Guide:SystemSetupGuide

From Step Modifications Wiki
Delta c.png System Setup Guide
A Mandatory Prerequisite for Step's Bethesda Game Guides
by: The Step Team  |  Forum Topic

This guide describes the expected configuration of the PC environment in order to complete ANY Bethesda game guide on this wiki. This standard configuration prevents some common modding issues and facilitates support and resolution of many others.

A couple of notes before continuing:

  • This guide assumes a Windows 10 environment.
    • Windows 7 is at End-of-Life and Windows 8 is not recommended, therefore, Windows 10 is the only OS supported by Step.
  • Step recommends solid state drives (SSD) over hard drives (HDD)
    • SSDs are much faster than HDDs, therefore, users will have an improved experience using SSDs.

Modding Folder[edit]

First, users need to select and set up a directory location for modding. Due to issues with some modding programs and Windows User Account Control (UAC), Step recommends using a location outside of UAC jurisdiction. Avoid installing games and modding resources within the following directory locations:

  • C:/Windows/
  • C:/Program Files/
  • C:/Program Files (x86)/
  • C:/Users/{logged in user}/AppData/ Note that some modding applications like BethINI and Mod Organizer may validly create files under this location.

Specifically, begin by creating a folder called Modding, at the root of any drive: e.g., C:/Modding/. This keeps path depth shallow and path strings brief.

Also consider the space requirements for modding, which can be significant for a single game. For a heavily modded setup, at least 50 GB of free space per game is typical. This accounts for downloaded mods, installed mods, temporary LODGen files, modding tools, etc. Additionally, allow for at least 20 GB of free space for each game (e.g., Skyrim requires 13 GB, and Fallout 4 requires upwards of 30 GB). Also remember that no PC drive should be filled to more than 90% of its capacity.

Info-Logo.png
      Notice:
A good rule of thumb for modding drive space requirements is ~100 GB per game.

Folder Structure[edit]

Extend the modding folder structure as follows:

..Modding/
../Tools/
../xEdit/

File Extensions[edit]

It's recommended to unhide file extensions so that they are visible. This makes working with files much easier when modding.

Click here to show instructions for unhiding file extensions

  1. Click on the Windows button.
  2. Type in the search, File Explorer Options.
  3. Click on the File Explorer Options listing.
  4. Click the View tab on the window that opens.
  5. In the Advanced settings pane, remove the checkbox next to Hide extensions for known file types.

Steam Installation[edit]

Steam is a digital distribution platform by Valve Corp. used for purchasing, downloading, installing, and launching PC games. Download the program from their website. When installing Steam...

  • Users should avoid installing to a location controlled by UAC (see Modding Folder)
    • Steam installs its games in the ..Steam/steamapps/ sub-folder, thus not prompting UAC.
  • When choosing a Steam install location, keep in mind the space requirements for the games that will be installed ...
    • ... Steam can be installed to any drive, regardless of the drive used for the ../Modding/ folder created previously.

Steam can be installed one of two ways:

Show Steam installation instructions
 
  1. Using a physical copy of the Steam-hosted game purchased from a retailer:
    1. Insert the game disk into your disk drive.
    2. If the installer doesn't run automatically, open the disk from Explorer and run Setup.exe.
    3. Follow the on-screen instructions to install Steam (see video link below)
  2. Download Steam from their website and install it:
    1. Navigate to the Steam website
    2. Download the Steam installer
    3. Navigate to your downloads location and launch SteamSetup.exe (see video link below).

Moving Steam and Installed Games[edit]

Since Steam installs its games in the ..Steam/steamapps/ sub-folder by default, UAC restrictions should not be an issue with any Steam install location; however, users can utilize Steam to move the installation locations if desired.

Game Installation[edit]

Games are installed using the Steam application, and this can be done on one of two ways:

  • Users who purchased a physical copy of the game from a retailer should already have the game installed from the Steam installation above.
  • Use Steam to download and install:
Show game installation instructions
 
  1. Open the Steam application.
  2. Users who need to purchase a game can use the search bar to search for and purchase it from the app.
  3. Users who have already purchased a copy of the game, click Library at the top.
  4. Users will now see a list of their purchased games. Games in grey are not installed. Click on the game needing to be installed.
  5. On the game's page (right pane) click the Install button.
  6. Check the shortcuts desired and ensure the path is correct (e.g. C:/Modding/Steam/ ).
  7. Click [Next], accept any EULA/Agreements, and install the game.

Initial Launch[edit]

Once the game is installed, it needs to be loaded with the default launcher to register it with the system, install missing support software, and create necessary files. To do this:

  1. Click the Play button on the games page in Steam.
  2. Load the game to the game menu.
  3. Exit the game.

This completes the initial game setup. Repeat the above steps to install all the desired games before moving on.

Game Backup (optional)[edit]

Though not necessary with the use of Mod Organizer, some users may wish to create a backup of their vanilla game before modding begins. If so, now would be the time to complete this task. For this, Step recommends using 7-Zip to archive the following directories:

  • Replace 'GameFolder' with the name of the folder being archived.
  • ../Steam/SteamApps/common/GameFolder
  • %USERPROFILE%/My Documents/My Games/GameFolder
  • %LOCALAPPDATA%/GameFolder (e.g. C:/Users/UserName/AppData/Local/GameFolder )

To return those game folders to a vanilla state, the archives may simply be extracted to the same or analogous paths as above.

Reverting to Vanilla without a backup[edit]

During the modding experience it is handy to know how to re-establish a clean game installation. If an archived backup was not created (see above), there is still a much simpler way to achieve the same effect, which is essentially just deleting the game's files. This will require Steam to redownload these file.

Click here to show instructions
 
  1. Deactivate all mods using the mod manager.
  2. In Steam, navigate to the Workshop and unsubscribe from every mod. (If mods from the Workshop are installed)
  3. Now browse to the game's directory: ../Steam/SteamApps/common/GameFolder
  4. Delete all files and subdirectories.
  5. Navigate to: %USERPROFILE%/My Documents/My Games/GameName and delete all files and subdirectories (make backups if desired before deleting).
  6. In the Steam app, right-click the game and select Properties.
  7. Under the Local Files tab, click [Verify integrity of game cache...]
    • This will download any files that are corrupted, missing, or didn't pass a CRC check. It may take some time to complete, depending on Internet speeds.
  8. Launch the game from Steam to redo the system registration and recreate new game files.
The game installation should now be refreshed to a vanilla state.

Tools Installation and Setup[edit]

Step recommends the tools for modding be installed and setup as “standalone” applications, when possible. This means a tool is installed once and used for all games. Most of the modding tools used already have this feature built in, and some are meant to be used as such. This will also reduce redundant tool installations while maintaining a good organization and saving hard drive space. All Step guides will assume the tools are installed as “standalone” applications; however, users are free to set up their tools as they see fit.

Mod Organizer 2[edit]

Mod Organizer 2 is the successor to Mod Organizer (1), and is now the official mod manager for all Step guides. As such, we will continue to refer to Mod Organizer 2 as 'MO' or 'MO2' interchangeably. MO2 supports both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Bethesda games and has basic support for a few games from other publishers. The major changes MO2 brings from the old version are:

  1. A return to normal plugin/archive relationship
    Users will no longer be able to load archives without loading their corresponding plugin, as MO1 allowed. On MO2, the plugins must be active for the archives to load, which is the intended behavior expected.
  2. New installation options
    • MO2 may be installed as "standalone" or "portable". Unless Merge Plugins is will be utilized, it’s purely an individual preference. Merged Plugins will currently only work when MO2 is installed and used as a “portable” application. Even then, a special MO2 instance can be installed as portable alongside the standalone instance (details of this setup currently not supported by Step).
    • Step recommends installing MO2 as a “standalone” application; meaning a single installation of MO2 is used for all supported games. Not only is this option cleaner and better organized, but it also allows us to design all of our game guides around using MO2's instances. Users should decide how they wish to install and use MO2 before continuing; keeping in mind the space requirements mentioned previously.
    • See the Mod Organizer Guide for more information.

Tool List[edit]

The links below may lead to several different gamespaces on Nexus Mods or other websites. This is expected. Tools downloaded from various gamespaces or various sources will still work for all supported games.

Users should install the tools to the location created above (i.e., ../Modding/Tools/). Install the following tools to that location:

Mod Name Baseline Instructions
BethINILink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed Instructions available
  1. Download BethINI from Nexus Mods.
  2. Extract the archive to the *Tools* folders (e.g. ../Modding/Tools/)

User's should now have a new BethINI folder (e.g. ../Modding/Tools/BethINI).

DynDOLODLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed Instructions available
  1. Download and install the DynDOLOD Main File.
  2. Extract the archive to the Tools folder (e.g. ../Modding/Tools/).
  3. If Visual Studio 2015, 2017 and 2019 are missing, download and install them; both x86 and x64 files.

Users should now have a DynDOLOD folder (e.g. ../Modding/Tools/DynDOLOD). Users will download and install the Resources file later in the Guide, so ignore it for now.

LOOTLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed Instructions available
  1. Download the latest version of LOOT from their GitHub page (LOOT.Install.exe).
  2. Install LOOT by running the installer and changing the path to the Tools folder (e.g. ../Modding/Tools/)

Users should now have a LOOT folder (e.g. ../Modding/Tools/LOOT).

Mod OrganizerLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed Instructions available
  1. Download Main File from Nexus Mods and run the EXE.
    Windows may issue a warning. If so, click 'more information and then click [Run Anyway].
  2. Install MO2 to the Tools using the name: Mod Organizer 2

Do not run MO2 yet! It will be ran for the first time later in the Guide.

TES5EditLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed Instructions available
  1. Download TES5Edit from Nexus Mods.
  2. Extract the archive to the xEdit folder: ..Modding/Tools/xEdit

To clean any mods that require it, run "Quick Auto Clean". It will allow users to select the mod to clean and automatically clean it.

Reference videos

TES5LODGenLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed Instructions available
  1. Ensure the latest version of the required redistributable packages are installed. Both the x86 and x64 version should be installed.
  2. Download the latest xLODGen Beta from the link in the forum post.
  3. Extract the xLODGen folder from the archive to the Tools folder: (e.g. ../Modding/Tools)
  4. Open the extracted folder and create a new folder for the tool's output files.
    • Recommended folder name is: xLODGen_Output

Users should now have a xLODGen folder (e.g. ../Modding/Tools/xLODGen/).


The "Modding" folder structure should now reflect:

  • ../Modding
    • ../Tools
      • ../BethINI
      • ../DynDOLOD
      • ../LOOT
      • ../Mod Organizer
      • ../xEdit
      • ../xLODGen
  • ../Steam (optional; may be installed elsewhere)

Configuration[edit]

Mod Organizer Initialization[edit]

Step recommends installing all applications as standalone programs, including Mod Organizer 2. If MO wass installed as a Portable application, the instructions below will need to be reinterpreted accordingly. For further information about this process, see the Mod Organizer Guide.

  1. Launch MO2 by running its executable (e.g. ..Modding/Tools/Mod Organizer/ModOrganizer.exe)
  2. Upon launch, user will be presented with a windows explaining "instances". Click [Next].
  3. Next is the choice of using as a standalone or portable application. Choose [Create a global instance].
  4. The installer will detect games that are installed. Select any one of the games listed and click [Next].
    If it didn't find a game, users can manually browse to the game's location.
  5. Leave the default name or create a custom one. Step recommends using the default name or appending a custom name to the end. Click [Next].
  6. Now user have the option of changing the location of data stored. Step recommends the default location, unless space restraints prevent this. Click [Next].
  7. Next window is for connection to Nexus Mods. Click the [Connnect to Nexus] button.
    • If this fails, wait a moment and try again.
    • When successful, a browser window will open to Nexus Mods. Log in, if required. Click the [Authorise] button to allow the connection.
    • The browser page will reload and display a success message. The window/tab can be closed and the user should return to the installation. Click [Next]
  8. A confirmation window will display with the installation information. Click [Finish].
    • A prompt will appear for first time installers asking to run the tutorial or not. First time MO users should run it for a quick lesson on MO. Experienced MO users can skip it.
    • Another prompt will appear if MO is not set up to handle .NXM links, users should select [Yes].
  9. MO2 is now ready to use.
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Video Card Setup[edit]

Often under-appreciated, display and driver settings have a huge potential impact on the graphic quality of games and anything else displayed on the monitor. Unfortunately, Step can only provide recommendations, which may not be optimal for all systems, due to the wild variation of GFX cards and drivers...not to mention the added variation of PC components beyond just the display adapter (e.g., drive type, CPU, monitor, RAM ... can all impact GFX rendering to more/less degree).

Update Display Drivers[edit]

If there is any reason to believe the latest drivers installed aren't installed correctly, then complete all of the following instructions. Otherwise, complete steps 1 and 6 only.

Click here to show instructions
 
  1. Download the latest stable AMD drivers / Nvidia drivers.
  2. Download DDU and install it (DDU forums).
  3. Restart the system and boot into safe mode by repeatedly pressing F8 once the boot check initializes and before the OS begins loading (no need to uninstall the current drivers, but it will not hurt at all).
    • If using UEFI, go to to your power options and while holding down the Shift key, press restart. This will open the advanced menu where you can select to boot into safe mode.
  4. Launch DDU, and select the appropriate driver from the drop-down combobox.
  5. Note the recommendations in DDU and initialize the cleanup.
  6. Reboot normally and install the latest drivers downloaded from step 1.

Overlays[edit]

Certain programs, especially ENBSeries, don't work properly when other program overlays are active. Therefore, users should consider disabling all overlays other programs are providing (MSI Afterburner, RivaTuner, GeForce Experience, etc.). Below are instructions for disabling the most common overlays. Disable all that are applicable to the system.

Discord[edit]

To disable the overlay in Discord:

Click here to show instructions

  1. Run Discord and open the User Settings (gear icon next to username).
  2. In the left navigation under Gaming Settings, click Overlay.
  3. Toggle off Enable in-game overlay.
    • Some users may wish to have Discord overlay active in some games but not others. These users can leave this setting toggled on and see the next steps.
  4. Still under App Settings, now click Game Activity.
  5. Users will see a list of installed games with each listing having a monitor icon. Ensure this icon is toggled off (red) for each game the overlay should be disabled for.
    • Skyrim LE users should turn off the overlay. It's label "at your own risk" by Discord.
  6. Close the window.
Info-Logo.png
      Notice:
Users can find more information about Discord's overlay at Discord's official documentation.

GeForce Experience[edit]

To disable the overlay in GeForce Experience:

Click here to show instructions

  1. Open the GeForce Experience application.
  2. Click the Settings icon (gear) at the top.
  3. Mid-way down the Setting page toggle IN-GAME OVERLAY off.
  4. Close the window.

Steam[edit]

To disable the Steam overlay for Skyrim Special Edition:

Click here to show instructions

  1. Open Steam
  2. Click LIBRARY at the top
  3. In your game list, right-click on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
  4. Select Properties.
  5. Uncheck the “Enable the Steam Overlay while in-game” box
  6. Close the window.
Info-Logo.png
      Notice:
This process is the same for all games. Simply replicate the instructions for the game in question.

Alternatively users who would like to disable the Steam overlay for all games:

  1. Load Steam.
  2. On the toolbar click Steam.
  3. On the dropdown menu click Settings.
  4. On the new window, uncheck the Enabled the Steam overlay while in-game box then click OK.

Xbox Apps & Game Bar[edit]

The Xbox Game Bar is an app on Windows 10 that is part of the Xbox services. It's an overlay to display various features and widgets, which allow users to chat, record gameplay, control music, and more. Sounds nice but this takes up valuable system resources, has been reported to cause issues with some games, and there are better programs that do the same thing (not covered here). It's recommended to remove the Xbox services from the computer altogether. To do this:

Warning-Logo.png
      Warning:
Be advised this will remove the ability to use Game Pass!
Click here to show instructions

  1. On the task bar, search PowerShell.
  2. Right-click on Windows PowerShell from the search and select, Run as administrator.
  3. Copy and paste the following, then hit Enter to list the xbox packages installled:
    dism /Online /Get-ProvisionedAppxPackages | Select-String PackageName | Select-String xbox
  4. If packages are found, use the following to remove them:
    Get-ProvisionedAppxPackage -Online | `
    Where-Object { $_.PackageName -match "xbox" } | `
    ForEach-Object { Remove-ProvisionedAppxPackage -Online -PackageName $_.PackageName }
  5. Now rerun the code from step 3 to verify no packages are listed.
  6. Users should restart their PC.
Info-Logo.png
      Notice:
Users who wish to turn off services selectively should see this article.

Display Calibration[edit]

Color calibration is critical to photographers and graphic artists who work across media types, but it's also equally important for gamers due to there being a lot of screenshot sharing and qualitative discussion about in-game visuals. However, with that said, all monitors will be slightly different in their accuracy of displaying colors.

The gist: Calibrate the monitor's display settings based on the video driver configuration utility with all other configuration baselines set to something akin to "mid level".

There are three places to configure color saturation, temperature, brightness, contrast, gamma, etc:

  1. The monitor's built-in configuration menu
  2. Windows color management
  3. The driver configuration utility

The value of one setting can affect the appearance of other settings, and depending on the quality of the monitor, #1 above could be very good or just 'OK'. The #2 and #3 objects should be standard though, since they are made to work across various monitors.

  • Ensure that #1 above is set to "the middle ground" with respect to all settings. Having extreme settings in the monitor configuration could potentially constrain the other configurations. For some, setting all #1 values to mid levels will be best, but for others the 'auto-config' will be best (auto-config may not set all #1 values to mid settings). Depending on the monitor, there may be other auto-config options based on various presets. Whatever seems most "middle of the road" is probably best for option #1 above.
  • Optionally, also run option #2 (Control Panel > Display > Calibrate Color) and set to 'vanilla' mid-levels with respect to all attributes. If this was never run previously, then it should already be at mid-levels.
  • Finally, calibrate using option #3 (see below) using this reference image and in a room with no direct lighting that could affect what the monitor displays (not-too-bright, diffuse-lighted room). The main calibration should be done using option #3 once a baseline 'canvas' has been established for options #1 and #2.
    • AMD-CCC: |Desktop Management| > |Desktop Color| (click "Reactivate AMD color controls").
    • Nvidia Control Panel: Access from the Windows Control Panel. |Display| > |Adjust desktop color settings|