Next Level Gaming: How to Safely Download and Play Free PC Games

By Staff Reporter , Updated Jul 08, 2020 10:53 AM EDT
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How to Safely Download and Play Free PC Games

Well over one hundred million Americans play video games regularly. As that number continues to balloon, people are experimenting with playing games on new platforms, namely their PCs.

Talk to any fluent gamer and they'll tell you that there's nothing quite like playing games on a PC. PCs offer the widest library of titles and possess the greatest capacity for graphical fidelity.

If you'd like to get started with PC games and want to do it without having to make a large investment, we're pleased to share that there are ample free PC games available for you to download!

Keep reading to learn the steps you should take to get some of the world's best free games up and running.

1. Know Your OS

Your PC gaming opportunities are limited by whatever operating system you're running. For example, if you're running Linux, you'll have access to far fewer free PC games than if you're running Windows.

Don't get discouraged if you don't have a Windows machine!

Several emulators can help you run free games designed for Windows in a Linux or OSX environment. Note that game performance may be hampered during the emulation process.

2. Find Your Game Source

There are hundreds of places that you can download free PC games from. Some are run by large, multi-million dollar companies while others are repositories with two or three titles that are run by hobbyists.

To get you started on your free games search, consider downloading popular applications like Steam or uPlay. These are two massive platforms that offer hundreds of free, high-quality titles you can get up and running with quickly.

3. Ensure Games Are Licensed for Free Distribution

When you download free PC games off of well-known platforms like Steam, you can be sure you're downloading them legally. The waters get murkier when you download games off of fringe sites.

The best way to know for sure if the game you're downloading is licensed for free distribution is to stick to downloading games on known platforms. A little bit of common sense also goes a long way here; If a game is for sale on most platforms but is free on one, unofficial looking website, chances are it's being distributed illegally.

4. Run a Virus Scan

When downloading games from smaller websites, you must run a virus scan before installing it. Viruses are commonly spread through files that claim to be game installers. Instead, these applications might lock you out of your files, damage your computer hardware, or cause other harm.

If you don't have a virus guard protecting your computer, consider any number of free tools that are offered online. Avast, BitDefender and AVG all offer good products that have robust free tiers.

As an aside, most games will come in a RAR file when you download them due to their size. Before you learn how to open RAR files on Mac or PC, we recommend you run a virus scan on the RAR file itself as an additional layer of protection.

5. Start the Installation Process

With your free game found, virus and license checked, you're ready to start the installation process. During this time, you'll be asked where you'd like your game's file directory to go.

Typically, the file directory that is selected by default is fine. If you have an external hard drive that you're trying to keep your games on, now would be the time to specify that.

PC game installs are typically very quick if you've already downloaded the game's files. Downloading the game before installation is what can take several hours depending on how large a game is.

To speed up a slow download, consider plugging your computer directly into your router (if you're using WIFI).

6. Run Your Game

Now that your game is installed, all that's left to do is to run it and enjoy the fun! If your game isn't booting up correctly post-download, you're certainly not alone.

PC games, free or paid, have a reputation of being a crapshoot when launching due to several variables. Common troubleshooting steps for games that won't launch include:

Checking On Support Files

Your game may need certain files from Microsoft, your graphics card manufacturer, or other third parties to run. Ensure that all required support files are installed. Then, restart your computer and try booting up your game again.

Installation Corruption

Sometimes, games don't install correctly. Try uninstalling your game and reinstalling it to circumvent this problem.

Platforms like Steam let you "verify game integrity" from its options menu which looks for install errors and fixes them without needing to perform a full reinstall.

Firewall Issues

Games that rely on the internet to be played won't work if your firewall is blocking its web traffic. While firewall issues typically won't cause your game to not boot up, it's possible they could per a title's development characteristics.

Check to make sure your firewall doesn't have your game on its block list. If it does, grant it regular permissions for incoming and outgoing traffic.

Free PC Games Can Be as Big a Blast as Paid Titles

What we love about free PC games is that despite the fact they're free, so many titles aren't hampered by that from a quality perspective. All of that to say that you should heed our advice and start downloading titles to enjoy. You won't regret it!

For more fun write-ups on all things games, check out the newest content on our blog.

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