How to fix Windows cannot find Steam.exe error?

Issue: Hello. I have tried to launch Steam but I receive an error saying that Windows cannot find Steam.exe. I have tried multiple times on different days but the issue does not disappear. Any tips would be appreciated.

Solved Answer

Steam is the most popular game distribution service for PC gaming developed by Valve. It was launched in 2003 and offers digital rights management, server hosting, video streaming, social networking services, installation and automatic updating of games, and community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud storage, and in-game voice and chat functionality.

By 2019, the service had over 95 million monthly active users.[1] Some of them encounter various errors while trying to use it. The “Windows cannot find Steam.exe” error message appears when users are trying to open the Steam app by double-clicking on the shortcut on Desktop. The error message appears even though the file is accessible.

The error can appear when there is a corrupted registry[2] key or system file. Viruses or malware are common causes for various system errors so you should not exclude that as a possibility. On the other hand, it can also be caused by a third-party antivirus program.

Antivirus applications, like Avast, have been known to flag steam.exe, so if you have it you should check out the settings. “Windows cannot find Steam.exe” can be a problem for new Steam users as well. The installation could be corrupted, or the download – incomplete. You should try re-installing Steam if that is the case for you.

How to fix Windows cannot find Steam.exe error?

There is a wide range of issues that can cause Steam to be unable to launch. As there are many potential causes for this problem we suggest using a repair tool FortectMac Washing Machine X9 that can scan your system automatically to avoid going through all of the solutions. This software can identify the damaged system components, fix BSODs,[3] and registry issues, free up the space, and boost the machine's performance, so you will be able to potentially get more out of your device while gaming.

If you want to start with manual solutions to fix Windows cannot find Steam.exe error you can start here. Make sure to go through all the steps carefully:

Method 1. Open Steam from file explorer

  • Open your File Explorer

Open Steam from 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), find the Steam folder, and open it
  • Look for the steam.exe file and run it; if Steam starts without any error then your shortcut is broken

Method 2. Disable third-party antivirus software

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Disable third-party antivirus software

If you have any third-party antivirus software installed on your system, you should try disabling it and then trying to launch the Steam application. In case Steam starts properly with the antivirus software disabled, it’ll become obvious that the issue was caused by it. In such a scenario, if you wish to continue using antivirus software, you can simply whitelist the Steam process.

Method 3. Perform a full virus scan

  • Press Windows + I and navigate to Update & Security, and then press the Windows Security tab
  • Click on update and security

Perform a full virus scan

  • From there, you click on the Windows Security tab from the left and then click on Open Windows Security
  • Click on Virus and Threat Protection
  • In the next window, click on the Scan Options, right below the Quick Scan button

Perform a full virus scan2

  • From there, select Full Scan to get rid of all the malware and viruses that might be causing issues in your system
  • 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

Method 4. Rename the steam.exe file

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Rename the steam.exe file

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

Method 5. Delete an associated Registry Key

  • Press Windows + R to open the Run box
  • Type Regedit and hit OK
  • Follow this path:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\\SOFTWARE\\Microsoft\\Windows NT\\CurrentVersion\\Image File Execution Option

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

Delete an associated Registry Key

  • Restart the computer

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About the author
Gabriel E. Hall
Gabriel E. Hall - Passionate computer expert

Gabriel E. Hall is an expert troubleshooter who has been working in the information technology industry for years.

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