What is Steam Chat?

Connect with your pals on Steam

Man using Steam Chat on a gaming laptop

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Steam Chat is a free voice and text chat system that's built right into the Steam client. It combines some of the voice chat aspects of services like Skype and Teamspeak with the text chat functionality of instant messaging apps in a manner that's very similar to Discord.

There is no separate Steam Chat app, as it's included with Steam. Steam is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and all of those platforms have access to Steam Chat.

What is Steam Chat For?

Steam Chat represents Valve's efforts to modernize the communication tools and features that come with Steam. While Steam is primarily a marketplace where you can buy video games, and organize your video game library, it also allows you to connect with your friends so you can play games together.

A screenshot of Steam, Steam Chat, and the Steam Friends List.

Steam Chat is essentially a free alternative to paid voice chat services like TeamSpeak, Mumble, and Ventrillo. These services all provide voice over internet protocol (VoIP) communication that gamers can use to coordinate while in-game and keep in touch when they aren't playing.

It's also an alternative to Discord, which is a free voice and text chat service that has a lot of the same features as Steam Chat.

Steam Chat has two main features: text chat between individuals and groups, and voice chat between individuals and groups. Users can message each other individually, and also create Group Chats, which act a lot like Discord servers.

Group Chats can have multiple text channels to organize conversations about different topics, and multiple voice channels so that group members can focus on various different games, or just chat about anything, without all being lumped into the same channel.

The main benefit of Steam Chat is that Steam is the biggest online marketplace for games, so most gamers already have an account and have the application installed. Since Steam Chat is included with Steam, there's nothing extra to download or install.

How to Get Started With Steam Chat

Steam Chat is built into the Steam client, so there is no separate Steam Chat application. To use Steam Chat, you can either download the Steam client or log in through the Steam Community website to use the web-based client. You will also need a free Steam account and some friends to chat with.

Install Steam and login button on Steam website

Here's how to get started with Steam Chat:

  1. Navigate to steamcommunity.com.
  2. Click Join Steam and sign up for a Steam account if you don't already have one.
  3. Click Install Steam.
  4. Download the Steam application for your operating system, and install it.
  5. Launch Steam.
  6. Click the FRIENDS & CHAT button in the Steam client to access Steam Chat.

If you prefer to use the web client, that's even easier:

  1. Navigate to steamcommunity.com.
  2. Click Join Steam and sign up for a Steam account if you don't already have one.
  3. Click Sign In or Login.
  4. Enter your username and password, and click Sign in.
  5. Click your username in the menu bar.
  6. Click Send a Chat Message.
  7. The Steam Chat web client will launch.

If you're new to Steam, you will have to find and add your friends on the service before you can use Steam Chat.

Chatting With Individual Friends and Using Steam Voice Chat

Steam Chat was originally focused around instant message text communication with individual friends. This functionality is still present, and it's highly integrated into the larger Steam Chat experience.

Microphone icon in Steam interface

To start a chat with one of your friends:

  1. Click or tap the FRIENDS & CHAT button in the bottom right corner of the Steam app.
  2. Locate the friend you want to talk to on your friends list.
  3. Click the ˅ (down arrowhead) next to your friend's name.
  4. Click Send Message.
  5. Type your message into the text field, and press enter or click the (enter symbol) button.

Steam Chat only holds on to an archive of your text chat for two weeks. Each message that you send is automatically deleted two weeks after you send it. Do not rely on Steam Chat to store important information.

Once you're chatting with a friend, it's easy to start up a voice chat. Just click the icon in the bottom right corner of the chat window that looks like a microphone inside a speech bubble. This will send a voice chat invite to your friend, which they can click if they would like to talk to you.

A screenshot of an individual Steam Chat discussion window with voice chat active.

With Steam Chat, voice communication takes place right inside the same window that you use for text chat. With voice communication active, you will see a green bar at the top of the window that indicates you are currently connected to your friend.

While you are voice chatting, you can click the green microphone or headphones buttons to mute or deafen yourself.

If you click the microphone to mute yourself, your friend won't be able to hear you. If you click the headphones icon to deafen yourself, you won't be able to hear your friend. You can return things to normal by clicking the button again.

To end voice communication, just click the Stop Talking button.

Closing the chat window will not end the voice chat. You must click Stop Talking to end the voice chat. If you do close the chat window, the voice chat will still appear at the top of your friends list, and you can end it there.

How Steam Group Chats Work

Group Chats on Steam look a lot like individual chats, but you can have multiple people in one, and they persist even when everyone is offline. When you sign back in, you'll still be in the group, so these groups are a good way for gaming clans, guilds, fireteams, and communities to stay in contact.

A screenshot of a Group Chat on Steam Chat.

You can create a group chat at any time by inviting additional friends into an individual chat. The new group chat will be named after the people that are in it, but you can change that to a more creative name later on.

The other way to create a Group Chat is to click the + button in the Group Chats section of your friends list. This brings up a menu where you can set a name for your new Group Chat and invite specific friends to join.

Group Chats have all of the same basic functionality of regular chats. You can send text chat, insert inline images and media, and everything is stored for two weeks. Messages are deleted when they are two weeks old.

Microphone icon in lower right corner of Steam interface

Group Chats have a little more structure than regular chats, which is especially useful if you have a large group of friends or clan members that all want to keep in touch. Each group can have multiple text channels set up, so you can have specific places for both structured discussions and free-for-all general chat.

Group Chats also allow for multiple voice channels, which can be created and deleted at any time. To get started with a voice channel in your group chat, you just need to click the microphone icon in the bottom right corner of the Group Chat window.

Invite friend to Voice button, and Invite button in Steam

When you click the microphone icon in a Group Chat window, Steam will automatically create a voice channel for you. Members of the Group Chat can then join you by clicking on the channel, or you can send out invitations.

Here's how to invite people to your voice channel:

  1. Click the ˅ (down arrowhead) next to your voice channel.
  2. Copy the invitation link, and send it to your friends.
  3. Alternately, you can click your friends in the list provided and then click Invite.
  4. Your friends can then accept the invitation to join your voice channel.

When everyone leaves the voice channel, it will be deleted automatically. You can save a voice channel so that it persists in a permanent state, but only if you have permission to do so in the particular Group Chat that you're using.

Organizing Your Steam Chat Friends List

Your friends list is the heart of Steam Chat. It's where you can see who is online, and access all of your individual and group chats. You can click on any friend's name to send them a message, or see the last two weeks of chat history with them, or click on a Group Chat to open it.

Screenshots showing features of the Steam friends list.

Steam provides some valuable options that you can use to organize your friends list, which is extremely helpful if you have a lot of friends on the service.

By default, your friends that are currently playing games are always at the top of the list, and your friends who are online, but not in-game, are right below that. Friends are also grouped by the game that they're playing, so you can easily see if a bunch of your friends are all in a game that you might like to join in.

Saving Favorite Steam Friends

To make it easier to keep track of people you talk to a lot, you can click on any friend's avatar icon and drag it up into the space just below your own icon.

Your friend will stay there even if they're offline, so you'll always be able to see what your most important contacts are up to.

Easy Group Chat Access

Your Group Chats are also available at the bottom of your friends list. To change the amount of space devoted to this section, just click the Group Chats title bar and drag it up or down.

If you drag the Group Chats bar all the way up, you'll be able to see all of the Group Chats that you're currently a member of. To launch a Group Chat, all you have to do is click on it.

If you're currently in any Group Chat voice channels, that information is also available in this section of your friends list.

Keeping Track of Voice Chat

When you join a voice chat, and then close the chat window, the voice chat stays active. To help you keep track of exactly what voice chat you're in, this information is presented at the top of your friends list.

If you're in a voice chat with a friend, or connected to a Group Chat voice server, you'll see a green voice chat information bar near the top of your friends list. This bar includes buttons to mute your microphone, deafen your headset, and disconnect from the voice chat.