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Steam just added a simple upgrade that will make your life easier

Steam storefront on laptop screen.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Steam has thousands upon thousands of free games on offer, but adding them to your library has always been a bit of a pain. Up until recently, claiming a free game meant that you had to install it right away — or else start the installation, then click cancel immediately. However, a new update means that you can grab any free game you like without kickstarting the installation process. Now, you can grab the best free Steam games without sacrificing all of your hard drive space.

Valve did not make a big announcement about the feature, but a number of users discovered it on Reddit and Twitter. One such observer was “lashman,” aka @RobotBrush on Twitter.

“FINALLY!!!” he exclaimed, and posted a screenshot of Star Wars: The Old Republic with two buttons beneath it: a green “Play Game” button, and a blue “Add to Library.”

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To put this in context, previously, free games such as The Old Republic would have only the “Play Game” button. As soon as you hit the button, it would add the free game to your library, but it would also start installing the game. If you didn’t want to play the game right away, you’d have to manually cancel the installation. It wasn’t a huge sticking point, but it was one extra step between you and the game you wanted.

For games that are perpetually free-to-play, such as The Old Republic, this change doesn’t make a huge difference. Since the game is perpetually free, there’s no particular reason to add it to your library until you want to play it. However, the new “Add to library” button could prove its worth during limited-time giveaways. Publishers will occasionally make paid games available for free on Steam. If you don’t add it to your library during the promotion, you’ll have to pay full price once the promotion ends. By adding these games to your library, you’ll be able to keep them for later without having to install them right away.

The “Add to library” button is admittedly not the biggest Steam feature that Valve has ever implemented. But at worst, it will save you a single click, and at best, it will save you hundreds of gigs of hard drive space, considering you’ll never install a free game you don’t want by accident. This could be useful for gamers who have small hard drives, or limited Internet bandwidth each month.

If you want to try the feature yourself, you don’t have to do anything special. Simply make sure Steam is updated to the latest version, look up a free game you’d like to try (we recommend Star Trek Online), and click the “Add to library” button. That’s all there is to it.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.