Valve’s Steam platform client will update any installed game or application automatically by default. If there is a network connection when you start Steam or Steam is running, updates will be installed if available.
While that is the desirable option for most users, as game updates may introduce bug fixes, new features, performance improvements, and other beneficial changes, some Steam users may prefer to be in control of the updating process.
There are several reasons for wanting to be in control:
- To avoid that bandwidth is wasted when games are updated that you don’t plan to play in the near future.
- When game updates are known to introduce issues or unwanted changes.
- When the bandwidth is required for other operations.
- When the device is connected to a fast or unlimited Internet connection only sometimes.
Recent versions of Steam block automatic downloads of updates or game files when a game is started. It is possible to disable that in the Steam settings so that downloads continue while games are being played.
There is one caveat to blocking automatic Steam game updates as some games may not work properly or at all if they are not up to date; this is the case for most multiplayer games but some single player games may also not work correctly, especially if they require an online connection.
How to control Steam Auto Updates
First the bad news: the Steam client offers no setting to turn of automatic updates for all games. While that sounds bad, especially if you have hundreds of games in your library, it is not really that problematic as you may want to change auto-update behavior for installed games only anyway.
Still, there is an option to limit automatic updates to a specific time of the day.
Option 1: Limit automatic updates on Steam globally
The first option enables download restrictions for automatic updates. To access the option, select View > Settings > Downloads in the Steam client.
There you find an option to limit auto-updates of games to a specific time. Just check “Only auto-update games between” and select a 1 hour interval, preferably at night.
Steam will update games only in the selected period and not otherwise. The “limit bandwidth to” option may sound useful as well but it impacts all downloads on Steam, not just automatic game updates.
Option 2: Disable automatic updates for individual Steam games
A right-click on any game in the Steam library and the selection of properties opens the game’s configuration page.
Switch to the Updates tab in the interface that opens. The first option on the page, automatic updates, controls the updating behavior of that game.
The default is “always keep this game up to date”. A click on the menu displays the two additional states “Only update this game when I launch it” and “high priority – always auto-update this game before others”.
Selecting the “only update..” option blocks automatic game updates unless you launch the game. The downside to this is that you may need to wait for an available update to download if you plan to play the game.
Option 3: the console, temporarily disable updates
The following option disables automatic updates for any installed game during a particular session. It requires that you open the console on Steam and run a command on it, and Steam should be offline while you run the commands.
- Type steam://open/console in any web browser on your system and accept the redirection to the Steam app; this should open the console on Steam.
- Type @AllowSkipGameUpdate 0
- Type @AllowSkipGameUpdate 1
Alternatively, go to your Steam program folder, e.g. c:program files (x86)Steamsteamapps and edit each acf file you find there (one for each installed game). Use Notepad or another plain text editor for that and edit the AllowSkipGameUpdate variable to 1 to block automatic updates.