Downloading and Activating Games with Steam

March 6, 2011, By Christian Cawley

If you’re a keen PC gamer and you’re not already using Steam, then you’re missing out on the most reliable DRM and digital download service around. Available for free, Steam provides top support for your games once purchased and downloaded, automatically applying patches and even installing upgrades for your video hardware!

The main purpose for Steam is in the purchasing and downloading of games or demos. Additional material available includes video trailers which can be viewed for free, while a huge community of gamers is also present for you to interact with while you play!

Downloading and Activating Games with Steam

While you might think it preferable to purchase and install games on disc (although it is of course more satisfying for many to be able to hold a physical game box) there are many good reasons to take advantage of Steam, such as downloading games and activating boxed titles that you have purchased.

Finding and Downloading Games on Steam

With Steam downloaded and installed you should have no trouble at all finding games to purchase in the Steam Store.

Pretty much every title that is currently available to buy in stores and from online gaming stores is available via Steam, along with a lot of indie titles; if the title isn’t there, it probably isn’t worth having.

With the title you want to purchase selected, take a look at its system requirements and screenshots – you might also opt to download a demo before purchasing – and when ready click Add to cart. You can then choose to Purchase for myself or Purchase as a gift, or you can Continue Shopping. It is also easy to Remove items from the cart, and you can even use Add to your wishlist when shopping to bookmark items for purchase later.

When you finally come to click the purchase button you will need to provide credit card payment details; PayPal is also an option.

Adding Your Own Games to Steam

Another way of managing games with Steam is to add your own games to the service. This is a particularly useful feature if you own a game that has had a few free updates (patches, etc.) released but which you have ignored.

To add a game you already own to Steam, click the + Add a game… link in the lower-left corner of the Steam application window. This can also be used for activating a game – for instance if you purchased Civilization V on disc, you could use + Add a game > Activate a product on Steam… to download the most recent version of that title and keep you disc safe, just by entering the game’s activation code.

Using + Add a game > Add a Non-Steam game… will allow you to add shortcuts to games into Steam, although this won’t add any particular benefit to older titles.

The Games Library, Media, Tools and Downloads

With games activated, downloaded and installed through Steam, you will be able to access them via the Library, where games, media clips, tools and current downloads can be checked.

The Games tab will allow you to check you status on the title, such as the amount of time played, any unlocked achievements and any news relevant to that title, while the Media tab displays any video clips that you have downloaded with Steam. The Tools tab displays a huge list of game server software that can be used in conjunction with Steam to run an online gaming session, and also look out for some SDKs for developing custom maps etc.

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