Finetuning HLDS

The Half-Life Dedicated Server software has a set of options that enables you to setup and finetune your server installation. The following tutorial describes most available and commonly used features. Behind the mentioned parameters are the options available for that parameter in brackets. Sidenote: these brackets are not to be used in the command-line, they are merely present for clarity.

This guide is geared towards HLDS, and (Windows). For native Linux versions and an overview of all common HLDS versions, see the version table.

Usage for Windows-based systems: Create a shortcut to HLDS.exe by right clicking on the item and selecting Create Shortcut. Then, right click on the shortcut and select Properties. Parameters should go behind the line, which ends with a quote ("), in the Target box (put them behind the ending quote).

Usage for Linux-based systems: Create an empty file with a plain text editor like vim or gedit. Place it in the root of the HLDS directory (or somewhere else, note that you'll need to correctly adjust the path). Open it and type: ./hlds_run. Behind this line you can put the parameters of your choice. Obviously you can also use any existing startup scripts you may have.

Basic Options

Parameters below are required to run a server, unless you're using a version that supports setting up by GUI (Windows only with HLDS and up). Please note that this disables the console and support for batch startup.

On Windows, to start using the parameters below, you will at least need to set the -console parameter in order for other parameters to work. HLDS for Linux does not require this parameter as it supports console mode only.

Parameter                           Description
-game [moddir]                
Sets what modification HLDS needs to load. Example: -game cstrike

-maxplayers [x]               
Sets the maximum number of players that will be able to join your server. Some add-ons such as
                                               AMX Mod (X) or AdminMod will lower this number if the reserved slots feature is enabled.
                                               Example: -maxplayers 16

+map [map]                       
Sets what map to load when the server has been launched successfully. Specified map has to
                                               exist in the /maps folder of the MOD folder set with -game. A common mistake is to forget
                                               this parameter; the server appears as offline if it has not been specified, so make sure to set it.
                                               Example: +map de_dust2

+sv_lan [0 or 1]               
Determines whether server is in LAN or Internet mode. Set this to 1 in order to activate the WON2
                                               Patch for Servers, which is required to run the server for internet use. Please note: when running
                                               the server on a LAN HLDS is supposed to be unpatched (e.g. do not use any WON2 Patch for
                                               Servers). Patching HLDS and setting this parameter to 1 will not activate LAN mode.
                                               Example: +sv_lan 1

This parameter enables console mode and support for batch startup (e.g. for use with a
                                               service-manager like FireDaemon), and disables the GUI. Parameter works only on
                                               Windows, HLDS or higher, and is required to be set in order for all other parameters
                                               mentioned in this guide to work.

                                 Enables WAC anticheat protection. Please note: this parameter can be overridden by secure "0" in
                                               liblist.gam in the directory of the MOD you're running. This line should be either removed or set to
                                               "1". You must have the WON2 Patch for Players installed in your HLDS installation in order to use

                                               Please note: WAC is no longer operational. We recommend turning it off, as turning it on will
                                               cause your server to start slowly as HLDS will attempt to contact the WAC servers, which have
                                               been shut down.

The options above are sufficient to run a fully functional HLDS installation. However, in some cases you may want to fine-tune your server to perfection. In that case, continue to the Advanced Options section below.

Advanced Options

Important: some of the options below might cause HLDS to work improperly. Descriptions should be carefully read.

Parameter                           Description
-exec [file.cfg/.rc]            
Lets you run Half-Life scripts immediately after the server has been succesfully launched. Can be
                                               useful for setting a custom server.cfg, to prevent downloading of it by unauthorized users in case
                                               you're using HLDS, or a native Linux version. Please note: this parameter will not
                                               be read if HLDS encounters an error while initializing MOD files and should therefore not be used
                                               to correct launching issues. Example: -exec customserver.cfg

-heapsize [size in KB]     
The Heapsize-option enables you to set the amount of 'heap' (cache) for HLDS. By default this is
                                               set to 32 MB and will be automatically adjusted by HLDS to suit your system. However, in some
                                               cases HLDS does not correctly adjust this option. Setting this option manually may significantly
                                               improve HLDS performance. When deciding how big the heap should be, take into account not
                                               just how much memory you have, but how much is used by the operating system and other
                                               programs. Example: -heapsize 32000

This parameter lets HLDS skip the master server entries from won/valvecomm.lst. Use this
                                               parameter if you do not want your server to be listed on WON2. Useful when you want to host a
                                               private server.

-noipx                                   Disables IPX-support. IPX is not used when setting up an internet server and can therefore be
                                               turned off safely. However, for LAN servers, IPX may be needed for a very small minority of PCs
                                               running an older operating system (such as Windows 98/ME) to be able to join the server.

+[any cvar]                        Enables you to set cvars immediately after the server has been succesfully launched. Can be useful
                                               for a cvar that you may want to change periodically. Notes: parameter will not be read if HLDS
                                               encounters an error while initializing MOD files and should therefore not be used to correct
                                               launching issues. Also, make sure the cvar you want to set does not already exist in server.cfg or
                                               autoexec.cfg of the MOD you want to run. This overrides the parameter.
                                               Example: +sv_gravity 800

Supplement: HLDS Version Table

Windows                      Linux              Description                           
Half-Life version using protocol 40, for hosting CS Beta servers up to beta 5.x.
                                                               This version is included in Half-Life The Linux version is a full
                                                               stand-alone package. These versions are not covered in this tutorial, but have been
                                                               added to complete the list.                            Half-Life version and higher using protocol 46, Windows version included in                                                   Half-Life and Counter-Strike Retail Also available as stand-alone
                                                               package, as version (Windows) and (Linux).                            Compatible with Half-Life version and higher, and uses protocol 46. Version                                          is an update for the stand-alone package (and not for as that's
                                                               the version included with Half-Life; updating with will corrupt your
                                                               Half-Life installation!
), while is the full stand-alone package. Linux version
                                                      comes in an update package as well as a full stand-alone package. New in this
                                                               version: setting up HLDS by GUI (Windows only)                       Compatible with Half-Life version and higher, and uses protocol 46. Version
                                                      is an update for and and is only available as an update
                                                               package. Linux version is an update for Fixed in this version:
                                                               downloading of server config and resource files (.cfg/.rc) preventing users from
                                                               downloading your server.cfg and discovering your RCON password. Note: Valve forgot
                                                               to change the built-in version number from to Therefore, this HLDS
                                                               will be recognized as by Half-Life and other tools.

2.2.0a (         n/a              Compatible with Half-Life version and higher, and uses protocol 46. Also
                                                               supports protocol 46e (WON2 protocol), however, this protocol has been deprecated.
                                                               Version 2.3.0 has improvements and bug fixes in addition to and has
                                                               multilingual support. Available as full stand-alone package (MODs and valve
                                                               base-directory not included; these need to be copied from Half-Life or
                                                               Counter-Strike Retail Not available for Linux. Download here.
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