23 October 2016

Public Service Announcement: Steam Disc Write Errors...

Seen this message before? Can't play your games? Well, read on...

I've noticed that this particular error is getting more and more common on Steam. Basically, what happens, is that Steam tries to update a game in some fashion and ends up getting a glitch and is unable to proceed. The error has been around for quite some time now and it's trivially simple to fix if you know what to do and where to look... in which case the fact that Valve have no Steam Help page dedicated to the issue (at least not one that doesn't assume your PC or HDD is in the process of dying).

Even worse, it would be pretty easy to code in the fix into the Steam client as a 'when this happens, do this' bit of functionality - all the indicators are there already so the information would just need to be flagged and acted upon.

I looked for quite some time, saw many incorrect solutions and many unhelpful 'suggestions' from hopefully well-meaning users and finally found something that worked (although I don't remember exactly which youtube video it was. I didn't find the work-around written anywhere though - so that's where this PSA comes in...

Now, I'm not going to say that this solution will definitively work for all causes of this error. If your HDD is dying or there is a problem with your system that is causing problems with writing to the HDD then you will need to address that in your own way. Otherwise, this is a good guide to start with before doing crazy things like reinstalling the game, Steam and your OS! 

First thing to note is that the location of your games or steam directory have no bearing on this error. But you do need to know the install location of Steam in order to proceed. :)

Navigate to your Steam folder.

Once you've gotten to your Steam folder, find the 'logs' folder and enter it. Then open the "content_log" file in a programme like "notepad". Now, search for something like that line in the image below: "Failed updating" XXXXX etc. We need to make it so that Steam can get past this roadblock; that means deleting the file so Steam re-downloads it. 

There is probably some software solution for doing this that doesn't require potentially re-downloading multi-gigabyte files (software developers could help by not making these massive files that need updating in the first place but I get that they like to have nicely packed 'compressed' archives) but I don't know how to do that.

Bad file! Bad, BAD file!

What this means is that, for some reason, this file is not able to be updated by Steam. In this case it's the "data.pack" file in the subfolder "data". Now, I happen to know which game this is for because I only have one game that is currently displaying the write error, otherwise you'll have to check the appID of the game in order to correctly identify which file we're going to have to delete.

There you are! Gotcha!

Now you need to return to the Steam directory folder and navigate through to the game folder in question. That means heading to "\common\Total War Warhammer\data" in this case. Now we just need to find that file (actually, if you look at the picture above, it's relatively easy to find this time - sometimes they're just strings of random alphanumerics).

Now that it's deleted, You also have to check two other folders because there can be copies of this problematic file in those too. First up is the "temp" folder. Navigate back to the Steamapps folder and enter temp.

You're off the hook this time, temp!

Okay, so there's nothing there, this time...

Now I need to check the same data folder in the "downloading" folder and as you can see below, it is there again! This time, the game name is not included in the folder structure but we know the appID because it was written up there in the log file when we found the error message.

Wait, what?! There's TWO of you?!

Now delete that. This is the most difficult part of the process over. Just beware though, that sometimes these files also have a "temporary" variant of themselves in the same folder but these are located right next to the file in question in the file list so are easy to spot.

Now, open up steam and navigate to the downloads tab and put the game in question as top priority to download. Give Steam some time to have a think as it can sometimes take a few minutes to sort itself out. If it doesn't then 'verify' the game cache (Google will help you with this if you don't know how to perform this operation). You should see the below occurrence. i.e. The download should start...

It's downlo- crap...

If, like in my case, it begins downloading for a few minutes and then stops it's because there's another underlying issue at play. You can clearly see disc activity but the game status (IIRC) is around 81% in the library view but nothing is happening to progress the installation or download of the game. In this instance, the problem is because Steam itself needs to update.

C'mon... C'mon!

You need to close Steam (make sure you actually exited the programme and not just minimised it) and then re-open it again after 20-30 seconds. Steam should now update itself. Once into Steam, you should hopefully see this:

Ahhhhhh... SO good...

Give the download some time to get going, finish and then install properly. Finally, assuming you have no other underlying cause of the error (it may pop up again - in which case rinse and repeat the above, minus the restarting of Steam unless you need to do so), you should see the finish line:


Now, go and enjoy your game!

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