Mac Gaming 101: Getting the Most Out of Steam’s Offline Mode

written by JMatula on March 21, 2013 in Mac Gaming 101 and Special Feature

Mac Gaming 101

Welcome to another installment in our Mac Gaming 101 series, where we try to enlighten the Mac gaming audiences about important topics. A couple of weeks ago we posted an introduction to Steam, with some basic information and a promise to go more in-depth later. That time has come, as we detail Offline Mode and its benefits, as well as review some general troubleshooting tips to help you get Steam running as best as it can.

What Is Offline Mode?

Offline Mode is a method of playing games through Steam when you don’t want to reconnect with the Steam network or an Internet connection is not available. It’s also helpful if you’re playing a single player game and would rather not be bothered with Steam trying to download updates. It essentially ensures that your games are playable at all times.

Keep in mind that some games have built-in, online-only features that you will not be able to access if you play in Offline Mode. For example, Borderlands 2’s Shift Codes will work ONLY if you are connected to the network and NOT if you are in Offline Mode.

Offline Mode Myth-Busting

One of the biggest misconceptions about Steam is that it forces you to always be online and “logged in” in order to play games. This is NOT true! The first time you play any game via Steam, whether purchased through Steam or retail, it must go through an “authentication” process. This basically ensures you are who you say you are and that this game is in fact in your library. However, this is the ONLY time you are required to be online for a Steam game. Once this process is complete, you can launch the game in Offline Mode forevermore. You don’t need an Internet connection to play any game after the first time. Yes, it’s an extra step, but it’s certainly a far cry from the always-online practices of ‘Diablo III’ or the latest ‘SimCity.’

How To Use Offline Mode

Before attempting to go into Offline Mode, make sure the Steam client and all its files are up to date. Even if the individual game says “100% – Ready,” if the client itself isn’t up to date you may get an error message saying, “This game cannot be started in Offline Mode.”

It’s also possible that Firewall settings and other issues could prevent the Steam client from updating. If you’re having problems, make sure and check out this “Troubleshooting Network Connectivity” article to make sure all your configurations are set up properly.

If your computer does not have a network connection, Steam will automatically prompt you to go into Offline Mode.  If it has a network connection, but not to the Internet, it’ll give a “Cannot Connect to Steam” error.  In that case, unplugging from the network entirely can trigger the prompt to enter Offline Mode. 

Here are six easy steps to set up Offline Mode on your Mac:

1. Start Steam online, making sure the “Remember My Password” box on the login window is checked.


2. Verify that all game files are completely updated – you can see the update status for a game under the Library section (when the game shows as “100% – Ready,” it is ready to be played in Offline Mode).

3. Launch the game you would like to play offline to verify that there are no further updates to download – shut down the game and return to Steam once you have confirmed that the game can be played.

4. In the Steam top menu, go to Steam > Preferences to ensure the “Don’t save account credentials on this computer” option is NOT selected. 



5. From the main Steam window, go to the Account menu and select “Go Offline.” 



6. Click “Restart in Offline Mode” to continue.

restart offline


Frequent Steam Issues For Mac Gamers

As with any piece of software there are problems that can crop up from time to time when trying to use Steam on your machine. Here are just a couple of the more frequent issues that Mac gamers experience with Steam and ways to resolve them:

  • It says I can’t run Steam because of a file-system error: Steam won’t run on case-sensitive file systems. Go here for help.
  • Steam always starts on logon, it’s annoying! Alt-Click (or right-click) the Steam Dock Icon and uncheck “Open at Login” under “Options.”
  • frustrationSteam Won’t Connect: Verify you have the necessary ports opened as mentioned in this Steam Support Article [link]. Also, some IP-blocking programs block Steam from connecting to Valve. These include Peer Guardian and Transmission (With Blocked IP Range). Tip off can be seen here.
  • Games are running like crap: If you have a Mac with only integrated graphics and not a dedicated card, games may not run at all, or if they do, they may run poorly. NVIDIA 9400M and GT320 seem to run, but all others are sketchy at best. Read more here.
  • My graphics card is fine, but games still run really slow: Ensure that any background programs are not actively running. Also, ensure you quit any programs which use the GPU. To increase frame rates, try turning off color correction and disabling vSync.
  • My controller isn’t working: Steam for Mac does not officially support controllers. Aspyr games support the wired XBOX 360 controller natively in Steam, and you can read more about that here. Everything else is a mixed bag of developer support and 3rd party drivers work-arounds.

For more help and discussion of known issues for Mac users of Steam, check out this blog dedicated to Steam for Mac and the official Steam for Mac forum. These are general resources though; if you have a very specific question not answered in these resources, don’t hesitate to contact Steam’s support directly.

That concludes our Steam Offline Mode and Troubleshooting segment of Mac Gaming 101! Are there any other pressing issues related to Steam you feel we should discuss? Is there anything from this article that isn’t clear and you need more explanation? Let us know in the comments.