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Master Steam: 10 powerful tips and tricks for PC gaming's do-it-all vanguard

Brad Chacos | Sept. 1, 2014
Steam can do a whole lot more than let you buy and play games. Buckle up and get ready to dive deep into Steam's hidden features.

Customize Steam's taskbar Jump List
Pinning programs to the taskbar and utilizing Jump Lists is one of the fastest ways to cruise through Windows. (Right-clicking on an program pinned to the taskbar reveals its Jump List.) By default, Steam's Jump List shows your most recent game played as well as links to various corners of the client--news, Big Picture, library, Friends, etc. But there's really no need for most people to have a Jump List option to leap straight into, say, your screenshots or Friend activity. Fortunately, you can tinker with Steam's Jump List settings to reveal fewer of those ho-hum entries and more of the important stuff--games!

Head to Steam > Settings > Interface, then click the Set Taskbar Preferences button. In the dialog box that appears, just uncheck the boxes of any Steam locations you don't want included in its Jump List, then press OK when you're done.

Now right-click the Steam icon in your taskbar; for every default Jump List item you deleted, your list of recent game entries grew by one. Selecting a recent game entry drops you right into the game itself, making it a quick way to leap back into the titles you're currently plowing through.

Back up your games locally
Sure, the Steam Cloud keeps your save games nice and secure on Valve's servers, but it only backs up your save games--and only on titles that support the feature. Backing up your games themselves protects against life's "Oh crap!" moments, ensuring that you don't risk corruption or angering your Internet provider by re-downloading your entire library if your hard drive gives up the ghost.

Guess what? Steam can handle your game backups, too. (I told you it was a one-stop shop!) Head into your library, right click on any installed game, and select Backup Game Files. A dialog box will pop up with a list of all your installed games, allowing you to select which titles you'd like to backup. The process is straightforward from there.

Restoring those backups is just as easy. Simply log into your Steam account, then open the backup folder and run the steambackup.exe file (which you can grab here if you've lost it). Follow the on-screen prompts from there. Note that the executable should auto-run if you've backed your games up to a CD or DVD. If you run into trouble, check out Steam's backup FAQ.

Steam's backup isn't flawless. It won't, for example, back up mods, custom configuration files, or games that utilize third-party installers, such as MMOs and other many other free-to-play games. Nor will it back up any games that don't call Steam home. You'll have to handle those manually. But most importantly, Steam's game backup feature won't backup your save games themselves. Check out PCWorld's guide to backing up your PC save games to be certain that the princess comes with you to another castle.


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