How to block Steam from updating games automatically

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 11, 2019

Valve's Steam platform client will update any installed game or application automatically by default. If there is a network connection when you start Steam or Steam is running, updates will be installed if available.

While that is the desirable option for most users, as game updates may introduce bug fixes, new features, performance improvements, and other beneficial changes, some Steam users may prefer to be in control of the updating process.

There are several reasons for wanting to be in control:

  • To avoid that bandwidth is wasted when games are updated that you don't plan to play in the near future.
  • When game updates are known to introduce issues or unwanted changes.
  • When the bandwidth is required for other operations.
  • When the device is connected to a fast or unlimited Internet connection only sometimes.

Recent versions of Steam block automatic downloads of updates or game files when a game is started. It is possible to disable that in the Steam settings so that downloads continue while games are being played.

There is one caveat to blocking automatic Steam game updates as some games may not work properly or at all if they are not up to date; this is the case for most multiplayer games but some single player games may also not work correctly, especially if they require an online connection.

Tip: find out how to change Steam privacy settings.

How to control Steam Auto Updates

First the bad news: the Steam client offers no setting to turn of automatic updates for all games. While that sounds bad, especially if you have hundreds of games in your library, it is not really that problematic as you may want to change auto-update behavior for installed games only anyway.

Still, there is an option to limit automatic updates to a specific time of the day.

Option 1: Limit automatic updates on Steam globally

steam-manage-limit automatic game updates

The first option enables download restrictions for automatic updates. To access the option, select View > Settings > Downloads in the Steam client.

There you find an option to limit auto-updates of games to a specific time. Just check "Only auto-update games between" and select a 1 hour interval, preferably at night.

Steam will update games only in the selected period and not otherwise. The "limit bandwidth to" option may sound useful as well but it impacts all downloads on Steam, not just automatic game updates.

Option 2: Disable automatic updates for individual Steam games

steam limit auto updates individual games

A right-click on any game in the Steam library and the selection of properties opens the game's configuration page.

Switch to the Updates tab in the interface that opens. The first option on the page, automatic updates, controls the updating behavior of that game.

The default is "always keep this game up to date". A click on the menu displays the two additional states "Only update this game when I launch it" and "high priority - always auto-update this game before others".

Selecting the "only update.." option blocks automatic game updates unless you launch the game. The downside to this is that you may need to wait for an available update to download if you plan to play the game.

Option 3: the console, temporarily disable updates

The following option disables automatic updates for any installed game during a particular session. It requires that you open the console on Steam and run a command on it, and Steam should be offline while you run the commands.

  1. Type steam://open/console in any web browser on your system and accept the redirection to the Steam app; this should open the console on Steam.
  2. Type @AllowSkipGameUpdate 0
  3. Type @AllowSkipGameUpdate 1

Alternatively, go to your Steam program folder, e.g. c:\program files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\ and edit each acf file you find there (one for each installed game). Use Notepad or another plain text editor for that and edit the AllowSkipGameUpdate variable to 1 to block automatic updates.

Now You: do you run gaming clients on your systems?

How to block Steam from updating games automatically
Article Name
How to block Steam from updating games automatically
Find out how to block the Steam gaming client from updating games automatically when the client is run and updates are available.
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  1. Anonymous said on December 19, 2022 at 1:40 am

    Tried this just now, december 2022. The option does come up to skip the update, but clicking it doesnt do anything. Just sits there and the game still wont run.

  2. A-a-ron said on May 12, 2021 at 5:08 pm

    I just tried this method and set the same time for the ‘from’ and ‘to’ section, as it didn’t prevent me from doing so. Not sure it’s going to work but hopefully it might. I’ll try to remember to update this comment if it does.

  3. Furyous D said on August 15, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    can u not do option 2 for all games at the same time? i dont want to have to go through all 400 (probably only have 200 actually downloaded atm though) odd games i own separately to turn updates to only update when i play a game that would take ages to do

  4. Critical Thinking said on April 1, 2020 at 10:12 am

    The Sad thing is Steam did NOT force updates until around 2015 sometime, before that there was a Global update option you could turn off to stop game updates for all your games, although to play them online you would need to get the update

    at the same time they removed the “Do Not Update Option” in each games specific Properties page on the Updates tab, which would stop updates for that game but still allow you to launch the version you currently had

    which they purposely removed so game Devs could do things like R* did with GTA5 by selling the game as a complete Steam version, then after the fact with no notice or warning updated everyones version to include a Social Club login that would let you play offline or without updates, then a few years later doing the same again but worse by forcing in the Rockstar Launcher and making users use a whole other launcher for no other reason than R*s own benefit

    we customers just have to stop taking it, cuz when they removed the Update options from Steam not many ppl complained and said things like “ehhh its not a big deal, theres no reason you should need to stop updates” or “other ppl would complain their game doesnt work and waste support workers time to find out they turned off updates”, which was complete BS but nobody complained

    and even now ppl are complaining like Steam never had these options but they did and already removed them ( -_-) lol c’mon ppl get with the program this has been happening since 2012-2015 sometime, installing a game from Steam should be the same as installing a game on Disc you bought from the store, just it always installs them all into the same Folder Directory, instead of back in the day when they all had their own, you should also be able to just double click the .exe file to launch the game outside of Steam, but they have changed this in the last few years as well. . .

    and lets just ignore all this should be a legal requirement for Digital Goods Platforms, where they have to have an option to not update your Game Product you bought and it not be changed for whatever reason you want as the liscense owning customer, just like Online games should be forced to release the Dedicated Server version of their game to all customers, so if they shut down online at some point customers and server hosting communities can run servers for each other and keep making use of their game product. . . the biggest problem is Video Games are so new that nobody thinks of them the same as any other product thats made and sold like movies or a board game etc. so they dont apply the same laws to it

  5. David Digby said on January 24, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Ditto what everyone else said. I have City Skylines with a thousand mods and CC. EVerytime there’s an update, it breaks half my CC and mods don’t work. DO NOT force an update on me!! Will boycott Steam and every game associated with it until they change this. Period!

  6. JakVel said on November 12, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    No Steam for me. Way to much interference, in particular by SteamVR which popped-up everytime i wanted to lauch a game when my own VR software didn’t ran (i always start this manually when i need it). No option to turn this off (although there are a few which you can untick like “Start SteamVR when app starts” but that didn’t do anything. Unable to prevent SteamVR from running. After uninstall of the entire Steam crap still quite some leftovers in the registry. removed averyhting i could find manuelly but still Windows offers the option to show Steam + SteamVR icons in the tray.

  7. Stadia curious casual gamer said on November 12, 2019 at 12:38 am

    Steam should rework how it updates both the Steam client and games.

    I don’t run Steam very often and when I do it is 99% of the time only to play a game I already have installed. This means that very often Steam first forces client updates and other online checks that I’ll have to needlessly wait for before I can play the game. Annoying!

    Steam should background updates. Wait with the update until the PC is idle or only uses light CPU/GPU/memory resources and then do all the updating in the background. Let users opt in/out to popups about completed client updates.

    I really hope Google’s Stadia will force Steam to improve and polish their gaming experience.

    BTW another easy fix Steam devs could do is to let users completely disable the spammy rewards/awards/collector cards/whatever that Steam shows popups about during games and nag about in notifications in the Steam inbox.

  8. John Fenderson said on November 11, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    “do you run gaming clients on your systems?”

    No, I don’t. I don’t really trust them.

  9. stefann said on November 11, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    I use the illegal “SmartSteam” to bypass all online crap. Game servers the game connects to is blocked in the HOSTS and a third party firewall. SmartSteam launchers are ofcourse also blocked in a third party firewall. If a game has any spyware linked (as many have) it is best being blocked in both the firewall and the HOSTS. NO, i never play online. I don’t trust any game manufacturer of today.

  10. Dave said on November 11, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    You can add the -console to your steam shortcut and “console” will show up in the drop down list.

    “D:\Steam\Steam.exe -console”.

    Some games allow you to run older versions, SotTR for instance. Get into the Beta tab and select the version you want to use and it won’t update anymore.

    You can set steam to be offline (though that’s a lie, it will still be online) and then block it in the firewall. You must use a third party firewall, or WFC though, the built in windows firewall will automatically make a new allow rule for Steam and ignore yout block rule because it is ‘Trusted’. (Has paid M$ for this feature).

    Or you can download a crack for your game and play it without even opening steam at all. I wouldn’t reccomend this last option unless you already know how to tip toe around the dark places without getting haked or infected.

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