Steam Cleaning

My awkward, depreciating beast of a gaming laptop from 2009 needed a bit of a pick-me-up - it was bloated full of Steam games and running hot enough to experience random slowdowns.

Though I hesitated for a while to add a premium product to an aging laptop, I figured adding an SSD as a second drive would help address both the storage problem and the heat problem. Any speed benefit would simply be a welcome consequence.

Though I'm a software developer by profession, between work, family and hobbies I don't get a lot of time to tinker with technology. Somehow I got this far without ever having seen an SSD in person. I felt silly walking out of the local PC component store paying $1 per MB until I got home and opened up the box for my Samsung SSD 840. To the eyes of a person who last installed a 3.5" hard drive in his desktop tower, seeing this this rectangular slat as a drive felt like the future.

After the painless drive installation (thanks YouTube and Google), I copied over my Steam folder (a lengthy process due to being limited to SATA II and Valve overselling how well Steam's self-repair of installed games works).

I have to tell you: after getting used to the incessant chirping of an overfilled mechanical hard drive for 3+ years, the complete lack of drive noise when loading and playing TF2 was eerie. Granted, the fans on this monstrosity are still louder than a launch Xbox 360, but they became the only noise. I guess cleaning out half of the primary mechanical hard drive served to silence even it!

I'm pretty excited about my laptop's new lease on life. Less heat, smoother games, quicker loads.

There's only one unfortunate part to this endeavor: now I want to build a desktop out of 100% new parts instead of just making minor tweaks to an obsolete laptop. I'm excited how much computer components have progressed over the past 3-4 years and I want to play with all of those new toys for myself.

21 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by Shuborno

My awkward, depreciating beast of a gaming laptop from 2009 needed a bit of a pick-me-up - it was bloated full of Steam games and running hot enough to experience random slowdowns.

Though I hesitated for a while to add a premium product to an aging laptop, I figured adding an SSD as a second drive would help address both the storage problem and the heat problem. Any speed benefit would simply be a welcome consequence.

Though I'm a software developer by profession, between work, family and hobbies I don't get a lot of time to tinker with technology. Somehow I got this far without ever having seen an SSD in person. I felt silly walking out of the local PC component store paying $1 per MB until I got home and opened up the box for my Samsung SSD 840. To the eyes of a person who last installed a 3.5" hard drive in his desktop tower, seeing this this rectangular slat as a drive felt like the future.

After the painless drive installation (thanks YouTube and Google), I copied over my Steam folder (a lengthy process due to being limited to SATA II and Valve overselling how well Steam's self-repair of installed games works).

I have to tell you: after getting used to the incessant chirping of an overfilled mechanical hard drive for 3+ years, the complete lack of drive noise when loading and playing TF2 was eerie. Granted, the fans on this monstrosity are still louder than a launch Xbox 360, but they became the only noise. I guess cleaning out half of the primary mechanical hard drive served to silence even it!

I'm pretty excited about my laptop's new lease on life. Less heat, smoother games, quicker loads.

There's only one unfortunate part to this endeavor: now I want to build a desktop out of 100% new parts instead of just making minor tweaks to an obsolete laptop. I'm excited how much computer components have progressed over the past 3-4 years and I want to play with all of those new toys for myself.

Posted by Ravenlight

Steam cleaning is great for carpets but I think it has the potential to damage your hardware if attempted on a computer.

Posted by rentfn

You have inspired me good sir!! I had about 50 games installed. Just deleted half of them!!

Posted by Hitchenson

I've practically filled up a 1.5TB HDD with Steam. That's what having your whole library installed does.

Posted by Colourful_Hippie

Yup, I had a decent gaming PC but it only gave me a taste of something better so I just went ahead and got a desktop. I rather have a proper rig and then a light laptop which is why I got an Air.

Posted by xMEGADETHxSLY

I have 0 games installed on steam

You have inspired me to wipe my drive and start from scratch.

I'm off

Posted by Scrawnto

@Hitchenson said:

I've practically filled up a 1.5TB HDD with Steam. That's what having your whole library installed does.

I used to be in that situation, and I will again once I replace the 1.5 TB HDD I had that failed. In the mean time, I'm limited to around a dozen games on my solitary SSD, but damned if those dozen games don't load fast as hell.

Posted by HerbieBug
Posted by Shuborno

@rentfn said:

You have inspired me good sir!! I had about 50 games installed. Just deleted half of them!!

Yeah, I wiped a ton because I hear a less-full SSD is a better-performing SSD and I only got a 120 GB'er (since I was trying to make this a minor cost-effective upgrade).

The big wipe was dumping the 25 GB Dragon Age: Origins install out to my external HDD.

Anything with Steam Cloud I was comfortable just wiping out. I think I might make a new rule for myself where I only buy games with Steam Cloud moving forward so I don't have to worry about manually managing saves when I wipe the games off my drive.

Posted by Shuborno

@Hitchenson said:

I've practically filled up a 1.5TB HDD with Steam. That's what having your whole library installed does.

I looked at the installed games list and decided that if I hadn't played something in a year I wasn't going to play it.

Unfortunately I came to the same realization about most of the games I didn't have installed as well!

Edited by believer258

I need to get a permanent external HDD for Steam backups and stuff. Deleting something and then realizing that you want to play it a few days later is a pain.

Posted by Shuborno

@believer258 said:

I need to get a permanent external HDD for Steam backups and stuff. Deleting something and then realizing that you want to play it a few days later is a pain.

This was exactly the scenario I was in with Dragon Age: Origins. It was an absurd 25 GB I didn't want to download again but also didn't want on my drive.

Unfortunately barely any of my non-Valve games transferred properly to my new HDD. When I tried to "verify cache" (whatever that means) Steam just sat there. I had to delete and reinstall a few games (Tribes, Super Monday Night Combat, Super Meat Boy, etc.)

Edited by believer258

@Shuborno said:

@believer258 said:

I need to get a permanent external HDD for Steam backups and stuff. Deleting something and then realizing that you want to play it a few days later is a pain.

This was exactly the scenario I was in with Dragon Age: Origins. It was an absurd 25 GB I didn't want to download again but also didn't want on my drive.

Unfortunately barely any of my non-Valve games transferred properly to my new HDD. When I tried to "verify cache" (whatever that means) Steam just sat there. I had to delete and reinstall a few games (Tribes, Super Monday Night Combat, Super Meat Boy, etc.)

Did you use Steam's Backup and Restore utility or did you just up and copy the folder straight from steam/steamapps/common/*game*?

EDIT: What I meant was an external HDD for backing up things that I don't want to get rid of, but don't need to use at the moment and that would take a while to download. So say I didn't want Dragon Age Origins on my PC anymore - I would back it up and put it on that drive and if I ever wanted to play it again, I'd restore it. I didn't have any issues with that utility when I recently did a clean install of Windows 8.

Posted by Shuborno

Straight copy, as per an official FAQ.

The page basically said:

  • take Steam.exe + the steamapps folder and dump them to the new Steam folder on the new drive
  • Run Steam.exe to repair itself
  • Verify Cache on all of your installed apps

Last step didn't work on several apps.

Posted by believer258

@Shuborno said:

Straight copy, as per an official FAQ.

The page basically said:

  • take Steam.exe + the steamapps folder and dump them to the new Steam folder on the new drive
  • Run Steam.exe to repair itself
  • Verify Cache on all of your installed apps

Last step didn't work on several apps.

The purpose of that is moving an entire library from one PC to another, not backing up a single game, which (I suspect) is why yours didn't work as planned.

Posted by Shuborno

@believer258 said:

@Shuborno said:

Straight copy, as per an official FAQ.

The page basically said:

  • take Steam.exe + the steamapps folder and dump them to the new Steam folder on the new drive
  • Run Steam.exe to repair itself
  • Verify Cache on all of your installed apps

Last step didn't work on several apps.

The purpose of that is moving an entire library from one PC to another, not backing up a single game, which (I suspect) is why yours didn't work as planned.

Perhaps. Maybe those steps assumed that I'd place that new Steam folder at the same location on the same drive on the new machine.

I had some weirdness where I uninstalled Deus Ex: HR, then immediately set to reinstall, and that actually worked fine and didn't download anything new. (I guess the uninstall is not immediate.)

I'm hoping something similar works for Dragon Age should I choose to play it again someday. (Of course no cloud on that one so I'll back up my saves.)

Posted by BBAlpert

On a related note, I seem to remember reading somewhere that migrating a previous install of Windows 7 to an SSD makes a difference in speed (compared to it being on a regular drive), but also that doing a fresh install allows for some kind of SSD specific setting that makes a much, much bigger difference. Does anyone know if that's the case, or if I just misread something/imagined the whole thing?

Posted by Shuborno

@BBAlpert said:

On a related note, I seem to remember reading somewhere that migrating a previous install of Windows 7 to an SSD makes a difference in speed (compared to it being on a regular drive), but also that doing a fresh install allows for some kind of SSD specific setting that makes a much, much bigger difference. Does anyone know if that's the case, or if I just misread something/imagined the whole thing?

Based on what I've been reading, you are not imagining things.

Windows (even crappy Vista which I'm running) is smart enough to know when you've installed an SSD. Windows 7 has native SSD-specific settings. (Something related to "TRIM", which I have yet to research for myself in detail.)

If you're just moving an existing installation to an SSD, I bet you're not getting the pre-configured goodness of Windows 7 setting itself up for you in the SSD context with all of the right settings.

Posted by BBAlpert

@Shuborno: Yeah, that's what it was. I don't remember any of the details, other than that it was something about (something called) TRIM.

Posted by Gimm3nicotinE
@Hitchenson I hear you man... I think I've got somewhere around 189 games installed in Steam right now... That doesn't include my GoG library and an impressive Emulation collection....

Them shits eat up the terabytes pretty quick!
Posted by Gimm3nicotinE

Having the stuff on a backup isn't even an issue for me; my 100mbit connection ensures a minimum of 5MB/sec downloads from steam (I've had up to 19MB/sec, thanks to steam having some of the fastest servers on earth).

It's strictly OCD that keeps my entire library installed at all times.