So on Friday, Valve dropped a Steam client beta that included a feature we’ve speculated was coming for a while now.
Now that we have access to this tool, I’ve naturally gotta ask: how does it work and is it a useful time-saver?
So first, let’s go over how to actually use LAN transfer:
- Opt your desktop into the Steam Beta Client
- By default, Steam will be set to Allow transfers to/from my devices
- You can choose an alternate sharing level by selecting Steam → Settings → Downloads → Game File Transfer over Local Network.
- I’ve chosen to Allow transfers to/from my Steam Friends
- Install a game you don’t have on your Steam Deck (or another machine)
- Opt your Steam Deck (or other machine) into the Beta client
- Again, by default, Steam will be set to Allow transfers from my devices
- On the Steam Deck, you can navigate to Settings → Downloads → Game File Transfer over Local Network
- Once the game is finished downloading on your PC, start the same game downloading on your Steam Deck (or other device).
It’s interesting to note here that in my testing, transferring a game from my PC to my Steam Deck was only marginally faster than it was to download the game over the Internet. I have a fiber connection that tops out at around 32 Megabytes per second. What I found interesting is that Steam seems to throttle local network sharing at around 36 Megabytes per second. Nominally faster.
Why would they do this? Well, you can see that when Steam is sharing files, it consumes a not-insignificant amount of system resources.
Most modern networks can easily support one gigabit throughput. Yet we’re doing a quarter of that. If Steam were to triple the network throughput, it could easily consume over a quarter of all CPU time and increase disk usage. Not to mention it could overwhelm your local network, too.
Seeing as LAN transfers are only marginally faster for me than downloading directly from Steam’s CDN, I’d like to see an option that allows me to utilize more of my LAN speed.
Of note here: while I can download games to my Steam Deck from my PC, the reverse does not seem to be possible. Perhaps this is a battery consideration… who knows. It’s reflected in the UI, too. The Desktop client mentions “to/from my own devices” while the Deck only says “from my own devices.”
This feature allows your PC to transfer game files to and from other PCs or Steam Decks on your local network, reducing your Internet traffic while downloading or updating a game
If this is enabled, Steam allows to transfer game files from other PCs on your local network, reducing your Internet traffic while downloading or updating a game
The problem is: I don’t use my PC to play games–despite the Ryzen 9 5900X, RTX 3080 and the 128 GB of RAM.
It’s my video editing rig. I really only use it for that purpose. But if the fancy should strike me and I want to play a PC game, I wish my (recently upgraded) Steam Deck with two terabytes of total storage could act as a local repository of sorts.
I have over 100 games installed on my Deck. I have three installed on my PC.
I get that my use case here is uncommon… at least, it is today. However, the Steam Deck’s broad appeal and the fact that it is several of my friends' first encounter with PC gaming means that my situation is becoming less rare.
I was extremely excited for this feature to drop. The question is: am I still excited for it now that I fully grok its implementation?
I think this will definiltey help people who have limited connections. If you've got no other options and you're stuck with a cable or [shudder] DSL connection (or if your Internet connection is metered), then you'll likely find this saves you a ton of time–especially if you're the target market for this feature to begin with: a Deck owner who already has most of their Steam library downloaded to their PC.
But for someone like me who has a fiber connection and looking to share the games you have downloaded to your Deck with your PC–you might find its simpler and just about as fast to download your games right from Steam's servers at the outset.
What do you think? Will you be using this feature to save you time and bandwidth? Leave us a comment and let me know!