ARK: Survival Evolved dedicated servers may be a bit of a hassle to install and maintain for inexperienced users. For many budding server hosts it’s easiest to just buy an ARK dedicated server through a 3rd-party company, let them sort out the details, and use their simplified dashboards to control your game server.
However, those servers come at a price, so to avoid the costs associated with using ARK server hosting companies, this guide will give a detailed walkthrough on how to create a dedicated ARK server on a Windows PC for free.
The hardware requirements for hosting a dedicated ARK server are somewhat demanding.
- 64-bit operating system on host machine required to run the server executable
- Minimum RAM requirements are initially 6GB to start server, with more required as more players connect
Server Installation Steps
1. Make a folder for your ARK server
ARK servers require at least 16 GB of hard drive disk space, so you’ll need to create a folder specifically for the ARK server on a hard drive of adequate size.
2. Download SteamCMD and run commands
SteamCMD is a version of the Steam client that offers a command line interface. It’s main purpose is for hosting dedicated servers for various Steam games. This allows the host to have direct access to the ARK dedicated server commands and configurations. The installation of SteamCMD is fairly straight forward, as it can be unzipped in any folder after it’s downloaded.
After creating the folder, the SteamCMD needs to be run in order to download the actual server files. To download the files, these are the commands:
Steam> login anonymous
Steam> force_install dir <ark directory folder created in the previous step> (An example is c:arkserver)
Steam> app_update 346110
3. Install DirectX and Visual Studio 2013
The proper versions of DirectX and Visual Studio 2013 Redistributable Runtime need to be installed on the host computer. These are found in the _CommonRedist folder of the main ARK server folder created in step 1.
4. Create a batch file to run the server
The fourth step requires creating a batch file that will run the server. To do this, a notepad document needs to be created and renamed start_server.bat and placed inside the folder that the server itself was downloaded to in step two. Naming a text document whatever.bat will automatically change it to a batch file instead of a text file. Once the batch file is created, the following text needs to be inserted:
Private ARK Server Command Line Setup
start ShooterGameServer "TheIsland?listen?SessionName=<server_name>?ServerPassword=<join_password>?ServerAdminPassword=<admin_password>"
You can edit your server by changing the following variables:
<server_name> – The name of your ARK server as it will appear to the public.
<join_password> – The server’s password. You can remove this (instructions below) to create a public server without a password.
<admin_password> – The password to access the ARK server’s admin commands.
Public ARK Server Command Line Setup
If you decide to run a public server, you can remove the password requirement entirely by deleting ?ServerPassword=<join_password>. This will ultimately leave:
start ShooterGameServer "TheIsland?listen?SessionName=<server_name>?ServerAdminPassword=<admin_password>"
Once you’ve inserted the text into the batch file and edit the variables, you can save and close the file. This start_server.bat file will be what you use to launch the ARK: Survival Evolved server.
5. Open ports on your router
The final step to ensuring access to the ARK server is opening ports on the machine, which will allow other machines access to the designated programs. Opening ports for server hosting is different for every computer, router, and modem, so we recommend searching for guides online for port forwarding specific to your network setup.
The ports necessary for an ARK server to be accessible to outside players are:
7777 - Port for the game client specifically
27015 - Steam's server browser port
Thus far, you have downloaded the server files to the appropriate folder, installed the necessary DirectX and Visual Studio 2013 packages, created the batch file inside the server folder to run the actual server, and ensured that the appropriate ports are opened.
Launch the ARK: Survival Evolved server by running the start_server.bat file created in step 4.
Post Install Maintenance
If you have followed the above instructions properly, your dedicated ARK server should be up and running, so you and other players will be able to join without issue. With the server online, there are still a few more bits of information required to successfully maintain it.
Updating the Server
Updating the server is a relatively straightforward process. You will just need to repeat step number 2, which will download the latest version of the application specified in the “app_update” command line. The number 376030 is specifically for ARK: Survival Evolved.
Backing up Server Files
For you to backup the server, simply copy and paste the entire ARK server folder to a different location. It is recommended that you add a time stamp to the copied version for the sake of organization and clarity.
Access Admin Control Panel
To access the admin control panel while in game, the admin will need to open the command console using either the tilde (~) key or the tab key. If both the tilde and tab do not bring up the command console, the admin will need to go locate the DefaultInput.ini file located in ARKShooterGameConfig. Once the .ini file has been located, the admin will need to open the file using a text editor and change the line ;+ConsoleKeys=Tab to +ConsoleKeys=Tab. If done correctly, this will give the admin the ability to enter commands into the console line.
Enable Admin Commands
The command for admin abilities is “enablecheats admin_password” where admin_password can be replaced with the password specified in the original batch file created and without the quotation marks.
With the successful creation of an ARK server and after logging in as an admin, you will now be able to tinker with the ARK server as necessary to get the desired game world. There are many different options and configurations available to customize an ARK server, as well as admin commands for managing servers as they get more populated.