Using Steam on a Mac with a case-sensitive drive

It can be done, but there’s a little hassle involved:

If you just try running it from your Applications folder, you’ll most likely see this, which fortunately isn’t as big a problem as it is with Photoshop

Ok, so, since I don’t have any case-insensitive Volumes, I’m gonna create a disk image using Disk Utility; if you do have a case-insensitive volume, you may be able to substitute that for the image.

Open Disk Utility – It’s in the Utilities folder inside Applications (/Applications/Utilities) Click the new image button.

Choose where to save the disk image, give it a lowercase name (and note what it is for later), set the image format to “sparse bundle disk image” and Partitions to “No partition map”.
As for the size — I set it to 30GB; Portal is 5GB, so I don’t think it’s too large. Importantly though, even though I set it to 3oGB, it only takes up the amount of space as the files inside it. The size is the maximum it could hold. (After creating it, with no files in, it was only 130MB.)

Ensure that the image you created earlier is mounted (the name will be shown on the left of a Finder window).
Copy the Steam app into the image you created.
Open up Terminal (it too is in the Utilities folder /Applications/Utilities/Terminal)
Remember that name you set earlier? Replace /Volumes/steam below with /Volumes/(your-chosen-name)
Issue these commands, pressing return after each one. You should be able to copy and paste each line.

mkdir /Volumes/steam/steam\ library /Volumes/steam/steam\ content
ln -s /Volumes/steam/steam\ library ~/Library/Application\ Support/Steam
sudo ln -s /Volumes/ /volumes

The last one will require you to enter your password. Incidentally, I know this is a horrible solution… but until they adapt it’ll have to do.

You can create a shortcut in your Applications folder by selecting the Steam app in your disk image, pressing ⌘+L (command+L which creates an alias) and then dragging that alias to your Applications folder. Clicking on the Steam icon in Applications will automatically mount the disk image and open Steam for you 🙂

If all went well, you should be able to run the Steam app from your disk image now. So far, I’ve tried Portal and it seems to work fine. Crucially, it runs fine and you can load/save 🙂


Oh, and you can drag the volume off of the Finder’s sidebar so you don’t have to see it there if you don’t want.


About Josh Anderson

Blogger, Lost fanatic, RHUL Comp Sci student, geek. 
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38 Responses to Using Steam on a Mac with a case-sensitive drive

  1. I came up with almost the same solution and posted it in french 😉

    But I did not lowercase everything as you did with the last link (volumes->Volumes). Did you encoutered any problem without the lowercase names ?

    • Josh says:

      Without that last link it made ‘/volumes/[imagename]/steam content’ and saved stuff in there.

      You might find the game downloaded to a ‘volumes’ folder on the root of your disk. If it doesn’t then I’m curious as to why mine did!

      I just tried it without the last link and it wanted me to download Portal again… it couldn’t see the download directory, I suppose.


  2. Like many others, I had been waiting eagerly for Steam for the Mac since the day it was announced. I was pretty annoyed when I got the error message about case-insensitive file systems – converting the FS to case sensitive was about the first thing I did when I got my MacBook!

    One google search brought me here, and hey presto, no need to worry anymore. You are a champion 🙂

  3. Lawrence says:

    Thanks muchly! For a second there I thought this was going to be Photoshop all over again.

  4. Lawrence says:

    I should mention something that tripped me up at first: In Disk Utility, make sure you don’t have anything selected in the column on the left, or your “New Image” dialog will have a different set of options.

  5. Hah! It looks like I put together a post on the exact same thing, without actually noticing that you did. 😦
    I also keep StarCraft II in such a volume. There’s also a post on why this case stuff is insane.

    Is there anything we can really do to convince these developers? :-/

  6. Shane Lowry says:

    Great walk through … thanks.

    The only thing missing that I sorted out myself, was that you need to take the and move it to the disk image before creating the alias.

    It’s implied but I ended up scratching my head over it a little.


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  10. LunaVorax says:

    Thank you very very much for this tips, I’m going to try it right now !

  11. Excellent solution. I was afraid I’d have to clone my system to a spare drive, reformat my internal hard drive and reinstall the system on my reformatted internal and then install steam. You saved me hours of work and probably issues I’d have resulting from cloning a system from a case-sensitive to a case-insensitive system.

  12. Sam Smith says:

    I know this blog was made a long time ago but it’s the only one that i can actually understand. I’m attempting to download Half-Life 2 onto my computer but everytime I click the install button this message pops up, “The Steam servers are currently too busy to hangle your request. Please try again in a few minutes.” I went on steam’s forums and found that it was because of the case in/sensitive issue. The forum post was not helpful because it used too much of terminal which i do not know how to use.

    I completed all of these steps but still have a few issues. When I try to run steam after going through these steps it displays, “Steam has changed where it stores game content from ‘~/Documents/Steam Content’ to ‘~/Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps’. You have game first in the original location, and Steam was not able to move the files because files already exist at the new location. You may need to move the files manually, or delete the old files and download your games again. Continue anyway?” and then there is the cancel and ok buttons below it.
    I’ve tried both options, the cancel gets me no where and ok still doesn’t let me download what I want. Any suggestions?

    • Hmm. It seems there’s been a change to where Steam puts its content directory.

      Remove the alias/link in your Documents folder (the “Steam Content” one). Hopefully that should solve your issue and I’ll update the post to reflect the change.

      Let me know how it goes.


      • Sam Smith says:

        well, the second part of my post was fixed, and I thank you for that, but steam still says, “The Steam servers are currently too busy to hangle your request. Please try again in a few minutes.” Everything that I see is lowercase and should be working fine. The one thing that I think might be my problem is that the download isn’t going to the new mounted image, It’s going straight to my desktop. I tried deselecting “Create desktop shortcut to Half-Life 2” but it didn’t help either.

        I was looking here for help, but the coding was a little messed up to put into terminal.

        • Sam Smith says:

          well, I solved the problem. At least for now. I just moved my Steam folder that was in user/library/application support/steam into the trash. A new one was created, so I’ll try and see what files i need to delete from the folder in the trash to get it to work. Then i won’t have to re-download all my games again.

          • There shouldn’t be a lowercase users folder. It’s unnecessary if you have the link of /volumes to /Volumes
            I just tried removing my /volumes link and attempted to download something and then I was met with that message you got. Ideally, create the /volumes to /Volumes link and get rid of the /users/….etc stuff.


            • Sam Smith says:

              It’s not the users folder… It’s the actual user (named salunga1). I don’t think the link was made correctly. When i type in that last line into terminal it says “File Exists.” I’ll figure something out. Thanks for all your help!

  13. james says:

    “steam needs to be online to update”
    got this with 20 or so attempts, did a photoshop update and tried the steam install during the photoshop update and steam magically downloaded and installed.
    I did nothing else that I have seen posted to resolve this so, my guess is the steam servers are simply too busy for mac or the photoshop update opened up ports or something???
    sorry no solid explanation but hope this helps someone.

  14. “move the Steam folder that was in user/library/application support/steam into the trash.”

    This should be put into the original post, as it wasn’t working for me till I did this. Thanks!

  15. ben_the_man says:

    Thank you so very much. It worked instantly and all my Steam-Games run just fine.

  16. edo says:

    how do you get to the codes in terminal?

  17. general_crafticus says:

    i tried it but when i went to create the image it just camr up with a “reasource busy” error message

    • I think that happens when you are trying to create an image of one of your drives, rather than a new one. As Lawrence said above, check that nothing is selected in the left hand column of Disk Utility and then hopefully it will work.

      If that’s not the case then I guess you can fall back to…. errr… restarting? 😛 Just guessing there.

  18. robsonpeixoto says:

    It’s always asking for access code. How to solve it?

  19. Tim Katje says:

    I’m receiving a “Steam requires that ‘/Users/%username%/Library/Application Support/Steam’ be on a case-insensitive filesystem” error message after following all of your instructions. Did something perhaps change with Steam after these instructions were created that you are aware of, or am I missing something?



  20. gugigugi says:

    its doesnt let me put the code in the terminal
    what should i do?

  21. davej says:

    Can some one help me I followed all steps it ‘updates steam ‘ then give me the same error about case insensitive

  22. It still does not work for me i dont know what im doing wrong :/

  23. Sofiane says:

    OMG thank you it worked

  24. Dennis Bolshakov says:

    I had a slightly different problem — I installed steam and when I opened it it gave me a blank black window with only the steam and valve logos. Steam support told me it was because my hard drive was case-sensitive. I followed all these steps, and resulted with the same problem. Anything I can do to fix it? By the way, when Steam is run, the terminal gives me the error message of
    Errors in public/subpanelwelcomecreatenewaccountemail.res:
    error loading file ‘public/subpanelwelcomecreatenewaccountemail.res’, no such file

  25. Aaron says:

    I’m not sure what I did wrong but it still gives me the same notification

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