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How Steam in-home streaming can turn your old laptop or Windows tablet into a PC gaming force

Brad Chacos | June 9, 2014
If your gaming rig and home network are up to snuff, you can stream Steam games to another PC (including Macs and Linux machines) or Windows tablet and play in other parts of your abode. Here's how to set it up.

steam in home streaming aciv macbook
HAYDEN DINGMAN. Using Steam's in-home streaming feature to stream Assassin's Creed IV from a desktop with a Radeon 7850 graphics card (the black display) to an 8-year-old MacBook. Games run full-screen on both devices during streaming.

Beyond the PCs themselves, the quality of your in-home network makes a big difference to Steam in-home streaming. For best results, everything should use a hardwired connection, but that's not always feasible.

Hayden Dingman's hands-on with the beta version was conducted on an older 802.11g network. While he was able to play slower games and even Just Cause 2 with minimal latency, he had a less pleasant experience with faster-paced games. Twitchier games like The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings and Bioshock Infinite stream fine enough on my 802.11n network with some basic tinkering, however. (More on that later.) Using the 5GHz band or an 802.11ac router would theoretically deliver even better results, and comments in this forum discussion largely back up that theory.

Using Steam in-home streaming
With that out of the way, now onto the (mostly) easy part: Actually playing games with Steam in-home streaming.

Keep reading to learn how to stream Steam!

The process couldn't be easier. Simply make sure both computers are turned on, connected to the same local network, and logged into the same Steam account. If all that's set, a pop-up will appear in the lower-right corner of your screen, letting you know you're connected to your primary machine.

Your Steam library will be shared between the two PCs, and a Stream option will appear for games that are installed remotely. (You'll need to install the games you want to stream on your host PC first, of course.) If any of your games are installed on both machines, you'll be able to choose whether you want to stream it or play it straight from the PC you're holding.

That's it!

If you want to try to play a game that isn't offered on Steam, try adding it via the Games > Add a Non-Steam Game to my Library option on your host machine to try and force the matter. Valve's streaming FAQ says that might work, but warns that streaming non-Steam games is not officially supported.

Trouble-shooting Steam in-home streaming
Troubleshooting streaming problems is also fairly straightforward, assuming your hardware and home network are up to snuff to begin with.

If your games are doing the jitter-bug--in-home streaming handles latency by dropping the frame rate, rather than dropping the picture quality, for some bizarre reason--open Steam on your client PC and head to Steam > Settings > In-Home Streaming in the menu bar. Under the "Client options" portion, you'll see options for Fast, Balanced, and Beautiful, with Balanced enabled by default. Try dropping the setting to Fast.


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