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Steam not opening? Here's how to fix it

Is your Steam client not opening? We're here to help.
December 18, 2023
Steam stock photo 7
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Steam is the most used and well-known PC gaming platform on the market. It has improved massively since its release back in 2003, but that doesn’t mean the app is not a bit finicky sometimes. When it happens, it’s understandably frustrating. So, if you have come across the dreaded problem of the Steam client not opening, we are here to help. Here are the common causes and fixes.

Note: This article will focus on solutions for Steam on Windows, since the app is mainly used on the Windows operating system. However, Mac users should know that OS updates can often break the game client, but only temporarily.

Check if Steam is down

Unofficial Steam status
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

If your Steam client doesn’t open or is stuck at the connecting phase, the most reasonable explanation for your issue is either an unstable connection or Steam being temporarily down. Open your browser and check if websites load, and if needed, restart your modem. Yes, we know this step sounds like a no-brainer, but you should do it before jumping onto complicated fixes.

To check if Steam is down, you can visit either the Unofficial Steam Status website or the aptly named Is Steam Down. Both websites are quite reliable, and the former can even give you information about the status of multiplayer game coordinators.

Finally, you should know that Steam briefly goes down for routine maintenance every Tuesday around 1 to 3 pm Pacific Time, so look at your calendar before panicking.

Check if you can locate Steam by alt-tabbing

Believe it or not, Steam sometimes gets lost among the crowd of windows (or offscreen) when you have a set-up with more than one or two monitors. This was the culprit responsible for “Steam not opening” in several Steam Community posts, so we felt it necessary to include it.

So, if you launch the Steam client on your Windows PC and it’s nowhere to be seen, press and hold Alt and Tab. You will see all programs that are currently open. If Steam is on the list, go to it and pay attention to see on which screen it pops up.

End Steam processes through the Task Manager

Steam task manager process
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Windows Task Manager always comes in handy. If you’ve used a Windows PC for a while, you probably know your way around, but if you are unfamiliar, here is what you need to do:

  • Right-click on your taskbar or press Control + Alt + Delete.
  • Select Task Manager. The processes should be in alphabetical order.
  • Find Steam, ensure you end all Steam processes, and then restart the program.

This is a simple fix but a surprisingly reliable one. You should also try restarting your PC if it is still not working.

Clear the Steam app cache

appcache Steam folder

You might have done this on your Android device when apps were causing you problems, but surprisingly you can do this with Steam on Windows too. Cache helps you launch applications faster, but sometimes it can “misremember” things, resulting in problems. Here’s how to do it:

  • Locate the appcache folder in your Steam directory.
  • If you installed the Steam client on your C: drive, this is where you will usually find it — C:Program Files (x86)Steam. The appcache folder should be on top if your folders are sorted alphabetically.
  • Just in case, copy and paste the app cache folder into a safe location.
  • Once you’ve done that, delete the original in the Steam directory.
  • All that’s left is to launch the client. A new appcache folder will be created automatically, and Steam should start with no issues.

Uninstall and reinstall Steam

Steam uninstall control panel
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

If none of the steps so far have worked, it’s time for a more drastic solution, but a tried and true one. Uninstalling Steam is as simple as going to the Control Panel, finding the program, and clicking Uninstall. You can also use the Settings app in Windows 10 and 11. However, there is a quick reinstall trick you can use.

Uninstalling is drastic, but there's a way to do it without having to download your whole game library all over again.

If you want to save some time and not painstakingly download every game in your library anew, here is what you need to do. Go to your Steam installation folder in Program Files and delete everything apart from Steam.exe and the steamapps and userdata folders. If your PC requests administrator permission, grant it and proceed with the deletion. Once it’s done, double-click Steam.exe and the app will reinstall.

If you still encounter problems, you can also check out Valve’s guide on manually removing Steam.

Make sure you are not running the Steam Beta Client

Steam Package folder Beta file

The beta client is more unstable, so it might cause you some trouble. If you are currently using it (or have in the past) and suspect it’s the culprit, there is a step you can take to remedy the issue.

  • Go to your Steam installation folder.
  • Select the folder “package.” The exact file path for most users will be C:Program Files (x86)Steampackage.
  • Find the file named beta and delete it. If this caused Steam not to open, you should be good to go the next time you launch the program. The beta file should appear on top if sorted alphabetically.

Check your network and restart your router

Mi Router 4A gigabit edition antennas up
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

We’ve covered all the issues related to Steam, but there is a chance the issue could be with your network. Check whether your PC is connected to the internet by loading a website in your browser, preferably an internet speed test.

If anything seems off, you can try restarting your router and starting Steam again by killing the process from Task Manager first. If the issue with your network doesn’t resolve soon, you may have to contact your ISP to get them on the case.

Restart your PC

Intel PC build fully assembled with more systems in the background

If the aforementioned fixes don’t seem to be working, there’s always the age-old solution that fixes many problems — try turning it off and on again. Restart your computer, and log back into it. Ensure your system is connected to the internet, and fire up Steam.

A system reboot should potentially fix any weird issues caused by an anomaly caused by some other software or hardware element unrelated to Steam itself.

Verify your VPN connection

While Steam generally works well with VPNs, there can be occasional issues. If you’re using a VPN, there may be occasions where you’ve consistently logged in from one location for years and then unexpectedly switch to another. Whether this is related to a security policy or not, if you are using a VPN or have recently installed one, consider temporarily disabling it for a moment (between 1-5 minutes) and then attempting to connect again. This step can help troubleshoot potential conflicts and facilitate a smoother experience.

Use System Restore

system restore location

Windows updates are notorious for breaking stuff. Did Steam stop working properly after a Windows update? Then you can roll it back with the help of System Restore. Windows will delete none of your files or games in the process.

  • Go to Control Panel.
  • Then in the upper right corner, select View Large Icons.
  • Find Recovery and click it.
  • Select and launch System Restore.
  • Press Next to find automatic restore points and select a date before the Windows update installation. The process is a bit long, but be patient and let it do its job. It fixes a surprising number of problems, not just Steam ones.

Turn off firewalls or antivirus software

Working from home with kids during Coronavirus lock down

Double-check to make sure a firewall or antivirus software is not blocking Steam. If it is, make sure to put Steam in exceptions or temporarily turn the firewall or antivirus off. You should also consider swapping your antivirus software for something less aggressive.

Before you do this, ensure the issue isn’t occurring due to any virus or malware infection. The chances are slim, but it’s a possibility. Update your antivirus definitions and run a check to be sure before you deactivate your protection.

Update your operating system

Windows update download & install
AA Update Team / Android Authority

Outdated operating system or driver versions may be causing issues with your Steam client. To address this, try updating your system and device drivers. Follow the instructions below to update your operating system:

  • Navigate to the search box and type “Updates.”
  • Click Check for update or Windows Update.
  • Once again, click Check for updates in the right pane. Windows 7 users can find Check for updates in the left pane of the Windows Update window. Your computer will undergo a check, and you may receive a list of system updates that need to be installed.
  • Click Download & install all.

Obscure fixes

Steam client registry blob

Did you try everything on this list, but Steam is still not opening? Here is an old solution on the Steam Community boards that seemed to do the trick for many users. As usual, head to the Steam directory/installation folder. Find a file named ClientRegistry.blob and rename it to ClientRegistryNew.blob. Restart Steam to allow the file to be recreated. That should solve your problem.

Contact Steam support

If you are at the end of your rope and nothing seems to fix your problem, it’s time to contact Steam Support. Although notorious in the past for relatively slow responses, this is no longer the case for Valve support staff. So head to Steam Help via this link and log into your Steam account.

Make sure you have your phone handy if you’ve enabled Steam Guard. When you are in, scroll down and select Steam Client, then select Client crashes, followed by Contact Support. Make sure to let them know what fixes you have already tried, and hope for the best.

These are our tips and tricks on how to solve Steam not opening. Did you find a solution amongst the fixes we listed? Let us know in the comments.