Update RetroArch: How to Do It without Losing Settings or Games

Bojan Alfa

Retro games, those of the 80s, 90s, and even 2000, for many are much better than modern games. However, today it is unthinkable to buy an NES and its corresponding cartridges, or a Game Boy with any Mario game. There are, but they are more intended for collecting than for playing. If we miss any of the past generations, we can play them again thanks to the emulators. And, without a doubt, the most complete that we can find is RetroArch .

RetroArch is an OpenSource program created to function as a frontend between the user and the free LibRETRO emulators. This program gives us an interface from which we can choose the emulator (also known as nucleus, or “core”), and the game that we want to open with said emulator. It also offers us a large number of options and tools designed to improve our gaming experience.

Update RetroArch

If we want to enjoy the emulation to the fullest, it is necessary to have RetroArch, and its cores, updated to their most recent versions. And this is how we can do it, always keeping our games, saves and settings.

Download the latest version

Of course, one of the ways we have to update RetroArch is to do it manually. To do this, what we must do is download the latest version of RetroArch from your server . On the download website we can choose if we want to download the Stable version (more stable, but less updated) or the Nightly version (updated to date, but with risks of errors).

Once the version we want is downloaded, what we must do is unzip the content of the compressed file on the directory where we have the emulator installed. This process, while respecting games and playlists, can override settings. For this reason, we recommend, first of all, to make a backup of the configurations and shaders.

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It is the most “archaic” method to update the program. Therefore, we recommend using it as long as we know what we are doing. If not, we can lose hours of configurations.

Update RetroArch emulators

This process only updates the emulator, but does not core them. In the end, these cores are the most important part of RetroArch, since they are in charge of opening the games. Although updating the program is not very archaic, the software itself has its corresponding options to download and update the cores and other elements related to retro emulation.

In the main menu of the program we must choose ” Online Updater ” to enter the corresponding update section of the program.

Actualizar cores RetroArch - 1

Inside it we will find a series of options that will allow us to choose what we want to download or update. For example, from here we will be able to download the kernels of the program that we do not have installed, or update all of them to their most recent versions. We can also update the thumbnail lists, resources, cheat profiles …

Actualizar cores RetroArch - 2

The easiest way to keep all the content of our retro-emulation software up to date.

Update RetroArch from “Desktop Mode”

RetroArch has its own interface very similar to that of a console. However, there is also a ” window mode ” designed, above all, to easily manage all the content (that is, games) that we add to the program. To get to it, what we must do is press the F5 key from the main interface of the program, and we can see a window like the following one.

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Actualizar RetroArch desde Modo Desktop - 1

To update the program, what we must do is open the “Tools” menu, and choose the online updater from there. Thus, this program will be in charge of looking for new versions of the program and, if there are any, it will download and install them.

Actualizar RetroArch desde Modo Desktop - 2

In a few seconds we can have our RetroArch up to date. Of course, it only updates the base of the program. The cores and other content will be out of date, and we will have to update them by hand.

Stellar, the OpenSource Updater for RetroArch

As we can see, the updates of this program, in general, leave a little to be desired. For this reason, it is surely better for us to use third-party programs that help us keep our emulator always up to date. And one of the best is Stellar .

Stellar is a simple program, totally free and open source, that will allow us to update both RetroArch and all the cores, or emulators, that the software offers us. We can download this program from this link , and since it is portable, we do not need to install it anywhere.

Of course, we must have WinRAR or 7Zip installed on the PC so that the program can decompress the emulator.

How does it work

To do this, we simply have to run the program and load the program the path where we have the emulator installed. The program includes the RetroArch download directory, so we don’t have to do anything else. At the bottom we can see the different types of download that we can choose.

  • New Install – Download and install RetroArch and the cores from scratch. Overwrite files and settings.
  • Upgrade – Performs a complete upgrade, erasing the program data.
  • RetroArch – Download the latest version of RetroArch and install it on your PC.
  • RA + Cores – Download the latest version of RetroArch and all the cores.
  • Cores – Download the new versions of all the cores of the program.
  • New Cores – Download the new cores that we do not have installed on the PC.
  • Redist – Download the new (or missing) versions of Windows redistributable packages.
  • Stellar – Allows us to search and download new versions of the program.
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We can also choose if we want the download to be 32-bit or 64-bit.


We can use the ” Check ” button to check if there are new versions available. And, if we want to start the process, we will click on ” Update ” so that Stellar will take care of downloading the latest version of RetroArch and installing it on the PC. Depending on the option we choose, we are still interested in downloading all the cores to the computer to have the program ready from the first moment.

When the process is finished (which will take more or less time depending on the options we have chosen) we will have RetroArch, and its cores, up to date. Enjoy the emulation.

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Bojan Alfa

I am Owner of freedriverfix.com beside that am active on some social media as Internet Marketer.