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Steam is a popular launcher and platform for playing video games these days. As a distributor, it hosts hundreds of games that players can launch right from one convenient location.

Besides having a complete and personalized library of purchases, players get access to achievements and social features for more interaction. Many users wonder if Steam can detect games they acquired from outside the platform, and we’ll go through this and related questions in our in-depth article below.

Here’s the short summary, Steam cannot ban you for pirated games since they cannot detect them on your systems. However they can ban you through their valve anti-cheat software.

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What Happens if You Add a Non-Steam Game To Steam?

Many people play Steam games they’ve purchased directly from the distributor, but some users wonder if they can add games they’ve acquired elsewhere to the Steam launcher. It is possible to do this, but there are a few key differences that you might notice if you add a game that didn’t come from Steam to its launching platform.

1. Once you open the Steam launcher itself and log in, you’ll notice a ‘Games’ tab at the top that you can click on.

2. From the drop-down menu that appears, you’ll find ‘Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library’ at the bottom.

3. If the non-Steam game is listed in the menu that pops up once you click this button, you can select it and click ‘Add selected programs’ in the menu to add the game or games to the Steam launcher.

4. If you don’t see the non-Steam game at first, you may need to hunt for it by going into the file paths where you stored it originally on your computer. Once you find it, you can add it the same way you would a detected game.

As you can see, there is a way to add non-Steam games from other platforms that is already built into the launcher itself. However, there are some things to keep in mind here.

These games should run normally, but because they are not Steam games in the first place, you won’t have access to extra features like achievements, socials, and other things that might be standard with a game that is from Steam itself. The launcher can’t support content that isn’t there, and that content won’t be there for games that are not part of Steam’s distribution network.

If you’re working with ROM files or emulators to run older games or games that are meant for different platforms, you can still add them to Steam. However, it requires you to perform a few extra steps in the process.

For these, you’ll need to create a shortcut, then add certain parameters to the Target path that you can edit in the shortcut so that the Steam launcher can find and run the ROM file.

In short, if you add a non-Steam game to Steam, the platform should run it, but it will lack some of the extra features that come with most Steam titles that are native to the distributor.

Can Steam Ban You for Pirated Games?

Steam is an online platform that includes a social element. It lets players interact with one another, and it provides an easy way to get, update, and keep games sorted.

You may also want online support as you can use your Steam account to access Steam forums for socialization or help. In any case, many players wonder if Steam can ban your account for use of pirated games or those not associated with the platform.

Mostly, although Steam has the ability to ban players for various reasons, this doesn’t seem to happen simply for playing a pirated game. Valve has its own VAC—or Valve Anti-Cheat measures—designed specifically to detect things that might help players cheat in Steam’s online games.

When bans do occur, they seem to happen most often, specifically because VAC detects cheats on a user’s computer that might give them an unfair advantage. In these cases, Steam might be quite harsh with bans.

However, aside from detecting cheating measures that a player might use while the launcher is active, Steam does not know what files you have on your computer, and it could be a breach of your privacy if they did.

This section applies to Steam games with Valve’s own anti-cheat measures. Here, they are more concerned with cheating in a game than where the game came from originally.

With the ability to add non-Steam games to the app as a native feature, the likelihood of being banned from Steam just for playing a cracked game is negligible. However, the possibility exists given that the company has ban power.

Can Pirated Games Be Tracked?

Many users who want to try out games or otherwise play older games that aren’t available conventionally anymore wonder if those games can be tracked. We’ve established that Steam itself doesn’t track which programs on your computer you bought to which you did not.

An internet service provider has access to data that allows them to track the type of content you might download from the internet. In this way, it is possible to track a pirated game in the sense that an ISP could see what type of content you downloaded to your computer and when.

If you’re working with a game or ROM that you just got from elsewhere offline and uploaded to your computer that way, it’s just an executable file that is sitting on your computer that you might want to play sometimes. Things you have to download via an internet connection are tracked by providers, even if Steam itself doesn’t check this kind of data.

Similarly, while a particular game might not be tracked in the traditional sense, many developers include features designed to detect piracy and protect against it. Even if the features do not track anything or send data, they might look for things that point to a pirated version of the game.

Sometimes, these measures might kick in and prevent you from playing or finishing the game, even if it isn’t being tracked. Therefore, although tracking might be unlikely, it is still possible by looking at downloaded content or traffic through ISPs. Some games also contain software intended to make it hard to activate or finish the game unless it is obtained legally.

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Can Steam Detect Pirated Games?

Steam does not scan every file on your computer to look and see if it is somehow one you didn’t purchase. For many older games, there may not even be any way to tell where they originally came from. Steam does not detect pirated games on your system per se.

The most the platform might do is stop you or report data if it finds you violate Steam’s own Valve Anti-Cheat policies. Many native Steam games have VAC measures already built into them. As we discussed earlier, this is mostly to get rid of online cheating and ensure that the online game world is fair between cooperative and competitive players.

However, it is important to remember that some games, Steam or not, may have specific DRM measures that detect whether the copy was purchased authentically or not. This is where the detection we mentioned earlier, which might stop a player comes in.

Some modern games scan for specific codes or keys upon installation, and these only come with authentic versions of the games. If it cannot detect these keys, it may be hard for you to install or boot up the game in question.

Bottom Line

Steam is a great resource for finding cool new games to play. Their expansive digital library also has several classic games that are fun for both retro and modern gamers alike. Because games come from many sources these days, the distributor has included a way for players to add non-Steam games directly to their library.

This allows them to keep all of their games in one convenient location and use the Steam overlay for everything.

In general, Steam has VAC measures added to many of its native games in order to discourage cheating in online play. However, it does not seek to detect pirated content on a user’s system and, for the most part, should not bother with banning players from Steam who may just want to try out a ROM or other file.

Other parties who may be interested in what a user downloads, but Steam allows for games across many sources, and the platform does not check the veracity of game files stored on individual systems.