance.


Hamza Mohammad Anwar

Hamza Mohammad Anwar is an intermediate JavaScript web developer with a focus on developing high-performance applications using MERN technologies. His skill set includes expertise in ReactJS, MongoDB, Express NodeJS, and other related technologies. Hamza is also a Google IT Certified professional, which highlights his competence in IT support. As an avid problem-solver, he recreates errors on his computer to troubleshoot and find solutions to various technical issues.