Adding Pirated Games to Steam: Account Ban?

Here’s everything about Steam banning accounts for adding pirated games:

It depends on how you add the pirated game to your Steam library.

If you pirate a game, install it on your computer, and then add the installed game to your Steam library, Steam can’t tell that it’s pirated and won’t ban you.

If you try to use Steam to pirate software and get caught, you can expect a permanent ban.

So if you want to learn all about why adding pirated games to Steam can get your account banned, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading!

Adding Pirated Games to Steam: Account Ban? (All the Info)

What Is Steam?

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Perhaps we should spend a minute talking about Steam before we really get into this.

If you’re not familiar, Steam is a platform made by Valve that distributes games and software.

Basically, it’s designed to be a central hub where game developers can sell their products and gamers can buy and manage the games that they own and play.

To use Steam, you create an account with the platform and download the Steam client.

This is software that runs on your computer.

From the Steam client, you can shop for games and choose from an absolutely massive selection of titles. 

Anything that you purchase is added to your personal Steam library.

This is a centralized place in your Steam account where you can see and manage all of your games.

You can run updates on them, launch the games, and even team up with friends to play together, all from this one centralized location.

Not all computer games are available on Steam.

It’s up to a publisher whether or not they want to use Steam’s distribution services.

That said, Steam is the single most abundant source of PC games that you can find.

What Does It Mean for an Account to Be Banned on Steam?

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You might recall that I just said this, but you need an account to use Steam.

The account is how Steam manages financial services, and it’s how they control things that need to be controlled.

Since Steam is ultimately a software tool, it comes with its own terms and conditions.

If you violate those terms and conditions, Steam has the right to revoke your access to the services.

In a worst-case scenario, you could have your account banned by the company.

That means you would no longer be able to access any of the games you purchased with your Steam account.

That might seem unfair, but Steam has the legal right to take these actions.

It’s also worth noting that Steam doesn’t ban accounts on a whim.

You have to seriously violate the user agreement.

Behaviors that can get you banned include acts of fraud, piracy, cheating in games, hacking, scamming, and harassment.

Steam does have a system that allows you to communicate with other users, and if you break the terms and conditions within those communications, you can be banned.

Ultimately, we’re talking about piracy today.

The real point you need to take away from this is that Steam can ban an account, and they have complete control over how it works.

You might be temporarily banned to prove a point.

Or, you could permanently lose access to your Steam account and everything attached to it.

What Is a Pirated Game?

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There’s one more thing we need to cover: piracy.

You probably have some idea of what piracy is, but we can be very clear about it.

Any time you access software without the express permission of the entity that owns the copyright to that software, you are committing an act of piracy.

Here’s a common example.

If you find a place on the internet where you can download a video game without paying for it, then that’s a source of piracy.

Installing and playing the game without paying as expected is definitely piracy.

But, there’s more to it than that.

Even if the game is available for free on Steam, if you get the game from an unsanctioned source, you’re still committing piracy.

If you get the game in any way that isn’t sanctioned by the developer, then you are committing piracy.

It’s worth keeping all of those versions in mind as we discuss the consequences of pirated software on Steam.

How Do You Add Pirated Games to Steam?

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To really understand why this is a varied issue, it will make sense to explain how you can actually add pirated content to your Steam account.

In essence, there are two ways to go about this, and which one you use makes all of the difference in the world.

The first possibility is that you manage to download and install a game to your computer without paying for it.

After that, you add the game to your Steam library.

To add a game to Steam (whether pirated or not), you need to access your Steam account.

So, launch Steam and log in.

Then, you can click on the Games menu and choose “Add a Non-SteamGame to My Library.”

That will give you the option to browse games on the computer.

Check any games you want to add, and then click on “Add Selected Programs.”

Doing that, you’ll create a shortcut in Steam that can launch the game that was already installed on your computer.

The other method is completely different.

With this method, you’re trying to install a game using Steam without paying for it.

To do this, you would need to trick Steam into thinking you have paid when you haven’t.

Please note that no piracy is necessary to install free games without paying.

Just use Steam normally and download free games when they are available.

One way to do this is by forging a CD or access key for the game.

Some games verify that you have paid for them by providing a product key (known as CD keys back when games were installed via CD).

If you can provide a forged or stolen product key to Steam, then it will think that you have paid for the content and give you access.

You can also fake paying for the content.

Using forged or stolen payment information, you can try to convince Steam that you have paid, and it will then provide the product key and allow you to download the game.

Let me reiterate that each of these methods is illegal and comes with serious risks.

I am not endorsing these actions. 

Does Adding Pirated Games to Steam Get You Banned? (2 Things)

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Considering that there are two ways to add a game to Steam, which ones get you banned?

How does it all work?

#1 Adding a Game From Your Computer to Steam

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Let’s start with when you add a game from your computer to your Steam library.

In this case, Steam is not using anything to verify a game’s payment or authenticity.

You already have the game installed.

Steam is just creating a shortcut within its own library so that it’s easier for you to manage your own games.

Essentially, Steam is assuming that you have the right to own and play the game from the beginning.

Since Steam isn’t really doing anything with your game other than allowing you to launch it from the Steam library, there’s no reason for Steam to ever know that it’s pirated software.

Ultimately, Steam won’t ban you in this scenario because it doesn’t know that you pirated the game.

Keep in mind that I’m only discussing a specific case here.

If you violate Steam’s rules while playing your pirated software or in any other way, you can still get banned.

But, there’s no mechanism for Steam to ban you for adding a pirated game to your library.

#2 Trying to Add a Game From Steam Library Without Paying

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On the other hand, if you download a game via Steam without paying (assuming it’s not a free game), then there’s a much higher risk of you being banned.

Basically, it comes down to how effectively you trick Steam.

If you use a valid product key that you happened to not pay for, then Steam won’t know that you cheated the system.

Since you’re using a valid product key, you’re passing all of the checks.

Steam will think everything is above board, and that’s the end of that.

But if you forge a key, then things can get a little tricky.

It’s possible that the key might work at first, but later game updates might account for product key forgeries.

So even though things seem fine in the beginning, an update leads to you getting caught as a pirate.

From there, Steam definitely can ban you, and the platform has banned people for this behavior.

The severity of any punishment is up to Steam, so I can’t tell you exactly what will happen.

But permanent bans for your entire Steam account are a real possibility.

The same goes for using fraudulent payment.

As an example, let’s say someone uses a stolen credit card to buy Steam games.

Steam doesn’t know that the card is stolen, so they process the purchase in the normal way.

Everything seems fine.

But, the person whose card was stolen reports the theft and disputes the charges made by Steam.

An investigation is done, and Steam ultimately refunds the purchase.

When Steam refunds that purchase, they aren’t going to stop by revoking access to the pirated games.

Sure, that will happen, but Steam will very likely ban the entire account.

Steam doesn’t want to be associated with that kind of behavior, and committing financial fraud is a one-strike-and-you’re-out kind of thing.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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