Steam is the place for PC games, but some publishers don’t quite understand that. Between the Epic Games Store, DRM-free games, Uplay, Origin, and countless others, you need at least half a dozen apps to play the PC games you want. There’s a reason Steam is the go-to platform for PC gamers, though, and that’s its openness. Even if the game isn’t available on Steam, you can add it to your library and launch it through the same UI — particularly useful if you’re using Steam Big Picture. In this guide, we’re going to show you how to add external games to your Steam library.
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Add games with a code
When you buy games from third-party stores and services, such as Amazon, those games are often actually Steam games, and you can redeem them through Steam using a code provided by the seller. Codes are 12 characters long, and they’re pretty easy to use.
Fire up Steam and find the option to redeem a code
Once you’re in Steam, head to the top of the client and look for the Games menu at the top. Click on Activate a product on Steam. That’ll open up a new window; click Next, then agree to the Steam subscriber agreement. After that, you’ll finally come to the window where you can input your Steam key. Hit Next again to confirm it.
The next window will let you install the game on your computer immediately. You can also cancel at this step, which will add the game to your account but not immediately install it.
Add games from Humble Bundle
For years now, Humble Bundle has offered players a chance to get whole batches of games at once at some pretty low prices. Nearly all games you buy on Humble Store or through a Humble Bundle come in the form of Steam codes. That gives you two ways to get those games on your Steam accounts: Steam codes or linking your account. If you ever need to find codes at a later point, log in on the Humble website and click Library to see all the games you’ve purchased and their Steam codes.
Linking your Steam account sends games automatically from Humble to Steam when you purchase them, allowing you to skip the step of entering codes.
Link your Steam account to Humble
To link your Steam account, you’ll need to create or log in to an account on the Humble service. That’s doable at humblebundle.com. Once you’ve got your account set up and logged in, you’ll see your login email address in the top-right corner of the Humble website. Click it and go to Settings on the drop-down menu.
Log in to Steam
On the settings page, scroll to the bottom and look for a menu option that says Steam link. Click on the very obvious Click here and Humble will take you to a Steam login page. Enter your credentials and Humble will automatically associate the two accounts, allowing you to send the games you purchase on Humble straight to Steam.
Add non-Steam games from other services (such as GOG.com)
When you buy a game on a service other than Steam, such as GOG.com and Electronic Arts’ Origin platform, you’re getting it from a different location, so you don’t get things like the Steam overlay added to the game, or the ability to click that game and see what other products, like downloadable content, are available for it on Steam.
There is a workaround, however, that lets you get your non-Steam games into the Steam ecosystem, at least in a surface way. Steam allows you to add games purchased elsewhere into your Steam library, so you can use Steam to launch those games and access things like your Steam friends list when playing them. You still don’t get Steam features for the game, but it can make finding and playing games more convenient.
Here’s how to add a non-Steam game to Steam:
First, find the game on your computer
Before you start the process, you’ll save yourself time by figuring out where you installed the game you’re looking for on your computer. You’ll need the file pathway so you can direct Steam to find the game’s files.
Launch Steam and find the “Games” menu
At the top of the Steam interface, you’ll find a number of pull-down menus with a variety of options. You’re looking for the Games menu. Click it, then look for the bottom menu option, labeled Add a non-Steam game to my library.
That’ll pull up a separate window that will allow you to find the program you’re looking to add.
Select the program, or go hunt it down
Steam does a pretty good job of detecting installed programs on your system, so if you’ve installed the game already, there’s a strong chance it’ll be listed in the separate window. If it’s there, just click the box next to the game you want to add, then push the Add selected programs button.
If the game isn’t listed, you’ll need the file path to the game, which you should have already if you tracked it down earlier. Hit the Browse button at the bottom of the window and navigate to the game’s location on your computer. Find the executable and select it. That should add the game to the original window, and you can now hit the Add selected programs button on your Steam window.
Add a ROM
Digital Trends does not promote piracy, but that doesn’t stop many players out there on the internet from using software emulators and ROMs to play old games — and there’s a legal argument to be made for creating ROM copies of your own games, or downloading ROM copies of games you’ve legally purchased that you don’t distribute to others. In any case, whether it’s legal or not, people play ROMs, and sometimes they want to add them to their Steam libraries.
There are actually quite a few ways to do that and even some tools to make the process easier. It’s tougher to add ROMs to Steam because, in addition to creating a shortcut to the ROM itself like you would with any other game, you also need to tell Steam to access the emulator necessary for playing it. You can speed up the process with tools such as Ice or Steam ROM Manager to add your ROMs to Steam.
You can also create your own shortcuts in Steam that will work with your ROMs, much in the same way you add non-Steam games to your Steam library.
Create a shortcut to any .exe file
First, use the same steps above that you would to add a game to Steam, but choose any executable program file. All you’re doing here is making a shortcut you’ll edit later, so it doesn’t matter what program you use — you’ll be changing it.
Find the folder where your emulator and ROMs are installed
Just as above, take a second and find the file path to the emulator and ROMs you’re looking to use. You’ll need them in a moment, and writing down or copying the file path ahead of time will save you a little time later.
Edit the shortcut
In Steam, find the program you just added from your library. Select or right-click the game and use the menu that pops up to navigate down to Properties. That’ll pull open a screen that lets you edit the shortcut you created, including changing the name and icon that goes with it, and altering the file path for the shortcut. Here, you’ll just plug in the information for your emulator and ROM to add it to Steam.
Change the name of the shortcut to whatever the title of your ROM is, then highlight the text in the Target field. Replace it with the file path to the emulator, making sure to keep quotation marks around it. Put a space after the end of the file path to the emulator, and then add the file path to the ROM you want to use — again putting quotation marks around it.
Your finished field should look something like this: “C:YourEmulatorEmulator Folderemulator.exe” “C:YourEmulatorEmulator FolderYour ROM game.n64”
You’ll either want to delete the text in the Start in field, or put the file path to your emulator folder in that field. In most cases, that should do it. The shortcut will now search for the emulator and run it, and then the ROM and run that as well.
Add command line arguments
For some emulators, you’ll need additional commands in your Target field to tell the emulator what to do. There are a host of potential commands and they’re different for different emulators. You can find a big, useful list of command arguments at LaunchBox.com, and Steam user cunningmunki created a handy tutorial for adding ROMs to Steam that also lists a few of the most common emulators and their command arguments.
When you know what command arguments you need, you’ll generally add them to the Target field after the file paths for your emulator, but before the file path for your ROM.
Add Windows games and apps
Windows is pretty open when it comes to third-party apps (after all, you can just chuck any ol’ .exe file into Steam and it’ll work). It’s not, however, open with its own apps. Windows apps don’t show up in the file explorer, so you can’t add them to Steam just by searching. Thankfully, there’s an open-source tool that will do the job for you, which is especially useful for adding games from Xbox Game Pass to Steam.
First things first, you’ll need a tool called UWPHook. Developer Brian Lima is responsible for it, and they have a lot of projects under their belt (including a nifty UI for playing itch.io games). You may get a SmartScreen notification when running the installer, but we didn’t encounter anything malicious in the app (you can always use a free antivirus if you’re really concerned).
Export UWP apps to Steam
Now that it’s downloaded, open up UWPHook and click the Load installed UWP apps button (the circular arrow in the upper right corner). It’ll take a few minutes, but Hook will find every Windows app on your computer. Once they’re loaded up, go through the list and check the apps you want to add to Steam. Don’t export them yet, though. Whatever name shows up in UWPHook is the name that’ll show up in Steam, so it’s a good idea to rename your apps before exporting them.
Once everything’s renamed, click Export selected apps to Steam, and UWPHook will do the rest.
Of course, you’ll need to restart Steam before your games show up, but once you do, everything should be there. As you can see in the screenshot above, though, that wasn’t the case for us. If you encounter similar issues, restart the app and Steam and try again. Beyond that, you can manually enter the AUMID for the app you want to add. That worked for us. If you have further issues, there’s the UWPHook subreddit that’s around 220 strong. Plus, some other users have compiled box art so you can keep everything looking clean in your library.