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A Guide: How to transfer some Steam games onto your SSD!

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25 September 2010 06:05:08

Hi guys. I recently caught on to this technique to be able to move games out of the Steam folder but still play them. There's a few reasons to do this. For me, it's because I finally got an SSD (solid state drive) and I wanted to put one or two games on it that I'll be playing a lot (only an 80GB SSD). Another scenario would be you have multiple drives but maybe your main gaming drive is filling up. You can move a game or two onto a different drive without moving the entire Steam library.

So, a little background. Steam likes to stick all of your Steam games into the Steamapps folder. If you move a game out of there normally, you can no longer play it. So your only option has been to move the entire library!

The cure:
Open command prompt (click start, type "command" and then select it)

Now, you'll need to CUT the game folder you want to move (example: C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\<Game Folder> ) and then paste it wherever you now want it to be. You'll have to remember the address.

In command prompt, type:
mklink /J [old location] <new location>
(simply typing "mklink" will show you the options associated with the command)

Here's an example of how I used it.
I cut and pasted f1 2010 from my steam folder and onto my ssd, then typed this into command prompt:
mklink /J "d:\steam\steamapps\common\f1 2010" "c:\games\f1 2010"

NOTE: the " " are because the folder name has a space in it, otherwise it wouldn't be needed.
UPDATE: /J command is needed to go to a different drive, if referencing elswhere on the same drive use /D

This will create what appears to be a "shortcut" within the steam folder but it's a bit different. Deleting the "shortcut" folder will only delete the mklink, so you could cut and paste the folder back into steam after that and it will all work just fine, if you decide you no longer need it to be in that different location.

A little more advanced, I used this to stick my entire Steam folder onto my SSD, then used mklink to put my steamapps folder onto my HDDs, but then another mklink out of that to put f1 2010 on my SSD. This was just so that Steam itself would be faster to load while still keeping most games on my HDD. BTW, I found out having the mklink already created in the steamapps folder, I didn't need to recreate it upon moving the steamapps folder. It's smart enough to just do it automatically (because it works like a "shortcut" - if you move the shortcut's location it will still point to the same folder).

Hope this helps some people out!

Update 2: To summarize some points raised in the discussion, these links will use a small amount of space to reference the new location (kbs) but the actual file space is only being used at the new location so no worries :D  (thanks to randomizer for explaining)
a b G Storage
25 September 2010 15:05:39

Interesting. I find it easier to just keep all games where they are. But if you want X game(s) on your SSD then this will help. I love steam. I love the fact you can just make a shortcut to steam.exe and load your games. No installing or anything. I now have my steam folder on a drive other then my OS. If/when I have to reinstall windows, I don't have to go through the hassle of reinstalling my games. Pure genius.
25 September 2010 16:38:26

Yeah it's really great. Just move the whole folder wherever you want and no installs! Love it too. Except for the games that either use GFWL on top of Steam, or else when Steam doesn't get the patches up right away... but for the most part, it's a win for sure.
Related resources
a b G Storage
25 September 2010 17:37:37

Yeah, you might need to redo some updates, but thats not a huge hassle. I don't have any games that use windows live overlay so no worries there yet. Biggest hassle I had was that I got a 13 item drop in TF2 due to my computer and cloud resyncing. but other then that I didn't have any issues at all.
a b G Storage
26 September 2010 00:50:48

Optionally, you can also use Steam Mover, I think it does exactly what you did, but automates it into a nice GUI.
26 September 2010 02:12:33

Nice thanks for the guide. This is exactly what I plan on doing when I get my SSD (Black Friday FTW).
a b G Storage
27 September 2010 17:25:27

Zenthar said:
Optionally, you can also use Steam Mover, I think it does exactly what you did, but automates it into a nice GUI.

The guy had issues moving around individual files. Why didn't he try symlinks? Hard links will "waste" space so I don't know why he even tried those.
27 September 2010 22:47:27

Since learning about these links, I've started using them for all kinds of stuff lol. Very handy!

Randomizer - what do you mean by that? I didn't realise there would be much space used whether hard or soft links. Any idea how much it is? A few kilobytes? Megabytes?
a b G Storage
28 September 2010 00:01:49

The problem with hard links is that Explorer doesn't handle them that well. If you create a 1GB file in a folder and 2 additional hard links to the file in the same folder, chances are Explorer will report the folder as being 3GB in size, not 1GB.
28 September 2010 00:27:36

Oh ok so the problem is when you do multiple hardlinks to a single source? That's not a worry for me but good to know!
a b G Storage
28 September 2010 01:59:22

wolfram23 said:
Oh ok so the problem is when you do multiple hardlinks to a single source? That's not a worry for me but good to know!
The problem is that Explorer doesn't seem to make a difference between a hardlink and an actual file (I know about inodes under Linux, not sure how windows works for the file system).
28 September 2010 03:35:30

As far as I can tell, Explorer thinks it's just the file, there. If I open the hardlink, it opens just like if it was actually in that location (drop down sub folders and all) but I can find the actual file on my other drive. From what I read, that's just how it works. Would it be better to do a different type of link?
a b G Storage
28 September 2010 09:47:04

Junction points are soft links, they will function fine for the purpose described in your guide, but if you want to move single files you'll need to use symbolic links (a newer NTFS feature that is also a type of soft link). That uses the /D flag instead of /J. Symbolic links overcome some of the limitations of junction points in that they can point to pretty much anywhere and anything, even over a network. Junction points can only point to directories and only on the local machine. Hard links must be on the same volume and so are even more restrictive.

Also the reason that Explorer doesn't differentiate between a hardlink and an "actual file" is because they are essentially the same thing. All files have 1 or more hard links, which are its MFT records. If a file has 3 hard links then it has 3 MFT entries each pointing to the same physical data. Explorer doesn't know the difference because for all intents and purposes there is no difference. All of the information about the data on the volume is retrieved from the MFT.

As an aside, this is why C:\Windows\winsxs looks so big. It's loaded up with hard links to the same data.
28 September 2010 10:41:49

To distill this down even further for some of us:

Are you recommending that we use this system for Steam files on a SSD or are you confirming that it is waste of space?
a b G Storage
28 September 2010 14:35:24

Its both. It allows you to put a game or two on your new SSD so you get the speed, but at the cost of duplicate/"wasted" space.
a b G Storage
28 September 2010 14:45:42

Junction points don't really waste space. They are a file in their own right so they take up an MFT entry and a tiny amount of disk space (just like a shortcut or .lnk file does), but their sole purpose is just to be a pointer to another location. The actual directory which the junction point refers to exists only once unless you explicitly copy it.
a b G Storage
28 September 2010 18:49:34

randomizer said:
Also the reason that Explorer doesn't differentiate between a hardlink and an "actual file" is because they are essentially the same thing. All files have 1 or more hard links, which are its MFT records. If a file has 3 hard links then it has 3 MFT entries each pointing to the same physical data. Explorer doesn't know the difference because for all intents and purposes there is no difference. All of the information about the data on the volume is retrieved from the MFT.
Good to know. So the Windows file system seems to work pretty much the same way as in Linux: all file names are hardlinks and the actual file content is in some sort of iNode (nope not an Apple product ... yet).
28 September 2010 22:38:11

Thanks for all the information guys! Like I said in the OP, this is something I recently came across. So Junctions (/J command) are great for going from one drive to another, while referencing something on the same drive it's better to use a softlink (/D).
a b G Storage
29 September 2010 07:56:40

Has this been posted on the steam forums? When I have steam issues I check there first. Others might want to know this.
a b G Storage
29 September 2010 09:16:00

wolfram23 said:
Thanks for all the information guys! Like I said in the OP, this is something I recently came across. So Junctions (/J command) are great for going from one drive to another, while referencing something on the same drive it's better to use a softlink (/D).


Hard links (/H): Good for on the same volume (partition), but unless you have a specific need to use them you should use a soft link, specifically a junction or symbolic link.

Junction point (/J): An old type of soft link that is good for use across partitions but only on the local machine and only for directories, not individual folders.

Symbolic Link (/D): A newer (at least on NTFS) type of soft link which allows you to link to files or directories anywhere, including over networks.
29 September 2010 09:30:42

Sounds like simply using /D will be better then... Well thanks again for all the info.

474... I don't know, i haven't done it. I'll check it out later and maybe post it
a b G Storage
29 September 2010 09:37:22

You may even want to make a generic guide for moving things on or off the SSD using symlinks.
29 September 2010 13:20:35

randomizer said:
You may even want to make a generic guide for moving things on or off the SSD using symlinks.


Do you mean for Tom's? I can easily edit and repost or something... I'll pretty much just do that for the Steam forums (looking at them now)
a b G Storage
29 September 2010 13:36:28

Yea that's what I meant. I'd assume that the Steam forums have something similar already given that they have a handful of knowledgeable users among the 20 million mindless trolls that also infest the place, but maybe you will luck out :) 
29 September 2010 22:45:11

Haha ok, well where would be the best place to stick it? Here? Windows 7 thread? Somewhere else? lol so many possibilities.
a b G Storage
30 September 2010 08:40:36

We can probably have it in this section since it relates to SSDs and no particular operating system.
30 September 2010 09:51:04

This is a great idea and something I've wondered about. Personally, I'm hoping for a 64gb ssd on BF (too many acronyms?) so that I can put my apps and at least 3 games on it. I have held off until now seeing various 40gb versions etc.

I definitely want to have SC2, BFBC2, and Fallout NV on the drive. Other stuff I don't play enough really to worry about it. But I have always wondered about how to do it.
2 October 2010 02:20:07

It's a good article, although creating and managing NTFS junctions are much easier using a piece of totally free software called "Link Shell Extension" as it fully integrates junctions into Windows explorer itself. Now creating a junction is a easy as right clicking to select the source directory, then right clicking again followed by drop as junction in the destination directory. It's also easy to see junctions marked in Windows explorer along with their properties in the right click menu where a new tab shows it's destination, it's also very easy to modify or delete junctions too. Incidentally, as well as junctions, this software also supports other types of links including a symbolic links and more.

I'm running Windows XP and Windows 7 on a dual boot system and I use plenty of junctions to have the same My Documents Etc for both systems, plus I even share the same Firefox profile and many gaming profiles across the 2 operating systems. I've had no problem with the software and it's been 100% reliable throughout. Different versions are available to support all versions of windows from Windows 2000 to Windows 7 including WIndows XP, Windows Vista and even Windows NT4 and Windows Server. 64 bit versions are also available for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Please see: http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/hardlinkshe... for more information and to download (100% Freeware).

GOOD LUCK!
2 October 2010 03:18:06

I'll have to check that out at home.

The other day, I wanted to consolidate my My Documents. Basically, ideally they'll all be on my HDDs. I edited the Library so that the D:\My Documents is set as the default and save location, but the problem is that games still seem to want to save on/read from C:\Users\My Documents. I tried an mklink but for whatever reason it didn't show up properly at the users location. But then I tried copying the whole folder back and there was some issue. I can't remember exactly how but it appeared that the original C drive documents was still there, but if I browsed to it nothing showed up. I ended up just doing a restore from a recent backup and now things are back to square 1 in that area.

pjcnet, will that app find old links or only ones done through it?
2 March 2011 23:38:17

Hey guys I'm brining this thread back to life with an update... I made a "how to" video on it. Unfortunately I screwed up and didn't set to record at full 1080p but at "half size" which makes it kind of blurry. If you find it's too bad I can redo it, but I think I did a good job of explaining everything I'm doing so that it shouldn't really matter too much.

Anyway here's the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5W8tZs1OzCk
18 February 2012 12:58:00

thanks for making a video lol.. =D very helpful thread and video
8 June 2012 00:23:45

Has anyone had any success creating a symbolic link with the mpq folder in Diablo 3? If so, how did you do it exactly? I tried last nite but, the game would not initialize.