Fix: Steam Thinks Game Is Running

Are you getting the "App already running" on Steam? Does Steam think that a game is already running but it isn't? Here's how you can fix it very easily.

Closing a Steam game shouldn’t require more than a few seconds, but there is a known bug that makes this otherwise simple process more difficult than it should be.  

This might not seem like a significant issue at first, but it can become a problem if you want to launch the game again shortly after closing it. You will be unable to, as Steam believes the game is still running.

We have encountered this bug enough times to know the various workarounds for it. You can learn about those fixes in this article.

Table of ContentsShow

The Problem Explained

The error shown in the image below occurs when a user tries to restart a game after recently closing it, only to be greeted by a message stating that the game is still running. The rest is pretty self-explanatory.

When this scenario occurs, the user:

  • Won’t be able to start the same game until the problem is resolved
  • Cannot start a VAC-secured game if the previous game was also protected by Valve Anti-Cheat.
  • Might have trouble closing Steam unless they use Task Manager 
Steam Error Failed to start game app already running

It’s easy to see why this is a frustrating experience if you lose power or your game crashes, and you are unable to quickly rejoin the match due to this issue. In competitive, online multiplayer games, which are played by countless Steam users, this could be the difference between winning and losing.

With that said, it’s clear that this situation requires immediate action. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the proven, working solutions for this problem.  

Fix 1: Close The Game’s Launcher

Some games, including very popular ones such as Cyberpunk 2077, GTA V, and almost all titles from Ubisoft, use dedicated launchers.

The Elder Scrolls Online Steam

This means when you start one of these games from the Steam client, their standalone client will launch as well.  

After exiting the game, you might also need to close the launcher manually.

If the game in question doesn’t have a standalone launcher, feel free to skip this fix and move on to the next one.  

Fix 2: Wait Until Steam Cloud Finishes Syncing

Upon exiting a Steam game, if the game supports Steam Cloud and uses it to store your progress, you will need to wait until your local data finishes syncing with the cloud servers.

Ideally, this should only take a few seconds. However, depending on the specific game and other factors, such as your internet connection speed, it could take slightly longer.

It’s best to simply wait until the sync is done. If it appears to be stuck, which is rarely the case but sometimes happens, you can force close Steam and restart it.  

You will notice that you won’t be able to click the “Play” button on Steam until the “syncing” text is gone from next to the game’s title.  

Fix 3: End All Processes Using Task Manager

It’s sometimes not enough to exit the game from its main menu, as it won’t always fully close. It isn’t ideal, but games sometimes fail to close completely, especially if they have related online services.

To ensure you can restart it without Steam telling you it’s still running, open Task Manager and end all processes that might be connected to the game.

Windows 10 Task Manager End Task
Closing Processes in Task Manager – Windows 10.

Use Task Manager to close any launchers, stores, browser-based authentication windows, or anything else that may be a part of the game you previously had open.

After ensuring the game is no longer running on your PC, start it again from the Steam client. It should launch normally.     

Fix 4: Exit Steam And Run It As Administrator

If the problem is on Steam’s end, which is sometimes the case, the easiest fix is to restart the client. This is easy to do and doesn’t take much time, which is one of the main reasons why many users attempt it as their first fix when they encounter this issue.

Make sure to run Steam as an administrator the next time you launch it, as this should help you avoid some other, smaller problems.

Fix 5: Restart Your PC

If you are unable to find the process that’s keeping the game running and preventing you from closing it, it’s best to restart your PC, as this will ensure all processes end.

restarting PC
System restart – Windows 10.

After your system has rebooted, start Steam as an administrator and launch the game again. It should start normally without Steam displaying an error message that the game is already running.   

Conclusion

We often restart games upon encountering an in-game glitch or a performance-related issue such as a memory leak. This makes it easy to take the process for granted, and we don’t expect it to go wrong.

If it does, you can now apply the fixes listed above and prevent Steam from believing your games are running even when you have ensured they no longer are.

If you can’t solve the problem even with all the methods described above, don’t hesitate to contact Steam Support for further assistance, as it could be a critical bug on the platform’s end that has nothing to do with you or your system.  

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Bojan Veselinovikj
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Bojan is a video-game developer and a tech enthusiast. Combining these two passions allow him to keep you informed on everything that's new in this fast-paced digital world.