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How to disable automatic game updates in Steam

Games update over time. The update may add more features, new maps, or they might fix bugs, or add anti-cheat/anti-hack protection to the game. These updates are often necessary but they can also interrupt gameplay if they turn out to be buggy.

By default, Steam not only updates itself but also all the games that are installed. It does this in the background so you don’t have to run a game for Steam to check for and install its updates. 

Automatic game updates in Steam

Automatic updates are generally a good thing for games but if you own a game that tends to have botched updates, or you’re trying to avoid an update, you can disable automatic game updates in Steam. 

Disable automatic game updates

There is no option to disable game updates for a game in Steam. In order to keep a certain game from updating, you have to change when it updates and pause the updates before they’re downloaded and installed.

  1. Open the Steam app.
  2. Go to Library.
  3. Right-click a game and select Properties from the context menu.

  1. On the Properties window, go to the Updates tab.
  2. Open the Automatic updates dropdown.
  3. Select Only update this game when I launch it.
  4. Click Close.

  1. Return to the Steam client.
  2. Click Steam>Settings.
  3. Go to the Downloads tab.
  4. In the Download Restrictions section, select a narrow time frame (1 hour) when you know your system is normally turned off or asleep.
  5. Finally, Enable the ‘Limit bandwidth to” option and set a low limit.
  6. Click Ok.

How this works

Steam doesn’t disable game downloads so what the above steps do is;

  • They keep games from updating unless the game is launched which is a user-triggered action. 
  • The time-frame when Steam is allowed to download an update is small so chances are it can never download an update.
  • The bandwidth is limited so the update will take longer to download allowing you to pause it before it completes.

Side-effects

This method does have side-effects. Apart from the one-game specific setting, the downloads’ settings will apply to all games which means games that you do want to keep up to date will also be impacted. It’s up to you to be proactive about canceling or pausing updates to a game when you’re updating other games.

Conclusion

Steam has to keep games up to date for various reasons, anti-hack and anti-cheating updates being one of the more important ones. Game development companies may also need to push an update from time-to-time and if Steam gives users an off switch, developers may look for other ways to restrict play when a game isn’t up to date.

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