Steam gets Global Download Option

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 19, 2013

steam allow downloads during gameplay

Valve recently introduced a new feature to the Steam gaming client that enables you to download games, apps, or updates in the background while you are playing a game at the same time.

The new feature was welcome by the Steam community, as it did away with that long-standing issue.

While welcome, it was not really that easy to use in the beginning, as you had to Alt-Tab out of games to resume the downloads, before you could go back to the game to continue where you left of.

Some time later, the feature was improved, as you could now decide on a game-per-game basis whether you wanted to enable automatic updates or not.

If enabled, Steam would automatically download updates for the select games and apps regardless of whether you were in a game or not at that time.

Today's update to the Steam Beta client improves the feature further. Instead of having to configure the update handling on a game-per-game basis, you have now an option to define a global preference in the options.

Add global setting to allow downloads during gameplay, and change the per-app settings to be global/allow/deny.

To configure the new feature, do the following:

Note: You need the Steam Beta client for now to use the feature. It will be rolled out to the stable version of Steam sooner or later. If you want to join the Beta for now, do the following: Click View > Settings, and join the Steam Beta Update under Account.

  1. Select View > Settings from the Steam client menu.
  2. The settings window opens up.
  3. Switch to Downloads here and check the "Allow downloads during gameplay" option here.

The effect is that all game updates will be downloaded as soon as they become available, regardless of whether you are playing a game or not.

It is possible to override the feature for individual games. To do so, right-click on a game in your library and select Properties from the context menu.

steam background downloads

Switch to the Updates tab in the game's properties window, and select one of the following options under Background Downloads:

  • Follow my global setting (either allow or deny background downloads) depending on the preference in the Steam settings.
  • Always allow background downloads to have the game updated whenever updates become available, regardless of how the global preference is configured.
  • Never allow background downloads for the opposite effect.

Closing Words

The new feature provides Steam games with better control over how background updates are handled. Instead of having to juggle around in the client, or configure update behavior for individual games, you can now configure the behavior globally instead, great if you want updates to be downloaded directly for all games that you have installed.


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  1. imu said on December 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Martin,did you give SteamOS a try so folks can know what to expect after Xp disappears for now you can do beta but still, it might be good review right from under your hammer :)
    Check it if you will : hxxp://

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on December 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm

      Have not yet tried it, but it certainly sounds interesting.

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