Many products are sold by retailers other than Steam. If these products are meant for Steam registration, they will include a Steam CD key.
This FAQ is meant for issues with registering retail and digital keys to your Steam account. If you are having issues with a key that was provided by Steam, please see the Steam-Issued keys FAQ for further information.
A CD Key is a printed combination of letters and numbers, found on a card, sticker, or disc included with your game's packaging. For online purchases where no physical media is shipped, the CD Key is usually included in the emailed purchase receipt.
If a retail or digital game is meant to be registered through Steam, the retail packaging or the email where the key was delivered will specify so. If a key is not intended for registration through Steam, you will see an invalid key error when you try to register it. If a retail or digital game key has already been registered, you will see a duplicate key error. Please see the sections on invalid and duplicate keys below for further information.
Log in to the Steam client application (if you haven’t yet, you can download the Steam client from the following link: http://store.steampowered.com/about/). Click the button labeled "+ Add a Game" on the bottom left on the Steam client and select "Activate a Product on Steam..." and follow the on-screen instructions.
After the key is registered to your Steam account, it acts as proof of purchase for the game as well as proof of ownership for your Steam account. Steam Support may ask for it if you need to establish your ownership of an account. It is recommended that you keep your key in a safe place to ensure the security of your account.
If your key is not recognized by Steam, make sure that the key is intended for Steam registration. If a retail or digital game is meant to be registered through Steam, the retail packaging or the email where the key was delivered will mention it.
Once you have made sure that the product is intended for Steam registration, check the combinations below to ensure that numbers and letters are entered correctly:
If you are still receiving an invalid error, we encourage you to contact the retailer for further assistance.
If the retailer is unable or unwilling to assist you, it is recommended that you contact the game's publisher for further assistance.
This error indicates that the key you are registering has already been tied to a Steam account. It cannot be registered again.
If you think that you have previously registered this key to a Steam account, please use Steam Help Site to retrieve your lost Steam account.
If you are sure that you have never registered this key successfully, you will want to contact the retailer where the game was purchased to obtain a new copy of the game.
If the retailer is unable or unwilling to assist you, contact the game's publisher for further assistance.
If your key is not meant to be registered on Steam, the game may still be added to your Library for convenience - please see the Adding non-Steam games to My games list topic for more information on this process.