Minimize Steam When Launching a Game Shortcut on Windows

5 minutes to read

The recent Steam client major update has brought predominant user interface changes as well as a regression in user experience: if the Steam client is not running, and the user launches a Steam game from its desktop or Start menu shortcut, then the Steam client window will show up before the game launches; prior to the update, Steam would start minimized in this case, thus the window would not show up on its own.

This behavior is very disruptive to users who like to launch Steam games from their shortcuts instead of in the Steam client and do not want to start Steam when the system boots – they now have to manually close the Steam client window after launching a game if they do not want to keep the window open.

This article introduces a solution that effectively reverts this behavior change for the new Steam client on Microsoft Windows. To summarize, the solution involves modification to the Windows Registry that alters the Steam client launch options for game shortcuts.


  • This article’s instructions only apply to Microsoft Windows.

  • The Steam client must have been launched at least once before following this article’s instructions.

Modify Registry

Launch Registry Editor

Open up the Run dialog box (which can be done by pressing Windows key+R), type regedit, and press Enter.

Launching Registry Editor from the Run dialog box

If the User Account Control dialog box shows up to ask for confirmation or administrator password, choose “Yes” or enter the password.

User Account Control dialog box when launching Registry Editor

Change Registry Value

In Registry Editor, navigate to path HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\steam\Shell\Open\Command.

The registry value to change in Registry Editor

Registry Editor should only show a (Default) value under this path. Edit it (which can be done by double clicking the value’s entry), and add -silent with a trailing space in front of the double hyphens (--). For example:

- "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steam.exe" -- "%1"
+ "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steam.exe" -silent -- "%1"

Edit the registry value

Explanation: The HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\steam\Shell\Open\Command registry path stores the program and program arguments that Windows should use to open steam:// URLs. Since each Steam game shortcut uses a steam:// URL to specify that it launches a Steam game (e.g. the shortcut for Portal has URL steam://rungameid/400 as shown below), modifying the value under the said registry path affects how Windows opens Steam game shortcuts. The added -silent option lets Steam start minimized to the system tray. Therefore, when a Steam game shortcut is launched, Steam starts with the -silent option, hence minimized.

The shortcut to Portal that Steam creates

Prevent Steam from Overwriting Registry

Unfortunately, the Steam client may overwrite the changed registry value and restore it to default. To prevent this, modify the registry value’s permission to block Steam client’s changes to it.

  1. Open permission settings for HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\steam\Shell\Open\Command, which can be done by right-clicking on the said path’s entry in the navigation pane and then selecting “Permissions” in the menu.

    Opening permission settings from the navigation pane

  2. Click the “Advanced” button.

    The “Advanced” button in the permission settings window

  3. The Advanced Security Settings window will show up. Click the “Disable inheritance” button in it.

    The “Disable inheritance” button in the Advanced Security Settings\nwindow

  4. Select “Convert inherited permissions into explicit permissions on this object” in the Block Inheritance dialog box.

    The Block Inheritance dialog box

  5. In the Advanced Security Settings window, select the current user account under permission entries, then click the “Edit” button.

    The current user being selected and the “Edit” button in the Advanced\nSecurity Settings window

  6. The Permission Entry window will show up. Click “Show advanced permissions”.

    The “Show advanced permissions” option in the Permission Entry window

  7. Deselect “Set Value” in advanced permissions, then click the “OK” button to close the Permission Entry window.

    Deselecting “Set Value” in advanced permissions

  8. Click the “OK” button to close the Advanced Security Settings window.

    Closing the Advanced Security Settings window

Explanation: After the above permission change, the current user account no longer has the privilege to change registry values under the registry path in question. Because Steam is typically run as current user (rather than administrator), Steam does not have the privilege to change those registry values either. However, the current user account can still modify those registry values via Registry Editor since Registry Editor is always run as administrator, and the administrator account’s permission is unchanged and thus remains at full.

Honorable Mentions of Alternative Solutions

Before coming up with this solution, I searched online for existing solutions to the user experience issue in question, but none of the solutions I could find were perfect.

Start Steam on Boot

Letting Steam start when the system boots helps mitigate this issue but with limitations.

When Steam starts on boot, it automatically minimizes itself (the initial public release of the new client would show the client window when started on boot, but a later update has fixed this); launching a Steam game shortcut when the Steam client is running minimized will not cause the client window to show up.

The limitations of this solution are:

  • It forces users to let Steam start on boot, even if some of them do not want to. After all, not everyone uses their computer only to play games. When the user does not plan to play any Steam games, starting the Steam client in the background when the system boots does no good and only wastes system resources.

    • It would increase the time that the operating system takes to completely start up as well as the time taken to power off if the user has not manually closed Steam before shutting down the system.

    • The Steam client unnecessarily consumes memory when it is running in the background.

  • If the user closes Steam and then launches a Steam game shortcut, the client window will still show up.

Modify Every Game Shortcut’s URL

The registry modification that this article describes is a global fix, which works for every Steam game shortcut, existing or created later. Alternatively, the -silent Steam client launch option can be set for each shortcut individually by adding " -silent (i.e. a double quote, a space, followed by -silent) to the end of the shortcut’s URL, such as:

- steam://rungameid/400
+ steam://rungameid/400" -silent

Modifying a Steam game shortcut to let Steam start minimized

This solution is not viable for people who have a lot of Steam game shortcuts or in the long term since it requires repeating the modification for every existing shortcut as well as new shortcut created in the future.