While estimating download timings isn’t an exact science, you can make some educated guesses.
How Long Do PC Games Take to Download?
To estimate how long PC games take to download, you need to factor in several variables.
First and foremost, it is the size of the game you’re looking to download. Games come in many different sizes, which are decided by a bunch of elements including (but not limited to) the following:
- Number of graphical elements
- Visual fidelity
- Length of the game
- Complexity of interactions and general game logic
These and other elements are hard to gauge without having insight into a game’s code and engine. For simplicity, you can divide games into three categories: AAA titles, indie games, and mini-games.
A sizeable chunk of AAA games is massive, sprawling open-world adventures with expansive maps and high fidelity graphics. More often than not, these games are larger than 30 GB. They can also go as high as 100 GB on the rarest of occasions. On the other hand, indie games can be as small as 200-300 MB, especially when they focus on a few short maps and 2D or low-fidelity 3D graphics. Mini-games are short, bite-sized experiences that can be even smaller than certain indie titles.
Once you know your file size, you can estimate how long it will take for your PC game to download by taking your internet connection into account. There’s no accurate math you can do here as your connection speed is never constant. Factors that come into play can include the following:
- Connection type (i.e., fiber optic and DSL)
- Speed range your provider states in your contract with them
- Network traffic
- Cable quality
Your router and modem, as well as your home’s network environment, also affect how fast a PC game will take to download fully. Then there’s also your physical distance from the servers of the gaming platforms you’re using.
All of that being said, let’s look at an example. The game we want to download is No Man’s Sky, a title that reaches just a touch below the AAA range at 15 GB in size. We’ve bought it from Steam, which has some of the best connections and most broadly available servers worldwide. With a 100 Mbps fiber optic connection, it could take up to 30 minutes during high-peak traffic hours.
It’s really hard to make an exact estimate of when a PC game’s download process will finish. The best you can do is pre-download your game overnight or when you’re not expected to play so you don’t cut into your free time or keep your friends waiting.
Do PC Games Download in Sleep Mode?
Unfortunately, no. You can’t download PC games while your computer is in sleep mode. This is a feature that’s exclusive to consoles at the moment. The reason is that computers placed in sleep mode effectively have all of their CPU functions turned off. Your rig needs the CPU in order to process and allocate the data it’s receiving when downloading games.
Therefore, you’ll have to keep your computer turned on when downloading games from Steam and other platforms. As of this writing, this also applies residually to the Steam Deck as well. Though it can easily be set to sleep mode like a Nintendo Switch, it’s effectively a portable computer that runs Steam OS, meaning it has the same sleep mode quirks PCs do.
How Can I Save Energy while Downloading PC Games?
Computers have come a long way in terms of energy efficiency. They’re no longer the power hogs they used to be. However, they still use quite a bit of energy to run so it’s normal to be concerned about power consumption when downloading PC games.
One quick way you can save power is by turning off your monitor. If you’re planning on downloading a game while you’re not using your computer, there’s no reason for your screen to be on. There’s also a sleep screen function you can turn on that’ll place your monitor in standby mode. Keep in mind, it’ll still consume a minuscule amount of energy.
If you’re planning on downloading your PC game overnight, you can schedule it to turn off or go to sleep after a set amount of time has elapsed. The best way to do this while ensuring your game fully downloads before the PC goes to sleep is to look at the download performance. Steam does this best. Once you’ve started a download, you can click on it to see how fast it’s going. This screen also gives you a rough time of completion. You can take that, add an hour or two, and set the total as the time your computer auto-sleeps or shuts down.
It’s best to have your computer go to sleep rather than shut down if you’re going to have it switch off on its own overnight. A forced shutdown could cause your download to corrupt, meaning the time and energy spent downloading will be wasted.