The Steam client has a built-in backup and restore feature. You can use it to back up your existing Steam library and restore your game files from the backup.
You can also create a backup of the game installation folder manually and restore it after doing a clean install. However, after a clean install or restart, Steam may not recognize your installed games and may ask you to reinstall the apps.
This is a recurring problem reported on both Windows 11 and 10 computers. Fortunately, you can force Steam to find your game from the installation directory with a little tweaking. Here’s how to get Steam to recognize the games you’ve installed on your PC.
Why doesn’t Steam recognize my installed games?
Steam may fail to recognize the installed game if you’ve changed the default Steam folder. In other instances, sudden Steam client shutdowns and missing .acf files for games are common contributors to this problem.
Here are a few things you can try to get Steam to recognize your installed games and save you time and data downloading the game again.
1. Reinstall Steam Games Without Downloading
According to Steam, if the Steam client fails to recognize the installation files, some games may not install. Provided that you have the game folder in the correct location, you can start the download process. This will force Steam to recognize the existing installation files without having to re-download all the files.
Note that this requires you to be signed in to your Steam account. If you struggle to log in, explore our troubleshooting guide to fix Steam issue.
Next, make sure you’re out of the family scene. To do so, click on the Family View icon in the top right corner of the screen and enter your PIN to exit Family View.
Next, open the Library tab in the top left corner. It lists all the games that you have and installed on your PC.
As soon as Steam begins to install the game, it will likely recognize the existing files and complete the installation without re-downloading the game files.
2. Add Alternate Installation Location
You can change the default Steam game download location to save large games to a different drive or partition. If you have transferred your Steam games before, Steam will not be able to find the game files and will show them as uninstalled. To fix this, add an alternate game folder to the Steam client using the Steam Manager.
Steam will look for the files in the newly added folder and show them in your Steam library. If the game doesn’t appear right away, relaunch the app and check your Steam library.
3. Manage .acf Files for Steam Games
.acf files in Steam are used to store data and configuration cache. Basically, each .acf file has a unique appid (App ID) and stores game information such as install and DLC download states, buildid (build ID), and other user preference information.
If the .acf file associated with a Steam game is missing or corrupted, Steam may fail to recognize the installed game. To fix this problem, you can move the existing .acf files out and back them up again, forcing Steam to recognize the installed game. Before you begin, check if you have enough space to install the Steam game.
If you changed the default Steam installation folder, navigate to the appropriate directory.
Inside the SteamApps folder, locate the .acf file associated with the affected Steam game. For example, the .acf file for the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is appmanifest_730.acf. 730 is the appid (app id) for this game. Similarly, all sports have different appid. You can find the appid for all steam games on steamdb.info.
Launch Steam app and resume update/download. Steam will find existing game files and show your game in the Steam library.
Making Steam Recognize Installed Games
Installed Steam games often become unavailable or get uninstalled after a Steam reinstallation. You can fix this problem by pointing Steam to the proper alternate installation directory, or by starting a reinstallation to force Steam to recognize the game. If the problem is due to a corrupted .acf configuration file, you can restore the missing file with a slight change to the Steam library and installation directory.