Skyrim Tweak Guide 2.3

http://tiny.cc/siguide

This guide is completely unofficial and is in no way associated with Bethesda Softworks LLC.
Skyrim is © 2011 Bethesda Softworks LLC, a ZeniMax Media company. All Rights Reserved.

Last Updated: April 21st, 2013 AEST

Guides:

Welcome

Thanks for checking out this guide, it lists plenty of tweaks to Skyrim settings to make it perform the best it can.
It assumes you have basic PC knowledge and have installed and played PC games before.
All the software referenced in this guide is completely safe and freeware.

Increasing Performance

Skyrim, like previous Bethesda PC games (Oblivion, Fallout 3 and New Vegas) can be very demanding on a PC and can easily have performance loss and the jitters.

Performance really should be you first priority to having a really great time playing Skyrim!

Four aspects have the biggest effect on the overall real-world performance of Skyrim:

Your Hard Disk

Solid-State Disk (Modern)

Solid State Disks (SSDs) have no moving platters and therefore do not need to be defragmented. They are generally faster than traditional platter-based disks.

They are the more expensive option (per MB) however a small 60GB SSD is relatively affordable.

Platter-Based Disk (Traditional)

If you have one of these disks you should fully defragment and optimize the drive using one of the below programs:

Disk Test Results

Platter vs. SSD Results:

The above results show that even a cheap SSD is far superior at reading and writing data.

Your Graphics Card

You should always use the latest available drivers (software) available for you Graphics Card (GPU):

OR 

Your Game Boost Mode

I recommend using IOBit Game Booster to boost game performance before each time you play the Skyrim.

It temporarily disables all unnecessary Windows Services and features while you play any games. Just remember to switch back to normal mods after you finish playing.

Your Skyrim Settings

Skyrim has a game launcher that can be used to launch the options menu.

In the options I recommend setting it to default and then incrementally increasing the settings seeing how your PC handles it.

I recommend that you also set antialiasing to "2 Samples" and Anisotropic Filtering to "4 Samples" or similar.

Skyrim also has two settings files that can be edited manually to further configure it:

  1. %HOMEPATH%\Documents\My Games\Skyrim\Skyrim.ini
  2. %HOMEPATH%\Documents\My Games\Skyrim\SkyrimPrefs.ini

Both files are re-generated by Skyrim automatically each time you open the Options menu in the Skyrim game launcher.

Once you do the above then follow the tweaks below and don't use the Skyrim Options menu anymore.

To manage these settings files you can use the Skyrim Tweaker or edit the INI files directly using Notepad2 (it supports INI syntax highlighting).

You may need to mark both files as not read-only. To do this:

  1. Select both files in Window Explorer
  2. Right click and click “Properties”
  3. Uncheck the attribute “Read-only”
  4. Click “OK”

For example:

Optimizing your Skyrim INI settings can squeeze out the last little bit of performance and customization. Always create a backup of both settings files before making changes.

If you are a brave advanced user first check out the Skyrim Client CFG Maker for a generator that potentially creates extremely personalized INI configuration files that takes into account your PC’s RAM, GPU type etc.

Tweaks

Field Of View (FOV)

FOV is the part you see of a game world, which is dependent on the scaling method used. If the default FOV (75) appears to be weirdly squished of too wide you can set your own: (Change XX to the FOV value you want)

  1. Open up Skyrim.ini in Notepad
  2. Go to the “[General]” section
  3. Add “fdefaultfov=XX”
  4. Add “fDefault1stPersonFOV=XX”
  5. Add “fDefaultWorldFOV=XX”
  6. Save the change to Skyrim.ini

For example you could try out a FOV of 85 (mine):

Because of the nature of FOV I cannot give a blanket rule to what looks right to you personally as it depend on the screen ratio (16:9, 16:10 etc.) of your monitor, screen resolution and personal preference. My screen resolution is 1920 x 1080.

Some people will be fine with the look of the default FOV but some will find it really disorienting and tiring their eyes quickly. It really comes down to personal taste and you may have your FOV already from other games you play.

Depth of Field (DOF)

Depth of Field is a focused effect where a focal point appears detailed and clear whereas non-focused objects appear blurred.

This is known as a Shallow Depth of Field (large aperture). It gives a far more cinematic feel to a photo, film or computer game. I recommend turning DOF on.

It should be on by default but it is good to check it.

In SkyrimPrefs.ini Add/Edit:

[Imagespace]
bDoDepthOfField=1

Set it to 1 to turn on, or 0 to turn it off DOF.

Mouse Acceleration

You may or may not like mouse acceleration (increases the speed of your mouse cursor based on the speed you move your mouse). In other words it acts as if the mouse has momentum with the movement of your hand.

  1. Open up SkyrimPrefs.ini in Notepad
  2. Go down to the “[Controls]” section
  3. Add in “bMouseAcceleration=0” (to turn it off) or “bMouseAcceleration=1” (to turn it on)
  4. Save the change to SkyrimPrefs.ini

Self-Shadowing

Self-shadowing for trees and rocks can be enabled (with a minor FPS hit) to make trees and rocks look a bit more realistic.

Self-Shadowing On (left) vs Self-Shadowing Off (right):

In SkyrimPrefs.ini Add/Edit:

[Display]
bTreesReceiveShadows=1
bDrawLandShadows=1

Set these to 1 to enable or 0 to disable self-shadowing.

Screen Resolution and Screen Mode

In SkyrimPrefs.ini Add/Edit:

[Display]
bFull Screen=1
iSize W=1920
iSize H=1080

Set "bFull Screen" to 1 to enable or 0 to disable fullscreen mode. For "iSize" W stands for the screen width and H stands for it's height.

Multiple CPU Core PC

If you have a PC with more than one CPU you can enable a few settings to make use of those additional CPU cores a get a significant speed boost in game.

Changes need to be made to both Skyrim.ini and SkyrimPrefs.ini to make Skyrim aware of your better PC.

In Skyrim.ini Add/Edit:

[BackgroundLoad]
bBackgroundLoadLipFiles=1
bLoadBackgroundFaceGen=1
bUseMultiThreadedFaceGen=1
bBackgroundCellLoads=1
bLoadHelmetsInBackground=1
bUseMultiThreadedTrees=1
bUseBackgroundFileLoader=1
[Animation]
bMultiThreadBoneUpdate=1
[HAVOK]
iNumThreads=XX
[General]
bUseThreadedTempEffects=1
bUseThreadedParticleSystem=1
bMultiThreadMovement=1
bUseThreadedMorpher=1
[Decals]
bDecalMultithreaded=1

In SkyrimPrefs.ini Add/Edit:

[Navmesh]
bUseThreadedMeshes=1
[Trees]
bUseMultiThreadedTrees=1
bShadowMaskZPrePass=1
[BackgroundLoad]
bBackgroundLoadLipFiles=1
bLoadBackgroundFaceGen=1
bUseMultiThreadedFaceGen=1
bBackgroundCellLoads=1
bLoadHelmetsInBackground=1
bUseMultiThreadedTrees=1
[General]
bUseThreadedParticleSystem=1
bUseThreadedBlood=1
bUseThreadedMorpher=1
bUseThreadedTempEffects=1
bUseThreadedTextures=1
bUseThreadedMeshes=1
bUseThreadedLOD=1
bUseThreadedAI=1
bUseThreadedMorpher=1
[Decals]
bDecalMultithreaded=1

For "iNumThreads" set this to the number of CPU cores your PC has. If you have 4 or more leave this as 5 (maximum).

Blood

You can set the longevity and prevalence of blood splatters and pools as per below:

In Skyrim.ini Add/Edit:

[Display]
fDecalLifetime=256.000

In SkyrimPrefs.ini Add/Edit:

[Display]
iMaxDecalsPerFrame=350
[Decals]
bDecalsOnSkinnedGeometry=1

Please Note: If you experience any stutters after this tweak try lowering "fDecalLifetime" and "iMaxDecalsPerFrame"
values until you have smooth framerates again.

Water

You can set the quality settings for all bodies of water in Skyrim to high quality as per below:

In SkyrimPrefs.ini Add/Edit:

[Water]
iWaterReflectHeight=1024
iWaterReflectWidth=1024
bReflectExplosions=1
iWaterBlurAmount=4
bAutoWaterSilhouetteReflections=0
bForceHighDetailReflections=1

Shadows

If you find your default shadows ugly and really rough (like above) try the following tweaks to improve quality and clarify shadows.

In SkyrimPrefs.ini Add/Edit:

[Trees]
bShadowMaskZPrePass=1
[Display]
bDrawShadows=1
iShadowMode=3
fShadowBiasScale=0.2500
fInteriorShadowDistance=3000.0000
fShadowDistance=2500.0000
fShadowLODStartFade=200.0000
iShadowMaskQuarter=4
iShadowFilter=3
iShadowSplitCount=2
bDeferredShadows=1
bDrawLandShadows=1
bShadowsOnGrass=1
iBlurDeferredShadowMask=2
iShadowMapResolution=2048
iShadowMapResolutionPrimary=2048
iShadowMapResolutionSecondary=2048

Book Opening Speed

If you find opening books in Skyrim too slow, you can set the opening speed to be quicker.

In Skyrim.ini Add/Edit:

[Interface]
fBookOpenTime=200.0000

Please Note: This is the book opening speed, not the page turning speed.

Be sure to check out my modding guide for Skyrim as well :D

Appendix

Optimizing Textures

If you experience performance issues relating to HD textures (normally due to your GPU having it's VRAM filled up) you should consider optimizing your Skyrim textures.

Optimizing does result in a minor texture detail reduction however it does reduce load times and the strain on your graphics card.

Please Note: Before you optimize your textures file make sure you backup your textures to another location so that you can restore them if you have any issues after optimization.

The best texture optimizer is called Skyrim Mods Complex Optimizer (SMCO), simply download it and then unzip it to a new folder "SMCO" in your Skyrim game directory.

To run it:

SMCO Folder

The main window:

SMCO Main Window

It is safe to use the tabs "DDS" (your textures) and "BSA" (your mods' archives).

Once optimization is completed it will report on how may files were optimized and how much drive space was freed up.

Optimizing Save Game Files

After playing Skyrim for more that 20 hours I recommend that you clean up your latest save game using the utility, Skyrim Save Cleaner.

Why? Well, after a significant number of hours playing Skyrim your save game can be bloated out with very old references to every miscellaneous item you have picked up, dropped etc.

Please Note: Cleaning your save game resets unimportant clutter, ingredients etc back to their default locations.

Technically these references are specifically safe to remove "FORM ID's (REFR and PARW)". Removing these old references improves load speeds.

To clean your save game:

  1. Download and extract the Skyrim Save Cleaner to your save game folder (%HOMEPATH%\Documents\My Games\Skyrim\Saves)
  2. Backup all your save games to another location (*.ess and *.skse files)
  3. Run Skyrim as you normally do
  4. Load your latest save game from the main menu (continue option)
  5. Once the game loads, press the tilde key (~) and type in "save mysave 1", a dump file will be created "mysave.ess.txt"
  6. Quit Skyrim
  7. Run "SKYRIM Save Cleaner.exe"
  8. Click the button named "Fix All FORM IDs"

Save Game Cleaner

  1. For the File dialogs that appear first select "mysave.ess.txt" and then"mysave.ess", in your skyrim saves folder
  2. A black box will now run commands to clean the save game file
  3. Once completed load your latest save game in Skyrim
  4. Check that your inventory and any house storage has the expected items (just in case)

As a simple rule you should try to clean your save game every 50 hours of gameplay thereafter to fix save game bloat.

Sorting the Mod List with BOSS

It is important to sort your mod plugin list (*.esm and *.esp files) using a tool called BOSS (Better Oblivion Sorting Software):

BOSS first checks for an updated "masterlist" file and then uses that to sorts your plugins for best performance and compatibility.

Tracking Mods with the Nexus Mod Manager

Tracking mods allows you to more easily keep on top of new updates to mods and not need to manually check the status.

On a mod’s Nexus Mod webpage (e.g. http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/downloads/file.php?id=12161) click the “Track file” action ().
The Nexus Mod Manager should now detect new updated mods and prompt you to update.

Running Skyrim with SKSE Enabled

SKSE is leveraged by some mods to extend scripting ability in Skyrim.

To install it simple visit http://skse.silverlock.org and download and extract the files into your Skyrim game folder.

To run Skyrim with SKSE loaded:

  1. Make sure SKSE is copied in the main game folder
  2. Run Steam and wait for it to load the main Steam window
  3. Run “skse_loader.exe” in your Skyrim game folder

Make sure you keep SKSE up to date as well as it needs to be updated each time Skyrim gets a new official patch through Steam.

Backing up Skyrim’s Save Games

Save games for Skyrim appear in the directory: %HOMEPATH%\Documents\My Games\Skyrim\Saves

To backup them up you can simply move any old save games you no longer need to another backup folder (external disk).

Alternatively you could use GameSave Manager like I do.

Backing up the Skyrim Data Folder

The following folders and files in the Skyrim “Data” folder should be backed up regularly:

Backing up Nexus Mod Manager Mod Installers

If you are using the Nexus Mod Manager I advise that you occasionally backup files in the “mods” folder in the Skyrim game directory.

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