How to Back Up and Restore PC Games
Worried about losing your game saves? Here’s how to back up your games on Steam, GOG, and other PC platforms.
How to Back Up Your Game Saves
A game’s files can (almost) always be re-downloaded, but your game saves are irreplaceable. Without backups, there’s no way to restore a garage full of GTA V cars you spent hours acquiring and tricking out short of starting over from scratch. Thankfully, save files don’t take up much space, so they’re easy to back up.
By default, Steam—and other game clients, like Origin—can back up your settings, saves, and other data to their own respective cloud services. These settings should be enabled by default, but you can double check in the following locations:
- In Steam, head to Steam > Settings > Cloud > Enable Steam Cloud Synchronization for Applications Which Support It, and make sure it’s checked. You can also right-click any game, choose Properties, and ensure the Cloud Synchronization box is checked under the Updates tab.
- In the Epic Games Store, click Settings and check Enable Cloud Saves.
- In Origin, hover over your profile picture and head to Application Settings > Installs & Saves and toggle Saves on under Cloud Storage.
- In GOG Galaxy, go to Settings > Game Features and check Cloud Saves.
- In Uplay, navigate to Settings > General and check Enable Cloud Save Synchronization for Supported Games.
Note that not all games will necessarily use their client’s built-in cloud service, so if a game’s progress is important to you, you may need to do a bit of extra research to see if it backs up automatically. If you want to back up those saves yourself—or if you just want an extra backup in addition to the client’s integrated cloud storage—you’ll need to find out where that specific game stores its save files.
Games that utilize Steam’s cloud saves may store these files under C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Userdata. You may also find some games store their save files in your Documents folder: Look for a folder with the game’s name, the publisher’s name, or inside the “My Games” folder. Other titles may bury saves in your user’s %APPDATA% folder. You may have to Google the game in question to confirm where its save files are stored.
Once you know where all your save files are, just copy those folders to your backup drive for safe keeping. Ideally, you should use a backup tool that does this regularly and automatically, whether it’s Windows’ built-in File History or a dedicated cloud backup service. As long as you include those game-save folders in the backup alongside your other personal files, you’ll always have them handy, and you can restore them to their original location on a new drive to pick up where you left off.
How to Back Up and Restore an Entire Game
If you have a decent internet connection, backing up your game saves may be enough—after all, if you want to return to a game later, you can just re-download it from Steam. But if your internet connection is slow, backing up all the game’s files to another drive allows you to re-install it much faster in the future.
It’s also useful if you have a bunch of mods installed that took ages to tweak just right (my fellow Dovahkiin know what I’m talking about). You’ll need more space on your backup drive than you would for save files, but storage has gotten pretty affordable. There are two ways to back up your game files:
To move a game to another drive but keep it playable, head to Steam > Settings > Downloads > Steam Library Folders and click Add Library Folder. By creating a new Steam library on your secondary drive, you can right-click any game, head to the Local Files tab, and move it to the new library on that drive. For more info, and for instructions in other game clients, see our guide on moving PC games to another hard drive.
If you want to back up the game files but don’t need them to be playable—you just want them ready to re-install in the future—navigate to the game’s installation folder. For Steam games, that’ll be C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common in a folder with the game’s name. Drag those folders to your backup drive-or include them in your automated File History backup -then uninstall them from Steam (if desired). For games in other clients, repeat this process with their own installation folders.
When you want to play the game again in the future, just restore that folder to the same location and click the game’s Install button in Steam. Instead of downloading them, it’ll see the files and verify their integrity so you can get playing quickly.
Alternatively, if you have the space, you could just keep your entire C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam folder backed up with the rest of your personal data, ensuring nothing ever gets lost. If you have any mods installed, though, be sure to back those up as well: Third-party tools such as Nexus Mod Manager may have their own backup methods, so be sure to read up on the game and mods in question. You don’t want to start from nothing the next time you’re feeling nostalgic for Minecraft.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.