Steam Library Sharing

Being tested in the beta stage for months, Steam has finally launched Steam Family Sharing for everyone. You can easily share your library game files with your friends and family. You can also set the limitations of the system during the process.

What is Steam Family Sharing?

Steam Family Sharing is a new feature launched by Valve. It is readily available in the Steam client for everyone. It allows you to share your personal games library (the games which you have purchased/downloaded from the Steam store) with your friends and family.

There was a lot of confusion and misconception over what exactly is this feature in the beta test. Even after release, there are a ton of misconceptions still in the minds of the users. Let’s clear these up.

Steam Family Sharing doesn’t allow you to purchase one copy of the game and then share it with all of your friends. For example, you can’t purchase one game of Tomb Raider and then share it with everyone. You can’t play multiplayer using this.

So what exactly is the purpose of Steam Family Sharing? You can share your entire Steam Library (all the games) with up to 5 other Steam accounts and up to 10 other devices which are authorized on the Steam network. The reason why would you do this? Unlike letting your spouse or your roommate open your computer and play the game every time they want to, Steam Family Sharing ensures that they can play this game on their PC while also not losing access to their own games in their own library. They will also be keeping track of their own achievements in the game.

This system also has its limitation. You can’t share one game only. You have to share your entire library. Furthermore, only one device can access the game at a time so you can’t distribute these to your friends with all of them playing a single game at one instant. The account owner is always given preference. Meaning if you shared your library with a friend, you will be given preference to play rather than him.

While it is absolutely understanding to restrict the access to a single game, you can’t also access your own library while someone else is playing a game from it. Only one device can access the library at one time. It’s really frustrating that you can’t play a game like Dota while your child is playing portal on his laptop. During the beta testing, there were many loopholes present which allowed you to access libraries simultaneously using the offline mode. But after the release of the official version, the trick doesn’t work anymore.

Family Options and Family Sharing also doesn’t work well together. Of course, you can apply the restrictions game-by-game to that account but there is no method to restrict the games contained in the library you are sharing. Family Sharing shares all of your libraries in an all or nothing fashion. This can prove to be problematic that you can’t use the tools of parental control found in the family options to lock inappropriate games which you don’t want other to play from your library.

Enabling Steam Family Sharing

Setting up Steam Family Sharing is very easy. In order to set it, you have to get access to both the accounts and computers. You don’t need the password of the account you need to share your library on, you just need them to log in.

  1. Open the computer you want to share your library on. Launch the Steam client have the person login at least once. After he has logged in, ask him to log out. This ensures that the person has logged in at least once so his name comes in the potential list of Steam usernames which whom you can share your library with.
  2. Now log out of the person’s account and log in using your own account’s credentials. Once logged in, navigate to the Settings by pressing the Steam button present at the top left side of the screen.
  3. When in the Settings, navigate to the Family tab present at the left side of the screen.
  4. Once here, you will see the Family Library Sharing. Click on the option of “Authorize Library Sharing on this Computer button” to authorize this computer to access your Library game files. After you have authorized the computer, you can check up to a maximum of 5 accounts.
  5. Now log out of your account by clicking Steam and selecting Change User.

Now the person will not only his own games but also your games. The person is free to play these games as if he owned them originally. He can even track his achievements.

The only time it will be apparent that the person is using Library Share is when the original user logs into his Steam account and begins to play a game. A small notification will pop up on the lower left side of the screen stating that the primary user is requesting access to the library files and they have a few minutes to save their progress and exit the game.

When in the main menu, the person will see the following entry instead of the normal play option of the game.

Reversing access to Library

  1. Navigate to the Settings by pressing the Steam button present at the top left side of the screen.
  2. When in the Settings, navigate to the Family tab present at the left side of the screen.
  3. Here you will see an option of Manage Other Computers. Once you get here, you can easily revoke the access of another Steam user accessing your Library. Click on the Revoke option and the computer will be revoked successfully.

Do note that if you revoke, sometimes you may have to start the procedure of adding the computer as a Library Sharer from scratch. Furthermore, Library sharing will never hinder your game progress now change any of your keys or game play.


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.
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Steam Library Sharing

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