This is how I managed to get my Steam downloads zooming along about 3x faster.
I love Steam. I didn’t always, because earlier versions were regularly cranky—at least with me—but in the last three years I’ve grown enormously fond of it.
First, because it allows me to register games whose discs are very nearly scratched to bits—the undersides look like an angry cat went to town on them. Second, because of Steam Workshop. If you’ve played any of the Elder Scrolls games (I’ve played Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim) you’ll know how much of a difference mods can make to the experience.
My only point of frustration hasn’t actually been with Steam in the recent past—it’s with my aggravating internet connection. I don’t game online, so I don’t have a LAN connection to my desktop. When I was using discs to install my games, it didn’t matter much, because I could let things patch in the background and the patches were never gigantic enough to be a problem.
Now, though, with my increasing tendency to make online purchases—because my games cabinet is stuffed to bursting—I needed to find a way to make Steam downloads faster. After some poking around online, here’s what I found.
Visit http://store.steampowered.com/stats/content/. You should see this:
Why does this matter? Well, regions of the map are clickable. So, you can click on different regions to look at server loads and see which servers have fewer users. Like so:
Vietnam, as the screenshot shows, has a 7.2 Mbps download rate and just 0.2% of the global Steam traffic. At the time of this writing, Russia had 11.4 Mbps and 9.3% of the traffic; the US had 16.6 Mbps and 20.1% of the traffic … the list goes on.
Look through the regions and decide which server you want to connect to and download from. Your rule of thumb is moderate to high download speeds, with the lowest possible traffic percentage.
When I figured this out last night, the Czech Republic server had very little traffic (less than 1%) and decent download speeds.
Now, go back to Steam.
a. In Steam, click View from the menu at the top.
b. From the drop down menu, click Settings.
You should see the Settings screen pop up.
c. On the Settings screen, click Downloads.
You should see this:
What we’re interested in is the Download Region section of the screen. Click the drop down arrow and take a look at the menu.
d. Remember that, in Step 2, we looked at the different regions and their server loads? Pick the one with the best speed and least load from the menu.
e. Click OK, at the bottom of the screen.
Steam will prompt you to restart for the changes to take effect and, once you’re back up and running, you should see a difference.
My download speed before I did this was peaking at about 200 Kbps. Speedtest.net told me that I have a 4.57 Mbps peak download capacity, so 200 Kbps was beyond ridiculous (just so you know, my router’s part of the problem, but I knew Steam could give me more).
After this, I went from about 200 Kbps to a peak of 639.7 Kbps (if you look at the background of some of the screenshots, you’ll see the numbers) and an estimated 7 day download was very nearly done when I left home for work.
I don’t know if you’ll see results this dramatic (a 3x speed boost is kinda nuts) but I do hope it gets you gaming faster. If it does or doesn’t work, do let me know in the comments—there might be more tips and tweaks out there that make help make this faster still.
There’s this wonderful article by Rizwan Anwer that went up 3 years ago which helped me do the stuff up there: http://wccftech.com/article/speed-steam-downloads-significantly/. Given that the Steam options have changed over the years, I decided to update the images and the instructions, so that it’s just as usable now.
If you have a problem with the instructions, drop a line in the comments. I’ll poke around Steam to see if this needs updating.
Happy gaming, folks!