How to Share Games On Steam

Spread the gaming wealth around

Father and son playing video games at home, laughing
Steam Family Library Sharing lets you borrow games from friends and family that you don't own.

Steam offers thousands of games for PC, Mac, and Linux. Now, with Steam's Family Sharing feature, you can extend your game library, allowing your friends and family members to play your games, and you can play theirs. Each player earns their own Steam achievements, and each player's game progress is saved in the Steam Cloud. Not all Steam games are accessible with Family Sharing. Here's a list of the limits to Family Sharing: 

  • Games that require a subscription to play or need an additional third-party key/account
  • Games that require special downloadable content (DLC)/free-to-play games 
  • Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) is an automated system designed to detect cheats installed on computers. If your account has a VAC ban, you will not be able to share VAC protected games.

Once you've activated sharing, your library can only be played by one user at a time. This number includes you, as the owner. You will always have priority over anyone who is borrowing the game from your library. If one of your games is in use when you are ready the play, the other player will receive a warning message to either quit or purchase the game. 

To start sharing, you'll need to enable your Steam account with a few quick, easy-to-follow steps. Here's how to get started so that you can start sharing Steam. 

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Get Started with Family Sharing by Activating Steam Guard

Steam Screenshot of Steam's Account Security Page to enable Steam Guard
Enable Steam Guard to ensure your account is secure before enabling Family Sharing.

To start, log into your Steam account on the computer where you'd like to share your games. If you haven't already enabled Steam Guard security, you'll need to complete this step before you can start sharing. Do this by going to Steam > Settings > Account in the Steam Client.

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Authorize Your Computer and Accounts to Share

Screenshot of Steam Account Security page, with a circle highlighting Managing Family Library Sharing Family Settings; and Family View is disabled with an arrow showing that Family View is disabled
Manage Family Sharing is under the Account Security Menu.

Enable Family Library Sharing in your account settings. Find this at  Steam > Settings > Account in the Steam Client. Then enable the sharing feature via Settings >  Family Library Sharing.

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Selecting Accounts To Share

Screenshot of Steam's Family Library Sharing Setting page, with Family View Sharing options
You can control which accounts you'd like to enable Family Sharing.

Shared games are only available on computers that are authorized by the account owner. In the Family Settings section, authorize both the computer and any accounts for sharing

You can share your Library with up to ten devices at a time, and up to five accounts. You can also authorize which specific computers and users to share.

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Getting Access to Someone Else's Games

Screenshot of Steam Library showing available games to play through Family Sharing
See games owned by other Steam accounts.

Once enabled, you'll be able to see your friends and family's games in your Library. At the same time, they will see your games in their Library.

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Games that Require Downloadable Content (DLC)

When a guest is playing one of your games that requires access to your DLC, Steam will grant the guest access only if the player does not already own the base game. Players cannot purchase DLC for any base game they do not own. Players can acquire in-game purchases, trades, and earnings while playing, but these in-game purchases will remain the property of the account that purchased or acquired them. Earned items cannot be shared between accounts.

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Requesting Access to Play: One Library At A Time

Screenshot of Steam option to request access to play games
Request Access to a game.

If you'd like to play a game in someone else's library, select the game and click Play to see the account owner of the game and to request access to their Library.

Requesting access triggers an email from Steam that goes to the game owner with a link for them to click. Once the owner clicks, you will be able to play games in their Library.

If you receive an email with a link requesting access for someone to play your game, simply click the link to allow access. 

If you decide to play one of your games, but it is already being used by another user, just start playing the game. Then, the other player will see a message warning them that they have five minutes to either purchase or quit the game. 

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Family Sharing Can Be Turned Off At Any Time

To stop sharing, log into the Steam client and visit the Family tab in Settings, where you'll find a button to Manage Other Computers, where you can deauthorize any computer or account.

You can also deselect any account from the list of authorized users to keep them from accessing your games.

A Word of Caution about Family Sharing

If a borrower is caught cheating or committing fraud while playing your shared games, Steam may revoke your Family Sharing privileges. Contact Steam Support if you have concerns.