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Rocket Yard Guide: How to Install & Play Mac Games Via External Drives

MEP_SingleHard drive space is a precious resource these days. As games require more and more space on our drives, it’s easy to find your storage suddenly maxed out. And when it happens, is it time to delete your games? Of course, not. There is a much better solution: install them on an external drive instead, freeing up your main drive for other things including more games.

It may sound complicated to use an external drive to install your games, but the process is quite straightforward. In this guide, we will show you how to install games via Steam or on an external hard drive.

Finding storage
Traditionally, you might think that it’s strictly laptops that need an external game library, (such as a 128GB-equipped MacBook Air). But even on my 1TB iMac, I find myself regularly running out of storage space since I deal with so many files and games at once. Since it is also recommended to keep a minimum of 10% of your HD free at all times, I have been keen to start installing my games on a drive other than my internal one.

Your first step toward more space is obtaining a suitable external drive for your needs. For best performance, you will want a USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt supported drive. A USB 2.0 drive can also work, but expect longer load times and other possible hits on playability.

Here are some drive recommendations to get you started:

  • For desktop users looking to expand, the OWC Mercury Elite Pro is a great place to start.
  • For laptop users, and gamers on the go, I recommend a “mini” drive, such as the OWC Mercury Elite Pro mini.
  • If you have a larger budget, I’d suggest getting an SSD Thunderbolt drive. This will have nearly the same performance as your internal drive. The ultra rugged Lacie Thunderbolt or Mercury On-The-Go Pro is a great place to start.

Of course, you can use almost any drive you want to install your games externally, but these are reliable drives to get you started.


How to install via Steam
Installing games in a different location than default on Steam is easy. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Plug in your external drive of choice and fire up Steam.
  • In Steam Preferences > Downloads you can specify an alternate library folder. Just make a new folder named SteamLibrary on your external drive and choose it. You can toggle between default libraries by right clicking on the one you want to use and selecting the “Make default” option. Alternately, you can skip specifying a new library folder in Steam preferences and proceed straight to the install. It will give you an option to “Create a new Steam library” on your external drive.
  • Select a game to install. In the popup menu, be sure to select your new location in the “Choose location for install” menu.
  • Install your game as usual. Download speed will depend on upon your net connection.
  • Open and play your game!

How to install via Launcher
The setup for the launcher to install games externally is just as simple as Steam.

  • Launch the app and select a game to install, such as Starcraft II.
  • In the popup info box, select the “Change” button under “Install Location.”
  • Navigate to your external drive and create a new folder named “Blizzard.” This can be named anything, but for ease of use this is recommended.
  • It might take a bit longer to start installing than normal, but it will go soon enough.
  • Enjoy your Blizzard games with more space!

If you are going to exclusively play Blizzard games on an external drive, you can change the default install directory in settings.

Just go to Settings > Game Install/Update and “Change” the default directory to one of your choosing. I recommend using the same “Blizzard” folder approach as mentioned before.

That’s it! You can now easily install your favorite games on external drives if you find yourself running out of room or simply want to keep your internal drive freed up for other apps and projects.

Let us know in the comments which games and hard drives that you use externally!

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Jon Carr
the authorJon Carr
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  • for me it didnt work i have a 2tb hdd and tryin to install borderlands 2 which is 16gb and it just randomly stops installing the game for no reason at all it installs fine on ssd but im confused why it doesnt on hdd

  • if put my games on the external it won’t works, but if I download my games on my drive its work can you tell me why?

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  • Mac games are good, but still I like playing online games at (as always I do) . There’s nothing new. Perhaps I should buy a gaming PC and start playing games as No man Sky , but we have what we have and I love that cute online games

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  • What if you have steam games already installed. How do you move t hem to the new default directory .