Dear Steam,

I can’t help but love you. You’re so convenient. Your sales are so good (and frequent!). I can’t tell you how many games I’ve purchased for the 2nd or 3rd time because the price was right, just to get the convenience of your digital distribution goodness.

You do a few things that annoy me from time to time. And lets face it, your support really needs improvement. It’s not a compliment when people compare your support with that of Google. But most of the time the good far outweighs the bad, in my opinion. Oh, if last night could have been one of those times.

You see, I’m kind of a smart person. I’m no genius by any means, but I am kind of smart with some things. For example, I try not to store any important data on my OS hard drive. That way if my OS somehow becomes toast, I still have my data and I can easily get things going by replacing the HDD and/or reinstalling the OS.

Such was the case last night. I had a power outage here and after power was restored I turned on my computer only to be faced with a BSOD during the boot up process. So after spending a few frustrating hours trying to troubleshoot the problem with the OS HDD, I came to the conclusion it was toast.

No matter, all I had to do was swap out the drive and install Windows again and I’d be up and running in no time with very little lost. Or so I thought.

You see, among other important data, I still had all my Steam files and games safely stored away on other drives. However, the newly installed Windows OS didn’t realize that Steam was installed (because technically it hadn’t ever been installed on that fresh OS), and the Steam Service wasn’t installed either. So I attempted to install Steam to the already existing Steam directory. I’ve done this in the past and it sure is nice not to have to download hundreds of gigabytes of games again after a reinstall.

But this time there was a problem. The Steam installation broke partway through. Evidence of this was the fact that the Start Menu shortcut to Steam was not there (but the Uninstall shortcut was) and when Steam auto-launched itself after the install I got an error message about needing to reinstall to get the Steam Service to run.

And here is where I made my tiny little mistake that led to huge problems. As you may be aware, a lot of programs need to be uninstalled before they can be reinstalled to fix issues with a bad installation or some other corruption. So I went to Add/Remove Programs and selected to uninstall Steam, with the intention that only things like Start Menu shortcuts and registry settings and the actual Steam client would be removed. Windows asked me if I was sure I wanted to uninstall Steam. I clicked in the affirmative.

Then with no prompts or confirmation from the Steam uninstaller, Steam began uninstalling itself. But boy was it taking forever! Well, I admit this PC is a bit old and things don’t always work as well or as fast as I’d like them to. But since I had just reinstalled the OS I decided to work on getting my settings and things back to the way I like them and install updates, etc. Several minutes went by where Steam was still uninstalling and I was setting up My Documents, Music, etc. to point to the appropriate directories on other drives. Then I noticed something very strange indeed.

The hard drive on which I store all my Steam games had about 150 GB more free space than it used to.

What?! Steam wouldn’t delete all of my games without asking me first, would it? I navigated to my Steam folder and noticed a number of things missing. Oh carp! It was deleting the game contents! I quickly pressed the cancel button on the uninstaller. Surely it was smart enough to only remove the game files but leave the save data, right? But the cancel button was no use. One by one, every single game was deleted from the Steam directory, including the save data for games that store saves in the game directory. And eventually the Steam directory itself was removed.

All traces of Steam were removed from my system. There was no warning. There was no confirmation. No simple dialog asking “This will remove all game data from your PC. Are you sure you want to continue?”

My 300 GB drive that was almost completely filled with Steam games suddenly had no Steam games at all. And while it is only aggravating having to download them again, the thing that makes it infuriating is that the save files for those games were also deleted.

Maybe you didn’t know this, but some games are really hard. Some games have a lot of content and allow you to spend hundreds of hours exploring or otherwise remaining engaged in the game. Some games are both hard and have tens or hundreds of hours of content. This makes the loss of such data a significant blow to anyone who has invested the time and effort involved. Hundreds of hours of work (and play!), gone in a flash because your installer didn’t think to warn people about the significant data loss they would experience when uninstalling the client.

Lots of uninstallers give you the option to keep user data. At the very least yours should have a confirmation prompt warning about the data loss and asking the user if they are sure they want to continue.