As of July 10, the methods described in this post are no longer operational. Please do not use this guide for idling.
The current drop system for Team Fortress 2 ensures that players find items between 30 and 70 minutes (items are found about every 50 minutes on average). The approximate cap for obtaining items is around 10 hours of game time per week, so players can find around 6 to 12 items per week. I imagine many people simply do not have the time to play traditionally to obtain items, as that would be rather impractical.
Idling is a means to circumvent this limitation; in the past, dedicated third-party utilities allowed players to idle, although the use of such software led Valve to remove all items from players who used these applications. Fortunately, in the present era, there is an exceptionally easy way to idle. The first step is to create a shortcut to Steam.exe. Go into your main hard disk and find Steam.exe (typically located in C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam). Right click on the .exe and choose “Send To -> Desktop (Creates shortcut)”. This creates a shortcut called “Steam- shortcut.lnk” on your Desktop. Rename it to something that is easy to identify, say, “Team Fortress 2 Idler”.
- Unless you are a power user and modified your machine, Steam should be in your C:\ directory. On some machines, the settings have been set such that extensions are off by default. Thus, “Steam.exe” will appear simply as “Steam”. Right click on the “Steam” that is around 1200 kb in size (the smaller one is an icon and won’t run), and you’ll be on your way. Alternatively, you can co to your folder settings and make the extensions visible.
Once you have a shortcut on your desktop, right-click on the shortcut. You should get the window below.
- The section to change is highlighted. Don’t change anything else.
Paste the following into the “Target” field (this is under the “Shortcut” tab). Hit “Okay” to finish.
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Steam.exe” Files (x86)\Steam\Steam.exe -applaunch 440 -textmode -nosound -window -nopreload -novid -dxlevel 81 +map “itemtest”
You can now run Team Fortress 2 by clicking the new icon. Steam will first open and then load Team Fortress 2 in text mode. It should look like the window below. You can then minimise the window and leave it, allowing to run without consuming an excess amount of system resources. When you are done with your session, hit “Ctrl-C” to close the text mode window. The new items will be placed in your backpack when you start the game normally from inside Steam.
- When run this program normally, a lot of information will be shown: you can safely ignore most of it. Stuff about your IP and ports will also be shown. They are blanked out here for the sake of privacy 😛
There are several caveats about this system: firstly, idling will not work if your version of Team Fortress 2 is outdated. Make sure you are running the latest and greatest version. The text window will tell you that the item schema is out of date or an item is queued: in this case, exit the text mode window and restart it. The second problem is that the 10-hour cap still exists. If you notice that you have idled for more than 2 hours and have gotten no items, stop: you’ve run over your limit, which resets every Wednesday at 00:00 UTC. Through this method, you will be able to get weapons (and the odd hat or tool) much more easily without having to play countless hours every week. Whether you’re a university student or have full-time employment, this makes all the difference in the world.