How to troubleshoot Steam’s Preparing to launch error?

By Natallia Pustavalava | April 4, 2019 |

greater than 3 minutes

The Steam game client is one of the most popular gaming platforms for Windows 10. Occasionally, however, you may encounter error messages even there. One of the most frequently reported errors on Steam is the “Preparing to launch” error.  If you get this error message on your PC screen, you will be unable to run the game as Steam will be stuck on the launch window instead of starting the game.

At this point, you will start to wonder: “What can I do if “preparing to launch” stays open on Steam?” Fortunately, there are several quick fixes you can try to get rid of the error message.

How to fix the “preparing to launch” error on Windows 10?

There can be several reasons behind the “preparing to launch” error on Windows 10 — and several potential solutions. These include:

  • Verifying the game’s cache
  • Clean booting Windows 10
  • Updating the graphics card, DirectX and audio drivers
  • Updating Windows 10
  • Reinstalling the Steam client software

Let’s go over each of the solutions in detail.

Option one: verifying the game’s cache

The “Preparing to launch” error can be the result of corrupted game caches. Thus, if you are having problems running games on Steam, you can start by verifying the cache for the games that you can’t launch. Here’s how to do that:

  • Open Steam.
  • Open your game collection in Library.
  • Right-click the game that you have a problem launching.
  • Select Properties.
  • Click the Local files tab.
  • Under the Local files tab, click the Verify integrity of game files option.

Option two: clean booting Windows 10

Certain programs like VPNs (Virtual Private Network), anti-malware software, P2P networks (peer-to-peer) and other third-party software can enter into conflict with Steam. Thus, in order to free yourself of the “Preparing to launch” error, you may want to delete the conflicting software.

You can do that by uninstalling the misbehaving program — but there is a simpler option. By clean booting Windows, you will also be able to free up more system resources for gameplay. Here’s how to do that:

  • Open the System Configuration window (press the Win + R key combo).
  • In Run, type “msconfig” and click OK.
  • In the General tab, choose the Selective startup option.
  • Here, uncheck the Load startup items check box: this will stop all third-party software from launching on startup.
  • Choose Use original boot configuration.
  • Select Load system services.
  • Next, click the Services tab.
  • In the Services tab, choose Hide all Microsoft services.
  • Click Disable all to uncheck all the remaining third-party services.
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  • Press OK and close the System Configuration window.
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  • Finally, restart your PC to apply the changes.

Option three: updating the graphics card, DirectX and audio drivers

The “Preparing to launch” error, as well as a variety of other error messages, glitches and bugs, can arise because of corrupted or outdated system drivers. Keeping you drivers up-to-date is, thus, the best way to prevent these problems from appearing. You can update your system drivers manually — but this can be quite time-consuming and complicated, especially if you haven’t done it before. A simpler approach is to use specialized driver updating software like Auslogics  Driver Updater. The program will update all of your system drivers in just one click and help you avoid future compatibility issues.

Option four: updating Windows 10

Making sure that you are using the latest build version of Windows 10 is also an important factor in ensuring smooth gameplay. Typically, the Windows Update service will keep your system updated automatically and you won’t need to search for or install the updates manually. However, if for any reason you have chosen to roll back to the previous version of Windows or turned off automatic updates, consider checking for the latest updates and installing them.

In order to check for the missing updates, do the following:

  • Type “updates” in Cortana’s search box.
  • Click Check for updates.
  • In the new window, press the Check for updates button.

Option five: reinstalling the Steam client software

Finally, if none of the above methods have helped in resolving the issue, try reinstalling the Steam client software. Before proceeding, however, note that you will lose all your game data in the process. It is, thus, strongly recommended that you move the Steamapps subfolder out of Steam’s folder. Here’s how to reinstall Steam on Windows 10:

  • Go to File Explorer and open the Steam folder.
  • Select Steamapps and press Copy.
  • Select a folder you want to copy Steamapps to and paste it into the new folder.
  • Close File Explorer.
  • In Run, enter “appwiz” and click OK.
  • Choose Steam and click Uninstall.
  • Once the program is uninstalled, restart your PC.
  • Now, go to the Steam download page and click Install Steam.

We hope you’ve been able to successfully tackle the “Preparing to launch” error using one of the methods above. Additionally, you can try turning off Windows Defender and running Steam as an administrator.

Do you use any other distribution platforms besides Steam? Share in the comments below.

Fed up with your slow PC? Tired of waiting for Windows to start up? Take a look at the most common reasons behind poor performance and the best ways to deal with them here.
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