Steam games off external hard drive on Surface Pro 6
November 28, 2019 5:38 PM   Subscribe

I have a Surface Pro 6 with Windows 10. I'm thinking of getting an external hard drive to install PC games (mainly Steam games) on there and play them off that. Is this possible?

A cursory Google search tells me this is doable, but the information is at least a couple of years old so I'm not 100% sure.

I don't plan on playing anything particularly resource-intensive - the most I can think of are Hiveswap/Friendsim, Untitled Goose Game, and A Hat In Time. I don't anticipate playing anything multiplayer on there.

Ideally I would also like to hook my TV up to this shebang. However, as it is a relatively older TV, it requires an HDMI connection and I don't see one on my Surface Pro 6. Is there still a way to make this happen?

(I did look at gaming computers but they're way out of budget and I figured I might as well use what I have. I also have an Xbox One and apparently there's some sorta way to do what I want but it's pretty janky. I also have a Chromecast if it helps.)
posted by divabat to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As far as I'm aware, as long as you create a Steam Library on your external drive, it *should* work. Games might take longer to load this way, and some that stream data from disk instead of using loading screens might chug while it's preloading stuff for that, but if you have a decent USB 3-capable drive, it should at least be no worse than running it off of an internal spinning disk drive. Adding a new library is relatively straightforward, if hidden. Go to the Steam > Settings menu, choose "Downloads", click the "Steam Library Folders" button, "Add Library Folder", pick a folder on your external drive, and then go.

For HDMI connectivity, you'll need a cheap Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter for your Surface. MS sells one for like $30, but don't fall for it, you only need a cheapo one for less than $10.
posted by Aleyn at 6:51 PM on November 28, 2019

That's how I have Steam set up on my PC.

I have noticed that Steam will sometimes forget the external drive as a download location and I have to add it to the download locations again. Then, depending on the game, you have to click "Install" and Steam quickly runs a file verification and then it's GTG. But some games end up redownloading.
posted by humboldt32 at 7:29 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Aleyn. This will work, but do make sure you have a good quality external using the fastest possible USB port you've got or your loading times will be terrible.

Not what you asked for at all, but lately I've been directing people to try Geforce Now. It doesn't look like any of the games you want to play are supported, though.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 7:35 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Doable. For the occasions where you have disconnected the drive, I would recommend connecting the drive, waiting for Windows to recognize the drive, and then restarting Steam.

Also, if you insert other USB-connected drives while the external Game harddrive (let's call it) is disconnected, another drive may steal its drive letter, and it'll need to have the correct drive letter for Steam to find it. This is an annoying Windows flaw.

My general solution is to make sure no active processes (such as file-copy jobs) are using the drives in question, and then use the Disk Manager (diskmgmt.msc from the start button) to manually swap the drive letters-- first reassign the offending interloper drive, and then re-assign the letter for the Game harddrive.

You can try to avoid this by using the above process at the start-- assign a higher drive letter to the game harddrive, such as G: (for games) so that the auto-assigned drives you insert at other times can make use of D:, E:, and F:.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:04 PM on November 29, 2019

Steam games will play off an external drive: you just have to redirect Steam to install them there. Go to Steam>settings>Downloads> Content library and add the folder on the external drive.

If the games aren't playable, you might be better off using remote gaming: run Parsec or Moonlight to connect to a dedicated gaming computer, either local or in the cloud. Check out for one option.
posted by baggers at 7:41 PM on November 30, 2019

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