What to Do When Steam Content File Locked

Written by Branton

Last updated Jul 12, 2021

Steam has become the ultimate tool for PC gaming and it gives users to access their favorite games and download new ones.

For all of the joy it’s brought gamers, there’s also some frustration, as common errors like the ‘content file locked’ one pop up from time to time.

What does the Steam content file locked error mean?

This error occurs when users are trying to update games within their library, and it usually has to do with the permissions set on the computer or device. The problem can be resolved within a few minutes but requires some troubleshooting to determine the cause.

If you’ve faced this annoying notification while trying to update your Steam library, you’re not alone.

However, it’s easy enough to bypass it and get back to your favorite pastime, and we’ve got some of the simplest fixes that’ll do it in mere minutes.

What Does the Steam Content File Locked Error Mean?

steam file locked error

Steam is a digital distribution platform that lets users access and download video games from all genres, platforms, and third-party publishers in one simple place.

One of the best things about Steam is that you get instant updates from the games you already own, and all you have to do is click the update button.

However, sometimes you might be blocked by the infamous ‘Content File Locked’ error and wonder what you did wrong. This common error sounds more serious than it is, and usually just means that Steam was unable to write the update files onto your hard disk, so you’re not able to get the latest version.

If you’re looking for a quick fix, you can try the simplest approaches first. Try turning the computer off and on again, or exiting Steam and opening it back up, but if neither of these work, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to look for the solution.

6 Simple Fixes You Can Try

To get rid of the content file locked error and get back to gaming, you’ll need to work your way through the possible solutions on Steam.

Here are some of the easiest and most likely fixes for this common error on the gaming platform.

Run as an administrator

run as a administrator

This is a common solution for many programs, and not just Steam, as there’s a chance something else is blocking the app from running which requires you to take back control.

Find the Steam icon on your desktop and right click it, then choose ‘Run as administrator’ and this will let you open it temporarily this way.

If you want this to happen permanently, you can change the settings through the Properties tab when you right click the icon and then select Compatibility. Select ‘Run this program as an administrator and this will happen every time the software is launched.

For users who predominantly game on their PC, this is a smart option to enable permanently either way and you might find it prevents other issues as well.

Remove the download files

Sometimes, you might have started downloading a game update but then had to stop halfway for whatever reason. If this happens, some of the files will already be there on your computer and Steam could potentially read these as duplicates. With duplicates, you might get the content file locked error message, and need a quick fix.

To get rid of the download files you already have, open the ‘Downloading’ folder in the Steam folder of Windows File Explorer. If you can see the file belonging to the game you want to download, delete it and then make sure it’s removed from the Recycle Bin as well. Launch Steam back up and attempt to download it again, with the problem being hopefully resolved.

Check your antivirus

Antivirus software does a whole lot to protect our computers but sometimes they can be over the top. If yours is especially vigilant, it might be preventing Steam from updating your favorite games, and it deserves a second look.

Rather than disable the antivirus program altogether, you can do so temporarily, or check to see that Steam is on its safe list. Most programs let you choose what software is okay to make automatic updates and it could be as simple as adding Steam to the list.

Perform a disk scan

check the hard drive

Start a disk scan easily by selecting the Windows Start menu and then choosing Run as administrator. Then, type ‘chkdsk c:/f’ into the command prompt and hit enter and Y.

This process will look for errors in the system and fix them where possible. If one of these is causing your Steam issue, it’ll be sorted by the time it boots back up. You can then launch Steam again and see if it’s working.

Clear the Download Cache

A cache is where files are easily stored so your computer can access them as needed, and although it’s usually beneficial, it can cause issues like the content file locked error on Steam.

To clear the cache, open Steam and then go to the settings and find the downloads table. Click ‘Clear Download Cache’ and give it a few minutes to remove all of the files.

Not only will this hopefully solve the locked file but it might clear up some other problems that Steam has been dealing with in the background.

Reset the Windows Socket API

Reset the Windows Socket API

The Windows Socket API or Winsock is in control of how your operating system handles networks, and when it comes to Steam, it can have a lot of say.

A quick reset might be all you need to do to get access to the content files you’re trying to update and get a connection with the server.

To reset Winsock, open the Start menu and make sure you’re operating as the system administrator. Open the Command Prompt and type ‘netsh winsock reset’ and hit enter. Restart your computer once it’s done and launch Steam again to see if it’s solved the issue.

How to Prevent the Content File Locked Problem

With a healthier PC or laptop, you’re less likely to encounter problems with Steam when it comes to updating files or playing games.

The best place to start is with a PC optimization software that automatically detects errors, picks up viruses and malware, and can optimize your PC for performance.

For gameplay specifically, the simple act of updating your graphics driver can make a world of difference. With the latest version, you’ll reduce the likelihood of freezes, lags, and crashes, and the overall gaming experience will be superior as well.

This is as easy to do as an automatic update and will take just a few minutes to install.

Keep Steaming Along

locked file error on steam

There’s no need to get into a funk if you come across the content file locked error while using Steam, as it’s something that most of us have faced.

There are a few easy ways to fix it and if you want to prevent it from happening in the future, using a PC optimization tool can prevent issues like this.

Related Questions

Steam has changed the way we game forever, but for all of the advancements it’s made, there’s still a lot for gamers to learn so they can get the most out of it.

If you want to get a better understanding of the Steam platform, read on for some FAQs and expert answers that will give you the lowdown.

How Do I Fix a Slow Download on Steam?

If the game you’re attempting to downloading seems slower moving than usual, there are a few quick fixes to try.

You can clear the download cache on your computer, update network drivers, change the download server, and check your local network connection to make sure there are no other issues with the internet. If all else fails, delete and reinstall Steam and then try again.

Do You Have to Pay to Use Steam?

Steam is a completely free program to download and use on your computer, with no ongoing fees or monthly charges.

The only costs are when you purchase a game and pay for the initial download, but there are still free options for downloaded games on Steam that don’t cost a thing to enjoy.

Is Steam Safe for PC?

PC users can feel safe downloading the Steam platform and any games that come from it, as well as entering personal information while using the client.

In terms of payments for games, all of your data is encrypted and anything sensitive or private, like financial details, is protected with methods like HTTPs encryption for added security.

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