Why it matters: Consoles have been able to transfer games from machine to machine over local networks for a while. Hints that Valve would give Steam similar functionality first emerged last fall, and now it’s available in the client’s beta.
A recent Steam client beta update added the ability to transfer games between systems over Local Area Network (LAN). The feature could save time and internet bandwidth for those using Steam on multiple devices, ensuring they only need to download games once.
Steam can perform peer-to-peer transfers between two PCs or from a PC to a Steam Deck. When a user installs a game or update, Steam will check if other computers logged onto the service on the same network have that content installed. It will automatically copy the game via LAN instead of downloading if it finds one.
New Steam Deck owners with PCs full of Steam games can now save internet bandwidth by transferring games over LAN instead of downloading them. It could also help developers or other companies dealing with game content more quickly and easily copy files between systems.
Valve says LAN transfer speeds can reach 100MB/s, which is faster than downloading for anyone who doesn’t have gigabit fiber. The process is quicker and easier than the only other method of moving games between PCs – backing them up on external media.
Users can toggle the feature and control who receives game transfers under Settings > Downloads > Game File Transfer over Local Network. They can tell Steam to only transfer between systems logged into their accounts, allow friends to receive transfers, or allow anyone.
Steam can’t download other content or play a game during LAN transfers because the process can occupy significant CPU and disk cycles. Furthermore, Steam only copies game content, not saves, configuration files, or Workshop mods. The process only runs in Steam desktop mode on the host PC. It won’t work using a custom launcher or in Big Picture mode.
SteamDB creator Pavel Djundik discovered code indicating Valve’s work on Steam LAN transfers in October when he tested the functionality between a PC and a Macbook. Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles allow copying games and apps wirelessly between devices. The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 include a feature that copies all installed games in bulk from console to console over wireless or wired LAN, but only during setup.