How to Fix It When You Can't Connect to Steam

What to do when you get a pesky network error

A person gaming on a PC.

Public Domain/CC BY 2.0/Pxhere 

You have your favorite beverage and gaming snack in hand. Now it’s time to log into Steam to get your game on, but you can’t connect. If you can’t connect to Steam and are getting annoying network errors, there are several troubleshooting steps you can try. Check out some tips and tricks below to get back online and playing your favorite Steam games.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Vista, 8, and 7.

Cause(s) of Network Errors

If you see the error message below, you are most likely dealing with a network or software issue. It could be anything from a Steam update to a network outage, to even corrupt Winsock entries.

The Steam can't connect to network error.

One element that is the least likley cause of you not being able to connect to Steam is a bad password. The Steam application will provide a different error for an incorrect password as shown below:

A bad password has been entered into Steam login.

How to Fix Steam Network Connection Errors

Most network issues are universal in applicable fixes. Whether you’re using Windows 10, Windows Vista, Windows 8, or Windows 7, most of these tricks will apply.

  1. Restart Your Steam Connection. If you receive the network connection error, you may need to restart Steam. To do this, in the Steam app select Steam > Go Online > Connect to the Internet > Restart Steam. When you receive the Can’t connect to Steam error, you’ll have the option to Retry Connection or Start in Offline Mode. If you select to Start in Offline Mode, you will be able to see your Steam interface and verify any settings before trying to reconnect.

  2. Check the Steam Server Status. Steam provides a handy website to give its customers a view of server traffic. By checking this site, you can see if Steam has any network or server outages.

  3. Restart Your PC. Although it may seem like an unlikely solution, rebooting your PC can clear up any driver issues, software crashes, or frozen applications. It’s also a simple way to reset your network settings.

  4. Interference From Background Apps. According to Steam, some applications such as anti-virus, anti-spyware, P2P apps, and even some VPN application can interfere with your Steam network connection. To test this possibility, temporarily disable Windows Defender and other security applications and try to connect with Steam again.

  5. Run Steam as an Admin. Running as an admin might sound like an odd fix, but on many occasions, an application requires elevated privileges to run properly. While you may have run Steam hundreds of times before normally, many users have stated that this simple solution fixed their Steam network errors.

  6. Router and Modem Issues. We’ve all experienced when your internet service seems to be flaking out or simply not working. Router or modem issues, whether it’s merely frozen or hasn’t refreshed it’s DHCP lease can be quickly resolved by rebooting the router, modem, or both.

  7. Disable Your Windows Firewall. While a great way to protect your PC and network from malware and potential hackers, Windows Firewall could be the culprit to your Steam connection error. Its purpose is to block out or prevent any threats from reaching your system. However, it isn’t smart enough to detect good traffic versus bad traffic. The firewall could be the very thing blocking the port that Steam needs to run on.

  8. Physical Network Connection. A quick and easy troubleshooting step for Steam network issues is to check the physical network cable. Make sure it is plugged in firmly to your PC and your modem (or router). It could be that moving your desk around, a mischievous pet or curious child has managed to unplug your network cable.

  9. Internet Connectivity. One of the first things that you can look at is your internet connection. Windows provides a quick visual if you are disconnected from the network. The quickest way to check connection status is by looking in your taskbar for a disconnected network symbol or a message that the network cable is unplugged. Depending on your version of Windows, the symbol will look slightly different, but the same basic idea shows an alert, exclamation, or even a red circle with a line drawn through. All of these indicate that you are not connected to the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide much more information than that, so you’ll need to look at further network troubleshooting steps to get it resolved. 

  10. ISP Experiencing Outages. Another factor related to your internet is if your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is experiencing technical difficulties. Most providers will have a status on their website that you can check on your smartphone.

  11. Download a New Driver. With most software, updates and patches are a fact of life. This applies to your network card as well. If you are experiencing Steam connection errors, you may need to update your network card device driver. Most manufacturers provide updated drivers on their websites. If there isn’t an updated driver, you may need to reinstall the current driver.

  12. Steam Client Updates. Another common cause and solution to network connection errors in Steam is the necessity to update your Steam client. Typically, Steam will check for updates after logging in, but in case it doesn’t, manually updating Steam is quick and easy. You can do this by selecting Steam > Check for Steam Client Updates.

    Steam confirming that the app is up to date.
  13. Try Another Protocol. Steam typically runs via the User Datagram Protocol (UDP). For troubleshooting, you can switch the Steam client to use TCP instead. It’s a great way to eliminate any issues with protocols. To do this, right-click on the Steam shortcut on your desktop and select Properties. In the Target field, add -tcp to the end of the path and select OK or Apply. This flag forces Steam to utilize TCP instead. 

    Using TCP could trigger some latency issues in Steam.

    Steam app desktop shortcut properties.
  14. Possible Winsock Issues. Winsock is responsible for allowing software to access the network. If you find Steam not connecting properly to the network, you may have a corrupt Winsock. You can try some 3rd party apps to resolve it or go through some other troubleshooting steps to fix Winsock.dll.

  15. Reset your TCP/IP Stack. If resetting your Winsock settings doesn’t help, you may also want to reset your TCP/IP stack. Often resetting both will clear up any network issues you may be having.

  16. Verify Open Ports. Steam requires several ports to be open on your router and/or firewall. Confirm these ports are open for Steam. If they aren’t, open them and restart Steam.

  17. Reinstall Steam. If all else fails, reinstalling the Steam app could help fix any corrupted files that are preventing you from connecting. It’s important to note that any games installed in the Steamapps folder will be deleted as well. So, if you don’t want to lose your games and progress, you’ll need to move the Steamapps folder elsewhere. You can find this folder in C:\Program Files\Steam. Just copy this folder to another location, then uninstall and reinstall the Steam application.

Not only will you remove any games but customized settings during uninstallation. Make sure to backup.