How to Fix “Windows cannot Find Steam.exe” Error?

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more

“Windows cannot find steam.exe error” has been a pretty common issue amongst steam users. It usually arises when you try to launch the service from its desktop shortcut directly.

However, there are instances when users have reported facing the same problem trying to launch the app from the steam installation files.

How to Fix “Windows cannot Find Steam.exe” Error?

Below, we have compiled a few potential solutions that you can use to fix the error you are seeing.

Getting to the Bottom of the Problem

Why do you think the error exists when the associated files are present on your computer? We have found that the problem may occur due to the following reasons:

  • Registry problem: The error can appear when you have a corrupted registry key.
  • Corrupted Files: Although this is a very common issue, there is a high possibility that it is the reason you are unable to launch steam.
  • Virus or Malware: If the root of the problem is not one of the above, you are likely seeing the error because of unwanted malware or virus infecting your computer.
  • Antivirus: Antivirus applications do flag certain applications, which might compel the user to allow the said application to run on a computer by adding it to exceptions. This could the case in this context as well. Antivirus applications, namely Avast, have been known to flag steam.exe.
  • Incomplete Download: If you are a new steam user, and have recently downloaded steam, you could be facing the issue because of an error during the initial download/ installation process.

How to solve “Windows cannot find steam.exe” Error?

There are a set of different solutions you can use, ranging from the pretty basic stuff to considerably advanced processes. We are, however, going to focus on the easy and durable fixes rather than the complex ones

#1: Check if you are just using a Broken shortcut File

Okay so, this might not sound very substantial as compared to the other solutions on this list but trust us with this one. To make sure the error you are receiving is actually because of the steam application and not just because of a broken shortcut, try opening the steam application from its file explorer if you have not already.

To do that, all you have to do is:

  • Open your File, Explorer.
  • Go to the disk where your steam files are located, they are most likely going to be in “C:\ Drive” and open up “Program Files (x86)”, and find the Steam Folder there and open it up.
Steam Folder Pathway in windows
  • Look for the steam.exe file and run it. If the steam starts without any error then your shortcut is broken. If the file in the steam directory is still showing the same “Windows cannot find steam.exe” error, please navigate to other solutions.
Steam.exe File

#2: Restart your Computer

This might be one of the most obvious fixes out there but trust us when we tell you that it ends up resolving most errors users face.

Restarting your computer resets your system and all its programs to their initial state, it also removes all the cache and lets your computer take a breather.

#3: Scan your computer for potential viruses

You could have viruses blocking access to your steam application, preventing it from running. To check if that is the case or not, you have to scan your computer. You can use your Windows Defender, or download any free antivirus, such as Malwarebytes, or AVG.

We are going to focus on the Windows Defender in this particular guide.

  • Open Windows Defender. (To do that, you either press the “Windows + i” and navigate to “Update &Security”, and then press the Windows Security tab on the left side.)
Windows Defender
  • Click on update and security.
  • From there, you click on the “Windows Security” (1) tab from the left and then click on the “Open Windows Security” (2) button.
Windows Security
  • Click on “Virus and Threat Protection”.
  • In the next window, click on the “Scan Options”, right below the Quick Scan button.
Scan Options under virus and threat protection.
  • From there, select “Full Scan” to get rid of all the malware and viruses that might be causing issues in your system.
Full Scan for viruses
  • Wait for the scan to finish, then go through the potential viruses in Protection History to either delete them or quarantine them.
  • Try launching steam again to see if the problem has been fixed.

#4: Add your steam app to “Exceptions” in Avast Antivirus

If none of the solutions above have worked, there is a high chance that your third-party security tools are interfering with the Steam app and preventing it from launching.

Out of all the antivirus applications, Avast has been famous for not being compatible with steam. So, if you do have Avast or any other third-party antivirus software, you might want to add steam to the list of exceptions in the said applications settings. To do that, just follow the steps below:

Disclaimer: This step-by-step is particularly done in Avast. Other software may or may not have the same procedure.

  • Open up the avast application and go to the menu.
  • Click on Settings.
  • Select the “General” tab, and go to the “Exceptions”.
  • Click on the Add an Exception bar.
  • Type your steam’s folder path into the bar. Or click on browse to select it manually. Then click on “Add Exception”.
Add an exception in avast
  • Restart your computer.

Hopefully, it will fix the error.

#5: Rename the .exe file

One of the most common fixes for windows cannot find .exe error is renaming the original EXE file from its original location. To do this for steam all you have to do is:

  • Go to your steam application’s folder location. (which, by default is C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam)
  • Locate the main steam.exe file and rename it.

#6: Uninstall your Third-Party Antivirus Service

If adding your steam folder to exceptions does not work, you might have to delete your antivirus altogether, and maybe look for a replacement that does not flag your Steam service for you.

After uninstalling and restarting the computer, check if your steam application is finally working. If not, you might have to delete a registry key.

#7: Delete an associated Registry Key

Deleting a registry key should always be taken seriously and should only be done in worst-case scenarios. If there has been an oversight and you have deleted a registry you should not have, the aftermath is going to be potentially unrepairable. To be on the safer side, before doing this step, you should back up your registry.

If all of the steps above have failed, and you have decided to delete or modify the registry key, follow the steps below carefully:

  • Press “Windows + R”.
  • Type Regedit in the Run dialogue box and hit OK. Your computer’s registry editor will open.
Regedit in run program

Follow the path “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options”.

  • In the Image File Execution Options, if you find the “Steam.exe”, delete it.
  • Restart the computer.

Try launching steam again. There is a high possibility that this solution might have done the trick.


After trying all of the solutions above, if trying to launch steam is still showing the same “Windows cannot find steam.exe” error. You can give it one last shot and completely reinstall steam from scratch.

This will restore all of your steam applications and files and is most likely going to fix the error as well. You need to be careful while uninstalling steam, follow the uninstallation process on steam support so you do not lose any important game files.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and we will be sure to back to you.

Photo of author

Luqman Khan

Luqman is the founder of and an obsessed gamer! Overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He is also the founder of a Computer Gaming Lounge. He has been into gaming and PC Building since 2009. He is also obsessed with DOTA 2 and Rainbow Six Siege.