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Fix new Steam library folder must be empty – A Step by Step Guide

Currently adding existing Steam library folders and/or data to a new Steam installation is a less than efficient process. If you would like to know how to fix new Steam library folder must be empty errors with your new installation read on.

Each new Steam library folder when added through the GUI must be empty at first. With that in mind you need to,

First Create new folders>then add this folder to Steam>then close Steam>then add the pre-existing data into the folders manually>then Open Steam>and finally have access your games.

Urgh, not the best process when you consider how much pre-existing data you may have already pulled down during you last Steam install. It is of course better than nothing and for some better than re-downloading all of your content. Thankfully there is a better way, the manual way; as with all good things you will get your hands dirty, although not too dirty. Included below is how to fix new Steam library folder must be empty error. Both the GUI way and the Manual way are present.


Add a Steam folder through the GUI

1.) Create a folder for the Steam Library

2.) In the Steam client open the config dialog Steam>Settings>Downloads>Steam Library Folders

Fix new steam library folder must be empty - Steam Options Screen
Steam Options Screen

3.) Add the new folder by clicking the “Add Library Folder” button

Fix new steam library folder must be empty - Steam Library Locations
Steam library locations

4.) Browse to the new folder>click “Select”

Fix new steam library folder must be empty - Folder List
Folder List

5.) Exit Steam

6.) Copy/Move pre-existing data to the folder location now listed in the Steam client. (Can also be done with a folder rename)

7.) Remove the old folders

8.) Start Steam


Add Steam folders manually through config.vdf

Locations of the config.vdf file.

  • Linux: $HOME/.steam/steam/config/config.vdf
  • Windows (32bit): C:\Program Files\Steam\config\config.vdf
  • Windows (64bit): C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\config\config.vdf
  • Mac: /Users/Username/Library/Application Support/Steam/config/config.vdf

1.) Exit Steam

2.) Open the config.vdf file in your choice of text editor (Do not use notepad under Windows)

3.) Under “InstallConfigStore”>”Software”>”Valve”>”Steam” add a new key “BaseInstallFolder_x” where x is the folder number beginning at 1 and incrementing for each folder thereafter.

Fix new steam library folder must be empty - Game List - config.vdf
config.vdf file

NB: When adding windows paths the backslash must be doubled “\\” instead of “\”

4.) Start Steam

Fix new steam library folder must be empty - Game List
Steam Game List

References for How to fix new Steam library folder must be empty

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